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Sunday, December 03, 2023

Column: A way-too-early look at next years' NCAA basketball preseason top five

Now that Connecticut has won the title, it’s time to do what we always do when the season ends: Think about next season. Here’s a preseason top five for next year in no particular order.


You know that really good team Wisconsin beat in an Elite Eight thriller? Well, they’re going to be back next year, quite possibly even better than before. Possible preseason No. 1 better.

The Wildcats figure to return their entire team save one-and-done forward Aaron Gordon and maybe junior guard Nick Johnson, who is projected as a second-round selection by

If Johnson returns and sophomore forward Brandon Ashley heals from a torn ligament in his foot, the Wildcats will play effectively the same lineup that had them ranked No. 1 for a large chunk of the season.

The only difference? Replacing a former top ten recruit in Gordon with… another top ten recruit in Stanley Johnson.


Yeah, they’re losing Andrew Wiggins. Maybe probably Joel Embiid too, depends if the big man thinks National Basketball Association teams will look past his worrying back injuries.

Kansas is still returning an extraordinarily talented team, featuring sophomore forward Perry Ellis and freshman guard Wayne Selden Jr.

Combine that with two legitimate five-star recruits that happen to slot in perfectly for Embiid and Wiggins, Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre respectively, along with the fact that Bill Self is still coaching, and you’ve got a squad likely to repeat as Big 12 regular season champion for the 11th straight time.


Let’s make one thing clear: if freshman forward Jabari Parker comes back for a sophomore season, like some NBA scouts are rumoring he wants to, Duke is the preseason No. 1 team and it’s unanimous.

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If he doesn’t, well, they’re still bringing in a Kentucky-grade recruiting class featuring No. 1 overall recruit Jahlil Okafor and No. 1 point guard recruit Tyus Jones.

Basically, this team will be Kentucky for the year, and as we learned this tournament that is definitely not a bad thing. And who knows, they might learn how to play defense too.

North Carolina

UNC was the most mystifying team in the country last season. Or at least the most inconsistent. You can chalk that up to being a young team that lost an All-American level talent in P.J. Hairston and was completely barren in guard depth. But there was talent.

Almost all of that talent is coming back. Only junior forward James Michael McAdoo and senior guard Leslie McDonald are leaving.

McDonald was a 3-point specialist who wasn’t that great a shooter (not a good combination) and McAdoo was All-ACC but inconsistent and replaceable when you consider UNC’s million blue-chip forwards.

They will also have sophomore guard Marcus Paige, who might be the best player in the country returning to college.

This is a team that’s going to run a 10-deep rotation of top recruits and that is a scary fact.


Calling it now, Wisconsin will be preseason top-five next year.

Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker have both told multiple reporters they plan to return, and with that, Wisconsin will bring back their entire Final Four rotation except Ben Brust, who was a good player but replaceable in Bo Ryan’s system.

Kaminsky figures to get some All-American hype next year thanks to his breakout performance in the tournament.

Both Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig present intriguing options to take Brust’s starting spot, and each represent a direction Ryan could take with the team.

Starting Hayes means a return to a two-guard lineup, while Koenig means a continuation of the three-guard look that worked so well this season during the Final Four run.

Either way, when you give Bo Ryan another year to improve one of the best teams in his tenure, good things will probably happen.

Is Jack all basketball-ed out for the year, or does he have some good points? Did your favorite team make the list? Let Jack know and email

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