In the three months after the early withdrawal deadline for early entrants in the NBA draft, we've witnessed developments that have altered the national landscape in college basketball.
Michael Porter Jr. and his younger brother, top 2018 prospect Jontay Porter, picked Missouri, a program now positioned to compete for the SEC title.
Miles Bridges returned to Michigan State, now the undeniable favorite in the Big Ten race. Wichita State point guard Landry Shamet suffered a foot injury last month that could hinder the start of his season.
And the NCAA reaffirmed elite prospect Mohamed Bamba's eligibility at Texas after his brother claimed he'd accepted improper benefits.
But nothing topped Tuesday's announcement on SportsCenter by Marvin Bagley, now the No. 1 recruit in the 2017 class who will play for Duke next season. His reclassification from the 2018 class to 2017 and his decision to attend Duke has changed everything.
1. Duke Blue Devils
Previous Way-Too-Early ranking: 5
Key losses: Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard, Frank Jackson, Amile Jefferson, Matt Jones
Key additions: Trevon Duval, Gary Trent Jr., Wendell Carter, Jordan Tucker, Marvin Bagley III
It's nice to see a college basketball story dominating the headlines in mid-August. Marvin Bagley did that. The last time a guy named Marvin made waves in basketball circles to this degree, singer Marvin Gaye had crushed the national anthem at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game. But Duke's elevation to the No. 1 spot over Arizona after Bagley's announcement was not an automatic move. We debated. We looked at the possible lineups. And we decided Duke's six- or seven-man rotation is unrivaled. Gary Trent (No. 7 prospect in the 2017 class, per ESPN) might come off the bench with former five-star prospect Marques Bolden. That's how good Duke is right now. Bagley's breathtaking versatility means a healthy Duke team, guided by coach Mike Krzyzewski, will enter the season as the No. 1 team in the preseason polls and as the favorite to win the national title. But we have questions. Can Trevon Duval bring this squad together? Do we trust Grayson Allen to lead? How will they share the ball? Are the Blue Devils deep enough? But every question comes after you realize the team's special talent pool tops the field by a respectable margin.
You see that train? The Duke-will-bulldoze-every-team-in-America train? Don't get on it. Not yet. Two weeks ago, Arizona invited ESPN to a practice before its trip to Spain. There, the program offered a preview of the 7-foot-1, 260-pound titan named DeAndre Ayton. He ran the floor like a guard. He soared over the rim. He had a physical presence unlike anything we've seen at Arizona. Ayton was asked where he stands in the conversation about the top freshmen entering the 2017-18 season, a conversation led by Marvin Bagley and Michael Porter Jr., and Ayton simply said, "They know ... they know." You combine his presence with the the return of Pac-12 star Allonzo Trier and rising star Rawle Alkins, and add a fleet of physically capable youngsters, and it's clear Arizona possesses a national title contender. The Wildcats boast the depth Duke lacks. Coach Sean Miller's squad won't lose much when he taps his reserves. But the Wildcats can't match Duke's starting rotation. Who can? And we're still waiting to see how Ayton and Dusan Ristic -- Miller intends to use both in his starting rotation -- will defend together. But greatness is possible. If you think the Wildcats are America's No. 1 team entering the season, we understand. They have a legit case for that spot.
Don't forget about Kansas. Svi Mykhailiuk's return means Kansas might possess the top backcourt in the country. Mykhailiuk, Devonte' Graham and Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman, a former top-10 recruit, will merge into a strong unit that can lead Kansas to another Big 12 championship. Mykhailiuk and Newman combined to score 58 points and Graham dropped 10 assists in the team's win over the Italy All-Stars during the finale of Kansas' recent foreign tour. Billy Preston is a 6-10, 230-pound power forward who has the skills to compete in the paint the day he arrives. With a healthy Udoka Azubuike, Kansas will have the frontcourt strength to battle for boards. It's never easy to move forward after losing a Wooden Award winner like Frank Mason or a top-four draft pick like Josh Jackson. But Lagerald Vick (7.4 PPG) is prepped for a big season. He dropped 20 points in KU's win over the Italy All-Stars. Plus, Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe (9.5 PPG, 40.5 percent from the 3-point line last season) regains his eligibility after the first semester. Kansas has an intriguing roster with weapons at every spot on the floor.
