Volunteers' ranking is based on Tennessee returning four of its top five scorers - among them Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James. Tennessee will miss one-and-done point guard Kennedy Chandler but should still be a factor near the top of the SEC.
The team's ranking is based on Duke losing five players early to the NBA Draft. But coach Jon Scheyer has lined himself for success by securing the nation's top-ranked recruiting class, one that includes 5-star prospects Dereck Lively, Kyle Filiiipowski, Dariq Whitehead and Mark Mitchell.
A top-five recruiting class highlighted by 5-star prospects Gradey Dick, MJ Rice and Ernest Udeh - plus Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar - should have Bill Self's program competing for yet another Big 12 title.
The Bears' ranking is based on LJ Cryer, Adam Flagler and Flo Thamba returning from a team that shared the Big 12 title with Kansas. The addition of 5-star guard Keyonte George should give Baylor one of the sport's best backcourts.
The Bruins' ranking is based on Jaime Jaquez, Jules Bernard and Tyger Campbell providing Mick Cronin with a veteran core. UCLA should have a real chance to make the Final Four for the second time in three years.
Eric Musselman's team should still be a Final Four contender thanks to the addition of three five-star freshman (Nick Smith, Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh) plus impactful transfers like Ricky Council (Wichita State), Jalen Graham (Arizona State) and Makhi Mitchell (Rhode Island).
Supported by transfers like former 5-star prospect Efton Reid, Gonzaga returning six of the top eight scorers from a team that finished first at KenPom - among them Drew Timme and Julian Strawther. That would provide Mark Few with a strong veteran core.
3. Kentucky Wildcats
At the Wildcats', Keion Brooks entering the transfer portal wasn't ideal but will simply create a bigger opportunity for Jacob Toppin, who had better shooting percentages than Brooks from the field and 3-point line last season.
Houston returning a core featuring both players it lost to injury in December (Sasser and Tramon) plus Jamal . That's three double-digit scorers Kelvin Sampson should have to pair with Jarace Walker, who is among the reasons Houston will once again be the favorite in the AAC.
The Tar Heels' ranking is based on North Carolina returning every rotation player except for Brady Manek - among them All-American Armando Bacot, NCAA Tournament star Caleb Love and defensive specialist Leaky Black. UNC has the best and most-accomplished returning core in the sport.