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Stan Becton | NCAA.com | September 17, 2021

25 best players returning for the 2021-2022 men's basketball season

College basketball's top 25 returning players in 2021-22

The DI men's college basketball season is rapidly approaching and Andy Katz is here with his top 25 returning players on the latest edition of the March Madness 365 podcast.

Katz was also joined by four players on his rankings — Texas' Marcus Carr, Mississippi State's Garrison Brooks, Syracuse's Buddy Boeheim and Illinois' Kofi Cockburn — on this edition of March Madness 365.

Here are Andy Katz's top-25 returning players for the 2021-2022 college basketball season: 

25. Tyson Etienne, Wichita State

Tyson Ettiene enters his third year at Wichita State fresh off of winning Co-AAC Player of the Year. Etienne averaged 16.3 points per game and led the Shockers to the regular-season conference crown in 2020-21.

24. Matt Bradley, San Diego State

Matt Bradley moved down I-5 to San Diego State to give the Aztecs a needed boost. The Cal transfer was third in the Pac-12 in scoring, shooting 36.4% from three.

23. Armando Bacot, North Carolina

Third-team All-ACC big man Armando Bacot gives North Carolina a physical presence down low. Bacot led the Tar Heels in scoring, field goal percentage, rebounding and blocks last season.

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22. Julian Champagnie, St. John’s

Julian Champagnie of St. John's

Katz believes if St. John's will compete in the Big East this year, Julian Champagnie will play a big part. Champagnie led the conference with 19.8 points per game in 2020-21.

21. Scottie Pippen Jr., Vanderbilt

Scottie Pippen Jr. knows how to fill the stat sheet. The first-team All-SEC guard averaged 20.8 points per game for head coach Jerry Stackhouse.

20. Chris Lykes, Arkansas

Chris Lykes joins Arkansas this year, transferring in from Miami (FL). Lykes has sneakily averaged 15+ points per game the last three seasons. In 2020-21, he improved in every major statistical category and shot 45.5% from three. Katz believes Lykes will shine in Fayetteville as one of the best guards in the country.

19. Kellan Grady, Kentucky

The Davidson transfer keeps the Wildcats nickname but changes colors in 2021-22. Grady averaged 17+ points per game in each of his four prior seasons and will look to bring his scoring ability to Kentucky as Big Blue Nation looks to return to the tournament.

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18. Kevin Obanor, Texas Tech

In 2020-21, Kevin Obanor was a key part of Oral Roberts’s Cinderella run, averaging 23.3 points and 11.0 rebounds in three NCAA tournament games as the No. 15 seed Golden Eagles advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. After transferring to Texas Tech, Katz sees Obanor scoring all over the floor in the Big-12.

17. Trevion Williams, Purdue

The undervalued big man averaged 15.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game last season for Purdue. Katz envisions a big season on the way for Williams and the Boilermakers.

16. Sahvir Wheeler, Kentucky

The second Kentucky player on the list is also a new transfer in Sahvir Wheeler. The former Georgia Bulldog stays in the SEC after averaging 7.4 assists as a freshman.

15. Garrison Brooks, Mississippi State

Garrison Brooks transfers to Mississippi State after a productive career at North Carolina. The big man joins the Bulldogs looking to add to his 1,276 career points.

14. Andrew Jones, Texas

Texas' Andrew Jones

Andrew Jones is back at Texas and brings with him big-time scoring potential. The cancer survivor is healthy entering 2021-22 and is a part of a talented Longhorn team. Katz predicts a breakout season for a player with one of the best stories in college basketball.

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13. Collin Gillespie, Villanova

Collin Gillespie was one of the best guards in the country, averaging 14 points per game with a 2.88 assist to turnover ratio last season. Gillespie returns to Villanova after tearing his MCL late in the regular season, an injury that caused him to miss the NCAA tournament. Healthy again, Gillespie will try to lead Villanova to another Big East title.

12. Remy Martin, Kansas

Former Arizona State star Remy Martin could’ve gone to the NBA, but he chose to join Kansas instead. The three-time All Pac-12 guard led the conference in scoring with 19.1 points per game, reaching the 30 point mark four times. Katz believes Martin could be the missing piece for the Jayhawks this year.

