BY SHANNON RYAN
North Carolina just snipped down the nets after winning the national championship on Monday night against Gonzaga but we already are turning our attention to next season.
Can the Tar Heels repeat? Will Kentucky’s talented freshmen deliver this year? Will Michigan State be a contender?
Here’s an early look at the top 10:
The Wildcats will lose projected lottery pick Lauri Markkanen but coach Sean Miller has a top-five recruiting class that includes 7-foot center DeAndre Ayton coming in. If Allonzo Trier returns, the Wildcats should be dominant.
Josh Jackson likely will leave for the NBA and Frank Mason III will graduate. LaGerald Vick (7.4 ppg), Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (9.8 ppg) and Carlton Bragg (5.2 ppg) are capable of taking on even bigger roles, and Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman should bolster the roster.
Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard haven’t made their decisions yet about turning pro. If they come back, combined with a stellar top-10 recruiting class, the Blue Devils could be competing for a national title.
Those young Spartans gained valuable experience that will pay off next season. Leading scorer Miles Bridges is likely headed to the NBA, rising sophomores Nick Ward, Joshua Langford and Cassius Winston will make Michigan State the class of the Big Ten.
Six of the top eight scorers return to Rick Pitino’s squad to combine with a top-10 recruiting class that features five-star center Malik Williams. Returning point guard Quentin Snider will be a key player.
The Shockers return 10 players who competed at least 10 minutes per game on a 31-win team that challenged Kentucky in the Sweet 16.
Same as usual. The Wildcats will lose talented players (Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox) but bring in the nation’s best recruiting class. They need to prove this talent can translate on the court to earn a higher ranking.
Could the Tar Heels make a third straight Final Four? If point guard Joel Berry II returns, combined with talents Theo Pinson and Luke Maye, they could. North Carolina will likely lose Justin Jackson and Tony Bradley to the draft as well as losing seniors Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks.
Three seniors depart but guard Jalen Brunson will be back. Guard Mikal Bridges is poised to become a star as a junior. Forward Omari Spellman, who was academically ineligible this season as a freshman, should make a strong front court impact for the Wildcats.
The NCAA Tournament runner-up could have another strong season behind guard Nigel Williams-Goss. If forward Zach Collins decides to return for his sophomore season, the Bulldogs could be a top five team.