Welcome to Bubble Banter. In our latest update (Feb. 9), four teams have left and three have joined the bubble. Two of the joiners are Washington and Minnesota, who we can no longer consider as Should Be In. We’re now at 37 bubble teams with 15 spots available. The next two weeks should help pare down the field; then we’ll have a more accurate look at the overall picture. More at Bracketville.
Bubble Banter highlights the teams we believe are on the NCAA Bubble. If a team isn’t listed, they aren’t a bubble team at the time of the update. RPI and SOS data is credited to CollegeRPI.com.
UPDATED: Wednesday, February 9
Automatic Bids (31): None decided | Total Spots (68): Number of total teams in the Field.
Projected Locks (10): Teams who project to have secured a spot in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Some of these projected locks may become automatic qualifiers should they win their conference tournament.
Should Be In (16): While not yet locks, these are teams in good position to receive an at-large bid.
Bubble: (37): Teams projected to be at or near the cutline for being selected as at-large candidates, or those whose profiles are not yet complete enough to be considered as Should Be In as of the this update.
Spots available (15): Number of available openings for the bracket based on spots reserved for automatic qualifiers, projected locks, and teams projected as Should Be In at this update.
Leaving the Bubble: Butler, Rhode Island, California, Northern Iowa
Joining the Bubble: Minnesota, Washington, Alabama
Below is a conference breakdown of the bubble picture
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: Temple, Xavier | Bubble: Duquesne, Richmond
Duquesne (15-6 | 8-1) | RPI: 76 | SOS: 133 | – Loss at St. Bonventure Saturday stopped some of the Dukes’ momentum, but it’s not panic time. A home date with Xavier is up next, followed by two more on the road. Nothing to report in the non-conference season, and the Dukes’ overall SOS is a concern. Right now, the Dukes’ best win is over Temple at home. Duquesne has to stay at or near the top of the A-10.
Richmond (18-6 | 7-2) | RPI: 74 | SOS: 138 | – The Spiders beat St. Joe’s and Fordham to hold serve. Neither win helps, but losses would have hurt. Richmond will keep hoping its non-conference win over Purdue holds a lot of weight; along with beating Seton Hall and VCU. The lopsided home loss to Xavier was troubling, and Richmond also lost to fellow-bubbler Old Dominion. Spiders need to pick up two more wins this week ahead of a big trip to Temple.
Locks: Duke | Should Be In: North Carolina | Bubble: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, Virginia Tech
Boston College (15-9 | 5-5) | RPI: 43 | SOS: 20 | – Beating Virginia Tech at home Saturday ended a three-game slide, but Tuesday’s loss at Clemson continues to cloud the Eagles’ outlook. Losing big at home to Carolina didn’t look good, either. BC now hosts Maryland – another ACC bubble team. A loss would knock BC below .500 in ACC play – a rough spot in a down year. BC’s win over Texas Am is notable, although the Aggies are reeling. BC has lost (at home) to two Ivy League schools and has dropped 5 of its past 7 games.
Clemson (17-7 | 6-4) | RPI: 64 | SOS: 97 | Tigers saved their spot in Bubble Banter by winning at Georgia Tech Saturday, then backed it up by taking out fellow bubbler Boston College at home on Tuesday. North Carolina is up next and a victory over the Heels would jump the Tigers up a bit in the ACC pecking order. Other than home wins over Florida State and Miami, the resume is light, however. Clemson has non-league losses to Old Dominion, Michigan, and South Carolina. It will still take a strong month for the Tigers to be a serious at-large contender.
Florida State (16-7 | 6-3) | RPI: 54 | SOS: 73 | – The Seminoles took a lopsided loss at North Carolina on Saturday to tread water. Baylor is their best non-ACC win, and the Bears have struggled. While the loss at Auburn was probably a fluke, it’s an example of inconsistent play. FSU also lost to a struggling Butler team in Hawaii. A weak non-conferense SOS (no. 230), could ultimately spell trouble if FSU simply glides to the finish. The win over Duke is big, but not enough by itself. An important trip to Ga. Tech is next, followed by a home date with Virginia.
Maryland (15-8 | 5-4) | RPI: 79 | SOS: 66 | – Getting run over at home by Duke puts Maryland in a difficult spot as the Terps’ last chance for a marquis win is at North Carolina (Feb. 27). Between now and then, Maryland needs to pile up wins. At this point, going 50-50 won’t be good enough. Playing Longwood this week will be an RPI killer, too.
Virginia Tech (15-7 | 5-4) | RPI: 68 | SOS: 82 | – Hokies treaded water this week, winning at NC State and losing by two at Boston College. That type of scenario may not be enough down the stretch. Credit VT with playing a better non-conference schedule, the Hokies just failed to win many of the games – the best is over fellow bubble-dweller Oklahoma State. VT really needs to win its next four ahead of Duke’s arrival on February 26.
Locks: Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Villanova | Should Be In: Syracuse, Georgetown, Louisville,West Virginia | Bubble: Cincinnati, Marquette, St. John’s
Cincinnati (19-5 | 6-5) | RPI: 35 | SOS: 105 | – As we’ve mentioned before, the Bearcats’ dreadful non-conference SOS leaves UC with little margin for error in the Big East. Cincinnati was rolled at Pittsburgh Saturday – not a surprise, but it does leave UC with only one notable road win (@St. John’s). The Bearcats escaped DePaul Tuesday ahead of a rematch with St. John’s. A sweep of the Red Storm would be helpful. Hard to say if UC can withstand a brutal closing stretch.
Marquette (14-9 | 5-5) | RPI: 65 | SOS: 30 | – Marquette is 3-8 vs. teams ranked in the Top 25 of the RPI. That’s an amazing number of games against strong competition. That said, the Golden Eagles can’t continue to rely on “good losses” to keep them in the Field. At some point, they have to win more games. A 2-7 mark away from home isn’t helping. And this week the Eagles road trip to South Florida and Georgetown.
