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2018-19 college basketball top 25: Kansas tops our updated look at next season’s top teams

With the NBA Draft declaration deadline now in the past, it’s time to take a clearer look at the landscape of the 2018-19 college hoops season.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Coaches Press Conference Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

There are still a few additions and subtractions that need to be made, but for the most part, we now know what the rosters for the 2018-19 college basketball season are going to look like. Armed with that knowledge, it’s time to re-evaluate our first early top 25 from the morning after Villanova’s national championship game triumph over Michigan.

The name at the top is the same, but the ones immediately underneath it have changed.

1. Kansas Jayhawks

2017-18 Record: 31-8

2017-18 Finish: Final Four

The Jayhawks lose Big 12 Player of the Year Devonte’ Graham, Midwest Region MOP Malik Newman and two other starters (the Lagerald Vick thing is crazy weird) from last year’s Final Four team. Still, there’s ample reason to believe Bill Self could have the best team in the country next season. Udoka Azubuike returns to man the middle, and Marcus Garrett could step into starting role as a sophomore. The two will have terrific help in the form of the transfer trio Dedric Lawson, K.J. Lawson (Memphis), and Charlie Moore (Cal), as well as a pair of five-star freshmen in Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson.

2. Virginia Cavaliers

2017-18 Record: 31-3

2017-18 Finish: First Round

This hasn’t been published yet and I can already hear your muffled laughter and the sound of you typing out snarky response tweets. I get it. I watched the game too.

The reality is that a team which won 20 of its 21 ACC games and earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament is returning two of its top three scorers in Kyle Guy (an AP Third Team All-American) and Ty Jerome. They’ll also bring back a potential lottery pick in sophomore DeAndre Hunter, who was sidelined for the team’s stunning first-round loss to UMBC. Even with the historic loss that’s going to hang over this program like a black cloud all offseason (and beyond), Virginia belongs here.

3. Kentucky Wildcats

2017-18 Record: 26-11

2017-18 Finish: Sweet 16

Quade Green, P.J. Washington and Nick Richards all chose to return for their sophomore seasons, and now they’ll link up with Keldon Johnson and the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class. If John Calipari is able to land Stanford grad transfer Reid Travis, then the Wildcats might be a spot too low here.

4. Duke Blue Devils

2017-18 Record: 29-8

2017-18 Finish: Elite Eight

If you’re reading this, you’re likely aware that Duke is about to become the first team in the history of college basketball to feature the No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 players from the most recent recruiting class. The Blue Devils also had the most talented freshmen (and team) in the country in each of the past two seasons. Had that alone been enough for them to capture at least one national title, then they’d likely be atop most of these rankings. Instead, it wasn’t even enough to make a single Final Four, so here they are.

5. Gonzaga Bulldogs

2017-18 Record: 32-5

2017-18 Finish: Sweet 16

This past season was supposed to be “the year between the year” for Gonzaga. Instead, the Bulldogs won 32 games, earned a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament, and played their way back to the Sweet 16. Johnathan Williams and Silas Melson are both gone, but Killian Tillie, Rui Hachimura, Josh Perkins and Zach Norvell Jr. are all back to make the Zags a legitimate national title contender once again.

6. Nevada Wolf Pack

2017-18 Record: 29-8

2017-18 Finish: Sweet 16

With the Martin twins announcing their return, Nevada brings back four starters, its sixth man, and adds a five-star freshman to go along with a handful of the nation’s best transfers. That’s a squad.

If point guard Lindsey Drew — who ruptured his Achilles in February and missed the postseason — can get back to 100 percent, then Eric Musselman might have the most complete roster in the country when the season kicks off in November.

7. North Carolina Tar Heels

2017-18 Record: 26-11

2017-18 Finish: Second Round

The losses of Theo Pinson and Joel Berry, two tenured vets who played prominent roles in Carolina going to back-to-back title games, will be a blow, but there’s cause to believe Roy Williams’ team might be even better next season. For starters, Third Team All-American Luke Maye and his 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game are back. Top-four scorers Cameron Johnson and Kenny Williams are too. Williams also brings in the program’s best recruiting class in some time, headlined by five-star forward Nassir Little.

