The 2020-21 College Basketball season is expected to tipoff on Wednesday, Nov. 25 with over 300 schools looking to earn a coveted spot in the upcoming March Madness event next year.
So, here goes with a look at our early 2020-21 College Hoops Top 25.
Let’s hope we can get back to a somewhat normal hoops season and some of our favorite features not too far down the road like our always-enjoyable Bracketology updates!
Men's College Basketball Preseason Rankings
(Future Odds to win 2021 NCAA Championship)
1) Gonzaga (+950)
It’s not as if the Zags are bringing everyone back from last season when they once again rolled thru the WCC. Without the departures of frontliners Filip Petrusev and Killian Tillie, this would be an easier call. It could have been worse for Mark Few, but F Corey Kispert and SG Joey Ayayi pulled their names from the NBA Draft.
Their returns, along with ready-to-blossom 6-10 Drew Timme, and the addition of heralded newcomers such as 6-4 frosh PG Jalen Suggs, the highest-ranked recruit ever signed by the Zags, and Southern Illinois transfer G Aaron Cook, and Few dominates the WCC again, with a good chance to be the top overall seed in March (or...May?).
2) Villanova (+950)
Jay Wright has won the whole thing a couple of times at Nova with veteran squads and it looks like this edition of the Cats at least has the experience quotient. Senior PG Collin Gillespie is in the tradition of heady Nova on-court pilots, while Big East onlookers are waiting for 6-9 soph PF Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and 6-7 wing Jermaine Samuels to assume full feature roles. An interesting addition is Tulane transfer G Caleb Daniels, who scored almost 17 ppg for the Green Wave two years ago and can likely replace some of the offense lost when F Saddiq Bey declared early for the draft.
3) Wisconsin (+1800)
We have a hunch that experienced teams might be the ones to watch at the top of the polls this season rather than those depending so heavily on frosh. And the Badgers have a lot of experience with six seniors on hand from last season's co-champs of the Big Ten. Senior D’Mitrick Trice and Brad Davison have logged nearly 3100 minutes of court time as a pair of three-year starters, and 6-11 Nate Reuvers is an established post threat. A quality crop of incoming frosh is likely to provide the depth pieces that HC Greg Gard will need as the season progresses.
4) Virginia (+1100)
We never want to underestimate HC Tony Bennett, who even in a reloading campaign last term had the Cavs peaking late and looking like a tough out in the Dance that never happened. Now the ‘Hoos have some real teeth again with Marquette transfer wing Sam Hauser and blue chip frosh addition 6-7 Jabri Abdur-Rahim to plug in alongside jr. PG Kihei Clark, a key cog in the 2019 title run. Rest assured UVa’s notorious Pack-Line defense will come to play as usual after leading the nation in scoring defense for the third straight time a season ago.
5) Baylor (+1100)
The Bears didn’t lose in the continental US until their 26th game (only loss until late February came in an early-season tilt in Alaska against Washington), by which point they had spent five weeks atop the polls. Scott Drew brings back the nucleus of that team led by the All-Big 12 backcourt tandem of Jared Butler and MaCio Teague, who resisted the temptation to jump early into the NBA. Defense was exceptional last season, holding foes to beneath 40% FGs, and with essentially the same roster as a year ago, no reason the Bears can’t again live near the top of the rankings.
6) Tennessee (+2800)
Rick Barnes has had teams with a Final Four look in the past without quite getting there, including his best UT team a couple of years ago that flamed out in the Sweet 16. SEC observers believe Barnes should at least get that far this season, especially if a couple of transfers (Sacred Heart’s 6-7 frontliner E.J. Anoskie, one of the nation’s top rebounders last term) and explosive Oregon transfer G Victor Bailey, fit into rotations that will feature perhaps the SEC’s best frontline tandem in 6-9 PF John Fulkerson and versatile 6-6 F Yves Pones.
