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College basketball rankings: Sporting News' way-too-early top 25 for 2019-20

Sporting News — (Mike DeCourcy)

Although we annually call this exercise our “way-too-early top 25,” can it really be too early to ponder what 2019-20 might bring to those who cherish college basketball?

Well, probably. But here we are.

MORE: Sporting News' 2018-19 All-Americans

More than any other sport, the immediate view into the future is translucent in college basketball because of the resounding impact players’ early entry decisions and, now more than ever, the transfer contagion will have on the proficiency of next season’s teams. But a consideration of those likely to return, and their collective skill and potential, allows us to at least get a handle on where next season might lead.

With that, Sporting News’ way-too-early top 25 for the 2019-20 college basketball season:

25. Memphis

2018-19 record and finish: 22-14, NIT
Key players: PG Tyler Harris, G Alex Lomax
Top-100 recruits: C James Wiseman (247Sports No. 1), PF DJ Jeffries (247Sports No. 47).
Key decisions: The Tigers still are recruiting 247Sports No. 27 prospect Trendon Watford and will need more talent to fulfill surging expectations.

24. Maryland

2018-19 record and finish: 23-11, NCAA second round
Key players: PF Jalen Smith, PG Anthony Cowan, SG/PG Eric Ayala, SG Darryl Morsell, SG Aaron Wiggins, SG Serrel Smith, PF Ricky Lindo,
Top-100 recruits: C Makhi Mitchell (247Sports No. 67)
Key decisions: C Bruno Fernando is projected as the No. 29 pick by Sporting News’ Chris Stone. Getting Smith back will go a long way in ensuring Maryland is a top-25 team.

23. Seton Hall

2018-19 record and finish: 20-14, NCAA first round
Key players: SG Myles Powell, SF Myles Cale, SG Quincy McKnight, PF Sandro Mamukelashvili, C Romaro Gill, G Shavar Reynolds
Top-100 recruits: None
Key decisions: Coach Kevin Willard declined interest from Virginia Tech and chose to remain with the Pirates.

22. Arizona

2018-19 record and finish: 17-15, eighth in Pac-12
Key players: SG Brandon Randolph, PG Brandon Williams, C Chase Jeter, SG Dylan Smith, PF Ira Lee
Top-100 recruits: PG Nico Mannion (247Sports No. 10), SF Josh Green (247Sports No. 11), PF Zeke Nnaji (247Sports No. 35), SG Terry Armstrong (247Sports No. 54)
Key decisions: There may be some transfers from the current roster because; the staff has reportedly contacted potential incoming transfers. 

21. Iowa

2018-19 record and finish: 23-12, NCAA second round
Key players: PG Jordan Bohannon, C Luka Garza, SG Joe Wieskamp, SG Isaiah Moss, G Connor McCaffery, C Ryan Kriener, PF Cordell Pemsl
Top-100 recruits: SF Pat McCaffery (247Sports No. 71)
Key decisions: PF Tyler Cook is not a projected first-round pick, but did go through the early entry process in 2018.

20. Gonzaga

2018-19 record and finish: 33-4, Elite Eight
Key players: SG Zach Norvell, SF Corey Kispert, C Filip Petrusev
Top-100 recruits: C Drew Timme (247Sports No. 40), SF Anton Watson (247Sports No. 44), C Pavel Zakharov (247Sports No. 51), C Oumar Ballo (247Sports No. 62)
Key decisions: C Killian Tillie is not a projected first-round pick, but could decide to turn professional and play in either Europe or the U.S.

19. Cincinnati

2018-19 record and finish: 28-7, NCAA first round
Key players: SG Jarron Cumberland, C Nysier Brooks, PF Tre Scott, SG Keith Williams, PF Eliel Nsoseme, PG Logan Johnson, SG Rashawn Fredericks
Top-100 recruits: None
Key decisions: Coach Mick Cronin remains a candidate for the vacant UCLA job, and it’s unclear what direction Bruins will turn next. 

