Duke is No. 1 in the Ridiculously Early Preseason Top 25 (and one)

HOUSTON — This will all change.

You need to understand that before moving forward.

Some players we think are returning to school will leave. And vice versa. And then some recruits we believe are going to one college will go to another. So understand that, please.

Regardless, it’s time to rank basketball teams for next season!

So I sat down with my colleagues Matt Norlander and Sam Vecenie here at the site of the Final Four, and we tore through every relevant roster in the country. Then we consulted with coaches, agents, recruiting analysts and all sorts of folks and tried our best to project how teams will likely look next season. What you see below is the result of that. And, it’s worth noting, our collective stab at this last season was remarkably on point. Our top five was Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Maryland and Kansas. And every school we had ranked in the top 15 made the 2016 NCAA Tournament. So that’s pretty good, I think.

Needless to say, when the information related to roster makeups changes over the coming days and weeks and months, so will these rankings. But, for now, here’s the 2016-17 CBS Sports Ridiculously Early Preseason Top 25 (and one) college basketball rankings …

1. DUKE

  • Notable players definitely gone: Marshall Plumlee, Brandon Ingram
  • Others expected to leave: N/A
  • Notable players we expect to return: Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, Matt Jones, Derryck Thornton, Amile Jefferson, Chase Jeter
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson, Javin DeLaurier, Jack White, Marques Bolden

Why the Blue Devils are ranked here: Duke will, if Grayson Allen comes back, return four of its top five scorers and add a heralded recruting class highlighted by the players DraftExpress.com projects to go first and second in the 2017 NBA Draft — namely Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles. So, yes, the Blue Devils should be considered the favorites. Don’t be surprised if Mike Krzyzewski, this time next year, has his sixth national title.

2. KENTUCKY

  • Notable players definitely gone: Jamal Murray, Alex Poythress
  • Others expected to leave: Tyler Ulis, Skal Labissiere
  • Notable players we expect to return: Isaiah Briscoe, Marcus Lee, Derek Willis, Charles Matthews, Isaac Humphries, Dominique Hawkins
  • Others we expect to join the roster: De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo, Wenyan Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones

Why the Wildcats are ranked here: That Kentucky’s recruiting class is ranked ahead of Duke’s even though Duke’s features two future top-five picks says all you need to know about the quality of Kentucky’s prospects. De’Aaron Fox is considered the nation’s top incoming point guard. Malik Monk is considered the nation’s top incoming combo guard. In total, UK’s five-man class is comprised of five top-30 prospects. So it almost doesn’t matter who stays or goes. Kentucky will still be among the most talented teams, same as always.

3. VILLANOVA

  • Notable players definitely gone: Ryan Arcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu
  • Others expected to leave: N/A
  • Notable players we expect to return: Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth, Mikal Bridges, Darryl Reynolds
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Omari Spellman, Dylan Painter, Eric Paschall

Why the Wildcats are ranked here: Villanova is losing two important pieces — specifically Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu. That won’t be simple to overcome. But three starters should be back from this team that just beat North Carolina to win the national championship, and Omari Spellman is a five-star post player who will have an immediate impact on Jay Wright’s program. So let the back-to-back talk begin at Villanova.

4. KANSAS

  • Notable players definitely gone: Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor, Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene, Hunter Mickelson
  • Others expected to leave: Cheick Diallo
  • Notable players we expect to return: Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Landen Lucas, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Carlton Bragg
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Josh Jackson, Udoka Azubuike, Mitch Lightfoot

Why the Jayhawks are ranked here: This ranking is based on the Jayhawks landing Class of 2016 star Josh Jackson, who remains uncommitted but is reportedly leaning toward KU. Combine him with that better-than-most-think backcourt of Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham, and other veterans like Landen Lucas, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Carlton Bragg, and Bill Self will be expected to win his 13th straight Big 12 championship.

5. XAVIER

  • Notable players definitely gone: James Farr, Remy Abell
  • Others expected to leave: Jalen Reynolds
  • Notable players we expect to return: Trevon Bluiett, Edmond Sumner, Sean O’Mara, Myles Davis, JP Macura, Larry Austin, Kaiser Gates
  • Others we expect to join the roster: RaShid Gaston, Quintin Goodin, Tyrique Jones, Eddie Ekiyor

Why the Musketeers are here: Xavier should return the most important pieces from a 28-win team that finished only behind Villanova in the Big East. And watch out for RaShid Gaston. He’s a 6-foot-9 forward who averaged 15.5 points and 9.6 rebounds two seasons ago at Norfolk State. He’ll be eligible at Xavier next season. I bet Bill Murray will like him.