Miles Bridges (16.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 39 percent from the 3-point line) is back for his sophomore season after passing up millions (for now) at the next level. His return makes Michigan State the favorite in the Big Ten and a national title contender. Please watch Bridges' highlights on the mixtape from this summer's Moneyball Pro-Am in Lansing, Michigan. It's just not fair. Midgame windmills? Step-back 15-footers on the baseline? Bridges just ruined everything for all the squads in the league that looked at the Big Ten and figured, "Maybe we have a chance." Bridges and five-star recruit Jaren Jackson present a combination of talent few programs in the country can defend. And it doesn't end there. The Spartans return four of their top five scorers from last season, including Nick Ward (13.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG). Ben Carter (8.6 PPG in 2015-16 at UNLV) finally gets a chance to contribute after missing last season with a knee injury. Gavin Schilling and freshman Xavier Tillman will enhance coach Tom Izzo's frontcourt. His squad isn't higher in this poll because it's not clear if the Spartans addressed their challenges with turnovers (20.5 percent of their possessions, 304th) and free throws (67 percent, 285th). But if they're healthy, the Spartans could make a run to the Final Four.
5. Kentucky Wildcats
Previous Way-Too-Early ranking: 4
Key losses: Malik Monk, De'Aaron Fox, Isaiah Briscoe, Bam Adebayo, Derek Willis
Key additions: Kevin Knox, P.J. Washington, Nick Richards, Jarred Vanderbilt, Quade Green, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jemarl Baker
The haters will look at coach John Calipari's failure to win a gold medal with USA Basketball's under-19 national squad, which featured some of his top incoming players, and say, "Well, how can he win a national title with this group?" But that's an overreaction. Both P.J. Washington and Hamidou Diallo averaged double figures in his team's bronze-medal campaign. That squad failed to shoot well and wrestled with turnovers throughout the tournament. But the class Calipari put together resembles his past assemblies. They're young, gifted and athletic. But he must overcome a pair of significant questions with this group. Can the Wildcats shoot? Calipari did not succeed in his pursuit of Cam Johnson, who picked North Carolina. Wenyen Gabriel is the team's top returning 3-point shooter. He shot 31.7 percent from beyond the arc in 2016-17. The other question for Kentucky: Who will lead this squad? Calipari's best teams featured elite veterans. He had Willie Cauley-Stein on the 38-1 squad in 2014-15. He had Darius Miller on the 2012 national championship squad. Based on experience, Calipari's 2017-18 group looks like the team that failed to make the NCAA tournament the year after that title run. But this season doesn't come with an abundance of guarantees. Question marks decorate this entire top-25 list. Yes, Kentucky lacks experience. But five of its incoming players are top-5 prospects, part of the No. 2 recruiting class on ESPN.com.
Louisville deserved a bump. Why? This ranking offers a multitude of programs without game-changing players and combos. In years like this, quality coaching matters even more. Rick Pitino loses elite talent most years. But the coach often retains the personnel necessary to play with the offensive-defensive balance he demands. And 2017-18 should follow the same pattern after the Cardinals lost both Jaylen Johnson and top scorer Donovan Mitchell. Pitino told the Courier-Journal that Deng Adel will fill Mitchell's role. Adel needs to add a reliable jumper (35.2 percent on his jump shots inside the arc, per hoop-math.com) in order to make a boatload of cash next summer. He'll join Quentin Snider (12.4 PPG, 4.1 APG) and breakout candidate V.J. King on a roster with ACC title and Final Four aspirations. And five-star center Malik Williams will play with Anas Mahmoud and Ray Spalding in a threatening frontcourt that will snatch a bunch of rebounds while blocking and altering plenty of shots. Guess what? The Cardinals will finish the year as a top-10 defensive team, and if they evolve into a more versatile offensive crew, they could dance their way to the Final Four.
Coach Michael White followed Billy Donovan, generally regarded as one of America's top collegiate coaches before he jumped to the NBA to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder. In his second season leading the Gators, White led Florida to the 2017 Elite Eight, assuring all Gators fans he's the right man for the job. It gets better. Florida could secure SEC preseason favorite honors with Kentucky. Postseason standouts Chris Chiozza and KeVaughn Allen will return as one of the nation's top backcourt combos. Plus, top-100 big man Isaiah Stokes and elite shooting guard DeAundre Ballard should help White's squad sustain the losses of Canyon Barry, Devin Robinson and Kasey Hill. And their defensive chops -- the Gators held Virginia to 39 points in the second round of the NCAA tournament -- should persist, too. John Egbunu returns after missing a chunk of last season due to an ACL tear, but he's reportedly unavailable until January. Still, Rice grad transfer Egor Koulechov (18.2 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 47 percent from the 3-point line) could emerge as a star for a Florida team chasing its first national title since the back-to-back runs in 2006 and 2007.
