The key date is June 12 — the deadline for early-entry candidates to withdrawal from the NBA Draft.
Based on the number of players officially testing the waters and the number of days (19) remaining for underclassmen to wade in, significant revisions are likely in store for the rankings below.
Please note: Teams are slotted based on best guess for early-entry situations, with caveats provided in many cases.
Also: I have not taken uncommitted recruits into account, even if indications suggest a strong lean to a particular school.
Here we go …
Also considered: Miami, Creighton, Georgia Tech, Wisconsin, Missouri, Seton Hall, Rhode Island, Indiana, Florida, Purdue, Alabama, SMU, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Michigan, Xavier, Arkansas and Wake Forest
Special mention: Oregon.
The Ducks were a basket away from playing for the national title but are not listed below. For now, I’m assuming Dillon Brooks, Jordan Bell and Tyler Dorsey will all turn pro, thereby prompting a complete overhaul of the rotation. (Dylan Ennis and Chris Boucher were seniors.) If any combination of the Dorsey-Brooks-Bell trio returns to school, the Ducks will merit a spot in the rankings.
25. TCU: The NIT title run should be the fuel for a solid season, especially with Vladimir Brodziansky set to return.
24. Saint Mary’s: Joe Rahon is a significant loss, but the Gaels should have a solid core. (Assuming Jock Landale returns, by the way.)
23.Virginia: London Perrantes will be missed, but the Cavs’ defense is always good enough for a spot in the rankings. if they could only score …
22. Utah: Kyle Kuzma (assuming he returns) leads a veteran roster that could challenge for the Pac-12 title, depending on attrition elsewhere.
21. South Carolina: Two double-digit scorers are expected back (PJ Dozier and Chris Silva) for the national semifinalists.
20. Maryland: Even without Melo Trimble, the Terps are stocked for a run at the Big Ten title.
19. Baylor: Assuming Johnathan Motley departs. If he opts for another year, move the Bears into the top 15.
18. Cincinnati: Top scorer Jacob Evans and Kyle Washington lead what could be the best team in the American (unless you-know-who moves into the neighborhood).
17. West Virginia: Attrition is significant, but Jevon Carter, who only looks like he’s 45, and Daxter Miles Jr. are expected to return.
16. Northwestern: The Wildcats won’t sneak up on anyone. But the return of their top-five scorers from a breakthrough season will offset the increased expectations.
15. UCLA: The recruiting class is loaded, sure. But the Bruins lose Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf, Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford. Considering how Ball made everyone else better, his departure counts double. Or triple.
14. Butler: Top scorer Kelan Martin is back — he was only a junior — as are several key role players.
13. Notre Dame: Inside-outside combo of Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell should make the Irish one of the best in the ACC. (If Colson opts for the draft, we’ll revisit.)
12. North Carolina: Assumptions here are that Joel Berry returns and Justin Jackson departs. (Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks are seniors.) But if Jackson passes on the draft, the Tar Heels instantly become a top-five team.
11. USC: Ranking is extremely tentative — to a greater degree than other listed here — and based on Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu returning. All the other key players off a team that came within a few baskets of the Sweet 16 are due back, with possible exception of Shaqquan Aaron.
10. Kansas: Major attrition with Frank Mason, Josh Jackson and Landen Lucas. But we’ll assume, for the moment, that Devonte Graham is back. He’ll be joined by Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman, 5-star big man Billy Preston and several top-tier role players.
9. Minnesota: The breakthrough season under Richard Pitino actually came a year early. The Golden Gophers will have five of their top-six scorers back next season, and a sense for how to handle success.
8. Duke: The Blue Devils need either Luke Kennard or Grayson Allen on the 2017-18 roster to justify holding this spot. The recruiting class features two major talents in wing Gary Trent and big man Wendell Carter.
7. Kentucky: We’ll assume Malik Monk joins De’Aaron Fox in the draft (with Bam Adebayo also a candidate to bolt). But the list of returnees could include Isaiah Briscoe and Isaac Humphries, and the recruiting class features four 5-star prospects.
6. Arizona: The working assumption here is that Allonzo Trier follows Lauri Markkanen into the draft. The returnees alone aren’t worthy of a top-10 ranking. But thanks to a stellar recruiting class that features DeAndre Ayton, the nation’s top big man, the Wildcats won’t be short on impact players. And if Trier comes back, slot the Wildcats in the top three.
5. Michigan State: Most of the top players are set to return, including No. 2 scorer Nick Ward. The question is big man Miles Bridges, a sure-bet first rounder. If he opts for another year, the Spartans take on the look of a preseason No. 1.
4. Villanova: Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins are gone, but don’t assume a significant backslide. Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Eric Paschall, Phil Booth, Dante DiVincenzo are a terrific core. (If Brunson heads to the NBA, we’ll reassess.)
3. Gonzaga: Jordan Mathews and Przemek Karnowski were the only impact seniors in 2017. If everyone else returns, the Zags could be back in the Final Four next spring. But potential Lottery Pick Seth Collins is expected to consider the draft. Nigel Williams-Goss may, as well. If both depart, the Zags will drop out of the top 10.
2. Wichita State: This was supposed to be a reloading season for the Shockers, yet they pushed Kentucky to the brink in the round of 32. Everyone of consequence returns, and coach Gregg Marshall won’t be lacking for motivation after the selection committee relegated his team to a No. 10 seed. Whether the Shockers are in the MVC or the AAC, they’ll roll.
1. Louisville: Three players are testing the waters but only Donovan Mitchell is a projected first rounder – and he’s not in the Lottery mix. If Mitchell returns, the Cardinals would have seven of their top-eight scorers back and add 5-star big man Malik Williams. If Mitchell stays in the draft, drop the Cardinals, but no more than a few spots.
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