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2017-18 college basketball top 25: An updated look at next season's top teams

Plenty of changes have taken place over the past eight weeks, including the team that sits atop our early rankings.

Xavier v Arizona Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Now that we know who’s heading to the NBA draft and who’s returning to the college game for at least one more year, it’s time to re-evaluate our super early top 25 from the moments immediately following the 2017 national title game.

We’ll start with the new king of the offseason.

1. Arizona Wildcats

2016-17 Record: 32-5

2016-17 Finish: Sweet 16

Arizona already had a claim for this spot a month ago, but the returns of Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins as well as the unexpected addition of Emmanuel Akot have the Wildcats as the team most likely to begin 2017-18 at No. 1. Has Sean Miller ever been to a Final Four before? We should probably discuss that at some point in the next nine months.

2. Kansas Jayhawks

2016-17 Record: 31-5

2016-17 Finish: Elite Eight

Bill Self is losing the National Player of the Year in Frank Mason as well as freshman star Josh Jackson, but there are also a lot of smaller pieces from the 2016-17 Big 12 champions that are coming back. Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman, a former five-star recruit, should help cushion the blow of Mason’s departure. It’s also easy to see Devonte' Graham taking the Mason’s spotlight role and becoming a national POY candidate himself.

3. Duke Blue Devils

2016-17 Record: 28-9

2016-17 Finish: Second Round

The Blue Devils won’t be as star-studded this season as they were in 2016-17, but that doesn’t mean they won’t wind up being more successful. For the first time in three years, Coach K will have a legitimate point guard in five-star freshman Trevon Duval. The presence of Duval should also allow Grayson Allen to move back to his more natural spot off the ball. If he can avoid all of the distractions that have plagued him for the past year and a half, perhaps Allen can wind up having the All-American season as a senior that everyone thought he’d have in 2016-17.

4. Michigan State Spartans

2016-17 Record: 20-15

2016-17 Finish: Second Round

There is no single player whose return to college basketball matters more than Miles Bridges’ to East Lansing. The rising sophomore figured to be a lottery pick in next month’s NBA draft. Instead, he’s a near lock to be a preseason first team All-American in 2017-18 and has Michigan State back to being a national championship-caliber team.

5. Wichita State Shockers

2016-17 Record: 31-5

2016-17 Finish: Second Round

Don’t be surprised at all if in 2017-18 Wichita State winds up stepping into the role that Gonzaga inhabited throughout last season. The Shockers return every key player from a team that won 31 games and got them into the top 10 of the national rankings. The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee’s likely consideration of metrics outside of just the RPI would also help Wichita avoid being massively under-seeded for a fourth straight year. The Shockers’ move to the American Athletic Conference — where they’ll likely be preseason favorites in their first year — should help with that as well.

6. Kentucky Wildcats

2016-17 Record: 32-6

2016-17 Finish: Elite Eight

The annual mass exodus at Kentucky was even more extreme than usual this year, as the Wildcats lost pair of senior contributors and a sophomore starter in addition to their star freshmen. In all, UK lost its top seven scorers and eight of its top nine from a team that nearly knocked off eventual national champion North Carolina in the Elite Eight. As he always does, John Calipari will reload with another top-two recruiting class. He also received huge news in the 11th hour of deadline day when the ridiculously athletic Hamidou Diallo announced that he would be returning to Lexington ... for his freshman season.

7. Villanova Wildcats

2016-17 Record: 32-4

2016-17 Finish: Second Round

Because of their early exit in March, too many people are overlooking the fact that Villanova followed up its national title in 2016 by earning the NCAA tournament’s overall No. 1 seed. Josh Hart was the biggest reason that happened, and he’s gone, but the cupboard isn’t completely bare for Jay Wright. Jalen Brunson has all the potential necessary to be Nova’s next superstar, and Mikal Bridges, Phil Booth, and Donte DiVincenzo are all back to form a solid nucleus around him. Also don’t forget about Omari Spellman, a top-20 player from the class of 2016 who was forced to sit out all of last season because of an academic issue.

8. Florida Gators

2016-17 Record: 27-9

2016-17 Finish: Elite Eight

Last season’s regional final run could be just the beginning for the Mike White era in Gainesville. The Gators lost starting point guard Kasey Hill and grad transfer Canyon Barry, but return the other most important pieces from their surprisingly successful 2016-17 campaign. Having a healthy John Egbunu back will only make them more formidable.

9. North Carolina Tar Heels

2016-17 Record: 33-7

2016-17 Finish: National Champions

The Heels occupied the top spot in our first set of rankings right after the national title game, but the surprise departure of talented freshman big man Tony Bradley changes things. With Kennedy Meeks and Justin Jackson also gone, Final Four MOP Joel Berry will now be asked to do a ton for a UNC team that won’t be able to dominate the offensive glass the way they have the past two years.

10. West Virginia Mountaineers

2016-17 Record: 28-9

2016-17 Finish: Sweet 16

Four key players, including two senior starters from last season’s team, are gone, but Daxter Miles and Jevon Carter are back to form one of the best backcourts in the country. The biggest key for West Virginia, however, is that there’s more than enough carryover for Bob Huggins’ “Press Virginia” style to terrorize all Mountaineer opponents for yet another year.

11. USC Trojans

2016-17 Record: 26-10

2016-17 Finish: Second Round

Andy Enfield quietly did one of the best coaching jobs in all of college basketball last season. After an overachieving 2015-16, his team appeared to be all set to have “the year” before a wave of unexpected departures left the program in a state of disarray. While the Trojans weren’t on the same level as UCLA, Oregon, and Arizona in the Pac-12, they were competitive enough to earn a second straight trip to the Big Dance and win two games after getting there. Now, he has every key member from that team back for another run. USC also tosses five-star forward Charles O'Bannon Jr. and Duke transfer Derryck Thornton into the mix.

