College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25: Who makes up college basketball’s ‘top tier’?

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Putting these rankings together on a weekly basis has become increasingly harder as the season has progressed, and it’s not because the decisions at the top are tough to make.

At this point, the top eight teams in the country have more or less separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Within that group of eight, there seems to be three tiers: Kentucky, then, in some order, Wisconsin, Gonzaga, Virginia, Duke and Arizona, followed up by Villanova and Kansas.

Beyond that?

Who knows.

READ MORE: Our latest bracket update | Weekly Award winners: Villanova, San Diego State

Utah looks like they could be a Final Four contender, but they were blown out by Arizona and, more concerningly, UCLA. Notre Dame and Iowa State can score with the best of them but can’t get stops while Louisville is really good defensively and can’t score. Oklahoma, Baylor and North Carolina are talented but inconsistent. Wichita State and Northern Iowa are really, really good mid-major programs whose rank is getting inflated as they continue to win while power conference teams beat up on each other. Maryland? Butler? Arkansas and Ohio State and Providence and SMU?

To put it another way, these rankings would make more sense in my mind if I could do the top eight and then have a ten-way tie for 18th place.

This isn’t a bad thing, however, because it looks like the tournament will have some fireworks the first weekend. But the dominance of the best teams could mean that we’re looking at a situation where the Elite 8 is quite chalky, and that’s when this sport is at its best.

Cinderellas are fun, but I want to see the nation’s best squaring off with everything on the line.

Anyway, onto the top 25:

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1. Kentucky (25-0, LW: No. 1): The Wildcats survived their toughest road stretch of the season, winning hard-fought games at Florida and LSU. They still have to host Arkansas and play at Georgia, but the Wildcats look like they should be able to get to March undefeated.

2. Wisconsin (23-2, LW: No. 4): We keep hearing about how Kentucky is playing historically good defense, but no one is talking about the fact that the Badgers are currently on pace to finish the season with the best adjusted offensive efficiency of the KenPom era. Wisconsin is as slow and as patient as anyone in the country, but elite shooting and an extreme aversion to turnovers has made them ruthlessly efficient.

3. Gonzaga (26-1, LW: No. 3): I understand why people doubt Gonzaga, but I think it’s worth pointing out here that if this over-the-back actually gets called, the Zags are undefeated in mid-February with a win at Arizona on their resume.

4. Virginia (23-1, LW: No. 2): I watched Virginia’s four-point win over N.C. State. I watched Virginia’s one-point win over Wake Forest. I think it’s obvious: I underestimated how much missing Justin Anderson would actually hurt the Cavaliers. He’s their best defender, their best shooter, their best athlete and the toughest dude on the roster. He’s the epitome of everything that Virginia wants to do. That’s not easy to replace.

5. Duke (22-3, LW: No. 5): Duke’s defensive issues are clearly still a red flag, but getting Justise Winslow back to where he was at the start of the season has made a difference.

6. Villanova (23-2, LW: No. 6): I have my doubts about Villanova, but they went into Hinkle Fieldhouse and knocked off a good Butler team in the biggest game in recent memory in the historic arena. That 23-2 record is not a fluke.

7. Arizona (22-3, LW: No. 7): The Wildcats won the two games on their Washington roadtrip by a combined 51 points. Not bad.

8. Kansas (21-4, LW: No. 8): The consensus is that the Big 12 is the nation’s toughest conference this season, and the Jayhawks are on the verge of steamrolling through the league again. They are up two games with just six left to play.

9. Utah (20-4, LW: No. 10): Utah is really, really impressive when they’re playing overmatched Pac-12 teams, especially when those games are played at home. I’m waiting to go all-in on the Utes until we see what happens when Arizona comes to town.

10. Notre Dame (22-4, LW: No. 11): The Irish have the highest-ceiling of the group I’m going to start referring to as “The Leftovers”, thanks to their ability to shoot and the fact that they have Jerian Grant on the roster. When they’re shooting well, they can beat anyone. But they need to shoot well because defensively, the Irish are not good.

11. North Carolina (18-7, LW: No. 12)
12. Iowa State (18-6, LW: No.
13. Louisville (20-5, LW: No. 9)
14. Northern Iowa (24-2, LW: No. 15)
15. Wichita State (23-3, LW: No. 16)
16. Baylor (18-7, LW: No. 14)
17. Oklahoma (17-8, LW: No. 17)
18. Ohio State (19-7, LW: No. 18)
19. Maryland (21-5, LW: No. 19)
20. Butler (18-6, LW: No. 20)
21. SMU (21-5, LW: No. 21)
22. Arkansas (20-5, LW: UR)
23. Oklahoma State (17-8, LW: No. 23)
24. Providence (18-8, LW: No. 24)
25. VCU (19-6, LW: No. 22)

Dropped Out: No. 25 West Virginia

UConn adds former Rutgers guard Cam Spencer from transfer portal

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STORRS, Conn. — National champion UConn added some shooting depth to its roster Friday, announcing the signing of former Rutgers guard Cam Spencer from the transfer portal.

