College basketball rankings: Alabama, Iowa State, Duke lead way-too-early Top 25 for 2024-25 season | Sporting News

College basketball rankings: Alabama, Iowa State, Duke lead way-too-early Top 25 for 2024-25 season | Sporting News

The transfer portal is as open as a 24-hour Wal-Mart. The NBA pre-draft process is basically still in the previews before the feature presentation. The 2023-24 college basketball season isn’t even over yet. So you know what that means!

Yes, it is time to tell you exactly what’s going to happen (more or less) in the 2024-25 season as we present our annual Way-Too-Early Preseason Top 25.

You didn’t think we would let you down and forget, did you? I will say, when I did this exercise last March, UConn and Purdue were both in the top four, and Alabama was No. 9. Twenty of the 25 teams went on to make the NCAA tournament, which actually makes two straight years this list has been at an 80 percent clip for tournament teams. So if your team is listed below, it should be good news!

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Sporting News Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2024-25

1. Alabama

2024 season: 25-11 NCAA Final Four

Overview: Think of it this way: They’ve got got six months to learn to play defense! OK, so maybe that’s not the kindest way to introduce our WTE No.1 team for 2024-25. It is necessary to make it clear the Crimson Tide’s present level of efficacy at the defensive end will not be enough to support a championship run. But meager D is not endemic to Alabama basketball. Last year’s team, which earned a No. 1 seed, featured the No. 3 defense in college basketball. The current group is not as well constructed to defend, but it’s hard to imagine the coaching staff not attempting to improve this aspect of the team in the transfer portal.

Offensively, if they get the right group back, they could become one of the top offenses in recent college history.

2. Iowa State

2024 season: 29-8 NCAA Sweet 16

Overview: It can’t be that hard to find a shooter, can it? There are more than 1,000 players in the transfer portal. One of them has to be willing to shoot threes for the Cyclones. Give Iowa State one guy who can bust it from deep, and this team will have a shot (get it?) at the Final Four. Get them a shot-blocker on top of that and look out. They could do what no Cyclones team has, ever.

3. Duke

2024 season: 27-9 NCAA Elite Eight

Overview: Here’s the thing about trying to win with freshmen in today’s college basketball: If you’re going to do that, it’s best not to try it when the freshmen aren’t good. This past season, we didn’t have a single freshman within sight of All-America selection. Well, that’s not going to be a problem in 2025. Say hello to Cooper Flagg, the best prospect in American basketball since … well, let’s just say way too long. Is he good enough to lead Duke to an NCAA championship? Definitely. But what this year’s Blue Devils missed – interior power at both ends – will need to come from classmate Khaman Maluach, a 7-1 center who’s also a top-10 prospect.

MORE: Cooper Flagg has NBA superstar potential

4. Kentucky

2024 season: 23-10 NCAA first round

Overview: What ultimately turned out to be missing from the 2024 Cats was a true point guard, which was hard to recognize when they were churning out 100-point nights, but that was painfully obvious once they faced a dug-in defense that forced them to make decisions. Freshman Boogie Fland looks the part, but John Calipari would be wise to scour the portal for a veteran playmaker to complement Fland and perhaps take over in particular games if it comes to that.

If the Cats were paying attention to what was happening this season, both good and bad, a bunch of them will recognize they need more of what the college game has to offer. Calipari seemed more interested after the first-round elimination in having multiple young players return.

MORE: These Wildcats never learned from their mistakes

5. Baylor

2024 season: 24-11 NCAA second round

Overview: The Bears never truly were inspiring, but neither were they irrelevant. It’s hard to imagine such indifference with VJ Edgecombe entering the picture. Arriving from the legendary program at Long Island Lutheran – which gave the basketball world Bob McKillop, Bill Chamberlain, Wayne McKoy, Bill Wennington and Tobias Harris – Edgecombe might take some time to develop into a force. But Baylor might have just the right lineup to wait on that.

Ryan Nembhard

6. Gonzaga

2024 season: 27-8 NCAA Sweet 16

Overview: While others wonder who they might be able to pluck from the portal, the Zags already picked up wing Michael Ajayi, who averaged 17 points and just under 10 rebounds and hit 47 percent of his (limited) 3-point attempts at Pepperdine last season. Graham Ike has more college basketball available to him, and he’s really close to being an extraordinary player. If Ryan Nembhard is game for another lap with the Zags, this team has big possibilities.

7. Connecticut

2024 season: 35-3 NCAA Final Four

Overview: When we did this exercise a year ago, we had UConn at No. 1 in the nation and would have been looking really, really smart right now – and then Andre Jackson and Adama Sanogo turned pro and we chickened out and dropped them a few spots in the preseason rankings. So even though there’s less roster certainly about this squad than just about any other, we’re convinced Dan Hurley will find a way to make them nationally competitive.

8. North Carolina

2024 season: 29-8 NCAA Sweet 16

Overview: One thing we know for sure is that Armando Bacot has played all the basketball he will for the Tar Heels, unless it’s an alumni reunion game at some future point. He was a key to a Final Four appearance and ACC championship, and he will be remembered for helping the Heels through the transition from a coaching legend to a head coach in his first job. But who’s sticking around? The key will be RJ Davis, but Harrison Ingram and Elliot Cadeau would be great to see in a Carolina uniform for a second year.

9. Purdue

2024 season: 33-4 NCAA Final Four

Overview: This will be a different team without Zach Edey, but it won’t be a lot smaller. Freshman Will Berg is 7-2 and skilled and should allow the Boilers to move forward without having to make significant adjustments to their approach. He won’t be a two-time college player of the year, but, if the plan holds, he’ll allow Braden Smith, Fletcher Loyer, Myles Colvin and Cam Heide to develop as players without having to significantly adjust their approaches.

MORE: Zach Edey helps Purdue end decades of frustration

10. Syracuse

2024 season: 20-12

Overview: The Orange already have added transfer big man Eddie Lampkin Jr. from Colorado to a young group that wasn’t far from being significant. A young team that could score but couldn’t shoot now has a low-post threat to add balance to the offense, but Syracuse still could use a shooter or two.

Chad Baker-Mazara

11. Auburn

2024 season: 27-8, NCAA first round

12. Houston

2024 season: 32-5 NCAA Sweet 16

13. Texas

2024 season: 21-13 NCAA second round

14. Wake Forest

2024 season: 21-14 NIT second round

15. St. John’s

2024 season: 20-13

16. UCLA

2024 season: 16-17

17. Tennessee

2024 season: 27-9 NCAA Elite Eight

18. Arizona

2024 season: 27-9 NCAA Sweet 16

19. Kansas

2024 season: 23-11 NCAA second round

20. Pitt

2024 season: 22-11

21. Xavier

2024 season: 16-18

22. Villanova

2024 season: 18-16

23. Illinois

2024 season: 29-9 NCAA Elite Eight

24. Rutgers

2024 season: 15-17

25. Saint Mary’s

2024 season: 26-8 NCAA first round

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