What are the 5 best men’s college basketball rosters right now? Mailbag

The deadline to enter the college basketball transfer portal has finally, mercilessly, passed.

Players had until May 1 to register, but those whose coaches had left for other jobs had an additional 30 days. There are still a few big-name players left, but for the most part the dust has settled.


Ranking the best players in the NCAA men’s basketball transfer portal

That’s why we put out a call for a college basketball mailbag last week. We tried to answer as many questions as possible…but there were enough to make a two-part mailbag. We will delve deeper into NIL and realignment in our second; this is strictly a space for hoops:

(Note: Questions have been lightly edited for length and grammar.)

Which 5 teams have the most talent on their roster, and which 5 teams would you rank first in a preseason poll? — Elie H.

Give me a top five of Kansas, Houston, North Carolina, Baylor and Alabama. The Jayhawks, Cougars and Tar Heels are all loaded with star power and quality additions. And let me add a nod to the persistence of Nate Oats and the Crimson Tide: if Bama gets Mark Sears back with the return of Latrell Wrightsell Jr. and Grant Nelson – plus the addition of coveted transfer Aden Holloway ( Auburn), Chris Youngblood (South Florida) and Cliff Omoruyi (Rutgers) – the Tide are good at the Final Four again. — Kyle Tucker

In no particular order: Kansas, Baylor, Duke, Alabama and Iowa State. Kansas would be my preseason No. 1 pick because of the ridiculous portal class Bill Self signed, in addition to the talent coming to Lawrence. Hunter Dickinson, Dajuan Harris Jr. and KJ Adams are all returning, but are now bolstered by offseason imports Rylan Griffen (Alabama), AJ Storr (Wisconsin), Zeke Mayo (South Dakota State) and Riley Kugel (Florida ). Who starts Self? Baylor and Alabama have also been winners of the transfer portal so far; Baylor’s duo of Jeremy Roach (Duke) and Norchad Omier (Miami) will fit nicely into Scott Drew’s system, and Alabama’s recent addition of Omoruyi gives Oats another Final Four-caliber team . Iowa State completed its perimeter trio of Tamin Lipsey, Milan Momcilovic and Keshon Gilbert with Saint Mary’s big Joshua Jefferson, one of my favorite under-the-radar additions of the offseason. And finally, Duke, which rebuilt its roster this offseason around new No. 1 recruit Cooper Flagg – who, yes, is really that good. Can Flagg and the rest of Duke’s top-ranked incoming class succeed in the sport’s oldest era? I am cautiously optimistic. — Brendan Marques

In no particular order? Marks, what a cop-out! I will go, in order, to Alabama, Houston, Gonzaga, Duke and Kansas. Alabama has the deepest and best roster if Sears returns. Houston lost Jamal Shead, which is huge, but landed a solid replacement in Milos Uzan, and the Cougars were playing in the top 5 at the end of the year without Jojo Tugler and Terrance Arceneaux, who are probably their two best prospects professionals.

Did you know that once Gonzaga placed Ben Gregg in the starting lineup on Jan. 18, the Zags were the ninth-best team in college hoops, according to Bart Torvik? And the Zags only lose one rotation player (Anton Watson), get a healthy Steele Venters (the 2023 player of the year in the Big Sky, a league that included a dude named Dalton Knecht) and also have added All-WCC wing Michael Ajayi and Khalif Battle, Arkansas’ second-leading scorer. I’m going to buy the Flagg hype, because if he truly is one of the best prospects of the last decade, then Duke should be in the top 5. I have some PTSD from being a victim of the groupthink and that I ranked Kansas No. 1 last preseason, but Self has a full roster and added some much-needed shots. And he’s still Bill Self. Iowa State, UConn and Tennessee are also under consideration. Other teams that could be in the top 5 include Baylor (for its high-end talent) and Michigan (for its depth). — C.J. Moore

Who does better in his first season at his new stage: John Calipari at Arkansas, Mark Pope at Kentucky, Dusty May at Michigan or Josh Schertz at Saint Louis? -Jesse K.

It depends on how you define “better”. If that’s compared to what the expectations will be, I’d lean towards Schertz. Saint Louis has only been ranked in one of the last 10 seasons, for four weeks. I’ll bet on Schertz surpassing that and making an NCAA tournament. No one below the major conference level had a better portal season than Schertz. He signed two of his former players – Robbie Avila and Isaiah Swope – both of whom could have moved on to the next level. He convinced Gibson Jimerson, the No. 39 player in our transfer rankings, to stay at SLU. Jimerson, who made 312 3-pointers in his career, fits perfectly into Schertz’s system. That’s three commitments from three top-50 transfers to an Atlantic 10 school, and Schertz also signed two high-major players, Miami’s AJ Casey and Creighton’s Josiah Dotzler.

