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College basketball standings: Gonzaga and UCLA lead top 25 for 2021-22 season too soon

Trying to select a preseason top 25 so close to the end of the college basketball season has always seemed as difficult as piloting a jet plane blindfolded. Got the autopilot to help you out, but it would always be nice to get a feel for where you’re going, you know?

Four of the top 30 prospects in the 2021 recruiting class have yet to choose whether they will play in college. Some of those who are hired will likely have to decide whether to accept lucrative offers to join the G League Ignite program. Senior players will need to decide whether they want to take advantage of the additional year of eligibility offered by the NCAA. Many of those currently on college rosters will enter the project, and some will remain so even though they are unlikely to be chosen. And, now, the avalanche of veteran transfer portal players will be making choices about where to play, and many who choose new colleges will likely be eligible to participate next fall.

MORE: Baylor reminds Gonzaga how hard it is to win it all

All of these are unknown. There are more variables this season than in any previous season in which we screened the best teams from the following year over the Final Four weekend.

So understand: this is our best showing so far, but not the last.

Way Too Early In The Top 25 In College Basketball Rankings

1. Gonzaga

End of 2020-21: 31-1, NCAA finalist

Overview: Ha, you thought they were leaving! Well some of the Zags will, but they’ll probably still include promising power forward Anton Watson and young big man Oumar Ballo and guard Dominick Harris. Top guard prospect Hunter Sallis signed up last month, and 2021 recruiting class No.1 Chet Holmgren is expected to put his name on the roster soon. What a boost it would also be if veteran Andrew Nembhard chose to stay and serve as the main point guard.


End of 2020-21: 22-10, Final Four

Overview: Coach Mick Cronin has repeatedly pointed out during the tournament that the Bruins are advancing without a senior in their lineup. Does that mean everyone, or almost everyone, will be coming back for a better chance at fame in 2022? Even if they do, it will require further improvement in frontcourt depth and perimeter shot. You had to think it will be an even more compelling destination after what viewers saw of how the Bruins played in the 2021 NCAA tournament – and how they reacted to their elimination.

3. Purdue

End of 2020-21: 18-10, NCAA First Round

Overview: If Trevion Williams chooses to play another varsity season, it becomes a strong contender for the national championship. A little more shooting wouldn’t hurt; That’s what kept the Boilers from advancing into the 2021 NCAA tournament. But Jaden Ivey is going to be a star, and there’s a terrific core of young players.

4. West Virginia

End of 2020-21: 19-10, NCAA Second Round

Overview: It has a chance to be one of the most capable teams to return for Huggins in a decade (2009-10) or two (1999-2000). The most important players are All-Big 12 forward Derek Culver and scoring star Miles McBride. If they and their teammates are back, Morgantown could jump again next winter. If they too add to the list, however, it will likely be on the better side of the transfer portal.

5. Maryland

End of 2020-21: 17-14, NCAA Second Round

Overview: Maybe the only programs that had better months than the Terps were the teams that made it to the Final Four. Maryland has secured engagements from two ready-made starters, Rhode Island guard Fatts Russell and Georgetown center Qudus Wahab. If the Terps keep the rest of their party intact, they could be a legitimate title contender.

6. Texas

End of 2020-21: 19-8, NCAA First Round

Overview: Welcome to Texas, Chris Beard. High expectations begin immediately, depending on how much of the list you are able to keep. There are veterans in the backcourt and up front who could push the Longhorns into the elite of college basketball, where a successful NCAA tournament would be likely.

7. Villanova

End of 2020-21: 18-7, Sweet 16

Overview: The Wildcats’ continued domination of the Big East is unlikely to end anytime soon. They have won or shared seven of eight regular season titles since the league was redesigned ahead of the 2013-14 season. Guard Justin Moore is positioned to be the next star on the show. Their frontcourt will need some work, with Jeremiah Robinson-Earl heading to the NBA and Cole Swider transferring. Jay Wright intends to find a way.

8. Kansas

End of 2020-21: 21-9, NCAA Second Round

Overview: It will be an interesting mix of old and new on the Jayhawks roster. Their only transfer so far is former Division II star Cam Martin of Missouri Southern. They’ve signed two four-star forwards and a four-star playmaker, which means depth will likely be strong. But they’ll need most of the 2021 starters to come back by choice to fill the position.

9. State of Michigan

End of 2020-21: 15-13, the top four in the NCAA

Overview: The Spartans ‘ability to become a fluid and functional unit has been affected by Rocket Watts’ struggle to embrace and flourish in the role of leader. They still had a truckload of talent, which made the season frustrating for everyone involved. Northeast transfer Tyson Walker could fix that the way Mike Smith handled the point in Michigan.

10. Duke

End of 2020-21: 13-11, no NCAA tournament

Overview: The most enjoyable development of the Blue Devils season has been the play of great freshman Mark Williams. So now the Devils will have five-star Paolo Banchero to join the indoor game, with maybe more to come. There is a five-star wing perspective in AJ Griffin. Even with the loss of freshman DJ Steward, there are some capable young players on the perimeter. Mike Krzyzewski will show that 2021 was an aberration.

BENDER: Baylor Championship is a Texas-sized storybook finish

11. Michigan

End of 2020-21: 23-5, elite eight

12. Baylor

End of 2020-21: 28-2, NCAA Champion

13. State of Florida

End of 2020-21: 18-7, Sweet 16

14. Virginia Tech

End of 2020-21: 15-7, NCAA First Round

15. Ohio State

End of 2020-21: 21-10, NCAA First Round

16. Tennessee

End of 2020-21: 18-9, NCAA First Round

17. Kentucky

End of 2020-21: 9-16, no NCAA tournament

18. Houston

End of 2020-21: 28-4, Final Four

19. LSU

End of 2020-21: 19-10, NCAA Second Round

20. Saint-Bonaventure

End of 2020-21: 16-5, NCAA First Round

21. Oregon

End of 2020-21: 21-7, Sweet 16

22. Connecticut

End of 2020-21: 15-8, NCAA First Round

23. Syracuse

End of 2020-21: 18-10, sweet 16

24. Arkansas

End of 2020-21: 25-7, elite eight

25. Drake

End of 2020-21: 26-5, NCAA First Round

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