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WTE Top 25: Jeremy Roach’s return edges Duke over Kansas for No. 1


While the top of the rankings has fluctuated since the buzzer of last season’s national championship game, the debate for preseason No. 1 can now officially begin, following Duke point guard Jeremy Roach‘s announcement that he would withdrawn from the NBA draft and return to Durham for another season.

Roach wasn’t expected to be drafted, so this was always the most likely outcome. With him back in the fold, Duke’s core is mostly set. The Blue Devils’ primary competition for the top spot — Kansas — also has its roster solidified after Mackenzie Mgbako chose Indiana over the Jayhawks last week.

So, where do we land in mid-May? Duke at No. 1. The Blue Devils have a bit more continuity in their roster, with four of their five starters returning, along with the No. 2-ranked recruiting class for next season. Zero players entered the transfer portal. And, despite the loss to Tennessee in the second round of the NCAA tournament, few teams were playing as well as Duke over the final month of the 2022-23 season.

Meanwhile, Kansas might take some time to mesh, with the offense likely to revolve around Hunter Dickinson as opposed to the small-ball lineup that had so much success last season. Towson transfer Nick Timberlake will also have to make a sizable impact, given the Jayhawks aren’t bringing back anyone who made more than 30 3s last season.

A quick refresher on some of the guidelines for our rankings:

  • Any player currently in the top 60 of ESPN’s 2023 NBA draft rankings is considered a departure until they announce a return (like Duke‘s Kyle Filipowski). Players not projected to be picked are included and considered returning, unless there has been an announcement saying otherwise. These guidelines also apply to players testing the waters, such as Zach Edey, who is maintaining college eligibility but is ranked inside the top 60 — so we’re considering him gone for now.

  • All seniors are projected as departures unless they’ve officially announced they’re returning to school for another year.

Let’s get to the rankings.

Updated May 17, 2023.


Previous: 1

The Blue Devils rose to the top of the rankings with the return of Kyle Filipowski, who would have been a first-round pick had he entered the NBA draft. But he returned to anchor the frontcourt, while Tyrese Proctor and Mark Mitchell also decided to come back to Durham. Experienced point guard Jeremy Roach‘s decision to head back to the Blue Devils cemented their place atop the rankings. Duke is still looking to add another big for extra depth.

Projected starting lineup:

Jeremy Roach (13.6 PPG)
Tyrese Proctor (9.4 PPG)
Jared McCain (No. 12 in ESPN 100)
Mark Mitchell (9.1 PPG)
Kyle Filipowski (15.1 PPG)

Previous: 2

Bill Self adding transfers Nicolas Timberlake (Towson) and Arterio Morris (Texas) pushed Kansas from No. 10 to just outside the top five — and now the addition of Hunter Dickinson puts the Jayhawks right behind Duke for the top spot. Dickinson and K.J. Adams Jr. are the perfect frontcourt duo for Bill Self, with their ability to face up or play on the block, while Morris and Timberlake provide offensive boosts around Dajuan Harris Jr., one of the elite pass-first point guards in college basketball.

Projected starting lineup:

Dajuan Harris Jr. (8.9 PPG)
Arterio Morris (4.6 PPG at Texas)
Nick Timberlake (17.7 PPG at Towson)
K.J. Adams Jr. (10.6 PPG)
Hunter Dickinson (18.5 PPG at Michigan)

Previous: 3

There has been minimal roster movement for Marquette since the end of the season, with Olivier-Maxence Prosper testing the NBA draft waters being the only item of note. Coach Shaka Smart is expected to bring back all five starters from a team that won the Big East regular-season and conference tournament titles after being picked ninth in the preseason. Another first-weekend exit shouldn’t be in the cards.

Projected starting lineup:

Tyler Kolek (12.9 PPG)
Stevie Mitchell (7.1 PPG)
Kam Jones (15.1 PPG)
Olivier-Maxence Prosper (12.5 PPG)
Oso Ighodaro (11.4 PPG)

Previous: 4

We really liked Tom Izzo’s team entering the offseason, and that was before Tyson Walker and Malik Hall announced they were taking advantage of their extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19 and returning to East Lansing. Michigan State now has experience, a high-level backcourt, as well as added depth and explosiveness with the arrival of five-star recruits Xavier Booker and Jeremy Fears.

Projected starting lineup:

Tyson Walker (14.8 PG)
A.J. Hoggard (12.9 PPG)
Jaden Akins (9.8 PPG)
Malik Hall (8.9 PPG)
Xavier Booker (No. 7 in ESPN 100)

Previous: 5

UConn fell from the top spot following Adama Sanogo‘s decision to declare for the NBA draft. He’s leaving open the option to return to college but is focused on turning pro. Donovan Clingan is ready to take his place, though. The Huskies now wait to see whether Andre Jackson Jr. keeps his name in the NBA draft, and whether Tristen Newton returns to Storrs with one more year of eligibility.

