We now know the 2020-21 college basketball season will get started Thanksgiving week on Nov. 25. Here are my latest preseason Power 36 rankings for the upcoming season, following that season start date announcement last week.
1. Gonzaga (1): Nothing has changed up top since our last Power 36 in April. The Zags have their core back and added freshman Jalen Suggs. And it looks like the Zags will get the much-needed, elite non-conference games.
2. Baylor (2): Jared Butler should be the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year. The Bears will need to handle the expectation of being the team to beat in the Big 12.
3. Villanova (3): Collin Gillespie enters as a potential Big East Player of the Year. The Wildcats lost only one starter and will have a senior nucleus. This program is rolling.
4. Illinois (21): The Illini were the biggest winners of the early-entry NBA draft process with the return of Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. Brad Underwood has this squad believing in their ability to win on the road and close games.
5. Iowa (5): Luka Garza is back as the preseason favorite to win Big Ten and national Player of the Year. Jordan Bohannon is also back from a hip injury and Joe Wieskamp returns as a complement to Garza. This is Fran McCaffery’s best team at Iowa.
6. Wisconsin (6): The Badgers earned a three-way share of the Big Ten regular season title after a brutal non-conference schedule. Wisconsin lost only one contributing player from that late title run. This is a team that doesn’t need a big-time star.
7. Virginia (10): The Cavaliers enter as the ACC favorite. The addition of Sam Hauser and the return of Jay Huff gives the Cavs the needed studs to win the league. Kihei Clark is one of the most competent point guards in the country.
8. Kansas (7): The Jayhawks get back the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year in Marcus Garrett. David McCormack should be able to replace Udoka Azubuike. The Jayhawks won’t be picked as the favorite in the Big 12, but when have they ever disappointed?
9. Kentucky (9): The Wildcats have the best recruiting class in the country and the potential to add three high-profile transfers, pending the waiver process. The Wildcats are picked high based on the projection of what they will look like by March.
10. Tennessee (16): The Vols are loaded with returnees John Fulkerson and Yves Pons and a stud recruiting class led by Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson. This program will push Kentucky for the top spot in the SEC.
11. Duke (11): The Blue Devils have a six-player top five recruiting class. The return of Wendell Moore Jr., Matthew Hurt, Joey Baker and Jordan Goldwire gives Coach K the necessary veterans to put this squad together.
12. Michigan State (12): The Spartans will have one of the top wing groupings in the country. The addition of Joey Hauser gives the Spartans another scorer. Joshua Langford may be back by the start of the season. The question will be at point guard, following the loss of Cassius Winston. Expect the Spartans to be quicker and smaller, rather than stronger. But they will still be a force.
13. Rutgers (13): The Scarlet Knights will be expected to challenge for the top of the Big Ten led by Geo Baker, Ron Harper Jr., and the impact of freshman big man Cliff Omoruyi. Rutgers figured out how to win on the road at Purdue. There should be a carry over to this season.
14. Arizona State (NR): The Sun Devils are my pick to win the Pac-12 after the return of Remy Martin, Alonzo Verge Jr., and the impact of big-time recruit Josh Christopher. Bobby Hurley should have a squad that will be chased from the outset.
15. Texas Tech (17): The Red Raiders have one of the top transfers in the country in Marcus Santos-Silva (VCU). He’s a star. Kyler Edwards, Avery Benson and the potential of adding Mac McClung could push the Red Raiders to a top three finish in the Big 12.
16. Creighton (4): The Bluejays have a potential Big East Player of the Year in Marcus Zegarowski and Mitch Ballock is a big-time shooter. This squad will be pushing the ball, ripping and running. Creighton should be an offensive threat hard to diffuse.
17. Michigan (8): Isaiah Livers should be first-team all-Big Ten. If he’s healthy, he’ll be a tough stop. Franz Wagner could be up for a banner sophomore year. Juwan Howard will continue to put his imprint on this program and lead the Wolverines to the NCAA tournament.
18. Indiana (31): Trayce Jackson-Davis should have a breakthrough sophomore season. Coupled with Joey Brunk, the Hoosiers have a difficult frontcourt to match. The backcourt of Al Durham and Rob Phinisee are two of the most experienced in the league.
