After Monday’s National Championship, the 2016-17 college basketball season is officially over. But that doesn’t mean we can’t look forward to next season! Here’s your 2017-18 “Way Too Early” Top 25!
25. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota is notable for being the easiest upset pick in NCAA Tournament history; as an over-seeded 5, they were the Vegas underdog against a Middle Tennessee State team that had upset Michigan State the March before. Minnesota should be able to escape that notoriety next season as nearly all of last season’s contributors (including the very handsome Reggie Lynch) will return to challenge for the Big Ten championship.
24. Alabama Crimson Tide
If Alabama head coach Avery Johnson can lead the Dallas Mavericks to 60+ wins in consecutive seasons, he can turn the Crimson Tide into a quality basketball school, especially if he continues his recruiting hot streak. But like Johnson’s tenure with Dallas, don’t be surprised if his team is unable to get out of the first round of the Tournament, even if they get a top seed, home court advantage and Dirk Nowitzki is having a career year.
23. Oregon State Beavers
You’re reading it here first: Oregon State will be excellent this year. The Beavers are returning talented starters Stephen Thompson and Drew Eubanks, plus they’re adding a healthy Tres Tinkle and Top 50 recruit Ethan Thompson (Stephen’s little brother). If those players can all stay on the court and coach Wayne Tinkle works some magic, I don’t see why they can’t compete in the Pac-12 as they did in years previous to last.
22. Washington Huskies
You’re reading it here first: Washington will be excellent this year. After losing Nigel Williams-Goss, Marquese Chriss, Dejounte Murray, Kelsey Plum, Markelle Fultz, Michael Porter, Jr., and Trae Young, and also Lorenzo Romar, the Huskies will realize that star players are actually detrimental to winning in the Pac-12. Washington will have their best season since Tony Wroten and Terrance Ross left school early.
21. Oklahoma Sooners
Lon Kruger and the Sooners reaped the rewards of Washington’s implosion as they scooped up McDonald’s All-American and former Huskies recruit Trae Young. If Young can go on some kind of Hieldian streak, OU’s development of returning players can make them a contender in the Big 12.
Tigers Michael Porters
Oklahoma wasn’t the chief beneficiary of Washington’s collapse, because that would be Missouri, who secured the talents of Michael Porter, Sr., and his son, Michael Porter, Jr. In a stunning turn of events, Porter, Sr. will lead a coup d'état to overthrow Cuonzo Martin after Martin doesn’t play Über-recruit Porter, Jr. all 40 minutes of every game. The Michael Porters will eventually fall apart, but not until they’ve pulled off some dazzling victories and given the Missouri School of Journalism some juicy stories.
19. California Golden Bears
Lo and behold, Ivan Rabb will return for another season in Berkeley. This time around will be better for the ultra-skilled big man because new head coach Wyking Jones will (presumably) draw up plays for his best player, unlike recently resigned and soon to be overthrown Cuonzo Martin.
18. Dayton Flyers
The Flyers may have lost head coach Archie Miller to Indiana, but Kostas Antetokounmpo is about to grow another four inches this summer and metamorphosize into an all-consuming basketball monster, just as his very famous brother did.
17. Saint Mary’s Gaels
Saint Mary’s’s team should be better than last year, as the Gaels are returning much of their excellent squad, including Australian center Jock Landale. If one or two of their Australian forwards can improve, they can potentially challenge Gonzaga for the WCC crown once again.
16. Butler Bulldogs
Butler is always a solid team, but if Isaiah Brenner and Tyler Martin return, they can be great. It doesn’t matter that those names are made up.
15. UCLA Bruins
LiAngelo isn’t as good as LiMelo, let alone Lonzo, but LaVar will talk him up just the same. Anyway, UCLA is losing a lot of talent and unless Aaron morphs into Justin or Jrue — like Kostas did Thanasis or Giannis — the Bruins will be good but not great.
14. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Give me Bonzie Colson or give me death.