Projected starting lineup:

Stephon Castle (No. 15 in ESPN 100)
Solomon Ball (No. 55 in ESPN 100)
Jaylin Stewart (No. 84 in ESPN 100)
Alex Karaban (9.5 PPG)
Donovan Clingan (7.1 PPG)

Previous: 6

With Marcus Sasser a potential first-round pick and Tramon Mark hitting the transfer portal, it seemed like Kelvin Sampson’s perimeter group was bound to take a hit. Instead, he went out and landed two of the best guards on the market in Baylor transfer LJ Cryer and Temple transfer Damian Dunn. Jamal Shead should also return despite testing the draft waters.

Projected starting lineup:

Jamal Shead (10.5 PPG)
LJ Cryer (15.0 PPG at Baylor)
Emanuel Sharp (5.9 PPG)
Damian Dunn (15.3 PPG at Temple)
J’Wan Roberts (10.0 PPG)

Previous: 7

Tennessee is certainly one of the biggest portal winners of the offseason thus far, landing Jordan Gainey (South Carolina Upstate), Chris Ledlum (Harvard) and Dalton Knecht (Northern Colorado), while also getting all-SEC guard Santiago Vescovi back for another year. The Volunteers should have more perimeter pop than they’ve had the past few seasons, combined with what should be an elite defense when Zakai Zeigler is healthy.

Projected starting lineup:

Zakai Zeigler (10.7 PPG)
Santiago Vescovi (12.5 PPG)
Dalton Knecht (20.2 PPG at Northern Colorado)
Chris Ledlum (18.8 PPG at Harvard)
Jonas Aidoo (5.1 PPG)

Previous: 8

We knew Mark Few would find a way to reload his roster following the departures of Drew Timme, Julian Strawther, Rasir Bolton and potentially Anton Watson. And he landed two huge commitments in a matter of hours in April. First, Wyoming transfer Graham Ike joined the fold, followed by Creighton transfer Ryan Nembhard, the best guard in the portal. The Zags are likely not done yet, either.

Projected starting lineup:

Ryan Nembhard (12.1 PPG at Creighton)
Nolan Hickman (7.7 PPG)
Malachi Smith (8.7 PPG)
Steele Venters (15.3 PPG at Eastern Washington)
Graham Ike (19.5 PPG at Wyoming in 2021-22)

Previous: 9

Continuing to rank the Owls within the top 10 might seem lofty, given they were a 9-seed in the NCAA tournament and nearly lost to Memphis in the first round. But this is also a team that won 35 games, made a Final Four run and is expected to bring back all five starters. Johnell Davis and Alijah Martin are testing the NBA draft waters, but both should return to Dusty May’s program.

Projected starting lineup:

Bryan Greenlee (7.4 PPG)
Nick Boyd (8.9 PPG)
Johnell Davis (13.9 PPG)
Alijah Martin (13.1 PPG)
Vladislav Goldin (10.3 PPG)

Previous: 10

As usual, coach Eric Musselman has been very busy in the transfer portal. The Razorbacks landed four guards — Keyon Menifield (Washington), Tramon Mark (Houston), Khalif Battle (Temple) and El Ellis (Louisville) — and picked up skilled forward Jeremiah Davenport (Cincinnati). That’s on top of the two top-30 freshman recruits in Layden Blocker and Baye Fall. The remaining questions: Do either Jordan Walsh or Devo Davis come back? Can Musselman land five-star recruit Ron Holland, who recently dbcommitted from Texas?

Projected starting lineup:

Keyon Menifield (10.0 PPG at Washington)
Khalif Battle (17.9 PPG at Temple)
Tramon Mark (10.1 PPG at Houston)
Trevon Brazile (11.8 PPG)
Makhi Mitchell (7.0 PPG)

Previous: 11

A slew of Wildcats entered the NBA draft, but only Cason Wallace and Jacob Toppin are doing so while forgoing college eligibility. Could Oscar Tshiebwe, Chris Livingston and Antonio Reeves all return to Lexington? The most intriguing is obviously Tshiebwe, the consensus National Player of the Year in 2022. John Calipari is also bringing in the nation’s No. 1-ranked recruiting class, with dynamic perimeter scorers Justin Edwards, D.J. Wagner and Robert Dillingham all likely to make early impacts.

Projected starting lineup:

Robert Dillingham (No. 11 in ESPN 100)
D.J. Wagner (No. 2 in ESPN 100)
Justin Edwards (No. 1 in ESPN 100)
Chris Livingston (6.3 PPG)
Aaron Bradshaw (No. 4 in ESPN 100)

Previous: 12

Nate Oats and Alabama continue to mix up the Crimson Tide roster as they await NBA draft decisions from what feels like half the roster. They did land back-to-back CAA Player of the Year Aaron Estrada from Hofstra, as well as CSU Fullerton transfer Latrell Wrightsell Jr., who should add shooting to the team. After ending their pursuit of Jaykwon Walton, they remain active in the transfer portal.

