A trio of Big East contenders make up the top 7 in Heat Check CBB’s updated Way-Too-Early Top 25 rankings.
The NBA Draft withdrawal deadline is in the rearview mirror and the transfer portal frenzy is beginning to slow as we reach the summer months of the college basketball offseason.
As such, now is as good a time as ever to update our Top 25 rankings for the 2023-24 season. Below you will find the updated Heat Check CBB consensus Top 25 men’s college basketball rankings, which are voted on by staff members Eli Boettger, Riley Davis, Andy Dieckhoff, Lukas Harkins, Connor Hope and Brian Rauf.
Received votes: TCU, Auburn, Kentucky, Clemson, Maryland, Wisconsin, Kansas State, Illinois, Colorado, Florida
25. UCLA Bruins
It’s the start of a new chapter in Westwood without Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez, but newer faces appear poised to step into bigger roles for UCLA. Dylan Andrews, Adem Bona and Utah transfer Lazar Stefanovic project to step into featured roles for the Bruins. All have the talent to thrive in their roles, but there may be growing pains.
24. North Carolina Tar Heels
The Heels heavily utilized the transfer portal in hopes of revamping a roster that was perhaps last season’s biggest disappointment. Armando Bacot and RJ Davis return to lead a group that will also feature transfers Harrison Ingram (Stanford) and Cormac Ryan (Notre Dame). On the flip side, UNC saw seven players leave the program via the portal, headlined by Caleb Love. There’s enough talent here to suggest this is a top-25 team, yet there’s no denying the importance of this season for Hubert Davis.
23. West Virginia Mountaineers
West Virginia’s 2023-24 season will be defined by how well its transfer class performs. Bob Huggins went all-in on the portal and landed two high-profile players in Jesse Edwards (Syracuse) and Kerr Kriisa (Arizona), amongst others. The Mountaineers have pieces that appear to be odd fits on paper, but Huggins adapts his playstyle to personnel as well as anyone in the country. Their success may depend on Edwards and Kriisa becoming the pillars WVU needs them to be.
22. Saint Mary’s Gaels
Aiden Mahaney emerged as one of the nation’s best guards as a freshman last season, and his continued development could potentially elevate the Gaels further up these rankings. Even so, this Saint Mary’s team returns four of its top five scorers and plays elite defense. They also didn’t have a player transfer out this offseason, so their added continuity and experience should be beneficial. It’s also promising that they played UConn as well as anyone in the NCAA Tournament.
21. Baylor Bears
Baylor has to replace its trio of starting guards from last season (Keyonte George and Adam Flagler to the NBA, LJ Cryer to Houston), but Langston Love appears ready to handle a bigger role. Freshmen Ja’Kobe Walter, Yves Missi and Miro Little will be relied on to play significant minutes right away, but all three are top-50 recruits with the talent to do so. Walter, the No. 9 overall prospect in the 247sports Composite, will likely need to be a go-to weapon sooner rather than later. Landing Toledo transfer RayJ Dennis should be a big boost to the new-look backcourt.
20. Villanova Wildcats
Kyle Neptune looks to rebound after a shaky Year 1 as the Wildcats finished with a 17-17 record. At the very least, the ’23-24 Villanova roster is certainly capable of returning to the NCAA Tournament, returning veteran starters Justin Moore and Eric Dixon. The Wildcats also had an eventful spring in the portal, adding three double-figure scorers in Richmond’s Tyler Burton, Washington State’s TJ Bamba and Maryland’s Hakim Hart.
19. Arizona Wildcats
Tommy Lloyd had to revamp his roster a bit after losing three of his top five scorers from last season, but Oumar Ballo and Pelle Larrson give him a solid pairing to build around. Landing Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley was huge and, paired with Kylan Boswell, gives Arizona a high-upside backcourt with elite versatility and playmaking. The big question now is how North Carolina transfer Caleb Love — a supremely talented yet often erratic guard — fits into the equation. Depth remains a potential issue but the projected starting lineup could be lethal.
