Busting Brackets

NCAA Basketball: Top 50 players returning to same team for 2024-25 season

Tennessee v Creighton
Tennessee v Creighton / Aaron J. Thornton/GettyImages
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Tier 2: All-American or Bust

11. Tamin Lipsey - Iowa State
The best of the three Cyclones on this list, Lipsey went from a good playmaker with a turnover problem and a broken jumper as a freshman, to First Team All-Big 12 as a sophomore. He jumped from 20% to 39.4% from deep and cut out a half a turnover a game, while also having an equivalent bump in assists. On the other end, Lipsey was sixth nationally in steal rate, fueling Iowa State to the second best turnover forcing defense in college basketball.

10. Zakai Ziegler - Tennessee
Remember Tennessee's desperation in spring 2022? Rumors of tampering with dozens of point guards, only to drop a bag to Tyreke Key in a failed attempt to convert him to that spot. It turned out to be a gift that forced Ziegler into the lineup. He's already won SEC Defensive Player of the Year and ran away with the conference's assist title. Now he'll become the unquestioned centerpiece for a Volunteers offense that will have some serious questions in the scoring department.

9. Augustas Marciulionis - St. Mary's
Marciulionis is probably the most anonymous name in the top ten, unless you're on the west coast or remember his dad from the '90s Olympics, but the son won WCC Player of the Year over his backcourt mate (headed to the back-to-back national champions) and another player still to come on this list. After a brutal start for everyone in Moraga, Marciulionis became a star during St. Mary's 18-1 late season stretch, putting up 13.7 ppg and a jaw dropping 6.4 apg over that span to drive the Gaels to the WCC double title (outright regular season and conference tournament) for the second time (2012).

8. Wade Taylor IV - Texas A&M
Texas A&M didn't have a pretty offense, but nonetheless, it was top thirty in Kenpom efficiency thanks to offensive rebounding and Taylor. 19.1 ppg, 4.0 apg and a memorable run of 20+ point performances in all five of the Aggies' postseason games epitomize his impact. The Buzz Williams era has started to produce results in College Station, but the heat is now on Taylor to lead the best A&M roster since 2016 on a deep run.

7. Graham Ike - Gonzaga
Ike didn't miss a beat in his return from a full season injury absence, and was a dominant interior force (61.4% from two on 10.4 attempts per game) when he was able to play. Ike was held to 24.2 mpg, due to some serious foul problems (four or five fouls in eleven of Gonzaga's last twenty games). His per minute stats were even better than his First Team All-Mountain West season at Wyoming and is Gonzaga's ultimate matchup nightmare in the smaller WCC.

6. Braden Smith - Purdue
Smith quickly went from just some shooter around the Naismith winner, to a dynamite sidekick for Zach Edey and a First Team All-Big Ten player in his own right. The nation's number two assist player, and a 43.1% three point shooter, he was the ideal partner for a star center. Now, Smith faces the next step, becoming a focal point himself. The Boilermakers return two other veteran starters (Fletcher Loyer and Trey Kaufman-Renn), but are otherwise pretty young, with six freshmen.