St. John’s (12-8 | 5-5) | RPI: 22 | SOS: 1 | – The Red Storm have some very good wins – none better than a dominating win over Duke. After losing at UCLA Saturday, however, the Johnnies embark on a critcal three-game stretch. Losses are mounting. St. John’s hosts Connecticut and then travels to Cincinnati and Marquette – the other two teams on this list. We also can’t forget early losses to St. Bonaventure and Fordham.
Locks: Ohio State | Should Be In: Purdue, Wisconsin | Bubble: Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State
Illinois (15-8 | 5-5) | RPI: 38 | SOS: 25 | – It’s panic time in Champaign after another lackluster performance Saturday at Northwestern. The Illini have lost 5 of 7 games and would be in real trouble had they not handled Penn State at home last week. Next up is a trip to struggling Minnesota, followed by home dates with Purdue and Michigan. At some point, Illinois is going to need another road win. Good wins include N. Carolina and Wisconsin, along with Michigan State (perhaps). The losses at Indiana and UIC are sore points.
Michigan State (12-10 | 5-6) | RPI: 48 | SOS: 6 | The Spartans are now in real danger of missing the NCAAs after the lopsided loss at Wisconsin. It’s not a loss at the Kohl Center, it’s that MSU was non-competitive. Overall, the Spartans have lost 5 of 6 games, with the only win an OT game at home against Indiana. With Korie Lucious dismissed, the Spartans have yet to prove they are an NCAA team without him. It’s hard to count an Izzo team out in early February, but it’ll take a major comeback for the Spartans to Dance.
Minnesota (16-7 | 5-6) | RPI: 28 | SOS: 24 | As injuries and departures have mounted, the Gophers have put themselves in somewhat of a tough spot. They have lost three straight to fall under. 500 in league play and face an equally troubling Illinois team next at The Barn. Then it’s off for two on the road where Minnesota is just 2-5 this season. Early neutral-court wins over North Carolina and West Virginia are helping, but this isn’t the same Minnesota team – especially without point guard Al Nolan. The Gophers are 5-5 vs. the Top 100, and also have losses at Indiana and to Virginia. Much like Michigan State, Minnesota needs to re-prove itself as an NCAA team.
Penn State (12-10 | 5-6) | RPI: 69 | SOS: 5 | – The home loss to Michigan is troubling because the Nittany Lions are 1-4 in Big 10 road games (win at Indiana) and sub-.500 in league play. It also means Penn State will have to win at least one more road game to enter the Big 10 tournament with an even conference record. Next up is a trip to Michigan State, followed by home dates with Northwestern and Minnesota. Win all three and the Lions will have some momentum before a tough closing stretch. With non-conference losses to Maryland and Virginia Tech, there’s not much to fall back on.
Locks: Kansas, Texas | Should Be In: Missouri, Texas AM | Bubble: Kansas State, Baylor, Colorado, Oklahoma State
Baylor (15-7 | 5-4) | RPI: 75 | SOS: 79 | – The Bears finally earned a notable win Saturday at Texas AM. Otherwise, its been a very average season. Other best wins are Oklahoma State and Colorado at home. Out of conference, the Bears failed to win a Top 100 RPI game and their non-league SOS ranks No. 236. Now it’s time to see if the Bears can build momentum with Nebraska arriving ahead of a trip to Texas. Has the real Baylor shown up in time?
Colorado (14-9 | 4-5) | RPI: 90 | SOS: 103 | – With 5 losses in 6 games, the Buffaloes are in real danger of slipping off the bubble. A non-league win over Colorado State is notable, but overall the Buffs non-conference SOS ranks No. 307. That spells trouble. CU was routed Saturday at Missouri, and has must-win home dates with Texas AM and Kansas State this week.
Kansas State (15-8 | 4-5) | RPI: 31 | SOS: 16 | – Late hoop by Jacob Pullen saved the day at Iowa State Saturday, pushing the Wildcats’ Big 12 record to 4-5. Up next is a trip to desperate Colorado followed by a visit from Kansas. K-State still needs to beat a Top 50 opponent – KSU is currently 0-7 vs. such teams. Best win is Virginia Tech. Other than that, the power numbers are workable.
Oklahoma State (16-7 | 4-5) | RPI: 42 | SOS: 62 | – The Cowboys saved a spot on Bubble Banter by holding off Oklahoma at home Saturday. Now, it’s make-or-break time – with three of four on the road – including trips to Nebraska and Texas this week. Against the Top 100, OSU is 5-6. Oklahoma State has head-to-head losses against several other bubble teams (Gonzaga, Colorado, Baylor).
Locks: BYU, San Diego State | Should Be In: UNLV | Bubble: Colorado State, New Mexico
Colorado State (15-7 | 6-3) | RPI: 41 | SOS: 44 | – Holding off Wyoming Saturday was a great save, as a loss would have been a blemish the Rams didn’t need. A solid win at UNLV is a high point, but there are also losses to Hampton and Sam Houston. Overall, good wins are still lacking as CSU is 2-3 vs. Top 50 teams (only UNLV would project as an NCAA-level win at this point). CSU will probably need to beat San Diego State and/or BYU to feel good about its chances. Up next is a home date with New Mexico followed by a trip to TCU. After losing at The Pit, it would help CSU to avoid being swept by the Lobos.
