Dick Vitale’s Preseason Top 25
As you know, I eat, sleep and breathe college basketball year-round. And this year is no exception. Now that the transfer market has settled down and teams are finishing up summer tours, I thought I’d share my projections for the upcoming season. So, let’s dive in.
Kansas is my preseason No. 1. Bill Self continues his mastery of college basketball and with the return of Kevin McCullar Jr. and the addition of Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, the Jayhawks have one of the most talented rosters. Of course, don’t forget about top defenders Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams Jr. who will make this team tough to beat night-in and night-out. Adams’ role will change a bit playing alongside Dickinson, but this breakout star should take a big step forward this season.
Challenging Kansas will be Duke at No. 2. Kyle Filipowski’s return shores up the Blue Devils’ frontcourt. Filipowski held out of the last NBA draft and could move into a lottery pick next June. The return of Tyrese Proctor and Mark Mitchell, along with Jeremy Roach back to run the offense, puts Duke as the frontrunner in the ACC. Look for newcomer Jared McCain to step up on the wing.
With the return of Wooden Award winner and the most dominant player in college basketball, Zach Edey gives Purdue the strength to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament and holds down the No. 3 spot. Matt Painter has all five starters back from last year’s Big 10 regular season and tournament championship team. Is this the year Painter and the Boilermakers bounce back from quick exits in March Madness and make a serious run for the 2024 NCAA title?
Even before Tyson Walker and Malik Hill decided to return to Michigan State, my No. 4 pick, I was high on Tom Izzo’s team. Can you believe this is Tom’s 29th season in East Lansing? He’s 14 wins shy of win No. 700 in his career. Izzo’s job is to mesh five-star recruits Xavier Booker, Coen Carr and Jeremy Fears with the best backcourt in the country.
Rounding out my top 5 are the defending champion UConn Huskies. This team used steady play in the tournament and really went unnoticed for a majority of the season. That’s not the case this year. Coach Dan Hurley welcomed the return of Tristen Newton and packed his lineup with a top-five recruiting class that includes four ESPN top 100 prospects. Look for Donovan Clingan to have a big season down low and Rutgers transfer Cam Spencer’s shooting to keep the Huskies in the hunt.
I chose Marquette with outstanding guard Tyler Kolek, Houston, Creighton, Gonzaga and Tennessee to round out my top 10. Kelvin Sampson hauled in two of the best guards in the transfer portal in LJ Cryer and Damian Dunn for Houston. Creighton returns Baylor Scheierman, Trey Alexander and Ryan Kalkbrenner, who all withdrew their names from the NBA draft to return to Omaha. Gonzaga’s Mark Few just reloaded his roster with three transfers and got the return of Anton Watson up front. Expect Josiah-Jordan James to play a larger role in leading Tennessee.
The next five are FAU at 11, followed by Arizona, Kentucky, Arkansas, North Carolina. As always, I want to see what John Calipari does with another youthful squad that includes two of the four highest-ranked newcomers in Justin Edwards and D.J. Wagner to go along with three others ranked in the top 40.
I like Miami at 16 after Nigel Pack and Nochad Omier both returned after testing the NBA waters. Texas A&M with Wade Taylor IV running the show finds the Aggies at 17. Villanova, San Diego State and USC round out the top 20.
My final five teams are Baylor, St. Mary’s, Texas, Colorado and St. John’s. I truly believe that Rick Pitino will have this team competing well at tournament time. Joel Soriano is a productive big man that will lead the Red Storm.
4 Michigan State
15 North Carolina
17 Texas A&M
19 San Diego State
22 St. Mary's
25 St. John’s