6. MICHIGAN STATE

  • Notable players definitely gone: Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes, Matt Costello, Colby Wollenman, Marvin Clark, Javon Bess
  • Others expected to leave: Deyonta Davis
  • Notable players we expect to return: Eron Harris, Gavin Schilling, Matt McQuaid, Lourawls Nairn, Kenny Goins, Alvin Ellis, Kyle Ahrens
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Miles Bridges, Josh Langford, Cassius Winston, Nick Ward

Why the Spartans are ranked here: The Spartans are losing their best player (Denzel Valentine) and shooter (Bryn Forbes). But they’ll still have Tom Izzo, a top-three recruiting class and enough quality pieces to make a run at the Big Ten regular-season championship and eighth Final Four of their Hall of Fame coach’s career.

7. NORTH CAROLINA

  • Notable players definitely gone: Brice Johnson, Marcus Paige, Joel James
  • Others expected to leave: N/A
  • Notable players we expect to return: Justin Jackson, Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks, Joel Berry, Theo Pinson, Nate Britt, Luke Maye, Kenny Williams
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Tony Bradley, Seventh Woods, Brandon Robinson

Why the Tar Heels are ranked here: We don’t think the Tar Heels will lose any underclassmen, which means six of UNC’s top eight scorers should be back. So it won’t be a suprise if Roy Williams makes his ninth Final Four next season and again takes a run at becoming only the sixth coach in history to win at least three national titles.

8. OREGON

  • Notable players definitely gone: Elgin Cook, Dwayne Benjamin
  • Others expected to leave: Dylan Ennis
  • Notable players we expect to return: Dillon Brooks, Chris Boucher, Tyler Dorsey, Jordan Bell, Casey Benson, Kendall Small
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Payton Pritchard, M.J. Cage, Keith Smith

Why the Ducks are ranked here: Dana Altman has built Oregon into a consistent winner, and that won’t change next season as long as Dillon Brooks, Chris Boucher and Tyler Dorsey return. It’s also reasonable to expect the Ducks to land a quality 5th-year transfer. So they should finish in the top three of the Pac-12 for the sixth consecutive season.

9. ARIZONA

  • Notable players definitely gone: Ryan Anderson, Gabe York, Kaleb Tarczewski, Mark Tollefsen, Justin Simon
  • Others expected to leave: N/A
  • Notable players we expect to return: Alonzo Trier, Kadeem Allen, Ray Smith, Dusan Ristic, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Chance Comanche
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Lauri Markkanen, Rawle Alkins, Kobi Simmons, Terrance Ferguson

Why the Wildcats are ranked here: Alonzo Trier’s announcement that he’s definitely returning for his sophomore season ensures the Wildcats will be a factor on the national level again. If Oregon doesn’t win the Pac-12, Arizona likely will — especially if five-star wing Terrance Ferguson enrolls in Tucson, which is what we’re projecting.

10. VIRGINIA

  • Notable players definitely gone: Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey, Evan Nolte
  • Others expected to leave: N/A
  • Notable players we expect to return: London Perrantes, Devon Hall, Isaiah Wilkins, Marial Shayok, Darius Thompson, Jack Salt, Jarred Reuter
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Austin Nichols, Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, Jay Huff, DeAndre Hunter

Why the Cavaliers are ranked here: The Cavaliers have finished in the top 10 at KenPom each of the past three seasons. Next season should be the fourth straight. The arrival of Memphis transfer Austin Nichols will help ease the loss of Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey. And Tony Bennett has a top-10 recruiting class set to enroll, too.

11. UCLA

  • Notable players definitely gone: Tony Parker
  • Others expected to leave: N/A
  • Notable players we expect to return: Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton, Aaron Holiday, Thomas Welsh, Prince Ali, Jonah Bolden
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf, Kobe Paras, Ike Anigbogu

Why the Bruins are ranked here: The UCLA fans flying banners behind planes encouraging the school to fire Steve Alford probably don’t realize he’ll have a team next season capable of winning the Pac-12 and advancing to the Final Four. And wait till you see Lonzo Ball. He’s a special talent that should make everybody in Westwood better.

12. INDIANA

  • Notable players definitely gone: Yogi Ferrell, Max Biefeldt, Nick Zeisloft
  • Others expected to leave: Troy Williams
  • Notable players we expect to return: Thomas Bryant, OG Anunoby, James Blackmon, Robert Johnson, Collin Hartman, Juwan Morgan
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Josh Newkirk, De’Ron Davis, Curtis Jones, Grant Gelon, Devonte Green

Why the Hoosiers are ranked here: This ranking is based on Thomas Bryant returning to school, which is obviously still up in the air. But even if Bryant leaves, Tom Crean will have enough pieces to keep the Hoosiers competing at, or near, the top of the Big Ten.