New Mexico (15-7 | 4-4) | RPI: 61 | SOS: 88 | – While the season hasn’t gone as planned, beating BYU at The Pit is a marquis win that will help the Lobos. They’ve also beaten Colorado State and Colorado at home. Troubling road losses are to Utah and Wyoming. UNM gets a must-win rematch with Wyoming at home before road trips to San Diego State and Colorado State. A win at CSU would give the Lobos a season sweep, something that could come in handy if the teams are being compared. The power number are okay, but leave UNM in dangerous territory.
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: NONE | Bubble: Arizona, Washington, Washington State, UCLA
Arizona (20-4 | 9-2) | RPI: 16 | SOS: 45 | – If nothing else, the computers love Arizona. How that translates into seeding remains to be seen. Get through a trip to Arizona State and home dates with the Washington schools, and Arizona will move off the bubble. With a 1-3 mark vs. Top 50 teams (UCLA is the only win), the Wildcats resume is light on quality. There’s nothing from the non-conference as the ‘Cats best win is Oklahoma. UA also has an ugly loss at Oregon State. A 9-2 mark in the Pac-10 looks good, and a regular-season title would put Arizona in a very strong position.
Washington (15-7 | 7-4) | RPI: 40 | SOS: 58 | – After a strong start in conference play, the Huskies have lost three straight – including a winless trip through Oregon and Oregon State last week. Any team can have a bad week, but it becomes more noteable when the Huskies best non-league win is over Portland. UW’s top wins are Arizona and at UCLA. Overall, Washington is 2-3 vs. Top 50 RPI teams. Big week with Cal and Stanford visiting. Two wins would change momentum before a trip through Arizona. At this point, Washington still looks okay, but it would help to stay within contact of the league-leading Wildcats.
Washington State (16-7 | 6-5) | RPI: 70 | SOS: 100 | – Losing at Oregon takes a little luster off the home win over Washington last week. Overall, WSU is just 1-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 4-6 vs. Top 100 teams. An early win over Gonzaga is not helping as much as expected, although the Baylor win could hold more weight if the Bears rebound. The Pac-10 isn’t deep, so it’s important that the Cougars improve a 6-5 league record and stay among the leaders.
UCLA (16-7 | 7-3) | RPI: 39 | SOS: 33 | – The home win Saturday over St. John’s gives the Bruins two notable non-conference wins (BYU was the other). At 7-3 in the league, UCLA currently stands alone in second place – a nice position. RPI and SOS numbers are good, but UCLA is still just 2-4 vs. Top 50 RPI teams, and an early loss to Montana is a blemish. What the Bruins may need is a win over one of the other title contenders. Being swept by Arizona and Washington could spell trouble if UCLA struggles down the stretch. The Oregon schools visit this weekend, so any loss would be a bad one.
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt | Bubble: Georgia, Alabama
Georgia (16-7 | 5-4) | RPI: 46 | SOS: 41 | – Losing to Xavier at home Tuesday isn’t a killer, but it doesn’t help a profile that’s still light on quality wins. Georgia is now 2-7 vs. Top 50 teams – a mark that suggests the need for a strong finish. The Bulldogs are talented enough to make the NCAAs, but can they win enough SEC games? An early victory over Kentucky helps, as does a win over UAB – another bubble team. All of the Bulldogs losses have been to teams ranked in the Top 40 of the RPI, so that’s a plus. The next three games could make or break Georgia’s at-large hopes.
Alabama (15-7 | 7-1) | RPI: 96 | SOS: 145 | – If you look strictly at the power numbers, the obvious question is … how does Alabama make the bubble? A 7-1 mark that leads the SEC is the quick explanation, with two of those wins being over Kentucky and at Tennessee. A win at Vanderbilt would make Alabama’s case even stronger. If you take away disappointing losses in early November, ‘Bama’s resume looks much better. Whether the Committee will overlook a poor start (losses to St. Peter’s, Iowa, Seton Hall) largely depends on how the Tide finish. If they post a strong SEC record and win the SEC west by multiple games, it could be enough to earn at-large consideration unless the Tide have an untimely flameout at the SEC tournament.
BEST OF THE REST
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: NONE | Bubble: Cleveland State, Missouri State, Wichita State, Old Dominion, George Mason, VCU, Memphis, Southern Mississippi, UAB, UTEP, Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, Utah State
Cleveland State (19-5 | 10-4) | RPI: 37 | SOS: 125 | – Being swept by Butler and then losing at Detroit will make an at-large bid very difficult for CSU. Assuming the Vikings avoids any further upsets, the BracketBuster game at Old Dominion is huge. A loss would likely eliminate CSU from at-large consideration; a win could keep hopes alive. Right now, CSU needs to overtake Valparaiso and win the outright Horizon League title.
Missouri State (18-6 | 10-3) | RPI: 47 | SOS: 117 | – The good news is the Bears have league wins at Wichita State and Northern Iowa. The bad news is those are also the Bears’ best wins. A non-conference SOS of No. 225 hurts as does a 2-4 mark vs. Top 100 RPI teams. Winning the Missouri Valley regular-season title might be necessary. Sweeping Wichita State would also help.
Wichita State (19-5 | 11-3) | RPI: 52 | SOS: 113 | – A home loss to Southern Illinois Tuesday adds a “bad” loss to a resume light on good wins. The Shockers are just 1-4 vs. Top 100 teams, so an outright Missouri Valley title might be necessary at this point for serious at-large consideration. Missed chances in Maui will haunt WSU all the way to Selection Sunday. A 6-1 record in road games is a plus, but losing to Missouri State at home could hurt if the Shockers are swept in the season series. The BracketBuster matchup with VCU is now critical.
Memphis (17-6 | 5-3) | RPI: 45 | SOS: 61 | – The win at Gonzaga Saturday could come in very handy for the Tigers. The main prize, however, remains winning the C-USA title. Winning at UAB and Southern Miss will help that effort and they get rematches at home over the next two weeks. Sweeping both could be enough if the Tigers can also win at UTEP. It doesn’t help that Memphis was largely non-competitive in losses to Kansas, Tennessee, and Georgetown. An ugly loss at SMU still lingers, but the Tigers’ outlook is stronger than last week.
