College Basketball Top 25: No. 15 - No. 11
For more info on no. 25 - no. 16, check the following articles.
25. St. Bonaventure
20. Texas Tech
19. Ohio State
Here are my rankings of no. 15 through no. 11.
15. Houston Cougars
The Cougars are coming off of their first Final Four appearance since 1984, and Kelvin Sampson has them in the ranks of the top teams in the country over the last few seasons. The biggest loss for Houston is without a doubt three-and-D star G Quentin Grimes (17.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG), who was taken 25th overall by the New York Knicks in the most recent NBA Draft. This will be a huge hole to fill. They also lose distribution and elite defense in G Dejon Jerrau (10.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 4.3 APG), as well as miss out on the rebounding talents of F Justin Gorham (8.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG).
They bring back their second-leading scorer off of last year’s squad, G Marcus Sasser (13.5 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.3 APG), and additionally return G Tramon Mark (7.8 PPG), F Fabian White Jr. (6.2 PPG), C Reggie Chaney (4.7 PPG, 2.8 RPG).
The Cougs did well in recruiting and in the transfer portal this year, however, bringing in Texas Tech G Kyler Edwards (10.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.8 APG), and G Taze Moore from Cal-St. Bakersfield (12.2 PPG, 4 RPG, 2.7 APG). They landed a trio of three-star recruits in C Ja’Vier Francis, F Robbie Armbrester, and F Ramon Walker.
While it may not seem like they have a ton of scoring, the reason Houston has been so good lately is much more on the defensive side of the ball. They were second in the country in opponents’ PPG last year at a smothering 58.2 (58.9 in conference), and finished first in conference offensively at 74.9 PPG. They finished first in the nation in opponents’ FG rate as well at 37.8%. They’re extremely physical and allow no easy shots, rotating aggressively and attacking closeouts. This has become a staple of Kelvin Sampson’s teams, and it’s been working. Though they will have to deal with the Memphis Tigers in conference this year, Houston still has a chance to repeat as champions in the American.
14. North Carolina Tar Heels
The biggest story regarding the Tar Heels this season will be the first attempt at HC by new leader Hubert Davis. Davis, a highly respected basketball mind, as well as long-tenured NBA player who played for Carolina himself, takes over for Roy Williams after Williams’ illustrious career as HC for UNC, where he took them to three national titles and five Final Four appearances over 18 years. They won the ACC regular season championship nine times under his tenure, and were generally regarded as one of the very elite programs in the nation. He also presided over 30 players that spent time in the NBA. The term “GOAT” is overused, but it legitimately applies to Roy Williams. He’s one of the greatest of all time.
They lose some talent off of last year’s roster, including F Day’Ron Sharpe (9.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG), who was drafted 29th overall by the Brooklyn Nets, F Garrison Brooks (10.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG), and F Walker Kessler (4.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG), who transferred to Auburn this offseason. They return several key pieces, however, namely C Armando Bacot (12.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG), G Caleb Love (10.5 PPG, 3.6 APG), G Kerwin Walton (8.2 PPG), G Leaky Black (5.6 PPG, 4.9 APG), and G RJ Davis (8.4 PPG, 2.3 APG).
With their draws in the transfer portal and recruiting, the Tar Heels look like they’re going to be in a much better position than they were last year. Some of the pickups include Oklahoma F Brady Manek (10.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG) and Marquette F Dawson Garcia (13 PPG, 6.6 RPG). They also bring in defensive specialist Justin McKoy from UVA (3.5 PPG, 2.3 RPG).
The primary problem with UNC last season was inconsistency at PG, led by Love, who struggled with efficiency on the year. He shot a paltry 31.6% from the field, good for a PER of 8.8. His 3.6 APG seems less impressive when compared to his 3.1 turnovers per game. For a player that led the team in usage percentage, this is not going to get it done. It’s going to be up to him in order to take the reins of the offense - if he’s markedly improved, then UNC is going to be a fierce opponent. If not, then they will slip out of the top 25. I think he has the talent to make a big leap in his second season, and therefore, lead UNC to a successful first campaign under Hubert Davis.
13. Memphis Tigers
Many people will criticize Memphis’ position here, saying they should be top 10, and maybe even top five, which would be fair considering their monster recruiting class, which includes the third- and fourth-overall players in the Rivals Top 100, C Jalen Duren, and G/F Emoni Bates, respectively. They also bring in three four-stars in C Sam Ayomide Onu, F Jordan Nesbitt, and F Josh Minott.
In addition to a stellar collection of prep talent, the Tigers also add Miami FL transfer G Earl Timberlake (9.3 PPG, 5 RPG, 2.3 APG), and Tyler Harris of Iowa State as a walk-on (7.5 PPG). They return several key players from last year’s roster, including G Landers Nolley (13.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG), G Lester Quinones (9.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG), and F DeAndre Williams (11.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.4 APG).
Off of the team last year, they lost their defensive stopper C Moussa Cisse (6.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.6 BPG). They also miss out on Mississippi State transfer F DJ Jeffries (9.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG), USC transfer G Boogie Ellis (10.2 PPG), and TCU transfer G Damion Baugh (3.4 PPG). These are some legitimate losses that they’ll have to make up for.