8. Tennessee Volunteers

2017-18 Record: 26-9

2017-18 Finish: Second Round

Grad transfer James Daniel is the only departure from a Tennessee squad that could have easily seen its season end in the Final Four if a last-second shot by Loyola’s Clayton Custer had been about three centimeters shorter. The only cause for concern here is that it isn’t always easy to live up to the expectations that come with being the previous season’s most pleasant surprise. Just as the 2017-18 Northwestern Wildcats and Minnesota Golden Gophers.

9. Villanova Wildcats

2017-18 Record: 36-4

2017-18 Finish: National Champions

No team was hit harder by NBA Draft declarations than Villanova. Everyone knew Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges were gone, but the announcements of Omari Spellman and national title game hero Donte DiVincenzo took ‘Nova from a team that seemed poised to make a run at becoming college basketball’s first back-to-back national champion in over a decade, to one near the bottom of the top 10.

Still, no program in the history of college basketball has won more games over a four-year span than the 165 wins Villanova has over the last four. It would be foolish to count the Wildcats out of anything at this point.

10. Michigan State Spartans

2017-18 Record: 30-5

2017-18 Finish: Second Round

With Miles Bridges, Tum Tum Nairn, and Jaren Jackson Jr. all out of East Lansing, look for Cassius Winston and Nick Ward to form one of the most lethal outside/inside combinations in college basketball. For the first time in a few years, Tom Izzo will be something of an underdog without a number of talented pieces he needs to keep happy. These are the situations where he tends to thrive.

11. Auburn Tigers

2017-18 Record: 26-8

2017-18 Finish: Second Round

Mustapha Heron’s surprise transfer to St. John’s is a big blow, but Bruce Pearl returns every other major contributor from the team that shared the SEC’s regular season title last year. The Tigers are also getting back Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy, the two projected starters who were ruled ineligible for the 2017-18 season by the NCAA after the FBI’s findings last September.

12. Michigan Wolverines

2017-18 Record: 33-8

2017-18 Finish: National Runners-Up

There’s no point in doubting John Beilein anymore. Even if he was openly flirting with the Detroit Pistons earlier this month.

Sure, Michigan may be out of the poll entirely throughout December, but if recent history holds, they’re likely to be right in the thick of the national picture once March rolls around. Moe Wagner, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Duncan Robinson and Jaaron Simmons are all gone, but with Charles Matthews back, the Wolverines should be in the mix for a third straight Big Ten tournament title and another memorable NCAA tournament run.

13. Virginia Tech Hokies

2017-18 Record: 21-12

2017-18 Finish: First Round

Buzz Williams has done a good job of making Virginia Tech nationally relevant again, but he still hasn’t led the Hokies to a win in the NCAA tournament. Expect that to change next season, as VT returns the bulk of its production from last season and also gets outside assassin Ty Outlaw back. Outlaw missed all of 2017-18 after suffering a torn ACL during a pickup game over the summer.

14. UCLA Bruins

2017-18 Record: 21-12

2017-18 Finish: First Four

Back-to-back top-five recruiting classes should have Steve Alford and the Bruins right back near the top of the Pac-12. Jalen Hill and Cody Riley, the “other guys” who were arrested with LiAngelo Ball, will be back after a one-year suspension and should play a larger role on the team than Ball ever would have (especially Riley). After a so-so freshman season, Jaylen Hands is an obvious candidate for a breakout sophomore season. Like Hands, leading returning scorer Kris Wilkes (13.9 ppg) also flirted with the NBA Draft before opting to return to Westwood.

15. Kansas State Wildcats

2017-18 Record: 25-12

2017-18 Finish: Elite Eight

On one hand, Bruce Weber is returning everyone from a team that was one win away from crashing the Final Four. On the other, Weber is returning everyone from a team that was pretty average for most of 2017-18 but got hot at the right time and benefited more than any other team from a historic first round upset. No. 15 feels right.