UAB (16-6 | 6-3) | RPI: 36 | SOS: 69 | – The Blazers are a solid team that lacks a marquee win. A home loss to Southern Miss last week won’t help UAB’s chances in C-USA, either. They are 0-4 vs. Top 50 teams (Duke, Memphis, Georgia, So. Miss). UAB’s best win is VCU at home. There’s also losses at Tulsa and Arizona State. Tough trips to Marshall and Memphis are on the horizon.
Southern Mississippi (16-5 | 7-3) | RPI: 44 | SOS: 112 | – Step one was winning a big game at UAB last week. Still, the Eagles are just 1-2 vs. Top 50 teams, so the resume is light. Losses to Colorado State and Mississippi won’t help; neither will a non-conference SOS ranked No. 256. Huge trip to Memphis up next, followed by UTEP at home.
UTEP (17-5 | 6-2) | RPI: 58 | SOS: 134 | – Of UTEP’s 17 D-I wins, 14 are to teams ranked outside the Top 100 of the RPI. The best is an early victory over Michigan. Add in three sub-100 losses and the Miners are here as a fringe candidate with a 6-2 C-USA mark. Probably have to win the C-USA title for serious consideration.
Old Dominion (18-6 | 9-4) | RPI: 29 | SOS: 52 | – A lopsided loss at George Mason last Saturday doesn’t help the Monarchs, but at least the teams split their two meetings. Solid non-conference wins include Xavier, Richmond and Clemson. ODU also played Georgetown to within three points. A 7-5 mark vs. Top 100 teams will help as will a non-league SOS ranked No. 25. A trip to VCU is the next big challenge.
VCU (19-6 | 11-2) | RPI: 56 | SOS: 154 | – The Rams’ loss at Northeastern removed a little luster from a strong streak, but VCU has still won 10 of 12 games. The Rams have a good neutral court win over UCLA, but also miscues at Georgia State and Northeastern, plus a loss at UAB. VCU is 5-3 vs. Top 100 teams. Rematches with ODU and Geo Mason at home are huge, as is a BracketBuster with Wichita State.
George Mason (20-5 | 12-2) | RPI: 23 | SOS: 72 | – Beating Old Dominion at home gave George Mason its first Top 50 RPI win and vaulted GMU into first place in the Colonial. The Patriots are also 7-4 vs. Top 100 teams. A lone miscue is Wofford in November. The closing CAA schedule is favorable, and an outright league title would look good. The BracketBuster game at Northern Iowa would help, too.
Gonzaga (14-9 | 5-3) | RPI: 73 | SOS: 42 | – The Zags’ home loss to Memphis adds further doubts about the Bulldogs’ at-large chances. There are some good wins – Baylor, Xavier, Marquette – that could get better. A good SOS always helps. At the same time, Gonzaga is now 2-6 vs. Top 50 RPI teams and 7-9 vs. the Top 200 – generally a big no-no for at-large consideration. The losses at Santa Clara and San Francisco are major issues. Any more “bad” losses probably eliminate Gonzaga from the bubble.
St. Mary’s (18-4 | 8-1) | RPI: 34 | SOS: 130 | – Winning an outright WCC title could be enough as long as St. Mary’s doesn’t lose many more games – especially to teams other than Gonzaga or maybe Portland. An early win over St. John’s helps, but the Gaels were blown out at Vanderbilt and have only the one Top 50 win. At 2-4 vs. Top 100 teams, St. Mary’s is far from a lock. A three-game road swing is up next.
Utah State (22-2 | 11-0) | RPI: 25 | SOS: 160 | – The Aggies have a lot of wins but none to teams ranked in the Top 100 of the RPI. That could be a major hurdle. USU missed against BYU and Georgetown and has only one Top 100 team left on its schedule – the BracketBuster at St. Mary’s. Lose that and USU may still have to win its conference tournament.
John Petty Jr. returns to Alabama for senior season
McKinley Wright IV will be back for season No. 4 with the Colorado Buffaloes.
The point guard tested the NBA draft process before announcing a return for his senior year. It’s a big boost for a Buffaloes team that’s coming off a 21-11 mark in 2019-20 and was potentially looking at an NCAA Tournament bid before the season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wright was an All-Pac-12 first team selection a season ago, along with an all-defensive team pick. He and athletic forward Tyler Bey declared for the draft in late March. Bey remains in the draft.
“We’ve got unfinished business,” said Wright, who averaged 14.4 points and 5.0 assists per game last season.
Midway through the season, the Buffaloes were looking like a lock for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since ’15-16. Then, the team hit a five-game skid, including a loss to Washington State in the Pac-12 tournament. Simply put, they hit a defensive rut they just couldn’t shake out of, Wright said. It drove him to work that much harder in the offseason.
“This is my last go-around and I’ve got big dreams,” the 6-footer from Minnesota said. “I want to take CU to a place they haven’t been in a while. We want to go back to the tournament and win high-level games.”
The feedback from NBA scouts was reaffirming for Wright. He said they appreciated his transition game, movement away from the ball and his defensive intangibles. They also gave Wright areas he needed to shore up such as assist-to-turnover ratio and shooting the 3-pointer with more consistency.
He took it to heart while training in Arizona during the pandemic. He recently returned to Boulder, Colorado, where he’s going through quarantine before joining his teammates for workouts.
“The work I put in and the time I spent in the gym compared to all my other offseasons, it’s a big gap,” Wright said. “Last offseason, I thought I worked hard. But it was nothing compared to the time and different type of mindset I put myself in this year.”