Last year, Memphis had an all right season, but nothing special. They won the NIT, and had trouble offensively, though defensively, they were locked down, holding the nationally 20th-ranked opponents’ PPG number at 61.7. They run multiple defenses, but mainly a man-to-man, though they throw in matchup zones as well. The amount of athleticism they bring in this year will make it even more difficult to score against, specifically with length on the wings and Duren at C.
Memphis has had talent in the past, like F Precious Achiuwa and F/C Moussa Cisse, but never this much talent at the same time (I’d include James Wiseman here, but he only played three games for Memphis before being ruled ineligible - thanks NCAA). Penny Hardaway has enough talent to make it work this year, even if he’s going to try to run Emoni Bates at PG, as the rumors are saying. Luckily for Memphis, due to the reclassification of Bates, he doesn’t make the NBA age cutoff for this season, so they’ll have him for two years on campus, if he doesn’t opt for the G-League after his freshman campaign.
Their primary opposition in conference will be the Houston Cougars. There is a legitimate chance I’m completely wrong to doubt Memphis and that they end up as a two-seed in the tournament, but I’d like to see what Penny Hardaway does with this roster first.
12. Alabama Crimson Tide
As tired as I’m sure you are of hearing about Alabama’s football team, get ready to start hearing more about their basketball team. HC Nate Oats and the Crimson Tide bring back quite a bit of talent off of an elite squad from last year, while also reloading with prep players, including five-star G JD Davison, four-star F Jusuan Holt and four-star C Charles Bediako, They also add a transfer in Furman F Noah Gurley (15.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.5 APG).
They return two stars in G Jahvon Quinnerly (12.9 PPG, 3.2 APG) and G Jaden Shackelford (14 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2 APG). Returning Shackelford is huge, as he explored the transfer portal before re-committing to the Crimson Tide for his junior season. They also return G Keon Ellis (5.5 PPG, 4 RPG), amongst others.
Coming off of a highly impressive season in which they went 16-2 in the SEC, which is no small feat, Oats and the Tide look to continue their success in a revamped conference which holds the likes of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas. They were able to do what they did last year in down seasons for Kentucky and Tennessee, so will they be able to do it when UK and UT-K are back at full strength? (UT-K = Tennessee-Knoxville... I know better than to call Tennessee UT on this board).
They do lose some good players off of the 2021-2022 roster, including G Josh Primo (8.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG), who was (albeit somewhat surprisingly) drafted 12th overall by the San Antonio Spurs, though he played really well in Summer League. Gone also are glue guys F Herb Jones (11.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 3.3 APG), G John Petty (12.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG). They also lose a couple of other F in Alex Reese (5.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG), and John Bruner (5.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG).
Why was Alabama so successful last year? Look at their stats in conference. They averaged a blistering 81.9 PPG in SEC play, and finished 25th in the nation in overall PPG at 79.7. Defensively, they were decent, but finished first in the SEC in steals at 8.9 per game. They also held opponents to 25.9% from three while shooting 37.8% themselves. They hit an average of 11.4 threes per game, also good for first in conference.
Will they continue to be an offensive juggernaut this year? That depends on whether or not they can replace the production left behind by their departures. Between the recruiting they did this year and the returning players, they should be able to do so.
11. Arkansas Razorbacks
After a successful last season in which Arkansas finished second in the SEC and 10th in the final AP Poll, Fan favorite Eric Musselman brings in a host of new transfers, many of which will be starting for the Razorbacks this season. Most notably are Miami FL transfer, 5’7 G Chris Lykes (15.5 PPG, 4 RPG, 5.5 APG), who tore it up in the ACC two years ago, but suffered an early season-ending ankle injury that took away his senior year with the Hurricanes.
Additionally, they bring on Pitt transfer G Au’Diese Toney (14.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.3 APG), South Dakota transfer G Stanley Umude (21.5 PPG, 7 RPG, 3 APG), Arkansas-Little Rock F Kamani Johnson (11 PPG, 6.7 RPG), and Wichita State F Trey Wade (6.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG).
Gone from this year’s team are star G Moses Moody (16.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG), who was drafted 14th overall by the Golden State Warriors, as well as F Justin Smith (13.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG), F Jalen Tate (11 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.8 APG), and G Desi Sills (7.5 PPG, 2.7 RPG), who transferred to Arkansas State. So, they lose quite a bit of scoring - 48.9 PPG, to be exact. Obviously, that’s concerning, considering offense was their rock of last season and the reason they were so good.
They ranked 11th in the nation in PPG at 81.4. They finished third in the SEC in PPG as well. They made a season out of drawing fouls, leading the SEC in FT makes at 16.5 and FT attempts at 21.9. They were also the only team that made a game out of Baylor in the NCAA Tournament this past year.
However, they were not good defensively from an opponents’ PPG standpoint, giving up an average of 74.3 in the SEC, finishing ninth in conference in this statistic. In order to stay afloat, they’re going to have to shore this up, especially assuming they won’t be the same team from an offensive angle.
But with the influx of transfer talent, I don’t think Arkansas’ offense falls off too much this upcoming season.