Way-too-early Top 25 for the 2024-25 NCAA men’s basketball season

    It’s never too soon to start thinking about the 2024-25 men’s college basketball season. We may not know exactly who will be staying or going around the country, but there’s a good idea of which programs have a chance to shine next season.

    Here we go. Statistics in parenthesis are from the 2023-24 season, unless otherwise noted.


    John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports

    As we’ll see with several teams on this list, their prospects for success depend on who returns. In the case of the Aggies, aside from second-leading scorer Tyrece Radford, all their key contributors from last season’s 21-win squad are eligible to return, meaning star guard Wade Taylor IV (19.1 points per game, 4.0 assists per game) could be around and enter the season as the favorite for SEC Player of the Year. Texas A&M should have some momentum after it won five of six entering the NCAA Tournament and nearly upset No. 1 seed Houston in the second round.



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    There’s obviously much uncertainty at Kentucky in the wake of John Calipari’s defection to Arkansas. However, the Wildcats are slated to have another elite freshman class (assuming McDonald’s All-Americans Jayden Quaintance and Johnuel “Boogie” Fland honor their commitments), and could benefit from the transfer portal under new coach Mark Pope. There is no program in the country in a state of flux more than Kentucky, but it’s a new era for the basketball program that’s not worth writing off just yet. 



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    The Tigers’ run to the regional finals was one of the biggest surprises of the NCAA Tournament in 2024. And a similar run could be in store if stars P.J. Hall and Chase Hunter return, though it seems Hunter has the better chance among the two of doing so. That said, gritty 6-foot-8 Ian Schieffelin (10.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.2 apg) is slated to be back, and the Tigers could work the transfer portal to their benefit after that 2024 NCAA Tournament run. 



    Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports

    There’s quite the buzz when its comes to Rutgers’ promise for the 2024-25 campaign, mostly because the Scarlet Knights are set to showcase the McDonald’s All-American duo of athletic 6-foot-8 small forward Ace Bailey and New Jersey point guard Dylan Harper. Eastern Michigan transfer Tyson Acuff (21.7 points per game) should also help boost a Rutgers squad that ranked last in the Big Ten averaging just 65.4 points for coach Steve Pikiell in 2023-24. Meanwhile, we know the Knights will again play defense at a high level.



    Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports

    It’s really anybody’s guess as to how UCLA will fare during its first season in the expanded Big Ten. What we feel comfortable stating is that the Bruins should be better than last season’s disappointing 16-17 effort, starting with the fact that transfers Skyy Clark (Louisville) and Kobe Johnson (USC) should instantly improve the caliber of Mick Cronin’s next group. Add that pair to key returners Dylan Andrews (12.9 ppg, 3.7 apg) and Sebastian Mack (12.1 ppg), and UCLA should make its presence felt amid those new league surroundings.



    Steven Branscombe/USA TODAY Sports

    BYU’s first season in the Big 12 was a surprise success, going 10-8 in the league and beating the likes of Baylor, Iowa State and at Kansas. However, Mark Pope is headed to alma mater Kentucky as its new coach, and uncertainty now surrounds the program in terms of building on last season’s success. Fousseyni Traore (10.9 ppg), Trevin Knell (10.6 ppg) and Dallin Hall (9.0 ppg, 5.1 apg, 3.5 rpg) play well together, and four-star recruit Collin Chandler’s return from his mission adds a potential all-around threat for the Cougars, assuming they will all be back.



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    Going back to the Big Ten, the Badgers lost leading scorer AJ Storr to the transfer portal. However, 7-footer Steven Crowl (11.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.1 apg) and Max Klesmit — who averaged 14 points in the final four games of last season — are set to return from a 22-win group that averaged 74.7 points and shot 46.1 percent. The expectation is that guard Chucky Hepburn will also be around looking to bounce back from a subpar junior season where his offensive production slipped. It’s never wise to discount the Badgers, and with no dominant team in the Big Ten — at least on paper — they have a chance to make noise.  


    Saint Mary's

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    The reigning regular-season and West Coast Conference tournament champion Gaels have won at least 26 games in three consecutive seasons. And, with Aidan Mahaney (13.9 ppg), Augustas Marciulionis (12.4 ppg, 5.3 apg) and Mitchell Saxen (11.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg) primed to return, it’s possible Saint Mary’s can continue that streak as one of the top teams out West. Now, whether the Gaels can repeat their conference titles — that remains to be seen. 



    Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports

    A lot hinges on whether Bluejays stars Ryan Kalkbrenner (17.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg) and Trey Alexander (17.6 ppg, 5.7 ppg, 4.7 apg) are back in the mix. If so, Creighton is a potential preseason top-10 choice coming off its Sweet 16 season. Without, it remains to be seen what magic coach Greg McDermott can conjure up. He should have guard Steven Ashworth (11.1 ppg, 4.2 apg) to depend on either way, not to mention a stellar freshman class that features Minnesota forward Jackson McAndrew, the highest-rated recruit in program history. 



    Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

    Auburn will be ranked higher if Johni Broome decides to return. Still, the Tigers have some talent back from last season’s 27-8 team that won the SEC tournament, led by the versatile Chad Baker-Macara (10.0 ppg) and Denver Jones (9.1 ppg), not to mention a potential star in promising recruit Tahaad Pettiford, who is expected to make an immediate impact. It should be an intriguing season in the SEC, and Bruce Pearl’s Tigers expect to be in the middle of the drama.


    Miami (FL)

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    The Hurricanes went from a national semifinalist in 2022-23 to a 15-17 record last season and also lost double-double machine in Norchad Omier to the NBA Draft. However, the return of Nijel Pack (13.3 ppg) following a season plagued by injury, is huge for Miami`. So is the addition of Virginia Tech transfer Lynn Kidd (13.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and Brandon Johnson, who averaged 14 points and 8.6 rebounds at East Carolina last season. The Hurricanes could be a true force if guards Matthew Cleveland and Wooga Poplar also return.



    Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports

    Florida’s run to the championship game of the SEC tournament made up for a stilted overall season in Gainesville. Now, losing to Colorado in a wild first-round NCAA Tournament contest ended the season on a sour note, but there is plenty to build on. Leading the way in 2024-25 should be exciting guard Walter Clayton Jr., the Iona transfer who averaged 17.6 points and shot 36.5 percent from 3-point range during his first run with the Gators. He might be a contender for SEC Player of the Year. Meanwhile, Will Richard (11.4 ppg) could also be in store for an even better campaign.



    Zachary BonDurant/USA TODAY Sports

    Arizona has several players in the transfer portal and just lost guard Kylan Boswell to Illinois. However, Tommy Lloyd has done a remarkable job in three seasons guiding the Wildcats to an 88-20 record. So, regardless of who is coming back for Arizona (guard Jaden Bradley will be one to watch, along with prized recruit Carter Bryant), expect the Wildcats to see more success under Lloyd. Even within the confines of their new home in the Big 12 Conference.



    Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports

    Losing Dalton Knecht and defensive stud Jonas Aidoo leaves Tennessee’s level for potential 2024-25 success unknown. However, Zakai Zeigler (11.1 ppg, 6.1 apg) is one of the most exciting players in the country, and could be the best in the SEC. Guard Jahmai Mashack might also be ready to break out for the Volunteers, who will need at least a couple others from the current roster (Cameron Carr or Jordan Gainey) to step up their game. Then again, there’s always the transfer portal. 


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    11. North Carolina

    North Carolina

    Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

    North Carolina’s 2024-25 potential certainly hinges on the collegiate futures of star RJ Davis (21.2 ppg) and stud forward Harrison Ingram (12.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.5 bpg). Regardless, next season also presents an opportunity for prized 2023-24 recruit Elliot Cadeau to elevate his game after averaging 7.3 points and 4.1 assists in a supporting role last season. Meanwhile, the presence of McDonald’s All-American guards Ian Jackson and Drake Powell still leave the Tar Heels as contenders to repeat as ACC regular-season champs.



    Grace Hollars/Indianapolis Star/USA TODAY NETWORK

    It’s finally time for Purdue to move on from two-time national player of the year Zach Edey. However, the ride was pretty special, ending with the program’s first national championship game appearance since 1969. However, it’s not wise to write the Boilermakers off for 2024-25. The backcourt of Braden Smith (12.2 ppg, 7.5 apg, 5.8 rpg) and Fletcher Loyer (10.3 ppg) is among the best in the country, while Camden Heide and Trey Kaufman-Renn could be ready for bigger roles on a team that seems capable of succeeding without an established superstar.



    Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

    We’re not doubting Marquette has the potential to be one of the top teams in the Big East once again in 2024-25, but what about on a national scale? Tyler Kolek and Oso Ighodaro are gone, but the return of leading scorer Kam Jones (17.2 ppg, 40.6 percent 3-point shooting) is a major development for coach Shaka Smart. Jones is expected to be joined by fellow starters David Joplin (10.8 ppg) and Stevie Mitchell (8.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg), both capable of upping their offensive production. 



