| MBB/WBB ESPN's "Way too early Top 25." Five SEC teams with Alabama coming in at #15.

After an NCAA tournament that featured a 15-seed in the Elite Eight, a Duke-North Carolina rivalry game with unprecedented stakes, the final game of Mike Krzyzewski's legendary career and as hyped a Final Four as we'll ever see, we all need a minute to catch our breath and recharge.

Done? OK, good. Hope you're refreshed, because it's already time to look ahead to the 2022-23 college basketball season.

Let's get a couple of ground rules out of the way quickly.

One, any player currently projected by ESPN to be selected in June's NBA draft will be considered a departure for now. If that player opts to return to school, obviously we'll adjust in the future. Players not projected to be picked will be included as a returnee, unless there's enough reliable information pointing to a certain departure.

Two, for seniors with another season of eligibility due to the COVID year, we're going to project them as departures -- unless they've officially announced they're returning to school for another year. Again, we'll adjust as players opt for another year in college.

Both things are subject to change, but we had to draw a line in the sand somewhere at this point in the calendar.

Think that's it for now -- there are only 219 days until the season tips off, so it's time to dive in!

1. Arkansas Razorbacks

There's not a clear No. 1 entering the offseason, but five-star guard Anthony Black's commitment to Arkansas in late March gives the Razorbacks the edge. Eric Musselman, who has established himself as one of the best transfer recruiters and coaches in the country, is bringing the nation's second-best high school recruiting class to a program coming off back-to-back Elite Eight appearances. Nick Smith is in contention to be the No. 1 pick in 2023, while Jordan Walsh and Black are also five-star prospects who could start right away. There are some roster questions, mainly focused on Jaylin Williams and Au'Diese Toney, but if one of the two returns, I think this is the best team in the country.

Projected starting lineup:

Nick Smith (No. 6 in ESPN 100)
Devo Davis (8.3 PPG)
Anthony Black (No. 20 in ESPN 100)
Jordan Walsh (No. 10 in ESPN 100)
Au'Diese Toney (10.5 PPG)

2. Houston Cougars

3. UCLA Bruins

4. Kansas Jayhawks

5. North Carolina Tar Heels

6. Duke Blue Devils

7. Kentucky Wildcats

The Wildcats would move into contention for the No. 1 spot should Oscar Tshiebwe or Shaedon Sharpe return to Lexington, but given their current draft statuses, we have both players departing. But John Calipari will have a talented group next season either way. Sahvir Wheeler and Keion Brooks Jr. both return to the starting lineup, and the additions of five-star recruits Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston will add some more playmaking to the lineup. There will have to be a breakout player up front, whether it's former five-star recruit Daimion Collins, Jacob Toppin or someone else, but there are options. Don't forget about former Iowa transfer CJ Fredrick, one of the elite shooters in college basketball, who missed last season with a hamstring injury.

Projected starting lineup:

Sahvir Wheeler (10.1 PPG)
Cason Wallace (No. 14 in ESPN 100)
Chris Livingston (No. 12 in ESPN 100)
Keion Brooks Jr. (10.8 PPG)
Daimion Collins (2.9 PPG)

8. Baylor Bears

9. Creighton Bluejays

10. Arizona Wildcats

11. Michigan Wolverines

12. Gonzaga Bulldogs

13. Villanova Wildcats​

14. Tennessee Volunteers

After looking like one of the best teams in the country over the final six weeks of the regular season and in the SEC tournament, Tennessee's season came to a halt with a loss to Michigan in the second round. Only one starter is gone, but that's Kennedy Chandler, one of the best freshmen in the country last season. That will put more pressure on Zakai Zeigler, who emerged as a key player for Rick Barnes' team. Santiago Vescovi, Josiah-Jordan James and Uros Plavsic are back as starters, while Olivier Nkamhoua should be healthy. Tennessee had some stretches early in the season when the offense disappeared for long periods of time; without Chandler, the Vols will need someone to step up to provide scoring pop.

Projected starting lineup:

Zakai Zeigler (8.8 PPG)
Santiago Vescovi (13.3 PPG)
Josiah-Jordan James (10.3 PPG)
Olivier Nkamhoua (8.6 PPG)
Uros Plavsic (4.2 PPG)

15. Alabama Crimson Tide

Before Jaden Shackelford's decision on Sunday to enter the NBA draft -- with a statement that doesn't indicate much of an interest in returning to Tuscaloosa -- I had the Crimson Tide ranked inside the top 10. Now, they drop several spots, but I still like Nate Oats' team. Jahvon Quinerly is back, as are three other key members of the Alabama rotation. A lot of the optimism stems from an elite recruiting class that features five-star prospects Jaden Bradley and Brandon Miller, as well as ESPN 100 recruits Rylan Griffen and Noah Clowney. We also have to wait and see whether JD Davison and Keon Ellis -- two projected draft picks -- will return to Tuscaloosa for another season.

Projected starting lineup:

Jahvon Quinerly (13.8 PPG)
Jaden Bradley (No. 15 in ESPN 100)
Darius Miles (5.8 PPG)
Brandon Miller (No. 18 in ESPN 100)
Charles Bediako (6.7 PPG)

16. Auburn Tigers

Bruce Pearl's biggest task will be replacing future first-round picks Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler, who spent only one season at Auburn but became arguably the best frontcourt duo in the country at both ends of the floor. Pearl took a big step toward finding reinforcements in late March, when former LSU commit Yohan Traore picked Auburn -- he should start right away. Wendell Green Jr., K.D. Johnson and Zep Jasper are all back on the perimeter; the key for them will be decision-making and shot selection. It will be interesting to see whether Allen Flanigan can return to his 2020-21 form. He entered last season as a projected first-round pick after averaging 14.3 points, but he missed the first half of the season due to injury and struggled to get going offensively.

Projected starting lineup:

Wendell Green Jr. (12.0 PPG)
K.D. Johnson (12.3 PPG)
Allen Flanigan (6.3 PPG)
Jaylin Williams (5.6 PPG)
Yohan Traore (No. 36 in ESPN 100)

17. Illinois Fighting Illini

18. Dayton Flyers

19. Oregon Ducks

20. Xavier Musketeers

21. Indiana Hoosiers

22. Texas Longhorns

23. Purdue Boilermakers

24. Texas Tech Red Raiders

25. Saint Louis Billikens

I drank the "Kool Aid" last year, expecting big things from the basketball team but I agree with @mando, I am not buying the hype. The team will have to prove it on the floor first and then, maybe, I will start sipping again.
Top Bottom