A pair of Big East teams lead the way in Heat Check CBB’s way-too-early Top 25 college basketball rankings for the 2023-24 season.
Sure, there may still be a few more notable games left on the 2022-23 docket — but that doesn’t mean we can’t start thinking about 2023-24.
Of course, the storylines that will define next season will continue to take shape over the course of the coming weeks and months. The transfer portal grows fuller by the day, the coaching carousel is still in full spin, and a few notable high school seniors (including Bronny James) still have college decisions to make.
That said, a lot of the infrastructure for the 2023-24 season is already in place. Some massive announcements — be it a triumphant return, a tearful goodbye, or a tentative dipping of the toes into the NBA Draft waters — have already been made. At this point, enough of the picture is in focus that we feel confident in throwing out some early darts (perhaps way-way-too-early) for our preseason Top 25.
When projecting team rosters for next year, we are including non-graduating players who have not entered the transfer portal or made a definitive NBA Draft declaration. However, if a player is eligible to return but is also projected as a top-30 draft prospect (i.e., a first-rounder), that player is typically assumed to be gone from the roster. Further, if a player was celebrated on Senior Night, either this year or last, that player was not included in the roster projection.
As much as possible, these projected rosters are based on official, confirmed reports (or lack thereof) regarding returns, transfers and draft decisions. Throughout the offseason, these rankings will be updated regularly — and with considerable volatility — as we respond to significant changes to team rosters and/or coaching staffs.
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Received votes (alpha order): Clemson, Illinois, Ohio State, Oregon, Virginia, Wisconsin, Xavier
25) Boise State Broncos
Leon Rice has quietly led the Broncos to a 51-18 record over the past two seasons and the first two top-40 KenPom finishes in program history. Departing senior guard Marcus Shaver is replaced by UC San Diego transfer Roddie Anderson III, who averaged 13.1 points and 3.6 assists per game this past season. Boise State’s cupboard is far from empty, returning three double-figure scorers in all-conference first-teamer Tyson Degenhart, sharpshooter Max Rice and former Texas Tech wing and top-100 recruit Chibuzo Agbo. The Broncos will also have the services of guards RJ Keene, the No. 256 recruit in the Class of 2022, and Chris Lockett Jr., No. 177 in 2023. Adding another big man, or developing one in-house, would make Boise State even more formidable.
24) San Diego State Aztecs
Fresh off their first Final Four in school history, Brian Dutcher and the Aztecs will look to keep the momentum going into the 2023-24 season despite some key departures, including starters Matt Bradley, Keshad Johnson and Nathan Mensah. Fortunately for SDSU, Darrion Trammell and Lamont Butler are expected to maintain their pesky backcourt tandem while Micah Parrish and Jaedon LeDee man the frontcourt duties. Three former top-200 recruits — Demarshay Johnson, Miles Byrd and Elijah Saunders — are expected to contribute after being shuffled behind a senior-laden group this past season.
23) Saint Mary’s Gaels
Saint Mary’s has earned a 5-seed in each of the last two NCAA Tournaments and retains most of its core from this past season. Aidan Mahaney is one of the elite guards in America as a gifted shot-maker and Mitchell Saxen returns after tripling his scoring and rebounding averages in the frontcourt. Sixth man Augustas Marciulionis could be the difference-maker if he can develop his jumper. Harvard transfer forward Mason Forbes joins as well as three-star freshman Jordan Ross, who won the Nike EYBL Peach Jam championship.
22) USC Trojans
The nation’s No. 1 overall prospect will don a Trojans uniform this upcoming season as Georgia native Isaiah Collier will steer the USC offense. Collier is an excellent passer who sees the floor well and should open things up for Andy Enfield’s offense. Even with Drew Peterson and Boogie Ellis departing, USC’s rotation is plenty intriguing. Two more top-100 recruits join in center Arrinten Page (No. 55 in 247 Sports composite) and combo guard Silas Demary Jr. (No. 98). Much of USC’s growth this year depends on the sophomore trio of Vincent Iwuchukwu, Tre White and Kijani Wright, all of whom were top-40 recruits out of the 2022 class. This team has tons of upside.