Projected starting lineup:

Aaron Estrada (20.2 PPG at Hofstra)
Mark Sears (12.5 PPG)
Latrell Wrightsell Jr. (16.3 PPG at Cal State Fullerton)
Rylan Griffen (5.9 PPG)
Charles Bediako (6.4 PPG)

Previous: 13

Randy Bennett received great news last month when Alex Ducas announced he was returning for another season. The Gaels now have three key returnees to build around next season: Ducas, Aidan Mahaney and Mitchell Saxen. They’ve also brought back Augustas Marciulionis and welcome ESPN 100 guard Jordan Ross and Harvard transfer Mason Forbes.

Projected starting lineup:

Jordan Ross (No. 97 in ESPN 100)
Aidan Mahaney (13.9 PPG)
Augustas Marciulionis (5.9 PPG)
Alex Ducas (12.5 PPG)
Mitchell Saxen (11.6 PPG)

Previous: 14

Despite the transfer decisions of Tre White and Reese Dixon-Waters, USC will have one of the best backcourts in the country after the addition of Bronny James. Isaiah Collier is the top-ranked recruit in the country, and he’ll be running the show, while Boogie Ellis is an all-conference player and the team’s leading scorer. James will be a terrific third option offensively, someone who can make open shots and be a secondary ball handler while also guarding opponents at the other end.

Projected starting lineup:

Isaiah Collier (No. 1 in ESPN 100)
Boogie Ellis (17.7 PPG)
Bronny James (No. 19 in ESPN 100)
Kobe Johnson (9.2 PPG)
Joshua Morgan (7.0 PPG)

Previous: 19

Jim Larrañaga replaced a departed Jordan Miller with an ACC-proven forward in Florida State transfer Matthew Cleveland, who should add more rebounding and paint production to the Hurricanes. He also showed he was capable of being a go-to scorer after averaging 17.5 points and 11.9 boards during an eight-game stretch midway through the season. Miami now awaits NBA draft decisions from Nijel Pack and Norchad Omier, who should both return to Coral Gables.

Projected starting lineup:

Nijel Pack (13.8 PPG)
Wooga Poplar (8.7 PPG)
Bensley Joseph (5.2 PPG)
Matthew Cleveland (13.8 PPG at Florida State)
Norchad Omier (13.3 PPG)

Previous: 15

It’s been a mixed bag for the Bluejays so far this offseason. They watched as starting point guard Ryan Nembhard hit the portal, then went out and landed a top-10 transfer in elite shooter Steven Ashworth from Utah State. Returning starter Baylor Scheierman also announced his intentions to return to Omaha for another year, while Arthur Kaluma entered his name into the transfer portal. Now, they wait on Ryan Kalkbrenner’s NBA decision.

Projected starting lineup:

Steven Ashworth (16.2 PPG at Utah State)
Baylor Scheierman (12.8 PPG)
Trey Alexander (13.6 PPG)
Isaac Traudt (redshirt at Virginia)
Fredrick King (3.4 PPG)

Previous: 16

Scott Drew is essentially starting from scratch on the perimeter, with Keyonte George and Adam Flagler entering the NBA draft and LJ Cryer transferring to Houston. But he’s bringing in two impact freshmen in Ja’Kobe Walter and Miro Little and welcomes back Langston Love. The Bears also landed VCU transfer Jayden Nunn, a high-level 3-and-D guy. Jalen Bridges could be poised for a breakout campaign in the frontcourt.

Projected starting lineup:

Miro Little (No. 33 in ESPN 100)
Jayden Nunn (9.3 PPG at VCU)
Ja’Kobe Walter (No. 14 in ESPN 100)
Jalen Bridges (10.3 PPG)
Josh Ojianwuna (4.2 PPG)

Previous: 17

We had already factored Zach Edey‘s departure into the Boilermakers’ initial ranking, but we won’t get a true picture of Matt Painter’s roster until the Wooden Award winner decides whether he’s keeping his name in the draft. If Edey goes back to West Lafayette, Purdue is right back in the top five nationally and right there with Michigan State as the preseason Big Ten favorite. If Edey leaves, the young complementary players of the past couple of seasons need to step up.

