1. Cassius Winston is returning to Michigan State for senior season
Winston was the Big Ten player of the year, led the Spartans to the Final Four and is the main reason the Spartans will be a preseason No. 1. He has a chance to be the preseason player of the year as well as a repeat conference player of the year.
MICHIGAN STATE BASKETBALL: Cassius Winston returns
2. Udoka Azubuike will play for Kansas next season.
Azubuike has had an injury-plagued career. He clearly enjoys playing college basketball and wanted to play an injury-free season before entering the NBA. His return means he should be the best big man in the Big 12 and gives the Jayhawks hope to win the Big 12 and compete for a Final Four.
3. Cole Anthony announces he will play for North Carolina.
The Tar Heels desperately needed a star to replace Coby White, let alone the departures of Nassir Little and seniors Cam Johnson, Kenny Williams and Luke Maye. Anthony gives the Tar Heels instant star power and a must-see player every time UNC is on.
Nike EYBL Circuit MVP ☑️— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) April 23, 2019
McDonald's All American Game MVP ☑️
Nike Hoop Summit MVP ☑️
Jordan Brand Classic MVP ☑️
First player to sweep the MVP Awards in all three major high school all-star games.@The_ColeAnthony #CarolinaFamily pic.twitter.com/Udgk2WblfK
4. Duke signs the top recruiting class again.
The Blue Devils were expecting a mass exodus to the draft, but Tre Jones' return means they have a star point guard who could be the national defensive player of the year. But Jones needed another all-star cast. He got one to lead, even if it's not as elite, with the coming arrivals of Matthew Hurt, Cassius Stanley, Vernon Carey Jr., Wendell Moore and Boogie Ellis -- the consensus No. 1 class.
5. Markus Howard is returning for a senior season at Marquette.
Howard has a chance to be the nation's top scorer after averaging 25 points a game. The departure of the Hauser brothers -- Sam and Joey -- will put even more stress/pressure on Howard. But he can deliver. The Golden Eagles won't be picked as a top-20 team or Big East favorite now without the Hausers, but Howard gives them enough star power to remain in competition for a high Big East finish and NCAA berth.
6. Jalen Smith is coming back for sophomore season at Maryland.
The Terps may still lose Bruno Fernando but Smith's return was a huge boost to ensuring Maryland stays in the mix for an NCAA berth. Maryland has plenty of talent in its sophomore and junior class but Smith will be the stud. If Anthony Cowan comes back then the 1-2 punch of Smith and Cowan will be a tough matchup in the Big Ten.
7. Mick Cronin leaves Cincinnati for UCLA.
Cronin wasn't the first choice for the Bruins. But that doesn't matter. He can be the right one, given time. Remember, Dana Altman wasn't the initial pick at Oregon and he has had tremendous success in Eugene. The exhaustive and a bit wayward search process still landed with a coach who has consistently won, competed for a league title and always has his teams ready to defend. Cronin wins.
New @UCLAMBB Head Coach Mick Cronin wants his players to truly love the program. (cc: @BillWalton, @kaj33)— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) April 16, 2019
New March Madness 365 podcast with @TheAndyKatz:
👉 https://t.co/gtEDT9gAyf pic.twitter.com/qpwX0Kfjss
8. St. John's hires former Arkansas coach Mike Anderson.
The Red Storm went through a similar chaotic coaching search, albeit much, much, much shorter. The job could have gone to Porter Moser or Tim Cluess. But neither has won at as high a level as Mike Anderson. Sure, he hasn't coached in the Northeast. But if he gets his players in then the St. John's faithful will love watching this team in Queens or at MSG. To stand out, St. John's needed energy and something to differentiate itself. Anderson can deliver that in the Big East with a frenetic pace and defensive aggressiveness if he gets the right players.
9. Porter Moser turns down St. John's and remains at Loyola-Chicago.
Moser thought about leaving. He went and talked to the Red Storm extensively. But ultimately he decided to stay. That move means he has a chance to build a real power in the Missouri Valley. The difference with Wichita State and every other Valley team prior to the Shockers' move to the American was that Gregg Marshall stayed. Moser's decision gives the Ramblers a chance to stay atop the league and be relevant for the foreseeable future.
CINDERELLA STORY: Three unlikely teams that could make a 2020 March Madness run
10. Ayo Dosunmu won't declare for NBA draft and will return to Illinois.
The Illini should be a top-half Big Ten finisher and a real threat to compete for a top-three finish next season, finishing the season in the NCAA tournament. But a lot of that had to do with Dosunmu returning. He is and joins what will be a veteran team with rising stars Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Trent Frazier and Andres Feliz. The Illini just needed time and most importantly a consistent roster for Brad Underwood to rise in the Big Ten. They've got that now.
11. Nevada hired former UCLA, New Mexico, Iowa coach Steve Alford to replace Eric Musselman.
Musselman had maxed out at Nevada and was looking to find the right gig. He's now at Arkansas but the Wolf Pack couldn't afford a step back. Alford has won at Iowa, New Mexico and UCLA. He hasn't reached a Final Four but Nevada just needs to ensure it has a coach that can be a regular in contention for the league title and an NCAA bid. Nevada should be able to stay relevant in the top four in the Mountain West under Alford.
KANSAS BASKETBALL: Udoka Azubuike to return for senior season