8. West Virginia Mountaineers
Previous Way-Too-Early ranking: 9
Key losses: Teyvon Myers, Tarik Phillip, Nathan Adrian, Elijah Macon
Key additions: None
Last season, the West Virginia Mountaineers forced turnovers on 27.6 percent of their opponents' possessions. They neutralized more than one-quarter, on average, of an opposing team's trips down the floor. That harassment won't stop in 2017-18. Jevon Carter (13.5 PPG, 39 percent from the 3-point line), a candidate for Big 12 Player of the Year, tested the NBA waters but quickly announced his return to Morgantown. Esa Ahmad, Daxter Miles Jr. and a fleet of durable reserves will help West Virginia maintain its identity as a swarming unit that gobbles offensive boards like french fries and makes opponents feel like they're trapped in a hurricane.
With Josh Hart on the floor last season, Villanova made 37.9 percent of its 3-point attempts (compared to 32.9 percent with him on the bench) and averaged 1.20 points per possession (compared to 1.06 PPP), per hooplens.com. Now he's gone. The Wildcats also lose Kris Jenkins (13.1 PPG) and tough vet Darryl Reynolds. But they should remain atop the Big East standings and fight for another top seed. Jalen Brunson (14.7 PPG, 4.1 APG) will sing lead now. He's ready for this. Mikal Bridges, Eric Paschall and Donte DiVincenzo return to solidify the nucleus of another potent squad for coach Jay Wright. And we haven't even mentioned four-star small forward Jermaine Sanders (49th in the 2017 class, per ESPN.com, and a possible starter), Phil Booth (back after missing most of last year with knee issues) and big man Omari Spellman (ranked 16th in the 2016 class). Spellman is eligible now after missing last season due to academic issues. Nova lost one of the best players in the country, but the Wildcats ain't going anywhere.
10. Wichita State Shockers
Previous Way-Too-Early ranking: 6
Key losses: None
Key additions: None
Last month, Landry Shamet (24.1 percent assist rate in league play, 44 percent from the 3-point line) suffered a stress fracture in his right foot, an injury that could demand a four-month recovery and threaten his availability for the start of the season. Shamet, the gifted point guard who scored 20 points and did not commit a turnover in his team's second-round NCAA tourney loss to Kentucky in March, redshirted during his freshman season after suffering a stress fracture in his left foot. So this is a scary development for the Shockers who -- if healthy -- can win the American Athletic Conference title in their inaugural season and chase another Final Four berth. Every key player from last season's squad will return in 2017-18. Shaquille Morris announced his return after entering the NBA draft without hiring an agent. Markis McDuffie, who led last season's team with 11.5 PPG, also tested the waters but will join Morris & Co. back in Wichita, Kansas, this year. A backcourt of Conner Frankamp (8.6 PPG, 44 percent from the 3-point line) and Shamet should lead Wichita State to another successful season under coach Gregg Marshall. But we're moving Wichita State down until we know more about Shamet's recovery.
Miami fans probably panicked when the school announced that five-star recruit Lonnie Walker suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee last month and would require surgery. But coach Jim Larranaga told ESPN.com that he expects Walker to play in the team's season opener in November. That's great news for the Hurricanes, a program capable of fighting for the ACC crown. Led by young star Bruce Brown (11.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 3.2 APG), the Hurricanes return a group with the personnel to challenge any team in the country. Ja'Quan Newton (13.5 PPG), the top returning scorer on the roster, will anchor one of the most promising squads of Larranaga's tenure at Miami. Walker is an acrobatic, free spirit on fast breaks -- with range -- who might not stay in Miami long enough to enjoy the magic of South Beach. Larranaga told the Palm Beach Post this spring that he expects both Brown and Walker to turn pro next summer after he molds Brown into an NBA-ready point guard. Freshman power forward Deng Gak (91st in the 2017 class, per ESPN.com) and sophomore Dewan Huell comprise a frontcourt that should help Miami maintain its top-50ish offensive rebounding rate. Larranaga has the pieces to make noise in the ACC and beyond.