7) Kansas (+1800)
Never too far out of the national mix, Bill Self has what looks like another serious contender in Lawrence, with a solid group of holdovers led by National Defensive Player of the Year 6-5 PG Marcus Garrett augmented by highly-touted 6-5 frosh wing Bryce Thompson and 6-7 juco wing Tyon Grant-Foster. We wonder, however, how much Self might miss rim-protector deluxe Udoka Azubuike, who allowed Garrett to get real aggressive on the perimeter, knowing he had an effective goalie waiting behind him. Now, is the NCAA ever going to get around throwing the book at the Jayhawks? (More to come on that front in coming months, we’re sure.)
8) Iowa (+1000)
The biggest development of the offseason in the Big Ten was sure-fire NBA first-rounder 6-11 Luke Garza deciding not to enter the draft and return for another year in Iowa City, where he opens as the likely favorite for the Wooden Award. A key development will be the health of PG Jordan Bohannon, slowed by hip problems and limited to ten games last season. A healthy Bohannon, plus complementary pieces 6-3 C.J. Frederick & 6-6 Joe Weiskamp back in the fold, plus Garza, makes the Hawkeyes a threat for their first Final Four since Lute Olson’s 1980 team.
9) Duke (+1600)
We never want to count out Coach K, but he did lose more than 46 ppg of scoring with Vernon Carey, Tre Jones, and Cassius Stanley all key veteran departures. That trio carried much of the load last season, so it’s up to the likes of 6-9 Matthew Hurt and 6-5 Wendell Moore to develop a bit more consistency in their games. Otherwise, the Blue Devils will be relying heavily upon touted freshmen such as PG Jeremy Roach & C Jalen Johnson. Coach K’s best teams have mixed top-notch frosh with productive vets; we’re not sure about he latter this winter.
10) Creighton (+2300)
Picking up again on the experience theme, we like the Bluejays with four starters back in the fold from the Big East regular-season co-champs. Headliner jr. G Marcus Zegarowski returns after a late-season knee injury last March that might have kept him out of the Dance (had there been one). But he’s back as are athletic 6-5 wings Damien Jefferson and Denzel Mahoney who both took a look at the NBA Draft before deciding to stay in Omaha for anopther year. Dagger-thrower Mitch Ballock is another returning DD scorer who will also pick up some of the slack for the departed T-shon Alexander.
11) Texas Tech (+2800)
Even thought he Red Raiders topped out at 18 wins a year ago in a mild letdown from their title game appearance the previous spring, we still think HC Chris Beard is a miracle worker, and we like the addition of 6-7 VCU grad transfer and interior beast Marcus Santos-Silva.
12) UCLA (+3300)
Mick Cronin got the Bruins turned around at midseason a year ago and UCLA had the look of a team to avoid in the Dance. There was finally a buy-in to Cronin’s play-defense-or-else philosophy on the roster last season with plenty returning and experienced talent led by 6-9 F Chris Smith and exciting soph PG Tyger Campbell.
13) Illinois (+1500)
Maybe no coach was happier to see his top players pull out of the NBA Draft than the Illini’s Brad Underwood, who was thinking PG Ayo Dosunmu & C Kofi Cockburn were headed out of Champaign-Urbana. Instead they’re back for another go and the rest of the Big Ten could only sigh.
14) Michigan State (+1800)
Tom Izzo’s recent Covid diagnosis is a concern, but as long as he recovers as expected he should be ready for the beginning of the season and steward another contender in East Lansing. Cassisus Winston leaves a big gap in the backcourt but regional sources believe Rocket Watts is ready to step into the breach, and the addition of Marquette transfer wing Joey Hauser might also spur 6-6 wing Aaron Henry into becoming a more consistent offensive threat.
15) Alabama (+5000)
We are big fans of HC Nate Oats from his days at Buffalo and suspect he might be ready for a breakthrough in his second year at Tuscaloosa with four returning starters plus an cast of recruits with an international flavor including a couple of Canadians and a Frenchman to watch, 6-11 Alex Tchikou. Though it might be touted 6-6 juco Keon Ellis who makes the biggest impact.