18. VCU

2018-19 record and finish: 25-8, NCAA first-round
Key players: PG Marcus Evans, SG De’Riante Jenkins, F Issac Vann, PF Marcus Santos-Silva, G Vince Williams, G Mike’L Simms, F Sean Mobley, G Malik Crowfield, F Corey Douglas
Top-100 recruits: None
Key decisions: The key is keeping intact a rotation that returns its nine top scorers. 

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17. Houston

2018-19 record and finish: 33-4, Sweet 16
Key players: SG Armoni Brooks, SG Dejon Jarreau, SG Nate Hinton, PF Fabian White, C Caleb Broodo, PF Cedrick Alley, F Brison Gresham
Top-100 recruits: None
Key decisions: Coach Kelvin Sampson was a strong candidate for the open position at Arkansas but chose to sign a long-term extension with the Cougars. 

16. Florida State

2018-19 record and finish: 29-8, Sweet 16
Key players: PG Trent Forrest, SG M.J. Walker.
Top-100 recruits: SF Patrick Williams (247Sports No. 38), C Balsa Koprivica (247Sports No. 57), SG Nathanael Jack (247Sports Juco No. 14)
Key decisions: SF Mfiondu Kabengele is not a projected first-round pick but could become a Rui Hachimura-style breakout star with another season. 

15. Ohio State

2018-19 record and finish: 20-15, NCAA second round
Key players: SF/PF Andre Wesson, SG Duane Washington, SG Luther Muhammad, PF Kyle Young, SG Musa Jallow
Top-100 recruits: PG DJ Carton (247Sports No. 28), SF Alonzo Gaffney (247Sports No. 42), PF EJ Liddell (247Sports No. 45)
Key decisions: C Kaleb Wesson is not projected as a first-round pick but could choose to go through the pre-draft process. 

14. North Carolina

2018-19 record and finish: 29-7, Sweet 16
Key players: PF Garrison Brooks, C Sterling Manley
Top-100 recruits: C Armando Bacot (247Sports No. 21)
Key decisions: None

13. LSU

2018-19 record and finish: 28-7, Sweet 16
Key players: PG Tremont Waters, SG Javonte Smart, SG Skylar Mays, F Emmitt Williams
Top-100 recruits: SG Charles Manning (247Sports No. 15 JUCO)
Key decisions: The university administration must determine what to do with coach Will Wade, who was not permitted to work the SEC or NCAA Tournaments following media reports about wiretapped phone conversations that suggested he may have violated NCAA rules.

12. Kansas

2018-19 record and finish: 26-10, NCAA second round
Key players: SG Ochai Agbaji, SG Quentin Grimes, PG Devon Dotson, PF Mitch Lightfoot, C David McCormack
Top-100 recruits: None
Key decisions: It’s hard imagine coach Bill Self is done roster-building with no signed impact recruits and so many players elsewhere lined up to transfer schools.

11. Louisville

2018-19 record and finish: 20-14, NCAA first round
Key players: SG Ryan McMahon, SF Dwayne Sutton, PF Malik Williams, SF V.J. King
Top-100 recruits: SF Samuell Williamson (247Sports No. 39), C Aidan Igiehon (247Sports No. 48), PG/SG David Johnson (247Sports No. 72) PF Jaelyn Withers (247Sports No. 90), SG Josh Nickelberry (247Sports No. 99).
Key decisions: PF Jordan Nwora is not projected as a first-round pick by Stone but is testing the draft process. C Steven Enoch will go through the process. 

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10. Auburn

2018-19 record and finish: 30-10, Final Four national semifinals
Key players: PG Jared Harper, SG Samir Doughty, PF Anfernee McLemore, C Chuma Okeke, PF Danjel Purifoy
Top-100 recruits: SF Isaac Okoro (247Sports No. 37)
Key decisions: C Austin Wiley is expected to turn pro after last season but was suspended. This past season was limited by injuries.