Coach Andy Enfield did not get top recruit Marvin Bagley. But he's still coaching a Pac-12 contender with the pieces to advance beyond the first weekend. Right now, USC is the most stable program on the West Coast. Arizona, Gonzaga, Cal, Oregon and UCLA all lost significant contributors from last season's squads. But the Trojans return every key piece of a team that reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. Bennie Boatwright entered the NBA draft without hiring an agent, but he withdrew late last month. With Chimezie Metu, Elijah Stewart and Jordan McLaughlin also returning, USC will enter 2017-18 as a Pac-12 title contender and more. Shaqquan Aaron's return ensures the Trojans will bring back their top eight scorers from last season. Plus, Charles O'Bannon Jr., a five-star forward, and Duke transfer Derryck Thornton round out one of the nation's most impressive, deepest rotations. But the Trojans barely cracked the top-100 in adjusted defensive efficiency last season. That must change if USC intends to consistently compete with the best teams in the country.
Listen, we'll admit when we're wrong. And we admit our initial ranking of North Carolina was ambitious. We're still convinced Joel Berry II, the reigning Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament, will enter the season as one of the elite guards in the country. And with Pitt transfer Cameron Johnson (41.5 percent from the 3-point line) in the mix, the Tar Heels will enjoy an incredible backcourt. But the questions surrounding the Luke Maye-led frontcourt generate serious concerns about the team's capabilities in 2017-18. Last year's Tar Heels crushed opponents with a relentless dominance of the offensive glass (first in offensive rebounding rate, per KenPom.com). With Tony Bradley, Kennedy Meeks, Justin Jackson and Isaiah Hicks all gone, we're not sure how this squad will deliver those second-chance opportunities that defined the Tar Heels on their championship run. This is still a good team with a great backcourt that's facing an abundance of questions within its frontcourt. That's the theme on this list, it seems. We like UNC's potential. But the Tar Heels lost far more than we acknowledged in our previous set of rankings. They have shooters, however, and should compete with any team in the league.
14. UCLA Bruins
Previous Way-Too-Early ranking: 14
Key losses: Lonzo Ball, Ike Anigbogu, Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton, T.J. Leaf
Key additions: Jaylen Hands, Kris Wilkes, Cody Riley, Jalen Hill, LiAngelo Ball
Lonzo Ball is a once-every-10-years brand of point guard. Just ask anyone who saw him in the NBA Summer League. His arrival turned a sub-.500 UCLA squad that missed the NCAA tournament into a Pac-12 and national title contender. With the future lottery pick running the show, the Bruins developed one of the most powerful offenses in the country. So any projection about the Bruins must consider the team they were before Ball arrived because he's gone now. But save the banners, UCLA fans. Aaron Holiday (12.3 PPG, 41 percent), coach Steve Alford's next catalyst, and pick-and-pop all-star Thomas Welsh (59 percent from the field) both withdrew from the NBA draft. Enter Jaylen Hands, a five-star point guard and the gem of a recruiting class ranked fifth by ESPN.com. The incoming group also features talented small forward Kris Wilkes and top-50 big men Cody Riley and Jalen Hill.
On a recent recruiting trip to Las Vegas, coach Richard Pitino seemed relaxed and carefree for the first time in his tenure at Minnesota. Makes sense. Last summer, Minnesota prepared for what seemed like a make-or-break year for the young coach, who accepted the challenge and ended up as the Big Ten Coach of the Year after leading the Gophers to the NCAA tournament. Nate Mason (15.2 PPG) earned All-Big Ten first-team honors. Jordan Murphy (11.3 PPG, 8.8 RPG) cracked the third team. Amir Coffey (12.2 PPG) made the league's all-freshman team. Reggie Lynch, who finished second nationally in block percentage on KenPom.com, won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. And they're all back for Pitino. In all, six of his top-seven scorers from 2016-17 return. Plus, Isaiah Washington, a top-100 point guard, will enhance Minnesota's versatile backcourt. Call Michigan State the favorite in the Big Ten. That makes sense. But don't overlook Minnesota's chance to compete for the Big Ten crown.