16. Oregon Ducks

2017-18 Record: 23-13

2017-18 Finish: NIT Second Round

Troy Brown’s decision to bolt for the NBA keeps this team out of the top 15, but the best recruiting class in the history of Oregon basketball still has Eugene buzzing. Payton Pritchard, last season’s leading scorer at 14.5 ppg, is also back to help bridge the gap between the newcomers and the veterans.

17. LSU Tigers

2017-18 Record: 18-15

2017-18 Finish: NIT Second Round

We’ve seen a mixture of returning talent (Tremont Waters should get some preseason All-American love) and a top-five recruiting class go poorly at LSU before. This ranking is based on the fact that Will Wade seems to know what he’s doing.

18. West Virginia Mountaineers

2017-18 Record: 26-11

2017-18 Finish: Sweet 16

Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles will be extremely difficult to replace, but Bob Huggins has built a program in Morgantown that now has to get the benefit of the doubt. The culture instilled at West Virginia won’t let the Mountaineers fall too far, even without two of the guys who helped lock that culture in.

19. Florida State Seminoles

2017-18 Record: 23-12

2017-18 Finish: Elite Eight

Phil Cofer being granted a medical redshirt by the NCAA should have Florida State back to being an easy at-large team in 2018-19. CJ Walker’s unexpected transfer was a blow, but the Seminoles still have second-leading scorer Terrance Mann (12.6 ppg) as well as what might be the most physically imposing frontcourt in the ACC.

20. Clemson Tigers

2017-18 Record: 25-10

2017-18 Finish: Sweet 16

Brad Brownell’s team was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2017-18. A trio of seniors, led by leading scorer Marcquise Reed, are back to help the momentum carry over into 2018-19. In all, Brownell brings back four of his top six scorers from last season.

21. Texas Tech Red Raiders

2017-18 Record: 27-10

2017-18 Finish: Elite Eight

Leading scorer Keenan Evans is one of five seniors who won’t be back for the Red Raiders, and breakout freshman star Zhaire Smith is gone too, but there’s still reason to believe the program won’t slip too far. Jarrett Culver, the Red Raiders’ third-leading scorer last season, has the potential to be an absolute star, and Chris Beard is in the process of building a reputation for himself as one of the best up and coming coaches in the country. That reputation grows in 2018-19.

22. Syracuse Orange

2017-18 Record: 23-14

2017-18 Finish: Sweet 16

There were no Miles Bridges/Kris Dunn-level surprise announcements at the draft deadline this year. The closest we got was Tyus Battle, who delayed his professional career by at least a year to return to Syracuse. Thanks in large part to that announcement, Jim Boeheim returns 94 percent of his offensive production from last season.

23. Mississippi State Bulldogs

2017-18 Record: 25-12

2017-18 Finish: NIT Final Four

Ben Howland returns pretty much every piece from a talented team that just hit its stride a little too late to make the NCAA tournament. Assuming that progress carries over into the offseason, Mississippi State should be a player in the rejuvenated SEC.

24. Marquette Golden Eagles

2017-18 Record: 21-14

2017-18 Finish: NIT Quarterfinals

Expect Marquette to be slightly improved without the explosive Andrew Rowsey. Juniors Markus Howard and Sam Hauser have more than enough star power to get the Golden Eagles into the NCAA tournament in what feels like an important season for Steve Wojciechowski.

25. Indiana Hoosiers

2017-18 Record: 16-15

2017-18 Finish: No Postseason

Perhaps this is an overreaction to landing Romeo Langford, but toss in the return of Juwan Morgan and five of last season’s other top seven scorers, and it’s not ridiculous to envision the Hoosiers taking a massive step forward in Archie Miller’s second season.

The Next 10:

26. TCU

27. Purdue

28. Maryland

29. Florida

30. Cincinnati

31. NC State

32. Notre Dame

33. Washington

34. Wisconsin

35. USC