13. Colorado Buffaloes
You’re reading it here first: Colorado will be excellent this year. The Buffs will lose four players to graduation — including their best two players — and two others are set to transfer. But Tad Boyle will reload with his best ever recruiting class, plus Missouri transfer Namon Wright, plus additional transfers [REDACTED] and [REDACTED]. If everything comes together, the Buffs could have their best team since Spencer Dinwiddie tore his ACL.
(Note: If you haven’t noticed that this article is tongue-in-cheek, now is the time for that realization. Colorado might be good, they might be bad, who knows. We don’t even know what the roster will look like right now.)
12. USC Trojans
USC is loaded with developing NBA talent, and unless something catastrophic happens — O.J. Mayo returns as a “special assistant,” or Andy Enfield’s wife leaves him — the Trojans should compete for the Pac-12 title.
11. Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky is losing three freshman stars, but they’re bringing in at least four (4) five-star recruits. And that’s not even mentioning returning players who were themselves five- or four-star recruits only a year or two ago. I rank them this low because John Calipari’s son is on the roster and has an “Earned Not Given” tattoo even though he’s literally on the team because of nepotism.
10. Colorado State Rams
You’re reading it here first: Colorado State will be excellent this year. Larry Eustachy is one of the very coaches in college basketball (and a wonderful person!) and he will have a loaded Rams squad to work with this upcoming season. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if CSU ends up being the State of Colorado’s greatest ever basketball team, and that includes the 2008-09 Denver Nuggets.
9. Duke Blue Devils
Coach K will retire, Grayson Allen will be banned from Earth, Luke Kennard will be drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, but Duke still has an incredible recruiting class to compliment returning contributors. The Blue Devils will be an impressive team before they collapse in the NCAA Tournament.
8. North Carolina Tar Heels
The Tar Heels are always great when they’re not dealing with the repercussions of recruiting and academic scandals. Unless the NCAA is about to drop an oddly timed investigation, UNC should be clean for the upcoming season and will be in position to defend their National Championship. Also, watch out for Tony Bradley becoming the next John Henson, which I swear is a compliment.
7. Wichita State Shockers
Wichita State returns basically everyone from their incredible 31-5 season, most importantly Markis McDuffie, former Buffs recruit Landry Shamet, and head coach Gregg Marshall, who was rumored to be leaving for a top-tier program. If the Shockers see a breakout from one of their role players, this could be the best Wichita State team ever, and that includes 2013-14 when they went 35-1.
6. Michigan State Spartans
The word on the street is that Miles Bridges is considering returning to Michigan State, and if he does, the Spartans will be absolutely loaded next season. Tom Izzo may have another Final Four run yet.
5. Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas will lose (B**** I’m) Frank Mason, senior glue guy Landen Lucas, and freshman phenom Josh Jackson, but their roster is so stacked that I didn’t even realize former mega-prospect Malik Newman had transferred there and will be eligible to play in 2017-18. Newman will join Svi Mikhailiuk, Lagerald Vick and incoming freshman Billy Preston on a team that still won’t get to the Final Four.
4. Villanova Wildcats
Villanova was arguably the best team in the nation before they ran into a feisty and horribly underseeded pack of Badgers. The Wildcats will return emerging stars Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges, and you can pencil in a breakout season from some random Italian-American guard.
3. Louisville Cardinals
If Donovan Mitchell returns, he could make a run at the Naismith Award and lead Louisville on a serious tournament run. Louisville also has Anas Mahmoud, whom I mention solely because he might be my favorite non-Colorado college basketball player.
2. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Nigel Williams-Goss will be back, as will most of their Final Four team, besides Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins. Gonzaga will have experience too boot and stand to benefit from Pac-12 transfers Jabari Bird, Tra Holder, Allen Crabbe and Derrick White.
1. Oregon Ducks
If Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey and Jordan Bell return for another season, the Oregon Ducks will be arguably the best college basketball team we’ve ever seen, and certainly the most likable. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Oregon goes 40-0, Dillon Brooks wins the Naismith Award, and Nike takes over the world by activating brain-controlling equipment in their sporting wear and enslaves Earth’s population like Plankton did to Neptune and the rest of Bikini Bottom in the Spongebob Movie.
It’s only April and I’m already ready for more college basketball!