Coach Mick Cronin's Bearcats have finished within the top 25 of KenPom.com's adjusted defensive efficiency rankings for seven consecutive seasons. In that stretch, Cronin has lost an abundance of talent -- players like Octavius Ellis, Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright. But Cincy's identity as one of America's top defensive teams has not changed. In 2017-18, however, Cronin may field his most balanced team. Kyle Washington (12.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.2 BPG), who connected on 53 percent of his shots inside the arc and 36 percent of his 3-point attempts, returns to lead Cincinnati in a battle with Wichita State for the AAC championship. With Jacob Evans and Gary Clark in the mix, Cronin will have his top three scorers and critical elements of his defense from last season. Jarron Cumberland made a ridiculous 65 percent of his shots inside the arc last season. Now he moves into a more significant role since both Troy Caupain and Kevin Johnson are gone. This group also adds Sacred Heart transfer Cane Broome, a guard who sat last season after averaging 23.1 PPG in 2015-16. Another strong year for Cincy? Yes, another strong year for Cincy.
Xavier reached the Elite Eight last season without Edmond Sumner, who missed every game in February and March due to a season-ending knee injury. Trevon Bluiett (18.5 PPG, 37 percent from the 3-point line), who averaged 21.2 PPG in the NCAA tournament, will return after withdrawing from the NBA draft. J.P. Macura (14.4 PPG) is also back for a Xavier squad that will feature six of its top nine scorers from 2016-17. Oh, and coach Chris Mack's squad also brings in a recruiting class ranked 13th in the country by ESPN.com, anchored by top-100 prospects Paul Scruggs and Naji Marshall. Kerem Kanter (11.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG at UW-Green Bay last season), the brother of NBA standout Enes Kanter, will also join Xavier next season as a grad transfer. You could make a case that Xavier belongs even higher on this list, considering the talent the Musketeers retain and will add.
"I am coming back to school for my senior year." With that declaration via Twitter that he withdrew from the NBA draft, Angel Delgado (15.2 PPG, 13.1 RPG) elevated Seton Hall on the national landscape. A native of the Dominican Republic, Delgado strengthens a roster that will return its top four scorers from 2016-17. Delgado finished sixth nationally in offensive rebounding rate, per KenPom.com. Khadeen Carrington made 38 percent of his 3-pointers. Desi Rodriguez averaged 15.7 PPG last year. And Myles Powell connected on 52 percent of his shots inside the arc. They're all back for coach Kevin Willard's squad. Myles Cale, a top-100 wing, can make an early impact, too. Last season, Seton Hall lost to Arkansas in the first round of the NCAA tournament. But the Pirates are built for the second weekend in 2017-18.
19. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Previous Way-Too-Early ranking: 19
Key losses: Przemek Karnowski, Nigel Williams-Goss, Zach Collins, Jordan Mathews
Key additions: Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi, Jesse Wade, Zach Norvell
Coach Mark Few lost another first-round pick when Zach Collins turned pro after his freshman season. Few also lost his best player when Nigel Williams-Goss declared for the draft and hired an agent, lost his best center when Przemek Karnowski graduated, and lost one of his key veterans when Jordan Mathews departed. And ... Gonzaga will still compete for the West Coast Conference title and an NCAA tournament berth. This program has succeeded for nearly 20 years under Few. Now is not the time to wonder if that will cease. Josh Perkins and Silas Melson will form a tough backcourt. Add Zach Norvell, a top-100 guard who redshirted last season, and Jesse Wade, a sharpshooter and former four-star guard returning from a two-year religious mission. Killian Tillie, who averaged 12.4 PPG for France in the U19 world championships this summer, could evolve into the next Gonzaga big man with NBA aspirations. Rui Hachimura, who played limited minutes last season, was second in the U19 FIBA championships with 20.6 PPG for Japan. And Johnathan Williams (10.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG) is the BMOC on campus after withdrawing from the NBA draft. Gonzaga will still confound most opponents with a diversified attack. Gonzaga's interior defense, without Karnowski and Collins, is probably its most significant concern.
Coach Chris Collins arrived with dreams of leading Northwestern to the NCAA tournament for the first time in the school's history. After achieving that feat last season, the Wildcats will aim to mold themselves into perennially relevant contenders in the Big Ten and beyond. They beat Vanderbilt in the first round of the NCAA tournament and gave Gonzaga hell in the second round during a controversial loss. Northwestern will spend next season at AllState Arena while Welsh-Ryan Arena undergoes a yearlong renovation. What won't be renovated is the roster that made history last season. Yes, the Wildcats lose key veteran Sanjay Lumpkin and steely reserve Nathan Taphorn. But Bryant McIntosh (14.8 PPG), Scottie Lindsey (14.1 PPG) and Vic Law (12.3 PPG) are back for a Northwestern squad that held its opponents to a 44 percent clip inside the arc, 16th in the nation. Northwestern will dance again.