12. Louisville Cardinals

2016-17 Record: 25-9

2016-17 Finish: Second Round

With Donovan Mitchell, Louisville had a legitimate claim to the top spot on this list. Without both Mitchell and surprise departure Jaylen Johnson, the Cardinals are going to need both some returnees to step up and its freshman class to help out significantly if they want to be in the mix for a Final Four trip. Deng Adel needs to assume Mitchell’s role as a first-team All-ACC-level performer, and former McDonald’s All-American V.J. King needs to morph into one of the country’s top breakout sophomores.

13. Miami Hurricanes

2016-17 Record: 21-12

2016-17 Finish: First Round

The Hurricanes were trounced by Michigan State in the first round of the 2017 tournament, but should be able to put themselves in a position to avoid a similar letdown in 2018. Miami loses Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy, but returns stars Ja’Quan Newton and Bruce Brown. They also add the best recruiting class ever put together by Jim Larranaga.

14. Seton Hall Pirates

2016-17 Record: 21-12

2016-17 Finish: First Round

With Andel Delgado opting to pull his name out of the draft, Kevin Willard returns a team with four players who have been starters on back-to-back NCAA tournament squads.

15. Cincinnati Bearcats

2016-17 Record: 30-6

2016-17 Finish: Second Round

Troy Caupain leaves big shoes to fill, but fellow stars Jacob Evans and Gary Clark are back from Mick Cronin’s strongest Cincinnati team to date. Sacred Heart transfer Cane Broome should add even more offensive firepower to a roster that should provide the best competition for Wichita State in the AAC.

16. Gonzaga Bulldogs

2016-17 Record: 37-2

2016-17 Finish: National Runners-Up

Yes, they lost All-American Nigel Williams-Goss and yes, potential lottery lottery pick Zach Collins became the first one-and-done in program history, but doubt the Zags at your own peril. Mark Few has plenty of talent on his roster that the nation didn’t get to see much of this year, because he didn’t need to show much of it this year. Don’t be surprised if the country writes off Gonzaga once again and they’re right back in the thick of the national discussion come February.

17. Minnesota Golden Gophers

2016-17 Record: 24-10

2016-17 Finish: First Round

The Golden Gophers were one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2016-17 season, but expectations will be higher for Richard Pitino and company now. Thankfully, Pitino returns every player outside of senior Akeem Springs from the team that did enough damage in the Big Ten to earn a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament.

18. Xavier Musketeers

2016-17 Record: 24-14

2016-17 Finish: Elite Eight

For a second straight year, Trevon Bluiett flirted significantly with the NBA before ultimately opting to come back to school. His return should put the Musketeers in a position to enjoy more March magic, but with a more fitting seed this time.

19. Alabama Crimson Tide

2016-17 Record: 19-15

2016-17 Finish: NIT First Round

Avery Johnson’s program is about to be a problem in the SEC. He returns sophomore standouts Braxton Key and Dazon Ingram from a team that took down eventual national semifinalist South Carolina twice. But the biggest reason for this jump is the addition of a top-five recruiting class headlined by one of the class of 2017’s top pure scorers, Collin Sexton.

20. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

2016-17 Record: 26-10

2016-17 Finish: Second Round

Mike Brey simply does not let the Irish fall too far. Point guard Matt Farrell and third-team All-American Bonzie Colson are back to lead yet another Notre Dame team that will be right there in the top third of the ACC.

21. Butler Bulldogs

2016-17 Record: 25-9

2016-17 Finish: Sweet 16

Butler put a nice cap on a somewhat enigmatic season by playing true to their seed and advancing to the Sweet 16 where they fell to eventual national champion North Carolina. Leading scorer Kelan Martin is back and should be one of the top contenders for Big East Player of the Year, and Chris Holtmann is also bringing in a wave of new talent with three four-star freshmen.

22. Virginia Tech Hokies

2016-17 Record: 22-11

2016-17 Finish: First Round

It certainly feels like Buzz Williams is just getting started. The 2017-18 team already owns the odd status of returning all five starters, but losing its top two scorers in Seth Allen and Zach LeDay. Nobody said Buzz was conventional.

23. Northwestern Wildcats

2016-17 Record: 24-12

2016-17 Finish: Second Round

Chris Collins returns nearly every key contributor from the Northwestern team that made history by finally getting the program into the NCAA tournament and eventually winning a game there.

24. Saint Mary’s Gaels

2016-17 Record: 29-5

2016-17 Finish: Second Round

It wasn’t just Gonzaga which held it down for the West Coast Conference in the NCAA tournament. Saint Mary’s handled VCU in round one of the Big Dance before pushing second-seeded Arizona to the brink two days later. Jock Landale is back for his senior season and ready to earn the title of the most-efficient big man in college basketball.

25. UCLA Bruins

2016-17 Record: 31-5

2016-17 Finish: Sweet 16

With Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday back and another loaded recruiting class joining the fold, it looks on the surface like UCLA shouldn’t slip too far in the post-Lonzo Ball world. Then again, this is a program where weird things happen sometimes.

The Next 10:

26. Texas

27. Michigan

28. Baylor

29. TCU

30. Rhode Island

31. Missouri

32. Purdue

33. Nevada

34. Wisconsin

35. Creighton