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Andy Katz | NCAA.com Correspondent | April 8, 2022

Arizona, Arkansas top Andy Katz's way-too-early Power 36 men's basketball rankings

Andy Katz's way-too-early 2022-23 Power 36

Kansas is still basking in the title in a Final Four that returned us all to normalcy in men’s college basketball with an epic Duke-North Carolina semifinal and plenty of drama to last us throughout the summer. 

The transfer portal rages on and won’t settle down until May 1 when players have to decide if they will want to be eligible immediately for next season. The NBA draft process won’t calm down until later in the month of May once players start to withdraw or make a formal commitment. All of that means rosters won’t be settled until June 1 at the earliest.

Still, we are tackling the first offseason Power 36 for 2022-23. 

Way-too-early Power 36 rankings

1. Arizona

I mentioned to coach Tommy Lloyd that I was likely going to put the Wildcats No. 1. He didn’t have a problem with it at all. The reason? The anticipation is that Arizona may only lose Benedict Mathurin of its key players. So, if four are back — including Christian Koloko to go along with Kerr Kriisa, Dalen Terry and Azoulas Tubelis — then Arizona should be the top pick. The bench will be strong with Pelle Larsson, Oumar Ballo and Adama Bal even more comfortable under the AP national coach of the year.

2. Arkansas

The Hogs, a surprise Elite Eight team for the second-straight season, picked up the second-best recruiting class in the country led by Nick Smith. Arkansas also did well in the transfer portal by nabbing Jalen Graham of Arizona State. Jaylin Williams declared for the NBA draft but there’s always a chance he comes back. This Arkansas team will be young but loaded with talent. Don’t be shocked if it just takes a few months to have them reach their full potential. 

HOW IT HAPPENED: Kansas completes historic comeback to win the national title

3. Kentucky

The Wildcats could, yes could, return Oscar Tshiebwe, who was the consensus national player of the year. If that happens then he could and would be the favorite to repeat the honor. Sahvir Wheeler, who led the SEC in assists the past two seasons, and Jacob Toppin should be returning alongside healthy Iowa transfer CJ Frederick, who had to sit out the season due to injury. Incoming studs Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston give the Wildcats the necessary defensive pop. John Calipari will continue to shape the roster and make Kentucky an SEC/title contender. 

4. Baylor

The Bears should have Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer with Flo Thamba back in the fold too. If Langston Love, who was out with an ACL injury, is healthy and Keyonte George is as advertised then the Bears will be a favorite in the Big 12. Matthew Mayer and Jeremy Sochan could also be back, which would enhance the Bears’ chances to win the league even more. 

5. Michigan

The Wolverines could still get Hunter Dickinson back which would be another coup. Moussa Diabate is also a possibility. Add Tarris Reed Jr., and the Wolverines would have the best frontcourt in the country outside of Arizona. Maybe even top prospect Caleb Houstan is another possibility of returning. If he does and lives up to his hype then the Wolverines would be filled with star power. Frankie Collins will have an emerging role too for Juwan Howard, who could have his second Big Ten title in three seasons. 

6. Duke

The Blue Devils notably will have a new coach in Jon Scheyer, replacing the legendary Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski. Duke could have its starting backcourt returning in Jeremy Roach and Wendell Moore Jr., to go along with the top recruiting class in the country (the expectation is that Paolo Banchero, Trevor Keels, AJ Griffin and Mark Williams will all declare for the draft, but if they all were to stay then — wow what a team this would be!). The recruiting class led by Derrick Lively II, Kyle Filipowski and Dariq Whitehead will have a similar impact to last season’s stellar crew. 

7. North Carolina

Don’t be shocked if Armando Bacot returns, and if he does then the Tar Heels should be right back in the chase for a Final Four berth. Caleb Love and RJ Davis would give the Tar Heels arguably the best backcourt in the country. The key will be finding another top scorer like Brady Manek. However, Hubert Davis did a phenomenal job in year one, and there’s no reason why he can’t in year two. 

8. Kansas

The reigning national champs should have a core returning of Christian Braun, Jalen Wilson and Dajuan Harris to go along with Joseph Yesufu, KJ Adams JR., and Bobby Pettiford. McDonald’s All-Americans Gradey Dick, MJ Rice and Ernest Udeh Jr., give the Jayhawks plenty of talent to reload and make another run for a Big 12 title. 

9. UCLA

The Bruins are 68-30 in Mick Cronin’s first three seasons. Excellence will continue. The hope and maybe anticipation is that Tyger Campbell will be back to lead this squad. He would be a ball dominant guard. The rest of the roster could be influx, but the pairing with McDonald’s All-American Amari Bailey in the backcourt will make the Bruins a formidable force. Incoming big man Adem Bona should be also be a key. 

