North Carolina may have claimed the national title Monday night, but the Tar Heels don’t even crack the top five in SI’s Way-Too-Early Top 25. Here’s a first look at the rankings for the 2017–18 college basketball season:
1. Arizona Wildcats
Sophomore guard Allonzo Trier and 6’5” freshman Rawle Alkins should return and join the nation’s top freshman, 6’11” center DeAndre Ayton.
2. Kentucky Wildcats
UK is in great shape to land 6’11” center Mohamad Bamba, who alongside 6’8” forward P.J. Washington and 6’11” forward Nick Richards would form another stellar recruiting class.
3. Louisville Cardinals
The Cardinals will probably lose 6’3” sophomore Donovan Mitchell to the draft, but three other starters, including point guard Quentin Snyder, will be back.
4. Duke Blue Devils
The Blue Devils are hoping Grayson Allen returns to team up in the backcourt with rising star Frank Jackson, a 6’3” freshman.
5. Villanova Wildcats
Three seniors are leaving, but 6’2” sophomore Jalen Brunson is back. So is stud freshman forward Omari Spellman, who was ineligible this season.
6. Gonzaga Bulldogs
The Zags could reach consecutive Final Fours featuring Zach Collins, a 7’0” freshman who came off the bench this season.
7. North Carolina Tar Heels
Freshman forward Tony Bradley’s return, Luke Maye’s breakout and the arrival of 6’3” freshman Jalek Felton will make the Heels tough to beat—again.• Get your North Carolina championship gear
8. Michigan State Spartans
Tom Izzo shored up his size issues by signing two big recruits, 6’11” Jaren Jackson and 6’9” Xavier Tillman. If 6’8” freshman Nick Ward bypasses the NBA draft, that would give the Spartans an imposing, albeit young, frontcourt.
9. Wichita State Shockers
The Shockers went 31–5 and pushed Kentucky to the brink without a single senior in their rotation.
10. Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Gophers lose just one senior starter from a squad that closed hard and finished fourth in the Big Ten.
11. Kansas Jayhawks
Frank Mason and Josh Jackson aren’t coming back, but there is plenty of perimeter talent remaining in Lawrence, especially with the addition of Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman. Bill Self really needs a big win in the spring signing period.
12. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Bonzi Colson could be the ACC’s preseason player of the year, and tough-as-nails point guard Matt Farrell will be back for his senior season. Mike Brey expects incoming guard D.J. Harvey, a DeMatha grad, to play heavy minutes.
13. USC Trojans
Unlike last year, Andy Enfield is not losing underclassmen to the NBA. He is also adding Derryck Thornton, a 6’1” transfer from Duke, and Charles O’Bannon Jr., a top 50 recruit with UCLA bloodlines.
14. Cincinnati Bearcats
The Bearcats will lose senior point guard Troy Caupain, but their top three scorers will return. Freshman guard Jarron Cumberland is an NBA prospect who is bound for a breakout sophomore season.
15. West Virginia Mountaineers
The Mountaineers are only losing two senior starters. The team’s top scorers, Jevon Carter and Esa Amad, will be back.
16. South Carolina Gamecocks
It will be easier for the Gamecocks to avoid a Final Four hangover if sophomore guard P.J. Dozier returns. Freshman guard Rakym Felder showed his considerable potential during the tournament as well.
17. Butler Bulldogs
Leading scorer Kelan Martin will be back for his senior year, and freshman Kamar Baldwin is well on his way to being one of the best players this program has produced.
18. Virginia Cavaliers
The Cavaliers are losing senior point guard London Perrantes and three transfers, but freshmen guards Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy have the ability to be dynamic scorers.
19. UCLA Bruins
Replacing Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf, Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford won’t be easy, but 6’1” sophomore Aaron Holiday will shine as a starter again, and Steve Alford has another top-flight recruiting class headlined by 6’7” forward Kris Wilkes.
20. Saint Mary's Gaels
Only two of the Gaels’ top eight scorers were seniors this season. If 6’11” junior Jock Landale returns, he will garner All-America acclaim.
21. Florida Gators
The Gators are only losing two starters, but they need to hope that 6’8” junior forward Devin Robinson, who is entering the NBA draft but not hiring an agent, returns for his senior year.
22. Northwestern Wildcats
With seven of their top eight scorers returning, the Wildcats are ready to prove that this season was no fluke.
23. Michigan Wolverines
Another year of improvement by sophomore forwards Moritz Wagner and D.J. Wilson should help overcome the departures of senior guards Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin.
24. TCU Horned Frogs
The Horned Frogs ended their season by winning the NIT, and their top six scorers will return for Jamie Dixon’s second season.
25. Xavier Musketeers
Junior point guard Edmond Sumner has entered the NBA draft and will sign with an agent, but 6’6” junior Trevon Blueitt could be the Big East preseason player of the year. Incoming 6’3” guard Paul Scruggs should have an immediate impact, too.