Spencer, who graduated last month with a year of eligibility remaining, averaged 13.2 points in his only season in New Jersey. The 6-foot-4 guard, who played his first three seasons at Loyola of Maryland, shot 44.4% from the floor, including 43.4% from 3-point range.

“Cam is the perfect addition to our basketball program,” UConn Coach Dan Hurley said. “He brings a unique combination of high-level skill and feel for the game, with a fierce competitiveness that has allowed him to enjoy a terrific college basketball career thus far.”

The Huskies lost their top 3-point scoring threat, sophomore Jordan Hawkins, to the NBA draft, along with wing Andre Jackson Jr. and post Adama Sanogo.

Guard Tristen Newtown gave the Huskies a boost last month when he withdrew his name from the draft pool and returned to Storrs.

The Huskies began summer workouts this week, welcoming a top recruiting class led by 6-6 point guard Stephon Castle, a McDonald’s All-American from Georgia. The class also includes 6-7 wing Jayden Ross and 6-4 guard Solomon Ball from Virginia, 6-7 wing Jaylin Stewart from Seattle, Washington, and 7-foot center Youssouf Singare from New York.

“I think that some of my strengths will stand out in UConn’s style of play,” Spencer said. “They have a lot of great movement and they play so well together, with great chemistry. I think that I can come in and hopefully contribute to that.”

NCAA tweaks rules on block/charge calls in men’s basketball

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INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA is tweaking how block/charge calls are made in men’s basketball.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved rule changes on Thursday that require a defender to be in position to draw a charge at the time the offensive player plants a foot to go airborne for a shot. If the defender arrives after the player has planted a foot, officials have been instructed to call a block when there’s contact.

Defenders had to be in position to draw a charge before the offensive player went airborne under previous rules.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee members made the proposal after NCAA members complained that too many charges were being called on those types of plays.

The panel also approved reviews of basket interference calls during the next media timeout – if the official called it on the floor – a shot clock reset to 20 seconds on an offensive rebound that hits the rim, and players being allowed to wear any number between 0 and 99.

A timeout also will be granted to an airborne player with possession of the ball, and non-student bench personnel will be allowed to serve as peacekeepers on the floor if an altercation occurs.

Charlotte head coach Ron Sanchez resigns after winning CBI title

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ron Sanchez resigned as head coach of the Charlotte 49ers.

Sanchez took over the 49ers on March 19, 2018, inheriting a team coming off a 6-23 campaign. In five years Charlotte went 72-78 under Sanchez, highlighted by winning the College Basketball Invitational championship this past season, the Niners’ first post-season tournament title in school history.

The 22 wins this past season are the most for Charlotte since 2001.

“Ron took over a proud but struggling program and carefully rebuilt it into a 22-game winner. He has led with class, dignity and devotion to our young men,” Charlotte director of athletics Mike Hill said. “His decision to step down from Charlotte was a difficult one for him and everyone associated with our program. We wish him and his family every happiness.”

Hill said the team has already begun a national search for a replacement.

“This is a bittersweet day for me and my family as I step down to pursue other opportunities,” said Sanchez, who came the 49ers after working as an assistant coach at Virginia under Tony Bennett. “It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the 49ers basketball program over the past five years and I want to thank Niner Nation for its support. I will be forever grateful to my staff, players and the university.”

Marquette extends Shaka Smart’s contract through 2029-30 season

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MILWAUKEE — Marquette coach Shaka Smart has received a contract extension after leading the Golden Eagles to their first outright regular-season championship and tournament title in the Big East.

Smart’s contract now runs through the 2029-30 season. This is the first extension Smart has received since signing a six-year deal when he took over as Marquette’s coach in 2021.

Marquette didn’t release financial terms of Smart’s deal.

“In a very short period of time, Shaka and his staff have done a tremendous job of establishing a winning culture, both on and off the court,” athletic director Bill Scholl said in a statement. “Shaka’s vision for the program is focused on extended, sustainable success. The individuals who interact with the team on a daily basis are able to observe frequent examples of growth and the excitement around the program is contagious.”

Marquette has gone 48-20 in Smart’s two seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament each of those years.

The Golden Eagles went 29-7 and won the Big East’s regular-season and tournament championships last season after the league’s coaches had picked them to finish ninth out of 11 teams. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.