Just over a week since the conclusion of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, analysts are already scrambling to predict next season’s top programs.
With players transferring, graduating and heading to the NBA draft, this tentative set of way-too-early rankings is constantly changing. On Tuesday, CBS college basketball analyst Gary Parrish released an updated version of his top-25 list.
The top-five teams on these rankings all have one thing in common: a solid combination of returning and incoming talent.
— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) April 13, 2021
No. 1 UCLA
The Bruins’ improbable NCAA Tournament run no doubt played a significant role in landing them at the top of next year’s list. Returning each of their key players from this year’s Final Four run, including star guard Johnny Juzang, there’s no reason to believe why UCLA couldn’t put together another run. Their biggest boost though comes with the addition of incoming five-star recruit Peyton Watson — the No. 3 ranked small forward in the nation, per 247Sports.
Penning a two-year contract with the program earlier this month, head coach Mick Cronin is also set to return in 2021.
No. 2 Gonzaga
The tournament runner-ups are also runner-ups on this list. Following the Zags near-historic 31-1 season, freshman Jalen Suggs and junior Joel Ayayi are both headed to the NBA draft. But, likely coming into the program in their place are two new five-star recruits: 7-foot stretch-five Chet Holmgren (No. 1 overall player in 2021 class) and combo guard Hunter Sallis (No. 6 overall).
Joining key Zag returners like Drew Timme and Andrew Nembhard, this combo of old and new should be a force to be reckoned with yet again in 2021.
No. 3 Villanova
With some key decisions today, the Wildcats made a huge jump in this year’s preseason rankings. Yesterday, star seniors Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels both announced their decisions to return to the program for a final season in 2021.
The retention of these two stars saw Villanova jump up nine spots from CBS’ previous rankings. In addition to Gillespie and Samuels, Jay Wrights will bring back top-five 2020 scorers Justin Moore and Caleb Daniels.
No. 4 Alabama
2020-21 saw the Crimson Tide celebrate their best season in years — winning an SEC tournament title. Returning from last year’s squad, top-two scorers Jaden Shackleford (14.0 ppg) and Jahvon Quinerly (12.9 ppg) will both look to repeat that solid season next year.
In addition to this returning scoring power, red-hot coach Nate Oats will also bring in two major recruits. No. 1 point guard in the nation JD Davidson and four-star center Charles Bediako will join the up-and-coming program next season.
No. 5 Duke
The Blue Devils are the only team in this top five that failed to earn an NCAA Tournament berth this past season. The program’s high ranking can be almost exclusively attributed to the wealth of incoming talent hitting Durham in 2021. Five-star recruits Paolo Banchero (No. 3 overall), AJ Griffin (No. 7 overall) and Trevor Keels (No. 20 overall) will all join Coach K’s squad next season.
If second-year forward Matthew Hurt decides to return after testing the NBA waters this offseason, Duke will likely return to its place among the college basketball elite.