The NCAA-imposed deadline for players to opt out of the NBA Draft and return to school has passed, which means it’s time to update Sporting News’ Way-Too-Early Top 25 with our Still-Pretty-Early Top 25.
Things can still change, of course. Injuries happen. A couple of top recruits have yet to choose a school. But now we have a pretty good sense of what rosters should look like when the season starts, so here’s a look at how we at Sporting News — with the guiding advice from SN college hoops guru Mike DeCourcy — think teams stack up right now.
Can’t wait until the season starts, folks.
25. Seton Hall Pirates
Why they’re here: The Pirates won 21 games and earned a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament last year, their second consecutive berth in the big dance. And coach Kevin Willard’s squad return its top four scorers — Khadeen Carrington (17.1 ppg), Desi Rodriguez (15.7), Angel Delgado (15.2) and Myles Powell (10.7) — which makes the Pirates a threat to earn a top-four seed in next spring’s tournament. Delgado’s return was the biggest news of the offseason; the 6-10, 240-pound senior-to-be is one of the country’s most immovable post players. He averaged 13.1 rebounds to go with that healthy scoring average.
24. Northwestern Wildcats
Why they’re here: Fresh off the program’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats return their top five scorers. Yep, that’s a good place to start. Bryant McIntosh (14.8 ppg) and Scottie Lindsay (14.1) will be seniors next season, Vic Law (12.3) and Dererk Pardon (8.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg) will be juniors. Oh, and forward Aaron Falzon, who averaged 8.4 points as a freshman but played only 20 minutes as a sophomore before a knee injury ended his season, will be back, too. Expect to see Northwestern back in the big dance, and expect the Wildcats to improve on this year’s No. 8 seed.
23. Purdue Boilermakers
Why they’re here: This was a good news/bad news offseason for the Boilermakers. Let’s start with the star who’s heading to the NBA, Caleb Swanigan. He was pretty amazing as a junior (18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds) but the big man’s choice to jump to pro ball isn’t a surprise. Purdue does return two players who tested the NBA waters and will definitely play in the league down the road, 7-1 center Isaac Haas and wing Vince Edwards. That’s a great tandem, and coach Matt Painter has a healthy stable full of returning contributors who will be ready for larger roles next season.
22. Virginia Tech Hokies
Why they’re here: Buzz Williams has had the Hokies on an upward plane since taking over a program that only won nine games the season before he arrived. Virginia Tech made its first NCAA Tournament since 2007 this year, and with an outstanding group of returning players — led by Justin Robinson, Chris Clarke, Ahmed Hill and Justin Bibbs (all four averaged between 9.2 and 11.4 points per game — plus a solid recruiting class, expect the Hokies to take another step forward.
21. Miami Hurricanes
Why they’re here: They’ll miss departing seniors Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy, certainly. But Ja’Quon Newton (13.5 ppg) is back and Bruce Brown’s decision to put off the NBA for another year was huge. Then add in an excellent recruiting class, led by five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker, and you have a team that will be in the mix for the ACC title next season.