16) Oregon (+2800)
Dana Altman has Oregon to the point were it is reloading each year, so expect the Ducks to weather the loss of do-everything PG Payton Pritchard, who was the last holdover from the 2017 Final Four team. But we’re not sure anybody will get more mileage out of transfers this winter than Altman, who counts three among them (ex-UNLV PG Amauri Hardy, ex-Rutgers PF Eugene Omoruyi, and ex-Duquesne PF Eric Williams) to fit in alongside 6-5 G Will Richardson and explosive 6-6 wing Chris Duarte, who has flashed some real upside during his career.
17) Richmond (+7500)
Always tricky to project a mid-major this high. But the Spiders look the best in the A-10, especially with a three-pronged backcourt of vets Blake Francis, Jacob Gilyard, and Nick Sherod, and a coach (Chris Mooney) who always seems to get the best out of the material on hand.
18) Kentucky (+1300)
John Calipari has another frosh-heavy roster, and while no one is comparing this crop to Anthony Davis and friends, or the Karl-Anthony Towns side that stayed unbeaten into the Final Four of 2015, this new bunch could cause problems in the SEC if they can mesh soon enough. Another collection of Top 40 recruits includes a likely starting backcourt of Devin Askew and B.J. Boston. Calipari did add a bit of experience, too, as PG Davion Mintz started all 35 games two years ago as a junior at Creighton before missing last season with ankle problems.
19) Florida State (+2500)
More than a few people thought the Noles were Final Four threat last season when they won the ACC regular-season crown en route to 26 wins. Leonard Hamilton lost some key pieces from that juggernaut but returns some experienced components augmented by ballyhooed 6-9 frosh Scottie Barnes.
20) LSU (+4000)
We keep waiting for the NCAA to throw the book at Will Wade’s Tigers, which might happen soon. In the meantime, however, with several key cogs (Javonte Smart, Darius Day, and Trendon Watford) opting out of the NBA Draft, plus 6-3 frosh G Cam Thomas, a potential points machine who left storied Oak Hill Academy as the program’s all-time leading scorer, LSU promises to be exciting if nothing else.
21) West Virginia (+2800)
Bob Huggins is likely to cause some more trouble in the Big 12 with this batch of Mountaineers that returns four starters from last year’s 21-win team. WVU even has a more rugged look than usual with 6-9 Oscar Tshiebwe & 6-10 Derek Culver perhaps the top frontline tandem in the Big 12. A key to a move up the rankings would be soph SG Miles McBride, a streaky shooter who could really open up the paint for Culver & Tshiebwe if he develops a bit more consistency from the perimeter.
22) North Carolina (+2800)
The worst season of the Roy Williams era has some on Tobacco Road wondering when Roy might decide to simply retire to a preferred golf course. Roy is going to need his top incoming frosh–especially Gs Caleb Love & R.J. Davis–to produce right away as the Heels need to upgrade their perimeter work to complement frontline holdovers 6-10 Garrison Brooks & 6-10 Armando Bacot.
23) Texas (+2800)
Time is running out on Shaka Smart to deliver something other than a one-and-done in the Dance for the Horns, as another NIT title (as in 2019) might not suffice the anxious Texas-exes. Shaka does return almost everyone from last year’s 19-win team plus touted 6-9 frosh F Greg Brown III, one of the Big 12's top recruits.
24) Rutgers (+8000)
Steve Pickiell had the Scarlet Knights poised to qualify for the Dance for the first times since 1999, and should get a chance to complete that task with a mostly-similar roster to last season featuring 6-4 G Geo Baker and 6-6 battering ram Ron Harper, Jr. Pickiell’s team was also 18-1 at the RAC last season, developing one of the best home-court edges in the Big Ten.
25) Arizona State (+2300)
Bobby Hurley looks like he might be able to sustain some success in Tempe, adding high-end recruits 6-5 wing Josh Christopher and 6-8 F Marcus Bagley to a roster that got good news in the offseason when high-scoring G Remy Martin (19.3 ppg last season) deciding to stay put another year and not test the NBA Draft. The transfer of F Romello White to Ole Miss stings a bit, but Hurley believes he can compensate on his roster.
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