Sidelines with John Clay

Just for fun, a crazy-early college basketball Top 25 for next season

Ashton Hagans says he felt like he let the team down

Kentucky basketball guard Ashton Hagans talks to the media after his team’s 77-71 overtime loss to Auburn in the finals of the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Regional in Kansas City. Hagans committed seven turnovers in the loss.
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Kentucky basketball guard Ashton Hagans talks to the media after his team’s 77-71 overtime loss to Auburn in the finals of the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Regional in Kansas City. Hagans committed seven turnovers in the loss.

Those way-too-early college basketball top-25 lists for next season are silly, senseless and a total waste of time. And, oh yeah, fun.

With that in mind, here’s mine:

1. Michigan State: Losing to Texas Tech left Tom Izzo 3-7 in Final Four weekend games. He could be 5-7 next April, especially if point guard Cassius Winston returns.

2. Virginia: A title repeat will be tough should De’Andre Hunter and Ty Jerome depart. Still, Tony Bennett’s style works and center Mamadi Diakite is poised to be a 2019-20 breakout star.

3. Kentucky: John Calipari mixes returnees with his annual cluster of star freshmen. Add grad transfer Nate Sestina. Bank on the Cats being a March factor. Of course.

4. Villanova: Jay Wright will be right back in the thick of things thanks to a top-five recruiting class, led by Bryan Antoine and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.

5. Duke: Durham won’t be as electric without Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish. That might not be all bad. Getting Tre Jones back is big.

6. Auburn: Love him or loathe him, Bruce Pearl can coach. March closed that case. And he has another rookie class that fits his frantic style of play.

7. Michigan: There are Ann Arbor rumblings several Wolverines will test the NBA Draft waters. Still, John Beilein has the makings of another national contender.

8. Kansas: If Udoka Azubuike stays healthy, Bill Self is set for a comeback. Banking on the health of the oft-injured Azubuike is no sure thing, however.

9. Florida: Mike White squeezed plenty out of this year’s Gators. Now he welcomes a top-10 class to go with sophomores-to-be Andrew Nembhard and Keyontae Johnson.

10. Louisville: A surprising success his first season, Chris Mack has a top-10 recruiting class to go with a holdover group. Jordan Nwora withdrawing from the draft would be huge.

FinalFourTexasTechMichiganStBasketball.JPG
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo got his team to the Final Four this season and looks in line for a return trip. Jeff Roberson AP

11. Gonzaga: Another injection of foreign talent should soften the Zags’ disappointment of falling short of the Final Four as a No. 1 seed.

12. Oregon: Dana Altman’s Ducks played their best basketball before meeting Virginia in the Sweet 16. That confidence should carry over into next season.

13. Seton Hall: There’s a reason Kevin Willard turned down Virginia Tech. He should return a veteran roster, led by super-scorer Myles Powell.

14. Maryland: Up-and-down as a rookie, Jalen Smith is the key to the Terps’ fortunes in 2019-20. Mark Turgeon’s team was the nation’s fifth-youngest this past season.

15. Florida State: Leonard Hamilton is 71 years old in August. Doesn’t matter. Playing his Seminoles is a sure headache. If Mfiondu Kabengele returns, look out.

16. Arizona: The Wildcats are tough to predict. Sean Miller owns the nation’s top recruiting class, according to 247Sports. But an NCAA investigation looms large over Tucson.

17. Marquette: If volume scorer Markus Howard returns, Steve Wojciechowski gets beyond this season’s first-round NCAA knockout.

18. Memphis: After going 22-14 his first season, Penny Hardaway has a crowded stable of reinforcements, led by No. 1 recruit James Wiseman.

19. Saint Mary’s: The Gaels’ upset of Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament finals was a sign of things to come from one of the nation’s youngest teams.

20. North Carolina: The Tar Heels are staring at a major rebuilding effort after losing Cam Johnson, Luke Maye, Coby White, Nassir Little and Kenny Williams.

21. Houston: A no-go to Arkansas, Kelvin Sampson stuck with the Cougars, who should benefit from this year’s tournament experience.

22. Tennessee: For an encore, Rick Barnes must earn the money in his new contract. Grant Williams and Jordan Bone are likely to join Admiral Schofield on the exit ramp.

23. Cincinnati: Head coach Mike Cronin is off to UCLA. If Jarron Cumberland returns, however, the next UC coach should have the Bearcats back in the Top 25.

24. Southern Cal: Andy Enfield has assembled a ridiculous recruiting class, led by a pair of top-25 recruits in Isaiah Mobley and Onyeka Okongwu.

25. Iowa: I was going to leave Iowa out of this Top 25, but I was afraid Fran McCaffery might lose his temper. Seriously, the Hawkeyes are a Big Ten contender.

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