Another motivating factor for his return was this: a chance to be the first in his family to earn his college degree. He’s majoring in ethnic studies with a minor in communications.
“My grandparents are excited about that. My parents are excited about that,” Wright said. “I’m excited about that as well.”
Wright also has an opportunity to take over the top spot on the school’s all-time assists list. His 501 career assists trail only Jay Humphries, who had 562 from 1980-84. Wright also ranks 13th all-time with 1,370 career points.
NOTES: Colorado announced the death of 95-year-old fan Betty Hoover, who along with her twin sister, Peggy Coppom, became fixtures at Buffs sporting events and were season ticket holders since 1958. Wright used to run into them not only on the court, but at the local bank. “I’ve never met anyone as loving and supporting and caring as those two,” Wright said. “They hold a special place in my heart. It sucks that Betty won’t be at any games this year. Maybe we can do something, put her name on our jersey. They’re two of the biggest fans in CU history.”
Baylor got some huge news on Monday as potential All-American Jared Butler announced that he will be returning to school for his junior season, joining MaCio Teague is pulling his name out of the 2020 NBA Draft to get the band back together.
Butler was Baylor’s leading scorer a season ago, averaging 16.0 points and 3.1 assists for a team that went 26-4, spent a portion of the season as the No. 1 team in the country and was in line to receive a 1-seed had the 2020 NCAA Tournament taken place.
With Butler and Teague coming back to school, the Bears will return four starters from last season’s squad. Starting center Freddie Gillespie is gone, as is backup guard Devonte Bandoo, but those are holes that can be filled. Tristan Clark, who was Baylor’s best player during the 2018-19 season before suffering a knee injury that lingered through last year, will be back, and there is more than enough talent in the program to replace the scoring pop of Bandoo. Matthew Mayer will be in line for more minutes, while transfer Adam Flagler will be eligible this season.
Baylor will enter this season as a consensus top three team in the country. They will receive plenty of votes as the No. 1 team in the sport, making them not only a very real contender for the Big 12 regular season crown but one of the favorites to win the national title.
Baylor was one of college basketball’s best defensive teams last year. They finished fourth nationally in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric, a ranking that dropped after they Bears lost two of their last three games to TCU and West Virginia. Where they struggled was on the offensive end of the floor. The Bears would go through droughts were points were at a premium and their best offense was a missed shot. Butler’s intrigue for NBA teams was his ability to shoot and to create space in isolation. He’s the one guy on the roster that can create something out of nothing for himself.
And now he is back to try and lead Baylor to a Final Four.
Today, we are unveiling the NBC Sports college basketball preseason top 25.
As always, there are plenty of caveats here.
For starters, we are still in the process of figuring out who will and will not be returning to school and where the myriad transfers are going to end up this year.
Given the impact that the COVID-19 outbreak has had on the way recruiting and the predraft process will work, it is hard to know how and where these guys will end up, which is why every college basketball preseason top 25 published right now is going to have plenty of assumptions, projections and moving parts.
So with that in mind, here is the current iteration of NBC Sports college basketball preseason top 25:
With the exception of Saddiq Bey, Villanova returns everyone from a team that won a share of the Big East regular season title last season while adding Tulane transfer Caleb Daniels (16.9 ppg) and a healthy Bryan Antoine. There is enough talent on this roster that I think they are the clear No. 1 team in the country right now. And while Bey was their best player, I don’t think that they will have much trouble replacing him. Villanova has a roster full of talented wings and perimeter weapons. Bey was the best of the bunch, but Antoine’s healthy, Daniels is really good and the likes of Justin Moore, Jermaine Samuels and Cole Swider return as well. Throw in Jeremiah Robinsin-Earl and this roster is loaded.
RELATED: College basketball preseason top 25 (link)
GONE: Freddie Gillespie, Devonte Bandoo
COMING BACK: Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, Davion Mitchell, Mark Vital, Tristan Clark, Matthew Mayer, Jordan Turner, Flo Thamba
WAIT AND SEE: None
NEW FACES: Adam Flagler, L.J. Cryer, Dain Dainja, Zach Loveday, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua
PROJECTED STARTERS: Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, Davion Mitchell, Mark Vital, Tristan Clark
The Bears get all three of their guards back now that Jared Butler has opted to return to school, and with Mark Vital returning, they’ll once again have two of the best defenders in college basketball on the roster (Davion Mitchell). They’re coming off of a 26-4 season, and there are plenty of bench options at Scott Drew’s disposal — Matthew Mayer, Jordan Turner, Adam Flagler — but the big question is going to be at the five. Which Tristan Clark are we going to get next season?
GONE: Filip Petrusev, Admon Gilder, Ryan Wooldridge, Killian Tillie
COMING BACK: Joel Ayayi, Drew Timme, Anton Watson, Martynas Arlauskas, Pavel Zakharov
WAIT AND SEE: Jalen Suggs, Corey Kispert
NEW FACES: Oumar Ballo, Aaron Cook, Julian Strawther, Dominick Harris
The Zags should once again be a powerhouse next season, but they are still waiting on a couple of draft decisions. Their star freshman guard is Jalen Suggs, who would be a perfect fit next to Joel Ayayi and Corey Kispert on Gonzaga’s perimeter if both return to school. As much as I like Ayayi as a player, I’m not sure he’s going to be drafted this year. Kispert doesn’t have much else that he can prove at the college level and has a real chance to be a early-to-mid second round pick. Gonzaga’s frontcourt is going to be absolutely loaded even without Filip Petrusev because Drew Timme and Oumar Ballo both have WCC Player of the Year upside. Throw in a healthy Anton Watson, and the Zags should be loaded again.