Now, if “best” means NCAA tournament success, that’s probably a different answer. I’d lean towards May, but might re-evaluate once Pope finishes his list. May landed three top-50 transfers and a fourth top-100 transfer, Sam Walters, who has high upside and fits the way he wants to play. I’m curious to see how he makes the Danny Wolf/Vlad Goldin combo work, but both are very good college players. The man who could determine whether Michigan is the right answer is Roddy Gayle Jr. From a pure talent standpoint, he’s one of the best wing players in the gate, but he hasn’t played consistently like that in two years. years at Ohio State. He’s the one who could take Michigan from the Top 25 to the Top 10. But overall, I really like the mix of talent on May’s roster and the fact that he convinced Nimari Burnett to come back. He gives Michigan a defensive stop; a starting lineup of Goldin-Wolf-Gayle-Burnett, then Tre Donaldson or Rubin Jones, has impressive positional size, shooting and defense. And May can bring two big shooters off the bench in Walters and Will Tschetter. — Moore

Will Bill Self be able to keep all these wings happy with so many people to play with now? — Chad D.

So here are KU’s perimeter players: Harris., Elmarko Jackson, Kugel, Griffen, Mayo, Storr, Jamari McDowell and Rakease Passmore. At the four, KU has both Adams and Zach Clemence. It’s possible that Storr, Griffen and maybe Kugel play four in smaller lineups, but how many minutes does a game last? Five, maybe? Ten, maximum? So that’s around 130 minutes for eight players.

Spinlocks, in my mind: Harris, Jackson, Mayo, Griffen, Storr, Adams, Dickinson and at least one of Clemence and Flory Bidunga. It’s rare for Self to play a rotation larger than eight. He’ll probably try with this list, especially early on. But at least two of these perimeter players, or even three, are ousted. So no, it’s unlikely that it can make everyone happy if happiness is tied to playing time. And the other thing to keep in mind…

There’s now a second wave of portal season, and it’s recruiting guys who have already committed to a new team whose roster outlook has completely changed since that commitment. KU already lost incoming freshman Labaron Philon, who committed to Alabama. It’s possible that not every wing currently projected for the roster ends up on the Jayhawks, and the most likely to land elsewhere is Kugel. — Moore

Syracuse coach Adrian Autry is trying to rebuild the Orange powerhouse. (Jamie Rhodes / USA Today)

Can Adrian Autry bring Syracuse back to the tournament? -Kris A.

Absolutely. But this season? This might be overkill. Let’s not forget that Syracuse missed the NCAA tournament in Jim Boeheim’s last two seasons; Autry took over that roster, which needed – and still needs – an overhaul to become a regular top-25 team again. That process began with the introduction of man-to-man defense last season, a necessary but painstaking step . Now he’s going after the real players…and that selection takes more than one offseason.

Take Judah Mintz, for example. Good player. Productive. But a star who deserved as much oxygen as last season? No, and especially not for a team hoping to make the NCAA tournament. Losing Maliq Brown and Quadir Copeland hurts, but in JJ Starling and Chris Bell, Cuse has two productive, returning ACC-caliber starters. Freshman forward Donnie Freeman, the No. 23 player in the 2024 recruiting class, has really impressed me on the base circuit and should compete to start right out of the gate. But Autry probably still needs another season — and more shooters — to fully rebuild Syracuse into a tournament team. I have confidence in him as a coach, though, given last season’s limited sample size. — Brands

What should I really expect from West Virginia’s new coach? -Josh H.

Constantly create lists that are better than you think. Darian DeVries was one of the top talent evaluators at the mid-level when it came to high schoolers and transfers at Drake. He had a few thefts, and it wasn’t just his son. I love what he’s done so far in the portal in West Virginia. Tucker DeVries, who we have #1 in our portal rankings, was a good start, but I also love Javon Small and I love Amani Hansberry. Hansberry is one of those hidden gems that DeVries finds and wins with. He didn’t play much his first year at Illinois because he was behind two older bigs, but he was one of my favorite players in the 2023 class. He’s a talented player who can play inside and out and truly passing, the type of modern center that can be the hub of an attack. He’s going to be a very good college player.

The Big 12 is a monster, and it’s a tough job, especially considering the roster was a wreck, but I’d bet on DeVries. Remember, athletic director Wren Baker hired Grant McCasland from North Texas. He knows the ball and has had a year to evaluate potential hires. — Moore

What is the ceiling for Marquette next year? -Zach G.

An All-America season for Kam Jones and a top-3 seed in the NCAA tournament. Shaka Smart has shown that a commitment to roster development and continuity works. Jones proved when Tyler Kolek was out late in the year that he could be the focal point of the offense. Chase Ross has star potential. The loss of Oso Ighodaro is tough to replace on both ends, but Ben Gold has improved that Ighodaro role in some of Marquette’s two-man games and his shooting is a real plus. David Joplin will be very motivated after a disastrous final match of his season. The roster is still solid. Still old. Good depth. It feels like the floor is high because we’ve seen these guys win together before. — Moore

(Top photo of Kansas’ Dajuan Harris Jr. and KJ Adams: Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images)

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