21) North Carolina Tar Heels
Don’t call it a comeback! Or, fine, call it a comeback. Either way, expect the Heels to be relevant next year — this time, for the right reasons. UNC got a huge boost from the announced returns of Armando Bacot and RJ Davis, giving them potentially two All-Americans right off the bat. The departures of players like Caleb Love and Leaky Black will cause some heartache in Chapel Hill, but the offensive efficiency may improve as a result. Plus, the arrivals of freshmen Simeon Wilcher (No. 29 in 247 Sports composite) and Zayden High (No. 54) should help smooth things over. Seth Trimble and D’Marco Dunn will have more of a chance to shine. The Heels have already added former Brown standout Paxson Wojcik, and they may not be done in the portal.
20) Arizona Wildcats
It may be surprising to see the Wildcats here after an unceremonious exit from the NCAA Tournament and the announcement of Kerr Kriisa’s impending transfer. On the other hand, it’s worth considering that Kriisa’s unshaky presence as one of the Cats’ primary ball-handlers may be part of why Arizona got bounced early. Regardless, there are still huge questions to answer in the backcourt, but the frontcourt still looks formidable if Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo return alongside promising center Henri Veesaar and incoming freshman KJ Lewis. Pelle Larsson and former four-star Kylan Boswell project to be the starting guards — but look for some splashy portal pickups from one of the country’s top recruiters in Tommy Lloyd.
19) Auburn Tigers
The Tigers are waiting on word from point guard Wendell Green Jr., but assuming he stays put, Auburn should be back in the Top 25 next year. Green and KD Johnson form an increasingly experienced backcourt, while Johni Broome is the defensive anchor down low along with Dylan Cardwell. Even if Green doesn’t come back, Bruce Pearl is bringing in a top-25 recruit in point guard Aden Holloway, who recently had 15 points and three steals in 14 minutes during the McDonald’s All-American Game. There are some questions to be answered on the wings, but the skeleton is in place for this to be another successful Auburn team.
18) Tennessee Volunteers
The untimely injury to rising point guard Zakai Zeigler did Tennessee no favors down the stretch but the Volunteers still wound up in the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend. Assuming a full recovery from his Feb. 28 ACL tear, Tennessee is equipped with one of the game’s best guards to go along with stud defenders Jahmai Mashack and Jonas Aidoo. Julian Phillips’ NBA Draft decision looms large for the Vols, particularly with offensive question marks moving forward barring a transfer splash.
17) Florida Atlantic Owls
The biggest surprise in college basketball this past season, Florida Atlantic went from a fifth-place projection in the Conference USA preseason poll to the Final Four and a 35-win campaign. Dusty May’s Owls aren’t done yet, either. As it stands, eight of FAU’s nine-man rotation is set to return, including go-to guards Alijah Martin and Johnell Davis. Unless Florida Atlantic loses multiple contributors to the portal, there is little reason why the Owls can’t be nationally ranked to begin the 2023-24 season.
16) Baylor Bears
LJ Cryer (assuming he returns after testing the NBA Draft waters) steps into the alpha role in the backcourt following the departures of Adam Flagler and Keyonte George. The rising senior is one of the most versatile scoring guards in the country and is particularly lethal from deep. If Langston Love or top-25 freshman Ja’Kobe Walter can thrive in supporting roles on the perimeter, Baylor should again be among the best offenses in the country. Also, forward Jalen Bridges acclimated to the Bears late in the season, averaging 11.3 points and hitting 40.5 percent of his triples over Baylor’s final 12 games.
15) Gonzaga Bulldogs
Gonzaga … without Drew Timme? It’s a new day in Spokane, but that doesn’t mean the wheels are going to fall off the bus — especially if Julian Strawther and Hunter Sallis return. As of now, the only Zag in the portal was guard Dominick Harris, but watch for more Gonzaga-related transfer movement, potentially in both directions. As it stands, Nolan Hickman and Malachi Smith look to be back next year, while center Ben Gregg could be in for a massive breakout and Efton Reid will have another shot to live up to his lofty potential. Mark Few also adds forwards Dusty Stromer, a top-50 recruit, and Jun Seok Yeo, an exciting prospect out of South Korea. This may not be a title contender, but Gonzaga will likely stay relevant on the national stage.
14) Texas A&M Aggies
Will this be the year that Buzz Williams’ Aggies finally get the recognition they deserve? In 2022, Texas A&M was snubbed for a bid (depending on who you read); this year, the team was thought to be under-seeded by many bracketologists. It might be harder to ignore a team that projects to return four starters (Tyrece Radford, Wade Taylor IV, Henry Coleman, Julius Marble) and most of its bench from a squad that earned a 7-seed. The recruiting class doesn’t jump off the page, but next year’s group will be relying on its experience more than its youth. Don’t count out a couple incoming transfers, too, as the portal keeps churning throughout the offseason.