COMING BACK: Kihei Clark, Jay Huff, Casey Morsell, Tomas Woldetensae, Kody Stattman, Justin McCoy
WAIT AND SEE: None
NEW FACES: Sam Hauser, Jabri Abdur-Rahim, Carson McCorkle, Reece Beekman
PROJECTED STARTERS: Kihei Clark, Casey Morsell, Tomas Woldetensae, Sam Hauser, Jay Huff
The Cavaliers should be much better offensively with Sam Hauser replacing Mamadi Diakite in the starting lineup, and while Diakite is a significantly better defender than Hauser, it’s hard to imagine Virginia ever being a bad defensive team, especially when Hauser has had a year to learn the system. Kihei Clark and Jay Huff are both back, and I would expect Casey Morsell to take a step forward this season. Throw in a strong freshman class, and UVA should be competing for an ACC title once again.
COMING BACK: Marcus Garrett, Ochai Agbaji, David McCormack, Christian Braun, Tristan Enaruna, Jalen Wilson, Mitch Lightfoot, DaJuan Harris, Silvio De Sousa
WAIT AND SEE: None
NEW FACES: Bryce Thompson, Tyon Grant-Foster, Gethro Muscadin, Latrell Jossell
PROJECTED STARTERS: Marcus Garrett, Bryce Thompson, Ochai Agbaji, Tristan Enaruna, David McCormack
When it comes to the amount of talent on the Kansas roster, there are certainly enough weapons here. They are incredibly loaded on the wing — Marcus Garrett, Bryce Thompson, Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun, Tyon Grant-Foster, Tristan Enaruna, Jalen Wilson, sheesh — and David McCormack showed enough flashes last season that I expect him to be able to do an adequate job replacing Udoka Azubuike. Assuming Self (correctly) plays small-ball again, they should be really, really good. The problem? Other than Garrett, there is not a point guard on the roster that has played a second of college basketball. The best Jayhawk teams have had a killer at that position, and I’m not sure Garrett qualifies as such.
GONE: Tre Jones, Vernon Carey Jr., Cassius Stanley, Jack White, Alex O’Connell, Javin DeLaurier
COMING BACK: Wendell Moore, Matthew Hurt, Jordan Goldwire, Joey Baker
WAIT AND SEE: None
NEW FACES: Jalen Johnson, Jeremy Roach, D.J. Steward, Mark Williams, Jaemyn Brakefield, Henry Coleman, Patrick Tape
PROJECTED STARTERS: Jeremy Roach, D.J. Steward, Wendell Moore, Jalen Johnson, Mark Williams
The Blue Devils lose quite a bit of talent off of last season’s roster if as Tre Jones, Vernon Carey and Cassius Stanley all headed to the pros. But with six top 50 prospects coming into the program — headlined by a potential lottery pick in Jalen Johnson as well as point guard Jeremy Roach and scoring guard D.J. Steward — there will be quite a bit of talent on display. A starting lineup that includes those three freshmen and Wendell Moore will be fun. Duke is going to be very young, however, and a frontline that includes a bunch of freshmen and a grad transfer from Columbia is less than ideal.
GONE: Bakari Evelyn, Ryan Kreiner, Cordell Pemsl
COMING BACK: Luka Garza, C.J. Frederick, Joe Weiskamp, Joe Toussaint, Jordan Bohannon, Connor McCaffery, Jack Nunge
WAIT AND SEE: None
NEW FACES: Tony Perkins, Ahron Ulis, Patrick McCaffery
PROJECTED STARTERS: Joe Toussaint, C.J. Frederick, Joe Weiskamp, Jack Nunge, Luka Garza
Luka Garza will be back for his senior season, which is a helluva way for Fran McCaffery to anchor a roster that looks as good as anyone in the Big Ten. I think Joe Toussaint has a chance to be one of the breakout stars in college basketball next year, which is a pretty good sign for a team that also returns the preseason Player of the Year — yes, I’m taking the liberty of locking Luka into that award — along with talents like Joe Weiskamp and C.J. Frederick.
GONE: Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden
COMING BACK: John Fulkerson, Santiago Vescovi, Josiah Jordan-James, Olivier Nkamhoua, Drew Pemper
WAIT AND SEE: Yves Pons
NEW FACES: Keon Johnson, Jaden Springer, Corey Walker, Victor Bailey, E.J. Anosike, Malachi Wideman
PROJECTED STARTERS: Santiago Vescovi, Josiah Jordan-James, Keon Johnson, Yves Pons, John Fulkerson
Last season, one of the biggest issues with Tennessee was a lack of firepower on their perimeter. This year, they will be adding five-star guards Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer to Josiah Jordan-James and Santiago Vescovi. They’ll have weapons, and that’s before you add in John Fulkerson, who was one of the best bigs in the SEC down the stretch of the season. Yves Pons will be the best defender in college basketball if he pulls out of the draft. If Vescovi can handle full-time point guard duties better with an offseason under his belt, the Vols are going to be the favorite to win the SEC.
Illinois has a chance to be very, very good this coming season. The big news came with just days left before the deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the draft, when Ayo Dosunmu announced that he would be returning to school for his junior season. Dosunmu is one of the best big-shot makers in the sport and will likely see his name on a preseason All-American team. With Trent Frazier and Giorgi Bezhanishvili coming back and a couple of talented freshmen guards — Andrew Curbelo, Adam Miller — enrolling, Brad Underwood has a terrific core. With Kofi Cockburn also deciding to return, the Illini will have a real shot at winning the Big Ten title and getting to a Final Four.