13. MARYLAND

  • Notable players definitely gone: Jake Layman, Rasheed Sulaimon, Diamond Stone
  • Others expected to leave: N/A
  • Notable players we expect to return: Melo Trimble, Robert Carter, Jared Nickens, Jaylen Brantley, Michal Cekovsky, Damonte Dodd, Dion Wiley
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter, Micah Thomas

Why the Terrapins are ranked here: Our understanding is that it’s 50-50 as to whether Melo Trimble returns for his junior year. So, for now, we’re projecting him back. And, if he’s back, Maryland will be good again because Trimble is that kind of a difference-maker at this level.

14. USC

  • Notable players definitely gone: Katin Reinhardt, Darion Clark, Malik Martin
  • Others expected to leave: N/A
  • Notable players we expect to return: Jordan McLaughlin, Julian Jacobs, Nikola Jovanovic, Bennie Boatright, Chemezie Metu, Elijah Stewart
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Shaqquan Aaron, Jonah Mathews, De’Anthony Melton, Harrison Henderson

Why the Trojans are ranked here: Andy Enfield should have his top four scorers back from a team that made the NCAA Tournament. Yes, this is the fourth Pac-12 team we have ranked in the top 15 of the Top 25 (and one).

15. WISCONSIN

  • Notable players definitely gone: N/A
  • Others expected to leave: N/A
  • Notable players we expect to return: Nigel Hayes, Ethan Happ, Vitto Brown, Bronson Koenig, Charlie Thomas, Zak Showalter, Jordan Hill, Khalil Iverson, Alex Illikainen
  • Others we expect to join the roster: N/A

Why the Badgers are ranked here: As long as Nigel Hayes returns to school, the Badgers should have everybody back from a team that closed strong and made the Sweet 16. So Greg Gard is set up to have a nice first full season as Wisconsin’s head coach.

16. CONNECTICUT

  • Notable players definitely gone: Sterling Gibbs, Shonn Miller, Omar Calhoun, Phillip Nolan, Sam Cassel
  • Others expected to leave: N/A
  • Notable players we expect to return: Daniel Hamilton, Rodney Purvis, Amida Brimah, Jalen Adams, Kenta Facey, Steven Enoch
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Juwan Durham, Alterique Gilbert, Vance Jackson, Mamadou Diarra

Why the Huskies are ranked here: The Huskies could go from ranked to unranked if Daniel Hamilton, Rodney Purvis and/or Amida Brimah enter and remain in the NBA Draft. But none of them project as first-round picks. So, odds are, they’ll be back at Connecticut, at which point the Huskies will be the favorites in the American Athletic Conference.

17. SAINT MARY’S

  • Notable players definitely gone: N/A
  • Others expected to leave: N/A
  • Notable players we expect to return: Emmett Naar, Dane Pineau, Joe Rayon, Jock Landale, Calvin Hermann, Evan Filzner, Kyle Clark, Stefan Gonzalez
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Jordan Ford, Elijah Thomas

Why the Gaels are ranked here: It appears Randy Bennett will have everybody back from a team that won 29 games this season. For once, it’s not crazy to pick somebody other than Gonzaga to win the West Coast Conference.

18. RHODE ISLAND

  • Notable players definitely gone: Four McGlynn, Earl Watson
  • Others expected to leave: N/A
  • Notable players we expect to return: EC Matthews, Hassan Martin, Jared Terrell, Jarvis Garrett, Kuran Iverson, Christian Thompson, Nicola Akele
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Stanford Robinson, Mike Layssard Jr, Jeff Dowtin, Michael Tertsea, Cyril Langevine

Why the Rams are ranked here: Why did Dan Hurley pass on the Rutgers job? There are a lot of reasons, really. But one of them is that he has a team at URI that’s good enough to win the Atlantic 10 and advance in the NCAA Tournament.19. TEXAS

  • Notable players definitely gone: Cameron Ridley, Javan Felix, Prince Ibeh, Connor Lammert, Demarcus Holland
  • Others expected to leave: N/A
  • Notable players we expect to return: Isaiah Taylor, Kerwin Roach, Tevin Mack, Eric Davis, Shaquille Cleare, Kendal Yancy
  • Others we expect to join the roster: James Banks, Jacob Young, Andrew Jones

Why the Longhorns are ranked here: There’s no real reason to expect Isaiah Taylor to enter and remain in the NBA Draft. So Shaka Smart’s second season at Texas should be better than his first, and his first was pretty good.