13) Arkansas Razorbacks
This time last year, we had the Hogs pegged as the No. 1 team in the country in our first Top 25 for the 2022-23 season thanks to a pair of top-10 recruits in Nick Smith and Anthony Black. Both are presumed to be gone now, but Eric Musselman still has a healthy dose of talent in the fold. If they’re both back, the backcourt pairing of Devo Davis and Ricky Council should be great, and the frontcourt could be scary if Jordan Walsh, Trevon Brazile, the Mitchell brothers, and Jalen Graham also return. Toss in two top-25 recruits in center Baye Fall (No. 16) and guard Layden Blocker (No. 23), and the early diagnostics are looking very promising for the Muss Bus.
12) Miami Hurricanes
Among Miami’s returners, the future of Isaiah Wong is the most murky. Does he want to start his professional career? Or run it back and cash a few more LifeWallet checks? Even if Wong departs, the Canes still project to return some star power in Nijel Pack and Norchad Omier. Plus, Wooga Poplar could build off of a tremendous sophomore season — the well-built guard developed into one of the ACC’s premier perimeter defenders while also vastly improving his offensive efficiency. He could shine even more in a feature role. Lastly, expect John Ruiz to open up the pocketbooks to land another big name or two.
11) UCLA Bruins
The Bruins are receiving a good deal of confidence from our staff here, despite losing some key players in the program such as Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell. Add to that the recent departure of promising wing Jaylen Clark, who is headed for the NBA after an Achilles injury cut his season short. Still, if UCLA gets Adem Bona and Amari Bailey back in the fold, and if point guard Dylan Andrews can handle the increased workload about to come his way, things may not be all that worrisome in Westwood. UCLA is also bringing in a top-50 guard in Sebastian Mack and two top-100 forwards in 6-10 Devin Williams and 6-7 Brandon Williams (no relation). Head coach Mick Cronin will need to make some splashes in the portal if Bona and Bailey bolt.
10) Michigan State Spartans
The Spartans haven’t had anyone hit the portal as of yet, and if it stays that way, Tom Izzo should return some key pieces from his Sweet 16 squad. AJ Hoggard and Jaden Akins form a nice backcourt pairing, and the frontcourt could be formidable with Mady Sissoko and top-10 recruit Xavier Booker haunting opponents on either end of the floor. Jeremy Fears also enters the MSU program as a top-25 recruit and a true point guard, and he may become an important cog in Izzo’s lineup sooner rather than later. Incoming forward Coen Carr, the No. 53 recruit in the 247 Sports composite rankings, could also make an impact with his athleticism and defense.
9) Kentucky Wildcats
John Calipari is up to old tricks, signing four top-10 recruits: forward Justin Edwards (No. 2), guard DJ Wagner (No. 3), center Aaron Bradshaw (No. 4) and guard Robert Dillingham (No. 9). There’s also guard Reed Sheppard (No. 30), a McDonald’s All-American with Edwards, Wagner and Bradshaw. Cason Wallace is a projected lottery pick, but it will be interesting to watch what happens with players such as Oscar Tshiebwe, Antonio Reeves and Jacob Toppin, all of whom could take a COVID year. Even if those three all leave, the cupboard isn’t bare in Lexington; Chris Livingston, CJ Fredrick, Lance Ware, Adou Thiero and Ugonna Onyensa are expected to return, and there are still spots open for high-level transfers to enter the picture.
8) Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama is well-equipped to withstand the loss of projected top-5 NBA Draft pick Brandon Miller, as well as guards Jahvon Quinerly (graduation) and Nimari Burnett (transfer). Four of the team’s primary seven contributors are expected to return, including guard Mark Sears and center Charles Bediako. A top-15 recruiting class joins the rotation, led by top-70 recruit Sam Walters at power forward. Wichita State transfer Jaykwon Walton, who averaged 13.9 points and shot 40 percent on 3-pointers this past season, will strengthen the Tide backcourt.
7) Kansas Jayhawks
It would be unwise to ever bet against a Kansas program that has recorded a top-4 NCAA Tournament seed and top-17 AP poll finish every single season since 2001. A youth movement is on its way with Jalen Wilson and Kevin McCullar set to depart, but point guard Dajuan Harris is still steering the ship. The Jayhawks are equipped with a couple of breakout candidates in former top-100 recruits KJ Adams and Zuby Ejiofor. A top-10 freshman class is on its way as well, including top-40 guards Elmarko Jackson and Chris Johnson. It may take a few months to get fully up to speed but Kansas should be right in the national mix come February.