10. TEXAS TECH
GONE: Jahmi’us Ramsey, Chris Clarke, Davide Moretti, T.J. Holyfield, Russel Tchewa
NEW FACES: Nimari Burnett, Micah Peavy, Marcus Santos-Silva, Joel Ntambwe, Chibuzo Agbo, Esahia Nzyiwe
PROJECTED STARTERS: Kyler Edwards, Nimari Burnett, Terrance Shannon, Joel Ntambwe, Marcus Santos-Silva
The Red Raiders should have a roster that is a much better fit for the way that Chris Beard wants to play. Kyler Edwards and Nimari Burnett are both built in the mold of a classic Texas Tech lead guard, while Terrance Shannon will be on quite a few of the breakout sophomore lists you’ll find. The two major questions with this group is whether or not Edwards can takeover full-time point guard duties, and if VCU transfer Marcus Santos-Silva or Joel Ntambwe can handle the five spot better than T.J. Holyfield did this past season. There are enough talented perimeter weapons for me to buy-in, but without an anchor at the five a la Tariq Owens, their ceiling is somewhat limited.
We all know that Kelvin Sampson can coach, and he will be bringing back a roster where his top six scorers were all underclassmen from a team that finished top 15 on KenPom. They are going to be loaded in the backcourt — Kansas transfer Quentin Grimes might end up being their third or fourth best guard — and there will be some veterans in their frontcourt. The Cougars look to be the favorite in the American despite the fact that Nate Hinton left school a year earlier than expected.
After winning a share of last year’s Big Ten regular season title, the Badgers are on track to essentially return everyone of note. Their frontline of Aleem Ford, Nate Reuvers and Micah Potter will be as good as anyone in the Big Ten, D’Mitrik Trice has developed into a solid shot-maker and Tyler Wahl is waiting in the wings as a super-sub. Throw in Brad Davison, and the Badgers will compete for the league title once again.
13. NORTH CAROLINA
GONE: Cole Anthony, Brandon Robinson, Jeremiah Francis
COMING BACK: Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot, Leaky Black, Andrew Platek, Anthony Harris
WAIT AND SEE: None
NEW FACES: Caleb Love, Walker Kessler, R.J. Davis, Day’Ron Sharpe, Puff Johnson
The Tar Heels lost Cole Anthony, but with Caleb Love entering the program, they will once again be led by a five-star lead guard perfectly suited to running Roy Williams’ system. The Tar Heels will also have arguably the best frontline in college basketball, as Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot will be joined by five-stars Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler. The key to this team is going to be on the wings, where Leaky Black, Anthony Harris, Puff Johnson, R.J. Davis and Andrew Platek will be asked to carry the load. If I had more confidence in that group the Tar Heels would be ranked much higher.
Florida State is a tough one to project because it’s hard to know exactly what is going to happen with Patrick Williams and Devin Vassell gone to the draft. Both are projected to go somewhere in the first round. With Scottie Barnes coming in and M.J. Walker returning, Florida State still has some dangerous weapons. The Seminoles are a machine at this point, and I’m betting thatwsc the system will continue to work. And even if both Vassell and Williams had decided to come back, it doesn’t answer the most pressing question of Leonard Hamilton’s team: How do they replace Trent Forrest at the point?
15. MICHIGAN STATE
GONE: Cassius Winston
COMING BACK: Rocket Watts, Aaren Henry, Gabe Brown, Malik Hall, Marcus Bingham, Julius Marble, Thomas Kithier, Foster Loyer
WAIT AND SEE: Josh Langford
NEW FACES: Joey Hauser, Mady Sissoko, A.J. Hoggard
Rocket Watts showed down the stretch of last season that he was ready to take over the reins offensively, and with Joey Hauser getting eligible, he should have a second scoring threat on the floor with him. That will allow Aaron Henry to play his jack-of-all-trades role, and with Gabe Brown, Malik Hall and Marcus Bingham all, in theory, taking a step forward, there’s plenty of weaponry, even if a number of those pieces are young and unproven. Losing Xavier Tillman, an anchor and a leader, is a massive blow.
GONE: Immanuel Quickley, Nate Sestina, Tyrese Maxey, Nick Richards, Ashton Hagans, Johnny Juzang, E.J. Montgomery
Tyrese Maxey, Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley and Nick Richards are all heading to the NBA. E.J. Montgomery declared as well. Nate Sestina graduated. Johnny Juzang transferredwest. What that leaves is another loaded recruiting class and Keion Brooks. I love the combination of Terrence Clarke and Brandon Boston on the wings, and Devin Askew should be able to step in and handle point guard duties along with Davion Mintz. This will be another season for the Wildcats where they have talent but not necessarily a great fit on their roster. The key to their season is going to be whether or not they can get Olivier Sarr a waiver to be eligible immediately.
17. WEST VIRGINIA
GONE: Jermaine Haley, Chase Harler
COMING BACK: Oscar Tshiebwe, Derek Culver, Miles McBride, Emmitt Matthews, Gabe Osabuohien, Jalen Bridges, Sean McNeil
WAIT AND SEE: None
NEW FACES: Isaiah Cottrell, Taj Thweatt, Kedrian Johnson , Jalen Bridges
PROJECTED STARTERS: Miles McBride, Kedrian Johnson, Emmitt Matthews, Derek Culver, Oscar Tshiebwe
The Mountaineers are going to be exactly what they were last season: Big, physical, overpowering defensively and on the glass and able to win games when Miles McBride and Emmitt Matthews are able to made enough shots to keep defenses from collapsing.
COMING BACK: Mitchell Ballock, Damien Jefferson, Christian Bishop, Denzel Mahoney, Jacob Epperson, Shereef Mitchell
WAIT AND SEE: None
NEW FACES: Antwaan Jones, Ryan Kalkbrenner
PROJECTED STARTERS: Marcus Zegarowski, Mitchell Ballock, Damien Jefferson, Denzel Mahoney, Christian Bishop
Creighton’s ranking depended on what their talented backcourt of Ty-Shon Alexander and Marcus Zegarowski decided to do. With both of them back, I had the Bluejays as a top four team. Without Alexander, they’re more of a back-end top 25 team. The other question is going to be what happens at the five spot. Christian Bishop was adequate in his minutes last season, and with four-star recruit Ryan Kalkbrenner and a (hopefully) healthy Jacob Epperson in the mix, there will be options to answer that question.