19. UCLA (19): The Bruins were one of the hottest teams in the country in the last month of last regular season. Getting Chris Smith and Tyger Campbell back means the Bruins will be an offensive threat from the perimeter every night out. This team defends now much like Mick Cronin’s Cincinnati teams.
20. Texas (22): Shaka Smart has his best chance to challenge for a top three finish in the Big 12. He’s got Matt Coleman and Andrew Jones back. He added Greg Brown, the highest-touted recruit since he arrived at Texas. Patience has paid off in Austin.
21. Florida State (14): This is what I know: I know not to doubt Leonard Hamilton. The squad may not have household names, but there’s no reason to think Florida State won’t be a top 25 team. Malik Osborne and M.J. Walker are the top returnees. But this team will defend and defy the odds.
22. Houston (27): The Cougars are the team to beat in the American. Caleb Mills, Quentin Grimes and Dejon Jarreau lead a squad that will defend and be as demanding as their coach Kelvin Sampson.
23. West Virginia (18): The Mountaineers will have one of the best frontcourts of the country with Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver. If the Mountaineers's defense can return to being "Press Virginia" too, they will once again be a difficult matchup.
24. Stanford (28): Tyrell Terry left, but the Cardinal still has a squad ready to chase a Pac-12 title. Oscar da Silva is an exceptional leader. Daejon Davis will be a steady complement, and the addition of Ziaire Williams was another coup for Jerod Haase.
25. Richmond (25): Chris Mooney has the team to beat in the A-10. He’s got Grant Golden, Nick Sherod and Jacob Gilyard back to lead the Spiders to a league title and a bid.
26. North Carolina (15): The Tar Heels have to replace Cole Anthony. But they do have another strong recruiting class and return big man Garrison Brooks, who should have a star senior season. He’s one of the top returning players in the country.
27. Oregon (23): The Ducks have not disappointed. They continue to get better throughout the course of a season. The addition of Rutgers transfer Eugene Omoruyi should have a major impact on the squad. Replacing Payton Pritchard will be a chore from the outset.
28. Alabama (NR): Nate Oats continues to put his program together like he did at Buffalo. He’s got two anchors in John Petty Jr. and Herb Jones, who will help the Tide get back to the NCAA tournament.
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29. Florida (29): The talent is definitely in place. The question is, will this team mesh well enough? There were a few hiccups last season. But if Keyontae Johnson, Noah Locke, Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann play up to their potential, this team can move up as well.
30. Providence (32): The Friars were the hottest team not named Villanova heading into the Big East tournament last March. They'll bring back A.J. Reeves, David Duke, Nate Watson and a new point guard in Saint Joseph’s transfer Jared Bynum. This team should be ready to roll early.
31. Seton Hall (NR): The Pirates lost their go-to guy and heart and soul in Myles Powell. But the return of Myles Cale, Sandro Mamukelashvili and the addition of Harvard transfer Bryce Aiken gives Seton Hall a squad that can challenge for a top four Big East finish.
32. Purdue (33): The Boilermakers lost a few key players to the transfer portal but the returnees and newcomers are more than capable of keeping Purdue in the thick of the chase for a top half Big Ten finish. Expect Trevion Williams to have a monster season. New names, which will be known well in the Big Ten, will be Jaden Ivey, Brandon Newman and Ethan Morton.
33. UConn (NR): The Huskies have one of the top two Big East recruiting classes, bring back James Bouknight and have Dan Hurley jazzed about coaching back in his favorite league.
34. Northern Iowa (NR): AJ Green was the best player in the Missouri Valley. He’s back and the Panthers, who got bounced early in the Valley tournament, should have a chip to motivate them early and often in the season.
35. LSU (NR): The Tigers have the talent to be higher and a challenger in the SEC. Trendon Watford and Javonte Smart will need to be the leaders this squad craves to push them.
36. Saint Louis (36): A 1-2 combo of Jordan Goodwin and Hasahn French gives Travis Ford a team that will be in the thick of the A-10 title race all season.
Under consideration: Arizona, Arkansas, Auburn, Bradley, Boise State, BYU, Cincinnati, Clemson, Colorado, Dayton, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Loyola-Chicago, Memphis, NC State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, St. John’s, San Diego State, SMU, Utah.