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.
The Cougars’ ranking is based on Houston returning a core featuring both players it lost to injury in December (Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark) plus Jamal Shead. That’s three double-digit scorers Kelvin Sampson should have to pair with Jarace Walker, a 5-star freshman who is among the reasons Houston will once again be the favorite in the AAC.
The Razorbacks’ ranking is based on Arkansas returning three of the top five scorers from a team that advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year – among them Jaylin Williams and Davonte Davis. Eric Musselman will add three 5-star prospects to that core and have a group good enough to get Arkansas back to the Final Four for the first time since 1995.