10. Villanova

Never ever doubt Villanova. Ever. The Wildcats are a top 10 program. Full stop. The hope is that Justin Moore comes back healthy from the Achilles to be the top scorer on the squad. Chris Arcidacono and Bryan Antoine will increase their roles, and Eric Dixon should excel in a more featured position. This team won’t have the same experience, but someone has to knock them off the perch first in the Big East. 

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11. Houston

The Cougars might get back Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mack, who were both done for the season in December. Sasser declared for the draft, but left open a chance to return. They combined for 28 points a game prior to going down. Kelvin Sampson added one of the best signing classes in school history, led by McDonald’s all-American Jarace Walker. Sampson. Yes, Sampson. He’s one of the main reasons, if not the reason, why there is optimism in Houston. He’s arguably one of the best coaches in the country, and consistently maximizes talent. 

12. Gonzaga

Drew Timme declared for the NBA draft, but still left open the window for a return. Chet Holmgren is surely gone. So, this will be a team in transition with some star time for Julian Strawther, Anton Watson, Hunter Sallis, Nolan Hickman and hopefully big man Kaden Perry if he’s healthy. Expect the Zags to be fairly active in the transfer portal as well. 

13. Michigan State

No decision has been announced, but let’s assume Max Christie returns to give the Spartans a star in his second year. Christie could take a Keegan Murray/Johnny Davis type jump. The backcourt of Tyson Walker and A.J. Hoggard should be back, and so too should Malik Hall and Julius Marble II to give Sparty a legit frontcourt to compete with any team in the Big Ten. Expect the Spartans and Wolverines to be the two best teams in the Big Ten. 

14. Creighton

The Bluejays could end up winning the Big East. They nearly knocked off eventual champ Kansas. The Bluejays will return three starters and six of the top nine. The Bluejays bring back Ryan Kalkbrenner, a 7-1 center who dominated his position. Arthur Kaluma, who was a major player down the stretch. And a backcourt of Ryan Nembhard and Trey Alexander. The Bluejays had to play Kansas without injured Kalkbrenner and Nembhard and, still, almost won. 

15. Purdue

The Boilermakers could have an experienced starting lineup with Zach Edey inside, Mason Gillis and Caleb Furst as the power players and Brandon Newman and Ethan Morton on the perimeter. The Boilers expect major contributions from Brian Waddell, Braden Smith, Fletcher Loyer, Cam Heide and Will Berg to give Matt Painter plenty of options. 

16. Texas

Chris Beard. And that means the Longhorns will be in contention in the Big 12, regardless of the roster. Still, Christian Bishop said he’s back, and so are Brock Cunningham, Dylan Disu and Devin Askew. A pair of McDonald’s All-Americans  Dillion Mitchell and Arterio Morris come in. Timmy Allen could return as well. So, stay tuned. 

17. Auburn

Bruce Pearl always maximizes his talent and while this team will get gutted up front by the draft, the backcourt should be strong with K.D. Johnson, Wendell Green Jr. and Allen Flanagan. Jaylin Williams and Dylan Cardwell will get more run, and the newcomer class of Yohan Traore, Chance Westry and Tre Donaldson will have the Tigers in the SEC chase. 

18. Alabama

Still to be determined on JD Davison and Jaden Shackelford, but if they are both back then the Tide enter as one of the teams to beat in the SEC. A healthy Jahvon Quinerly would give Alabama one of the most experienced backcourts in the country. Now add in a No. 3 recruiting class, led by Nick Pringle, and Brandon Miller and Alabama should be loaded with talent next season.

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19. Xavier

Sean Miller is back and that should mean the Musketeers will be in the NCAA Tournament as well. Miller is a winner and was one with the Musketeers. He also has Colby Jones and Jack Nunge as well as Zach Freemantle as anchors for his first team in his return. 

20. Illinois

The Illini have one major question. Will Kofi Cockburn come back and be rewarded with a monster NIL deal or will he try to play in the NBA or overseas? If he comes back then the Illini shoot higher in these rankings. The Illini just picked up guard Skyy Clark to replace the departures of Trent Frazier and Andre Curbelo. Coleman Hawkins could be a stud for Illinois in a more featured role. Expect more playing time for Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk, RJ Melendez and Luke Goode in what should be a deep team again. 

21. Texas A&M

The NIT runner-up should return two key players in Henry Coleman III and Tyrece Radford. Two other starters in Manny Obaseki and Wade Taylor IV make the Aggies a formidable force in the SEC as well. The Aggies should have the momentum to be a factor in the SEC. If the majority stay then the Aggies would return 72% of scoring and 85% of rebounds. 

22. Tennessee

Lot of questions remain for the Vols, but there is a still a chance that the top four scorers return. If Kennedy Chandler, Zakai Zeigler, Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James were to return, or at least three of the four, then the Vols should be higher in the polls. Rick Barnes has built a strong foundation in a short time in Knoxville. 