Projected starting lineup:

Braden Smith (9.7 PPG)
Fletcher Loyer (11.0 PPG)
Ethan Morton (3.8 PPG)
Mason Gillis (6.8 PPG)
Caleb Furst (5.5 PPG)

Previous: 18

Will the Aggies pick up where they left off in the second half of 2022-23, when they won 19 of 22 games before falling in the SEC championship game and the first round of the NCAA tournament? Having Wade Taylor IV back to run the show is where it starts. He should receive some preseason All-America buzz after averaging 16.3 points and 3.9 assists this past season.

Projected starting lineup:

Wade Taylor IV (16.3 PPG)
Manny Obaseki (5.2 PPG)
Jace Carter (16.6 PPG at UIC)
Henry Coleman III (9.0 PPG)
Julius Marble (9.1 PPG)

Previous: 20

Hubert Davis started the offseason with two anchors: R.J. Davis at one guard spot and Armando Bacot down low. He then went out and surrounded his two returning stars with intriguing complementary players. Notre Dame transfer Cormac Ryan is a veteran shooter, while Harrison Ingram from Stanford is a versatile wing. The Tar Heels have plenty of perimeter options already, but top-10 2024 commits Ian Jackson and Elliot Cadeau could still opt to reclassify.

Projected starting lineup:

R.J. Davis (16.1 PPG)
Cormac Ryan (12.3 PPG at Notre Dame)
Simeon Wilcher (No. 27 in ESPN 100)
Harrison Ingram (10.5 PPG at Stanford)
Armando Bacot (15.9 PPG)

Previous: 21

We’re projecting Colorado to make a big jump from the inconsistent NIT team it was this past season. The Buffaloes showed their potential in a win over Tennessee and a blowout victory over Texas A&M but couldn’t do it on a regular basis. With Tad Boyle adding potential lottery pick Cody Williams and TCU transfer Eddie Lampkin Jr. to KJ Simpson and Tristan da Silva, though, they should be much improved in 2023-24.

Projected starting lineup:

KJ Simpson (15.9 PPG)
Julian Hammond III (6.9 PPG)
Cody Williams (No. 6 in ESPN 100)
Tristan da Silva (15.9 PPG)
Eddie Lampkin Jr. (6.3 PPG at TCU)

Previous: 22

When Tyler Wahl announced he was returning to Madison for another season, it meant Greg Gard would be returning all five starters and all but one player from this past season. Granted, this is a team that failed to make the NCAA tournament, but the Badgers did notch seven wins over NCAA tournament teams during the regular season. They also added St. John’s transfer AJ Storr, who should provide a major boost from the perimeter.

Projected starting lineup:

Chucky Hepburn (12.2 PPG)
Max Klesmit (8.4 PPG)
Connor Essegian (11.7 PPG)
Tyler Wahl (11.3 PPG)
Steven Crowl (12.1 PPG)

Previous: 24

Arizona has been active in the portal and on the international circuit to rebuild its roster, and it has added a couple of key players in recent weeks. Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley should slot into the starting lineup from Day 1, while Lithuanian big man Motiejus Krivas should provide more frontcourt depth. The Wildcats are still in pursuit of a replacement for Azuolas Tubelis, while Pelle Larsson‘s return helps solidify the perimeter.

Projected starting lineup:

Jaden Bradley (6.4 PPG at Alabama)
Kylan Boswell (4.6 PPG)
Pelle Larsson (9.9 PPG)
Henri Veesaar (2.4 PPG)
Oumar Ballo (14.2 PPG)

Previous: 23

Kevin Willard has been a huge beneficiary of the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility, with both Jahmir Young and Donta Scott announcing they plan to return to College Park for another season. Along with Julian Reese, the Terrapins now have three of their stalwarts back in the fold for 2023-24. They have to replace some wing scoring, but the arrival of ESPN 100 recruits DeShawn Harris-Smith and Jamie Kaiser should help.

Projected starting lineup:

Jahmir Young (15.8 PPG)
Ian Martinez (5.7 PPG)
DeShawn Harris-Smith (No. 45 in ESPN 100)
Donta Scott (11.3 PPG)
Julian Reese (11.4 PPG)

Previous: 25

It’s hard to rank a team that lost in the national championship game so low, but there are so many roster questions with the Aztecs right now. Lamont Butler and Jaedon LeDee are testing the NBA draft waters, Keshad Johnson is in the transfer portal and the likes of Matt Bradley, Nathan Mensah, Adam Seiko and Aguek Arop are out the door. USC transfer Reese Dixon-Waters is a great start to the reload, though. Darrion Trammell could choose to come back, too.

Projected starting lineup:

B.J. Davis (four-star)
Lamont Butler (8.7 PPG)
Micah Parrish (7.7 PPG)
Reese Dixon-Waters (9.8 PPG at USC)
Jaedon LeDee (7.8 PPG)

Dropped out: None

Next in line:

West Virginia Mountaineers
Indiana Hoosiers
Auburn Tigers
Boise State Broncos
St. John’s Red Storm



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