6) Creighton Bluejays
Creighton could essentially run back its Elite Eight roster in ‘23-24 if fringe draft prospects Arthur Kaluma, Trey Alexander and Ryan Kalkbrenner decide to stay put. Additionally, while sharpshooter Baylor Scheierman went through senior night festivities, he still has an extra year of eligibility if he wishes to take advantage. With a dominant two-way big inside in Kalkbrenner, a growing backcourt in Ryan Nembhard and Trey Alexander, and a former top-100 recruit in recent Virginia transfer Isaac Traudt, Creighton checks all the boxes of a national title contender.
5) Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue’s storybook season came to a screeching halt in the NCAA Tournament, becoming just the second team ever to lose to a 16-seed despite being 23.5-point favorites over an undersized Fairleigh Dickinson squad. Backcourt inexperience and inconsistency reared its head at the worst possible time of the season as the Boilers shot just 5-of-26 from deep against FDU. The good news, though, is almost the entire team is expected to return, including National Player of the Year Zach Edey. Purdue’s March longevity relies heavily on the development of guards Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer. The Boilermakers need better jump-shooting around Edey to diversify the offense.
4) Houston Cougars
Houston fell short of reaching the Final Four in its home city but still has plenty of pieces to build around for ‘23-24. Jarace Walker is a projected lottery pick, and Marcus Sasser is graduating, but the rest of the core should largely remain in place. Returners Jamal Shead, Tramon Mark and J’Wan Roberts all offer tournament experience as standout two-players while guard Mylik Wilson — who averaged 12.2 points per game in two years at Louisiana — joins the fold along with top-70 recruit Joseph Tugler. Although the Big 12 will present new challenges, Houston has finished no worse than 18th in KenPom in each of the last six years, reaching the second weekend four times in that span. Only Gonzaga can say the same. The win-loss record won’t be nearly as gaudy as it was in the American, but the Cougars should still be a factor nationally so long as Kelvin Sampson is on the sidelines.
3) Duke Blue Devils
There will be plenty of draft decisions that will help define Year 2 for Jon Scheyer, with three players currently sitting in or around the top 30 on draft big boards and three more in the consensus top 100. With budding superstar Tyrese Proctor set to return, along with perhaps the country’s best glue guy Mark Mitchell, that’s a nice foundation. Regardless, Scheyer signed five — count ‘em five — top-20 recruits from the 247 Sports composite rankings. That group is highlighted by 6-8, 250-pound Mackenzie Mgbako, the No. 7 prospect in the country, and he is joined by two more 6-8 forwards in Sean Stewart (No. 13) and TJ Power (No. 20), as well as combo guards Jared McCain (No. 15) and Caleb Foster (No. 17). Even if the draft decisions don’t go Duke’s way, they should still be a contender with that group walking into Durham, but the ceiling drops.
2) Marquette Golden Eagles
As it stands, Marquette is the safest bet to be a top-5 team entering the 2023-24 season. Shaka Smart’s Golden Eagles are fresh off a breakout year that resulted in 29 wins and a 2-seed in the tournament and are positioned to return the entire squad. Point guard Tyler Kolek will look to defend his Big East Player of the Year award while running mates Kam Jones, Oso Ighodaro and Olivier-Maxence Prosper are poised for leaps as well in one of the country’s best offensive attacks. Although Marquette is supremely talented, Golden Eagles players aren’t commonly found on many NBA Draft big boards at the time of this writing. Barring any unexpected departures, Marquette will be one of the highest-ranked teams come November.
1) UConn Huskies
After making their first Final Four appearance since 2014, Dan Hurley and the UConn Huskies look poised to be a championship contender once again next season. While Jordan Hawkins is likely off to the pros as a first-round draft pick, Andre Jackson and Adama Sanogo may return to a Huskies squad already set to bring back blossoming stars in Alex Karaban and Donovan Clingan, the latter of whom showed All-American promise as a freshman. One of the country’s best recruiting classes joins as well, highlighted by top-10 recruit Stephon Castle, a rapidly developing combo guard who will offset the vacancies left by departing seniors Tristen Newton and Nahiem Alleyne. UConn’s 2023-24 forecast weighs heavily on whether Jackson or Sanogo turn pro, but the team’s floor is exceptionally high regardless.