23. San Diego State

The Aztecs are the most consistent program in the state of California and will be steered by Matt Bradley again — the Mountain West newcomer of the year. Lamont Butler and Keshad Johnson along with the possibility of Nathan Mensah back means the Aztecs will have the defensive ability to lock down again. The recruiting picked up, and Brian Dutcher has had the Aztecs in the Mountain West title chase every season. 

24. Southern California

The Trojans bring back Drew Peterson and Boogie Ellis. Tack on guard Reese Dixon-Waters and the Trojans will be more than fine in the backcourt. Kobe Johnson and Harrison Hornery will help defensively. Ensuring there are frontcourt scorers is the top priority. Andy Enfield has a longterm deal, and he has consistently kept the Trojans in the Pac-12 mix. 

25. Dayton

The Flyers are scheduled to return all five starters from a team that finished 14-4 and were the last team out of the field. Though Dayton did beat Kansas and Miami during the season. A-10 rookie of the year DaRon Holmes II is back as well as Malachi Smith and Koby Brea. All were A-10 stars this past season. If there are no more defections, then Dayton will return 90% of possible minutes played, meaning that the Flyers may end up much higher in our post portal/NBA draft deadline Power 36.

26. Oregon

The Ducks underachieved last season, a rarity for a Dana Altman team. That won’t happen again. The roster could be in flux, but De’vion Harmon and Quincy Guerrier could be back. The additions of heralded freshmen big Kel’el Ware and lead guard Dior Johnson make the Ducks a formidable team in the Pac-12. 

27. Saint Mary’s

Logan Johnson should be back, and he will be a star for the Gaels. Alex Ducas and Augustas Marciulionis will see their roles increase. And Randy Bennett will have this squad ready to slice and dice up any opponent that isn’t prepared for their cutting offense. 

28. TCU

The Horned Frogs should return five of their top six scorers, including Emanuel Miller and Damion Baugh. That means 72% of points and 74% of minutes would return. Board man Eddie Lampkin is back after he ended with a 20 and 14 game against Arizona. This team does rebound exceptionally well. Coach Jamie Dixon has a new long-term deal. All signs are pointing up for TCU in the Big 12. 

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29. Memphis

The Tigers have some uncertainty, certainly with the expectation of Jalen Duren leaving. Josh Minott would likely be gone too. If Emoni Bates is healthy then he steps into the staring role with Chandler Lawson, Jonathan Lawson, Malcolm Dandridge and Jayden Hardaway. The assumption is that senior Alex Lomax isn’t back, but if he were then that would move up the Tigers for sure. If Memphis ends up with a veteran crew again then this ranking will improve for sure in a month’s time. 

30. Ohio State

The big piece that is expected to come back is a healthy Justice Seeing. If that happens then the Buckeyes will have an immediate impact scorer. Wright State transfer Tanner Holden and a top five recruiting class means the Buckeyes will reload and be in the Big Ten chase yet again. 

31. Iowa

Kris Murray could be a star for the Hawkeyes and a Big Ten player of the year candidate. Patrick McCaffery, Tony Perkins, Payton Sandfort, and the expectation of the return of Connor McCaffery means the Hawkeyes will once again have experience on the perimeter. This squad will once again score well, have a dominant home court, and be in the thick of the Big Ten chase. 

32. Wisconsin

The Badgers were picked 10th and finished tied for first with Illinois. So, doubting the Badgers would be a mistake. The threesome of point guard Chucky Hepburn, forward Tyler Wahl and forward Steven Crowl should give the Badgers a chance in every game. 

33. Davidson

The Wildcats will again be an A-10 favorite under Bob McKillop. The return of Hyunjung Lee, Foster Loyer, Sam Mennenga and Michael Jones make this squad experienced yet again. This team will be a hard out, regardless of venue and location. 

34. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys will bring back Big 12 defensive player of the year in Moussa Cisse. Three of the top five scorers are back including Avery Anderson and Bryce Thompson. This maybe too low for the Cowboys. Expect OSU to be back in the NCAA Tournament at the very least. 

35. Texas Tech

The Red Raiders were one of the surprise teams last season. Expect wholesale changes and plenty of portal movement. What won’t change is Mark Adams’ influence, the Red Raiders being No. 1 or at least one of the best defensive efficiency teams, and a home-court advantage that has become one of the best in the country (18-0 this past season). 

36. Wyoming

There is a chance Hunter Maldonado comes back. He will test the NBA draft process. If he comes back then the Pokes could be a Mountain West title contender again. Graham Ike is another major piece of this puzzle. He was a dominant player in the post. The combination of Maldonado and Ike make this squad hard to knock out in Laramie. 

Under consideration: UConn, Virginia, Florida State, Indiana, Colorado, Rutgers, Miami, Colorado State, Washington State, SMU, Saint Louis, VCU, Murray State, Drake, BYU, Portland, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Providence, UAB, Wake Forest, Notre Dame, Iowa State
 

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