11. Max Abmas, Oral Roberts

The NCAA’s leading scorer is back! Max Abmas took the college basketball world by storm last March, making big-time shots in Oral Roberts’ surprise NCAA tournament run. After averaging 24.5 points per game and shooting 43% from three, Abmas finds himself amongst the sport’s best entering the season.

10. Jaime Jaquez Jr., UCLA

While Jaime Jaquez Jr. might have been overshadowed at UCLA, Katz sees the 6’7’’ wing as a scorer, a baller and a winner entering the season. After improving his stats in the regular season, Jaquez took the next step in UCLA’s Final Four run averaging 15 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 45% from three. Jaquez’s continued growth as a player is part of the reason many have the Bruins as a preseason favorite to return to the Final Four. 

9. Buddy Boeheim, Syracuse

The son of the legendary coach stepped into the spotlight last year and showed what he can do on the floor. Buddy Boeheim scored 55 points in Syracuse’s first two NCAA tournament games making 13 threes on 57% shooting from deep. After shooting the lights out to get the Orange to the Sweet Sixteen, Katz believes Boeheim can replicate his success in 2021-22.

8. Jaden Ivey, Purdue

This summer Ivey shined as one of the best players on the gold medal U-19 USA team, finishing second on the team in scoring despite playing just 16.5 minutes per game. The summer’s performance followed Ivey’s 26-point NCAA tournament game for Purdue. After an outstanding freshman year that saw Ivey named to the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team, Katz thinks Ivey can be one of the best players in the Big Ten for the Boilermakers.

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7. E.J. Liddell, Ohio State

In a conference full of elite bigs, E.J. Liddell can fly under the radar. Liddell averaged 16.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game last year. At midseason’s point, Liddell was on numerous awards watchlists. Liddell helped the Buckeyes to a two-seed in the NCAA tournament. Katz believes he can lead Ohio State to a Big Ten title in 2021-22.

6. Marcus Carr, Texas

The highest-ranked transfer on the list, Marcus Carr joins Texas after making big shots at Minnesota. Carr averaged 19.4 points for the Gophers and was named first-team All-Big Ten. Carr can also do more than score the basketball; he's Minnesota's single-season assist record holder too. Katz sees Carr as the missing piece for Chris Beard at Texas. He could lead the Longhorns to the Final Four.

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5. Tracye Jackson-Davis, Indiana

The Wooden Award finalist is back in Bloomington! Indiana’s Tracye Jackson-Davis returns after averaging 19 points and nine rebounds, shooting 51% from the field. The All-American will try to get the Hoosiers to the NCAA tournament under new head coach Mike Woodson for the first time since 2016. Katz thinks Jackson-Davis could be Big Ten Player of the Year. 

4. Hunter Dickinson, Michigan

Hunter Dickinson returns for Big Blue after a fantastic freshman season. Dickson dominated his position in games and took home numerous accolades in his inaugural collegiate season. Dickinson scored in double-figures in 23 games while shooting nearly 60% from the floor. Only a sophomore, Katz calls Dickinson one of the best bigs in the country.

3. Kofi Cockburn, Illinois

Kofi Cockburn had a busy offseason looking at the NBA and entering the transfer portal. However, he returns to Illinois where he looks to have another exceptional season. Cockburn was a consensus second-team All-American, putting up 16 double-doubles during the season. Katz believes Cockburn’s immovable post presence can lead Illinois deeper in the NCAA tournament and possibly to a Big Ten title.

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2. Drew Timme, Gonzaga

Drew Timme became a household name during Gonzaga’s undefeated run. After losing in the national championship game, Timme will try to get Gonzaga back to the year’s biggest game, this time with a different result. He’ll have more responsibility this season without 2021 NBA lottery pick Corey Kispert, but he’ll be joined by prized recruit Chet Holmgren. Katz believes Timme is one of the country’s best players on one of the country’s best teams.

1. Johnny Juzang, UCLA

After leading UCLA to the Final Four, Johnny Juzang is the top returning player entering the 2021-22 college basketball season. In the NCAA tournament, Juzang averaged 22.8 points on 50.9% shooting from the field. However, after suffering a heartbreaking buzzer-beater defeat, Juzang return to the Bruins better, stronger and more focused. Katz forecasts an outstanding season over the course of the year for one of the best players in the country.

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