This basketball fan was incredibly disappointed to have no NCAA tournament last year. Due to COVID-19, there was no March Madness, but that does not mean that this year will be the same. The Champions Classic has already been announced for November 10th where Duke will square up with Michigan State and Kansas will play Kentucky as well. The question on most college basketball fan's minds is which teams will contend this year? This five-part series will break down the top 25 programs heading into the 2020-21 season, so without further adieu, let's get started.
25. Richmond (Last Years Record: 24-7)
Coming Back: Jacob Gilyard, Grant Golden, Blake Francis, Nick Sherod, Nathan Cayo, Andre Gustavson, Jake Wojcik, Tyler Burton
New Faces: Isaiah Wilson
Projected Starters: Jacob Gilyard, Blake Francis, Nick Sherod, Nathan Cayo, Grant Golden
The A10 conference was incredibly underrated last year, with five teams finishing with more than 20 wins. Dayton got all the attention, but Richmond quietly put together a nice season at 23-8. They scored more than 75 points per game, which was second in the conference overall, and have all their starters returning this year. Blake Francis should lead the team in scoring once again, and possibly the conference as he battles it out with Ryan Daly at St Joseph's. The Spiders were nothing special defensively, but they should improve with another year of experience under their belt.
24. Arizona State (Last Year's Record: 20-11)
Gone: Rob Edwards, Romello White, Mickey Mitchell
Coming Back: Remy Martin, Alonzo Verge, Kimani Lawrence, Taeshon Cherry, Jaelen House, Khalid Thomas, Jalen Graham
New Faces: Josh Christopher, Marcus Bagley, Holland Woods
Projected Starters: Alonzo Verge, Remy Martin, Josh Christopher, Taeshon Cherry, Jalen Graham
Arizona State got lost in the shuffle in the Pac-12 last year, as teams like Oregon and USC got all the attention. But the Sun Devils were still incredibly talented, winning 20 games including wins over Oregon and Arizona. Head coach Bobby Hurley will lose his third and fourth leading scorers, but they recruited well. Josh Christopher, the number eleven prospect in the nation, and Marcus Bagley, the number thirty-three prospect, both joined Hurley's program. Christopher will start right away and Bagley could if he plays well early on so if you are a Pac-12 basketball fan, fear the Sun Devils.
23. Oklahoma State (Last Year's Record: 18-14)
Gone: Yor Anei, Jonathan Laurent
Coming Back: Isaac Likekele, Kalib Boone, Keylan Boone, Chris Harris Jr., Avery Anderson III
New Faces: Cade Cunningham, Ferron Flavors Jr. Montreal Pena, Rondel Walker, Matthew Alexander-Moncrieffe, Donovan Williams, Bernard Kouma (JUCO)
Projected Starters: Isaac Likekele, Cade Cunningham, Ferron Flavors Jr., Keylan Boone, Kalib Boone
The Cowboys had an underwhelming 18-14 record last year in the Big 12, but things are looking up. The biggest reason for this is potential number one pick Cade Cunningham electing to play for Oklahoma State. Cunningham passed up opportunities to play for Florida, Kentucky, and North Carolina to join the Cowboys so this should be a great opportunity to have an impact right away. No major players are lost for Oklahoma State either, so they will be experienced and lethal in one of college basketballs elite conferences. The only reason they are not higher in my rankings right off the back is I want to see how Cunningham fits into this roster. Do not be surprised to see this team as a top-four seed come tournament time.
22. Memphis (Last Year's Record: 21-10)
Gone: James Wiseman, Precious Achiuwa, Tyler Harris (possibly Landers Nolley II & DeAndre Williams)
Coming Back: D.J. Jeffries, Lester Quinones, Boogie Ellis, Damian Baugh, Alex Lomax, Isaiah Maurice
New Faces: Moussa Cisse, Isaiah Stokes
Projected Starters: Alex Lomax, Boogie Ellis, Lester Quinones, D.J. Jeffries, Moussa Cisse
Penny Hardaway had an up and down 2019-20 campaign, finishing just fifth in the AAC conference. Number one recruit James Wiseman's departure early on made things difficult for the Tigers to adjust, but they recovered. The loss of him and Precious Achiuwa will mean talented sophomores will need to step up. Boogie Ellis and D.J. Jeffries were both highly touted prospects that had fairly underwhelming seasons, but that can change very quickly with expanded roles. Adding number twenty-four prospect Moussa Cisse will provide just another option as well, so this should be a great team to watch. Penny will need to produce with all this talent otherwise the program might start to question whether he is the guy moving forward.
21.Texas (Last Year's Record: 19-12)
Coming Back: Matt Coleman, Courtney Ramey, Andrew Jones, Kai Jones, Jericho Sims, Jase Febres, Kamaka Hepa, Royce Hamm, Donovan Williams, Gerald Lidell, Will Baker
New Faces: Greg Brown
Projected Starters: Matt Coleman, Courtney Ramey, Andrew Jones, Greg Brown, Jericho Sims
The second Big 12 appearance goes to the team that finished a couple of spots ahead of Oklahoma State and that is Texas. The Longhorns had some big wins but struggled to be strong early on in Big 12 play. With no players being lost this team should have no issues with chemistry out of the gate. So you might be asking, how does a mid-conference team suddenly take the leap into the Top 25 in the nation? That is because Greg Brown, the second-best power forward prospect, chose to play for Shake Smart and the Longhorns this year. He will be a starter immediately and give this team the boost they need to contend in the Big 12. If he is as highly touted as expected then Texas will be incredibly strong.
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