Busting Brackets

NCAA Basketball: Alabama, Kentucky rises in latest way-too-early top-25 power rankings for 2024-25

Alabama v Connecticut
Alabama v Connecticut / Christian Petersen/GettyImages
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4. Gonzaga Bulldogs

Despite there being depth issues last season, Gonzaga still made yet another Sweet 16 appearance. And despite losing Anton Watson, the Bulldogs not only return everyone else of importance but also add several transfers. In fact, they may be so deep that Braeden Smith, the transfer from Colgate who earned Patriot League Player of the Year, is reportedly sitting out and redshirting next season.

The backcourt duo of Nolan Hickman and Ryan Nembhard are back, as well as former Big Sky POY Steele Venters, who was hurt last season. Arkansas transfer Khalif Battle gives them a needed scoring punch as a potential star 6th Man, while Michael Ajayi, who averaged around 17 ppg and 10 rpg at Pepperdine, will pair with Graham Ike as one of the best frontcourt duos in the country. There’s no reason why this team can’t be in the top-10 mix for yet another season.

3. Houston Cougars

Even after moving to the Big 12 a year ago, Houston was able to extend its 30+ season win streak to three years and is very likely to make it four straight. They return just about its entire roster, outside of two guards. But one of them is a big one in Jamal Shead, who was both the Big 12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year this past season.

Replacing Shead at point guard is Milos Uzan, a double-digit scorer at Oklahoma for the past two years. He won’t need to do too much, as leading scorer LJ Cryer is back to lead the backcourt, while Emanuel Sharp and Terrance Arceneaux are back to add to the depth. Forward J’Wan Roberts and Ja’Vier Francis are also back to maintain the elite interior defense as well.