GONE: Akwasi Yeboah, Shaq Carter
COMING BACK: Geo Baker, Ron Harper, Myles Johnson, Montez Mathis, Caleb McConnell, Jacob Young, Mamadou Doucoure, Paul Mulcahy
WAIT AND SEE: None
NEW FACES: Cliff Omoruyi, Dean Reiber, Oskar Palmquist, Mawot Mag
PROJECTED STARTERS: Geo Baker, Montez Mathis, Caleb McConnell, Ron Harper Jr., Myles Johnson
The Scarlet Knights return basically everyone from a team that would have made the program’s first NCAA tournament since 1991. In total, eight of their top nine players are returning, and only Akwasi Yeboah (9.8 ppg) is gone.
GONE: Zavier Simpson, Jon Teske
COMING BACK: Isaiah Livers, Eli Brooks, Brandon Johns, Adrian Nunez
WAIT AND SEE: Chaundee Brown
NEW FACES: Hunter Dickinson, Mike Smith Terrance Williams, Zeb Jackson, Jace Howard
PROJECTED STARTERS: Mike Smith, Eli Brooks, Isaiah Livers, Franz Wagner, Hunter Dickinson
The Wolverines are going to have one of the better frontlines in college basketball in 2020-21, as they seem likely to return Isaiah Livers in addition to Franz Wagner. Throw in a recruiting class that includes Hunter Dickinson, and the Wolverines will be loaded. Their guards are old, but there are some questions about the upside of Columbia grad transfer Mike Smith and Eli Brooks. Can Wake Forest transfer Chaundee Brown get eligible?
COMING BACK: Matt Coleman, Courtney Ramey, Andrew Jones, Kai Jones, Jericho Sims, Jase Febres, Kamaka Hepa, Royce Hamm, Donovan Williams, Gerald Lidell, Will Baker
WAIT AND SEE: None
NEW FACES: Greg Brown
PROJECTED STARTERS: Matt Coleman, Courtney Ramey, Andrew Jones, Greg Brown, Jericho Sims
The Longhorns bring back all 12 players from last year’s team, including 11 of whom started at least one game last season. Plus, they add top ten recruit Greg Brown to a team that won five of their last six regular season games. That’s a good thing! Keeping everyone happy on a roster this deep when there are 13 guys available for just five spots on the floor and 200 combined minutes a night? That’s not going to be easy to deal with.
GONE: Jordan Nwora, Dwayne Sutton, Steve Enoch, Fresh Kimble, Ryan McMahon, Darius Perry
COMING BACK: David Johnson, Samuell Williamson, Malik Williams, Josh Nickelberry, Aidan Ighiehon, Jaelyn Withers
WAIT AND SEE: None
NEW FACES: Carlik Jones, Charles Minlend, D’Andre Davis, J.J. Traynor
PROJECTED STARTERS: Carlik Jones, David Johnson, Charles Minlend, Samuell Williamson, Malik Williams
The Cardinals are going to build around sophomores David Johnson and Samuell Williamson as well as senior Malik Williams this season. The addition of Radford grad transfer Carlik Jones should help out quite a bit as well. Johnson and Williamson have both shown flashes of having star potential. The addition of San Francisco grad transfer Charles Minlend should help add some depth on the perimeter.
This ranking is dependent on Remy Martin making the decision to return to school for the 2020-21 season, but if they do, the Sun Devils have a chance to be really, really good. Losing Romello White is going to hurt, but Alonzo Verge had a breakout season, and they added Josh Christopher, a five-star prospect from California.
COMING BACK: Jacob Gilyard, Grant Golden, Blake Francis, Nick Sherod, Nathan Cayo, Andre Gustavson, Jake Wojcik, Tyler Burton
WAIT AND SEE: None
NEW FACES: Isaiah Wilson
PROJECTED STARTERS: Jacob Gilyard, Blake Francis, Nick Sherod, Nathan Cayo, Grant Golden
Chris Mooney did not have a senior on the roster of a team that finished 24-7 overall and 14-4 in the Atlantic 10. With Obi Toppin gone, the Spiders will likely be the class of the conference heading into next season. Jacob Gilyard has a chance to be Atlantic 10 Player of the Year.
GONE: James Wiseman, Precious Achiuwa, Tyler Harris
COMING BACK: D.J. Jeffries, Lester Quinones, Boogie Ellis, Damian Baugh, Alex Lomax, Isaiah Maurice
TEMPE, Ariz. (–Arizona State guard Remy Martin is withdrawing from the NBA draft and will return for his senior season in the desert.
“I’m blessed to have the opportunity to coach Remy Martin for one more season,” Sun Devils coach Bobby Hurley said in a statement Sunday. “Remy will be one of the best players in college basketball this year and will be on a mission to lead Arizona State basketball in its pursuit of championships.”
A 6-foot guard, Martin is the Pac-12’s leading returning scorer after averaging 19.1 points in 2019-20. He also averaged 4.1 assists per game and helped put the Sun Devils in position to reach the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year before the season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Martin’s return should put Arizona State among the favorites to win the Pac-12 next season.
Martin joins fellow guard Alonzo Verge Jr. in returning to the Sun Devils after testing the NBA waters. Big man Romello White declared for the draft and later entered the transfer portal.
Hurley has signed one of the program’s best recruiting classes for next season, headed by five-star guard Josh Christopher.