18. USC Trojans
USC checks in as our highest-ranked team from the Pac-12 thanks to the incoming recruiting class Andy Enfield managed to put together. Yes, Bronny James is obviously going to steal the headlines, but Isaiah Collier — the nation’s top-ranked prospect — will be the focal point of the Trojans’ attack. Throw in the fact this group is returning several core pieces like Boogie Ellis and Vincent Iwuchukwu, and this USC squad should compete with anyone from a talent perspective.
17. Texas A&M Aggies
The Aggies earned their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2018 as a result of last season’s breakthrough under Buzz Williams, and now appear poised to take another step forward as a program. They return four starters and added some reinforcements via the transfer portal in Eli Lawrence (Middle Tennessee) and Jace Carter (UIC). The SEC title race looks like it’ll be a crowded one, but Texas A&M should be in the mix with Wade Taylor IV running the show.
16. Arkansas Razorbacks
Eric Musselman did what Eric Musselman does, landing a five-player transfer class headlined by Tramon Mark (Houston) and El Ellis (Louisville). Arkansas will add them to a solid returning core and a recruiting class that includes five-star prospects Baye Fall and Layden Blocker. There are some questions about fit — the roster has a lot of guards who anticipate hefty playing time — but no one pieces things together quite like Musselman. Arkansas has the talent to make the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend for a fourth straight season.
15. San Diego State Aztecs
San Diego State returns the core of last season’s team that made the national championship game and added Reese Dixon-Waters — the reigning Pac-12 Sixth Man of the Year — from USC and Campbell’s Jay Pal in the transfer portal. The Aztecs will maintain their defensive identity but may have more scoring pop in 2023-24 with Dixon-Waters and Pal joining Darrion Trammell, Jaedon LeDee and Final Four hero Lamont Butler.
14. Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama does have to replace projected top-5 pick Brandon Miller and unexpectedly lost freshmen Noah Clowney (NBA Draft) and Jaden Bradley (Arizona), but the Tide still return four of its top seven scorers from last season’s team that earned the top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Hofstra transfer Aaron Estrada will join Jahvon Quinerly and Mark Sears in the backcourt, giving Nate Oats one of the most experienced and dangerous backcourt trios in the country.
13. Florida Atlantic Owls
FAU is returning all five starters from last season’s Final Four team, and that run wasn’t a fluke. The Owls won 35 games and captured both the C-USA regular season and tournament titles, a feat that wasn’t fully respected until we all saw how well that conference performed in the postseason (North Texas won the NIT, UAB made the NIT title game, Charlotte won the CBI). Now moving to the American, Dusty May’s squad will face a higher level of sustained competition — but we don’t envision that being an issue for this experienced group.
12. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Drew Timme is gone, so the Zags will look plenty different in 2023-24, but they’re still going to be incredibly effective. Nolan Hickman and Anton Watson return while high-profile transfers Ryan Nembhard (Creighton), Graham Ike (Wyoming) and Steele Venters (Eastern Washington) ensure this team will be as deep and talented as what we’ve come to expect from Gonzaga. Mark Few has guided this program to eight straight Sweet 16 berths and this group has the ability to continue the streak.
11. Texas Longhorns
With Rodney Terry instated as the full-time head coach of the Longhorns, Texas will enter the new season with high expectations again. Terry was able to land two of the best transfers available in Max Abmas (Oral Roberts) and Kadin Shedrick (Virginia), which should ease the blow of losing players like Marcus Carr and Christian Bishop. If Tyrese Hunter and Dylan Disu can take the next steps in their respective developments, Texas will be in the mix at the top of the Big 12 again.
10. Tennessee Volunteers
Tennessee returns three of its top four scorers from a season ago and that trio — Santiago Vescovi, Zakai Zeigler and Josiah-Jordan James — provide the two-way dominance that has returned the Vols to national prominence under Rick Barnes. Losing Julian Phillips and Olivier Nkamhoua to the transfer portal certainly hurts, but new additions Chris Ledlum (Harvard), Dalton Knecht (Northern Colorado) and Justin Gainey (USC Upstate) should improve Tennessee’s offense in a way that makes the Vols more dangerous than in previous years.
