The coronavirus pandemic forced March Madness to be cancelled, and, as things stand, it could have a significant say in whether the 2020-21 college basketball season is carried out. However, that doesn't mean that experts can't dive into some early offseason rankings, right?
On Wednesday, ESPN released its way-too-early Top 25 for next campaign and it features a number of surprising inclusions. For instance, Iowa features at No. 5, and Texas and Indiana made considerable jumps after a solid recruiting and transfer cycle.
The Hawkeyes cracking the top five over Kansas, which was unanimously voted No. 1 in the final AP poll after the 2019-20 season was cancelled, is a real head-scratcher, but analysts feel that star big man Luke Garza and returning senior guard Jordan Bohannon are enough to give Iowa the nod over the Jayhawks.
The rest of the top four, in order, includes the likes of Gonzaga, Villanova, Baylor and Virginia, all of whom won at least 23 games last campaign. We would keep an eye on the Bulldogs, however, as head coach Mark Few figures to lose a few key players to the NBA Draft. The draft withdrawal deadline was delayed in light of COVID-19, however, so not all is set in stone.
Kentucky comes in at No. 13 after losing several stars to the Draft and fellow blueblood UNC is right behind its SEC counterpart at No. 14. The Heels were surely not too busted up about closing the book on their disaster of a 14-19 season a bit early.
Rutgers, poised to end a long NCAA Tournament drought last season, rounds out the top 25. Head coach Steve Pikiell will return four starters from 2019-20, including backcourt tandem Gio Baker and Ron Harper Jr.
It would be foolish to overreact to this mid-May ranking, but it at least leaves college basketball fans with something to argue over after the brutally abrupt end to this year's campaign.