Well, it’s that time again. Now that we’re knee-deep in the college basketball offseason, it’s time to reveal our Too Early Other Top 25 Rankings for the 2020-21 season*. Over the next few days, we’ll release them five at a time until the whole set is out and ready to be blasted by the crazed fans of Twitter. Away we go!
[extremely marketing director writing an email blast voice]
In these unprecedented times, we know that you turn to the vaunted institutions for signs of guidance and normalcy. That’s why you come here to stoke your anger at our takes rather than the onslaught of daily news that draws your ire.
The Other Top 25 Rankings are a pair of jeans that fit a little bit tighter than you remember. It’s that cup of coffee from the office Keurig that tastes like pond water but still gives you the caffeine fix you need. It’s the lawyer from that mid-sized firm in your building that always ends up at the same lunch spot as you and talks a little bit too loud on his cell phone.
They may irritate you, but deep down you miss these little aspects of daily life that have become non-existent over the past few months.
But we’re back, and we’re already halfway through the rankings. If you missed Nos. 21-25 and 16-20, get caught up. We’re knocking on the door of the top 10 today.
15. Dayton Flyers
2019-20: 29-2 (18-0), Atlantic 10 regular season champion
The Flyers took the nation by storm last year and put together a season for the ages. Behind National Player of the Year Obi Toppin, Dayton had positioned itself for a deep run in March that could have very well ended in a national championship. Despite Toppin’s departure to the NBA as well as a few other changes to the roster, Anthony Grant still returns multiple pieces from last year’s core that should keep Dayton in the mix in the Atlantic 10.
Jalen Crutcher entered his name in the NBA Draft, but if he returns he’ll be one of the frontrunners for A-10 Player of the Year after being one of the best second bananas in college basketball last year. He’ll be joined in the backcourt by Ibi Watson — who’s the only other returning player that averaged double-figures — and fellow starter Rodney Chatman.
The biggest question mark for Grant will be how to man the frontcourt. Jordy Tshimanga only played in roughly 10 minutes per game last year, but he’ll have to take on a much larger role to replace Toppin and Ryan Mikesell. Grant will likely look to redshirt freshman Moulaye Sissoko to fill some minutes. He is a 6’9 center from Mali that came to the United States just a few years ago.
Dayton isn’t going to be the uber-efficient force that it was last year, but there’s a solid foundation of senior guards that should give the Flyers a high floor.
14. Austin Peay Governors
2019-20: 21-12 (14-4)
Let’s. Go. Peay.
Assuming guards Terry Taylor and Jordyn Adams return to school, the best offense in the OVC last year will have its two catalysts back in tow. The duo combined for just under 40 points per game and used over 50 percent of Austin Peay’s possessions when they were on the floor. Taylor took home OVC Player of the Year honors, while Adams was named Freshman of the Year and joined Taylor on the All-OVC First Team.
The Governors go as they go, but it never hurts to have two of the best players in the conference on the same team.
Carlos Paez began to grow into the point guard role late in the season as conference play progressed. In OVC games, he averaged just under four assists per contest, and his assist-to-turnover ratio was just under 3:1. His continued development as a facilitator should ease the burden on Taylor and Adams to create their own offense. Alec Woodard will also see some more minutes in the backcourt after hitting 41.9 percent of his attempts from deep last year.
Matt Figger has shown that he can construct a potent offense. However, the defensive side will be the deciding factor in the Governors trying to usurp the OVC crown from Belmont or Murray State.
13. Yale Bulldogs
2019-20: 23-7 (11-3), Ivy League regular season champion
The reigning Ivy League champs should be the prohibitive favorites to win the league again next season.
Paul Atkinson returns as Ivy League Player of the Year after putting up one of the most well-rounded and efficient seasons in the country. He’ll be joined by fellow senior and All-Ivy First Team honoree Azar Swain. Together the two form one of the best inside-out duos east of the Mississippi. Swain really took a leap last year as he more than doubled his scoring average and hit almost 39 percent of his three-point attempts on over eight tries per contest.
James Jones will also return senior wing Jalen Gabbidon, who was named Co-Defensive Player of the Year with Brown’s Jaylan Gainey. At 7.6 points per game, Matthue Cotton is the third-highest returning scorer for the Bulldogs despite playing under 20 minutes per game last season.
Losing a versatile star in Jordan Bruner is hard to overcome for any team, but Yale still brings back a huge chunk of last season’s production. Look for Yale to compete for a third-straight regular season title and top-100 season if everyone stays healthy.
12. North Texas Mean Green
2019-20: 20-11 (14-4), Conference USA regular season champion
Grant McCasland hasn’t wasted any time getting things up and running in Denton. The Mean Green won 20 games for the third straight year, and the 34th-most efficient offense, per KenPom, propelled them to a C-USA title.
The biggest revelation was the emergence of Javion Hamlet, who turned out to be one of the best JuCo transfers in the country last season. The guard led the Mean Green in scoring at 14.6 points per game and assists at 4.7. His play earned him C-USA Player of the Year honors, and it’s reasonable to think that he enters next season as one of the frontrunners to take home the award next year.
Hamlet will need to be a star again to help pick up some of the slack from the departures of Umoja Gibson (transfer to Oklahoma) and Deng Geu. However, he won’t be alone. The Mean Green bring back four other seniors, including starters James Reese and Zachary Simmons. Thomas Bell also returns after leading the team in rebounds and hitting just under 37 percent from deep coming off the bench.
It all runs through Hamlet, though. When he goes, the Mean Green go. Lucky for McCasland, he has one of the best point guards in the country at his disposal. North Texas should be in the top tier of C-USA once again.
11. St. Bonaventure Bonnies
2019-20: 19-12 (11-7)
This is a bet on continuity, health, and the consistency of Mark Schmidt’s coaching abilities.
Last season, the Bonnies were ranked No. 336 in Experience, but No. 184 in Minutes Continuity. Simply put, they were still a young bunch consisting of primarily freshmen and sophomores. Taking injuries into account, it’s kind of amazing that St. Bonaventure nearly earned a double-bye in the A-10 Tournament.
Next season, the Bonnies return over 80 percent of last season’s minutes and their top six scorers (none of which are seniors, by the way). Schmidt will have his junior trio of guards consisting of Kyle Lofton, Jaren English and Dominick Welch all back with another year of experience navigating the choppy A-10 waters under their belts.
The X-Factor, though, will be Osun Osunniyi. Despite battling a knee injury at different points during the season, the sophomore still managed to improve his scoring average to double figures while being of the best shot blockers in the country at 2.4 per game.
Justin Winston showed promise as a freshman, and Jalen Adaway should provide solid depth on the perimeter after sitting out a season following his transfer from Miami OH. And we haven’t even mentioned Alejandro Vazquez yet, who was the team’s sixth-leading scorer as a freshman.
The Bonnies are going to be deep and dangerous as their promising core become upperclassmen.