    Petre Thomas/USA TODAY Sports

    Coach Scott Drew is committed to the Baylor program, and that’s good news for everybody associated. Rumored to be a candidate for the Kentucky job, Drew knows a good thing when he sees it. I`t’s right in front of him at Baylor, where Langston Love (11 ppg) and Jayden Nunn (10.5 ppg) have the potential to be offensive threats. Meanwhile, freshmen V.J. Edgecombe and Robert Wright III are expected to be immediate contributors for a Bears squad that expects to be a contender in the uber-talented Big 12.



    Cheryl Evans/The Republic/USA TODAY NETWORK

    Even if stars Mark Sears and Grant Nelson bypass their COVID seasons, things still look bright for the Crimson Tide. There’s a Final Four trip to build from, coach Nate Oates is staying put and the squad could be shaped via another successful run through the transfer portal. That said, keep an eye on guard Rylan Griffen (11.2 ppg, 39.2 3-point percentage), who seems ready take his game to the next level, and rising sophomore Jarin Stevenson, whose 19 points and five 3s against Clemson in the regional final turned plenty of heads.



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    If it’s not too early for a Top 25, then we can surely talk about a UConn three-peat. The Huskies proved in 2023-24 that they could repeat as national champions with a revamped roster and new key contributors. It’s quite possible they might need to follow that formula next season. UConn is expected to lose a significant amount of talent, which also opens the door for the likes of Samson Johnson (5.4 ppg), Solomon Ball and Jaylin Stewart. Dan Hurley just might be the best men’s coach in America.



    Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports

    In a rarity, the Zags didn’t bring home any team West Coast Conference hardware in 2023-24, however, they did reach the Sweet 16 for a ninth-straight season. And, they return a good chunk of that 27-win squad — which found its form at the right time. Graham Ike (16.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg) leads the way, but Ryan Nembhard (12.6 ppg, 6.9 apg, 4.0 rpg), Nolan Hickman (14.0 ppg), Ben Gregg and Braden Huff are also capable of pacing the Bulldogs on any given night. Watch out for Pepperdine transfer Michael Ajayi (17.2 ppg).



    William Purnell/USA TODAY Sports

    The Jayhawks are coming off the worst full season under coach Bill Self since he took over the storied program in 2003-04, finishing 23-11 and getting routed by Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. However, that might only fuel the program to greatness in 2024-25. KJ Adams Jr. (12.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.1 apg) and Dajuan Harris Jr. (8.5 ppg, 6.5 apg) are two of the Big 12’s best players, and the additions of offensive-minded transfers Riley Kugel (Florida) and Zeke Mayo (South Dakota State) should have Kansas in the hunt for another league title. Of course, the Jayhawks will bring in another sound recruiting class, too.


    Iowa State

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    If college hoops fans weren’t aware of coach T.J. Otzelberger and the Cyclones after this season, they should be entering this season. Iowa State is coming off a 29-8 campaign, where it won the Big 12 tournament, earned a No. 2 NCAA Tournament seed and reached the Sweet 16. The versatile Tamin Lipsey (12.4 ppg, 4.9 apg, 4.6 rpg, 2.7 spg) and leading scorer Keshon Gilbert (13.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.2 apg) are back. So too is 3-point threat Milan Momcilovic (10.9 ppg, 36 percent 3-point shooting). Northern Iowa transfer Nate Heise (13.5 ppg) also adds even more offensive prowess to a squad that will still get by on its stifling defense.



    Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports

    Houston’s 32-5 season was soured by a Sweet 16 loss to Duke in 2024. However, the early days of the offseason have been very good to the Cougars. LJ Cryer (15.5 ppg), Emanuel Sharp (12.6 ppg), J’Wan Roberts (9.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Ja’Vier Francis (6.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg) are all slated to return. Meanwhile, the addition of former Oklahoma point guard Milos Uzan (9.0 ppg, 4.4 apg) gives Houston an established floor leader who is capable of elevating his game while surrounded by an elite collection of talent. 



    Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

    After going 27-9 in each of coach Jon Scheyer’s first two seasons, the Blue Devils could be in store for something special in 2024-25, which will mark the 10th anniversary of Duke’s most recent national championship. Tyrese Proctor (10.5 ppg) will return, joining Caleb Foster as the team’s key returnees. However, the strength of the 2024-25 Blue Devils could be a pair of elite recruits in 6-9 Cooper Flagg, regarded as the No. 1 prospect for the upcoming season, and 7-2 Khaman Maluach, who is already being pegged as a top-five pick in the 2025 NBA Draft.  

    A Chicago native, Jeff Mezydlo has professionally written about sports, entertainment and pop culture for nearly 30 years. If he could do it again, he’d attend Degrassi Junior High, Ampipe High and Grand Lakes University.

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