20. GONZAGA

  • Notable players definitely gone: Kyle Wiltjer, Eric McClellan, Kyle Dranginis
  • Others expected to leave: Domantas Sabonis
  • Notable players we expect to return: Przemek Karnowski, Josh Perkins, Ryan Edwards, Silas Melson, Bryan Alberts
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Nigel Williams-Goss, Jonathan Williams, Zach Collins, Killian Tillie, Jacob Larson, Zach, Norvell, Rui Hachimura

Why the Zags are ranked here: If Domantas Sabonis returns, watch out. But he’s probably gone. And that’ll hurt. But transfers Nigel Williams-Gozz and Jonathan Williams will ensure the Zags have enough veterans to make the NCAA Tournament for the 16th straight season.

21. WEST VIRGINIA

  • Notable players definitely gone: Jaysean Paige, Jonathan Holton
  • Others expected to leave: N/A
  • Notable players we expect to return: Devin Williams, Tarik Phillip, Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles, Esa Ahmad, Elijah Macon, Nathan Adrian, Teyvon Myers
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Sagaba Donate, Maciej Bender, Chase Harler, Brandon Knapper

Why the Mountaineers are ranked here: We left West Virginia unranked last preseason and Bob Huggins made that look foolish. Consider this proof that we learned our lesson.

22. LOUISVILLE

  • Notable players definitely gone: Damion Lee, Trey Lewis
  • Others expected to leave: N/A
  • Notable players we expect to return: Chinanu Onuaku, Donovan Mitchell, Deng Adel, Mangok Mathiang, Raymond Spalding, Quenton Snider, Matz Stockton, Jaylen Johnson
  • Others we expect to join the roster: VJ King, Tony Hicks

Why the Cardinals are ranked here: Rick Pitino shopped in the transfer market last offseason and found enough to help him create a top-25 team. Odds are, he’ll do it again.

23. MIAMI

  • Notable players definitely gone: Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan, Tonye Jekiri, Ivan Cruz Uceda, James Palmer
  • Others expected to leave: N/A
  • Notable players we expect to return: Davon Reed, Ja’Quan Newton, Kamari Murphy, Anthony Lawrence, Ebuka Izundu
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Dewan Huell, Bruce Brown, Rodney Miller, Dejan Vasiljevic

Why the Hurricanes are ranked here: Miami is losing a lot — most notably Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan and Tonye Jekiri. But Jim Larranaga has enough to be good again, and his top-10 recruiting class will provide an influx of talent.

24. CREIGHTON

  • Notable players definitely gone: Geoffrey Groselle, James Milliken
  • Others expected to leave: N/A
  • Notable players we expect to return: Maurice Watson, Cole Huff, Ronnie Harrell, Malik Albert, Justin Patton, Khyri Thomas, Zach Hanson, Tyler Clement, Isaiah Zierden, Toby Hegner, Martin Krampelj
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Marcus Foster, Davion Mintz

Why the Bluejays are ranked here: Remember Marcus Foster? He averaged double-digits at Kansas State for two seasons before transferring. He’ll team with Maurice Watson and help Creighton compete for a top-three spot in the Big East.

25. BUTLER

  • Notable players definitely gone: Roosevelt Jones, Kellen Dunham, Jordan Gathers, Austin Etherington, Jackson Davis
  • Others expected to leave: N/A
  • Notable players we expect to return: Kelan Martin, Andrew Chrabascz, Tyler Wideman, Tyler Lewis, Nate Fowler
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Kethan Savage, Joey Brunk, Howard Washington, Kamar Baldwin, Henry Baddle

Why the Bulldogs are ranked here: Butler is a harder job in the Big East than it was in the Horizon. But Chris Holtmann has stabilized things inside Hinkle Fieldhouse. And he should have the Bulldogs in the NCAA Tournament again next season.

26. WICHITA STATE

  • Notable players definitely gone: Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, Evan Wessel, Anton Grady, Tom Wamukota
  • Others expected to leave: N/A
  • Notable players we expect to return: Markis McDuffie, Ty Taylor, Shaquille Morris, Conner Frankamp, Landry Shamet, Zach Brown, Rashard Kelly, Rauno Nurger,
  • Others we expect to join the roster: Darrlyn Willis, C.J. Keyser, Daishon Smith

Why the Shockers are ranked here: This is basically an #InGreggMarshallWeTrust ranking. In other words, we’re just going to assume Wichita State will be good again because, you know, Wichita State will probably be good again.

Grayson Allen will be a key player for the Blue Devils if he returns next season. (USATSI)
Grayson Allen will be a key player for the Blue Devils if he returns next season. (USATSI)

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