9. Miami Hurricanes
Miami’s run of recent success appears to be something Jim Larranaga has this program set up to maintain. Starters Nijel Pack, Norchad Omier and Wooga Poplar return from last season’s Final Four squad, and the Canes added Florida State transfer (and former five-star prospect) Matthew Cleveland. Isaiah Wong and Jordan Miller were two of the best players in program history, yet there’s more than enough here for Miami to stay at or near the top of the ACC.
8. Houston Cougars
Houston has a roster set to compete with the best teams in the nation (again) as it prepares for its debut in the Big 12. Five of its top eight scorers return, led by Jamal Shead and the Cougars brought in LJ Cryer from Baylor, giving them a starter who already has Big 12 experience. If they get anything from freshmen bigs Joseph Tugler and Jacob McFarland, Kelvin Sampson’s squad will immediately be competing for a conference championship.
7. Marquette Golden Eagles
Marquette is poised to receive its highest preseason ranking in program history. The Golden Eagles return most of their nucleus from last season’s group that won both the Big East regular season and tournament titles, headlined by reigning conference Player of the Year Tyler Kolek. Even with Olivier-Maxence Prosper opting to remain in the NBA Draft, this is a team capable of repeating last season’s feat and making the program’s fourth trip to the Final Four.
6. Creighton Bluejays
Yes, losing Ryan Nembhard (Gonzaga) and Arthur Kaluma (Kansas State) to the transfer portal certainly stinks. But the Bluejays do return two All-Big East performers in Ryan Kalkbrenner and Baylor Scheierman, along with every other significant contributor aside from the departing transfers. Creighton also added one of the portal’s best guards in Steven Ashworth, an elite shooter who averaged over 16 points while leading Utah State to the NCAA Tournament last season. The top of the Big East will be incredibly strong in 2023-24, but expect this group to be in the thick of things.
5. Michigan State Spartans
A program like Michigan State doesn’t really have “breakout” seasons given its status in the national pecking order. However, the 2023-24 season projects to serve as a return to dominance for the Spartans. They return five of their top six scorers and welcome a top-10 recruiting class highlighted by five-star center Xavier Booker and top-30 point guard Jeremy Fears. Tom Izzo will have as much talent, experience and depth as he has had since Michigan State made the Final Four in 2019. This group has the potential to get there, too.
4. UConn Huskies
The defending national champions are losing the Final Four MOP (Adama Sanogo) and two projected draft picks (Jordan Hawkins and Andre Jackson), yet aren’t expected to take a significant step back. Donovan Clingan will step into a starting role as a sophomore and looks poised to take a Zach Edey-type leap. He and Tristen Newton lead a quality returning core that will add a top-5 recruiting class, headlined by five-star guard Stephon Castle. Dan Hurley’s squad has the potential to chase a second consecutive national championship.
3. Purdue Boilermakers
Disappointing NCAA Tournament loss to Fairleigh Dickinson aside, Purdue does return six of the top seven scorers from a team that won both the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles, earning a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance in the process. Of course, one of those returners is reigning National Player of the Year Zach Edey, too. While the Boilermakers struggled down the stretch last season (particularly against defensive pressure), there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about another successful season here, especially if Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer can make sophomore leaps.
2. Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas experienced as much success in the transfer portal as anyone. Landing former Michigan big man Hunter Dickinson was obviously huge and gave the Jayhawks a National Player of the Year candidate at what was a position of weakness, but they also brought in former five-star prospect Arterio Morris from Texas and mid-major star Nick Timberlake from Towson. That trio projects to join returners Dajuan Harris, Kevin McCullar and KJ Adams with a bench that will be bolstered by a top-10 recruiting class.
1. Duke Blue Devils
This Duke team has the potential to be special. The Blue Devils return their top four scorers from last season, headlined by second team All-ACC forward Kyle Filipowski and point guard Tyrese Proctor, who appears poised for a breakout season. Jon Scheyer is also welcoming the nation’s No. 2-ranked recruiting class that features four top-20 prospects, according to the 247sports Composite rankings. If Duke can build off the momentum it closed last season with, it will be the team to beat in 2023-24.