9. Purdue

2018-19 record and finish: 26-10, Elite Eight
Key players: PG Nojel Eastern, C Matt Haarms, C Trevion Williams, F Aaron Wheeler
Top-100 recruits: None
Key decisions: SG Carsen Edwards is not projected as a first-round pick by Stone. He could enter another season as a first-team All-America and fuel the Boilers’ pursuit of a first NCAA championship.

8. Tennessee

2018-19 record and finish: 31-6, Sweet 16
Key players: SG Jordan Bowden, PG/SG Lamonte Turner, SF Yves Pons, PF John Fulkerson
Top-100 recruits: PG/SG Josiah-Jordan James (247Sports No. 16)
Key decisions: PF Grant Williams is projected as the No. 20 pick by Stone. PG Jordan Bone is not a projected first-rounder but will go through the pre-draft process.

7. Marquette

2018-19 record and finish: 24-10, NCAA first round
Key players: PG Markus Howard, F Sacar Anim, PF Joey Hauser, SF Sam Hauser, C Theo John, PF Ed Morrow
Top-100 recruits: None
Key decisions: None 

6. Oregon

2018-19 finish: 25-13, Sweet 16
Key players: PG Payton Pritchard, PF Kenny Wooten, SG Victor Bailey, G Will Richardson, PF Francis Okoro, PF Miles Norris
Top-100 recruits: PF CJ Walker (247Sports No. 31), C Isaac Johnson (247Sports No. 68), PF Chandler Lawson (247Sports No. 86), SG Chris Duarte (247Sports Juco No. 1)
Key decisions: SF Louis King is not projected as a first-round pick by Stone, but has a chance to be a star with a year of maturity.

MORE: College basketball's top programs since 2000

5. Duke

2018-19 record and finish: 32-6
Key players: PG Tre Jones, PF Javin DeLaurier, SF Jack White, SG Alex O’Connell, C Marques Bolden
Top-100 recruits: SF Wendell Moore (247Sports No. 22), SG/PG Boogie Ellis (247Sports No. 34), C Vernon Carey (247Sports No. 3).
Key decisions: None

4. Michigan

2018-19 record and finish: 30-7, Sweet 16
Key players: PG Zavier Simpson, SG Jordan Poole, C Jon Teske, PF Isaiah Livers, PG Eli Brooks
Top-100 recruits: SF Jalen Wilson  (247Sports No. 46)
Key decisions: PF Iggy Brazdeikas is not projected as a first-round pick but could decide to go through the process.

3. Kentucky

2018-19 record and finish: 30-7, Elite Eight
Key players: PG Ashton Hagans, C Nick Richards, PF EJ Montgomery, PG Immanuel Quickley, SG Jemarl Baker
Top-100 recruits: SF Kahlil Whitney (247Sports No. 7), CG Tyrese Maxey (247Sports No. 9), SF Keion Brooks (247Sports No. 23), PF Nate Sestina (grad transfer, Bucknell)
Key decisions: SG Tyler Herro is projected No. 26 pick by Chris Stone; he can do better with another year.

2. Michigan State

2018-19 record and finish: 32-7, national semifinals
Key players: PG Cassius Winston, SG Joshua Langford, SF Aaron Henry, C Xavier Tillman, SG Gabe Brown, SF Kyle Ahrens
Top-100 recruits: SG Rocket Watts (247Sports No. 32), PF Malik Hall (247 Sports No. 55).
Key decisions: C Nick Ward tested the draft last year and is not projected as a first-round pick.

1. Virginia

2018-19 record and finish: 34-3, playing for NCAA title
Key players: SG Kyle Guy, PG Ty Jerome, PG Kihei Clark, PF Mamadi Diakite, PF Braxton Key
Top-100 recruits: C Kadin Shedrick (247Sports No. 56), SG Casey Morsell (247Sports No. 58)
Key decisions: SF De’Andre Hunter, projected No. 6 pick by Stone, almost certainly will depart.