Bonzie Colson's return didn't just save a Notre Dame squad that had lost double-digit scorers Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem. Colson's decision to withdraw from the NBA draft will help the Fighting Irish fight for the ACC crown. Colson (17.8 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 1.1 SPG, 43.3 percent from the 3-point line) will start 2017-18 on every reputable list of national player of the year contenders. He's 6-5 but plays like he's 7-3. And he won't act alone. Matt Farrell (14.1 PPG, 5.4 APG, 42 percent from the 3-point line) is back to complete one of the ACC's most dangerous pairings. D.J. Harvey Jr., a 6-6 four-star small forward, comes to South Bend prepared to contribute, too. Yeah, we think coach Mike Brey can work with this group.
Can we make Gonzaga-Saint Mary's a seven-game series this season? Just an idea. As Gonzaga regroups without its best players from last season, coach Randy Bennett's crew returns its top three scorers from 2017-18. Jock Landale (16.9 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.2 BPG), the favorite to win West Coast Conference Player of the Year honors, and Calvin Hermanson and Emmett Naar will guide a talented Saint Mary's squad that reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. They'll also add Cullen Neal (9.4 PPG for Ole Miss last season), who will finish his career with the Gaels after two previous Division I stops. That's a daunting collection of talent.
A few months ago, Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk did what any campus leader must consider when he wants to clean up a mess. He opened his wallet. The seven-year, $21 million deal for coach Cuonzo Martin -- who left Cal to move closer to his hometown of East St. Louis, Illinois -- led to the formation of a recruiting class now ranked fourth in the country by ESPN.com. Martin has Michael Porter Jr., the No. 1 prospect in the 2017 class along with Marvin Bagley; Porter is the son of assistant coach Michael Porter Sr. Earlier this month, Jontay Porter (previously ranked 11th in the 2018 class) announced he would reclassify and join his older brother and father at Missouri for the 2017-18 season. Martin also has top-100 standouts Blake Harris and Jeremiah Tilmon. C.J. Roberts is a four-star point guard. Canisius grad transfer Kassius Robertson (16.1 PPG) made 41 percent of his 3-point attempts last season. The top three scorers from last year return, too. Name a more intriguing team.
24. Butler Bulldogs
Previous Way-Too-Early ranking: 23
Key losses: Andrew Chrabascz, Kethan Savage, Avery Woodson, Tyler Lewis
Key additions: Paul Jorgensen, Christian David, Aaron Thompson, Jerald Butler, Cooper Neese
Coach Chris Holtmann led Butler to the Sweet 16 in 2017 with a group of veterans who battled in the Big East and helped the Bulldogs win a pair of games in the NCAA tournament. Then he left for Ohio State in June, taking top-100 prospect Kyle Young with him. Plus, four members of last year's vital rotation are gone, leaving Butler with questions entering 2017-18. But new head coach and former Bulldogs player LaVall Jordan understands the Butler Way. He can win in Indianapolis with this scrappy bunch that just completed a 4-0 trip to Spain. Six-7 forward Kelan Martin (16.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG), Butler's top returning scorer, could win Big East Player of the Year, especially if he spends his summer mixing up his offensive attack. Kamar Baldwin scored 14 points in a lopsided loss to North Carolina in the Sweet 16. George Washington transfer Paul Jorgensen could play point guard for the Bulldogs, although Baldwin handled the bulk of those duties in Spain. Aaron Thompson, a late signee to Butler's top-40 class, will compete for minutes at that position, too. Jordan needs his young players to grow up fast. But he has the pieces to compete in the Big East.
Texas dodged a major hurdle earlier this summer when the NCAA reaffirmed the eligibility of Mohamed Bamba after accusations made by his brother, who said Mohamed had accepted improper benefits from a mentor. Now, it's hard to leave Texas out of the mix after coach Shaka Smart secured the services of Bamba (the No. 3 recruit in the 2017 class) and locked up the sixth-ranked class overall on ESPN.com just days before Andrew Jones withdrew from the NBA draft. This group resembles Smart's best VCU squads, but these guys are bigger, faster and more athletic. Bamba's defensive tools and ability to run the floor change this team. Jones is ready to prove he's a certified pro. And Matt Coleman leads a talented young group of newcomers. Plus, Tulane transfer Dylan Osetkowski (11.3 PPG in 2015-16) regains his eligibility in 2017-18. Texas won just 11 games last season. But they're trending in the other direction right now.