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McDonald's Nuggets: Most improved college teams (so far)

In this week’s edition of McDonald’s Nuggets, Dan McDonald discusses which college basketball teams will make the biggest jump next season and names his 2021 and 2022 Commits of the Week.


MORE: Prospects that have improved their stock | Florida Man on Jalen Duren, more

2021 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2022 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2023 Rankings: Top 30


WHAT’S ON MY MIND: Five most improved teams for 2021-22 season (so far)

Paolo Banchero
Paolo Banchero (

Next year’s top 25 and NCAA Tournament will likely look a little different than what we saw this past season. For starters, some of the traditional powers didn’t live up to usual expectations but should be back next season. There are also teams ready to make a jump next season, whether it is from the addition of transfers or incoming recruits or top players deciding to come back.

It feels weird to mention Duke as a team that could make a big jump, but the Blue Devils are coming off the worst season in decades. Jeremy Roach, Wendell Moore and Mark Williams coming back is a nice trio to build around, but Coach K also has another terrific recruiting class coming in with Paolo Banchero, A.J. Griffin and Trevor Keels. Don’t be surprised if Duke is back inside the top 10 next season.

Like Duke, Kentucky is coming off one of its worst seasons in recent memory. Keion Brooks will be back and could be one of the top players in the SEC. The Wildcats also did some serious damage in the transfer portal with the addition of former Davidson star Kellan Grady and West Virginia big man Oscar Tshiebwe, and they remain in the mix for top transfers like Adam Miller and CJ Frederick. John Calipari will have this group back toward the top of the SEC.

Maryland has been on the verge of a real breakthrough season under Mark Turgeon for a while now. The Terrapins haven't quite made that next jump, but next season could be their time. The additions of Fatts Russell and Qudus Wahab are significant as they join three returning double-digit scorers in Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins and Donta Scott.

Purdue has yet to reach the Final Four under Matt Painter, but 2022 could be the year for the Boilermakers to make that happen. Eric Hunter will be back for his senior season, and he will be joined by Jaden Ivey and Brandon Newman, who are both coming off terrific freshman seasons. A big part of what happens in West Lafayette hinges on the decision of Trevion Williams, who is testing the waters with the NBA Draft. If he comes back, Purdue should be as good as anyone.

The Final Four run this year came as a huge surprise, but if UCLA makes it back in 2022, it won’t be nearly the shocker it was to see Mick Cronin’s group make it out of the First Four to the last weekend. Johnny Juzang’s NBA Draft decision looms large here. If he decides to come back the Bruins will have five returning players who averaged 9.8 points per game or more. They’ll also add five-star wing Peyton Watson, who could slide into the starting lineup seamlessly if Juzang does leave, and Myles Johnson from Rutgers via the transfer portal. It could be a fun year in Westwood from start to finish.


TRANSFER OF THE WEEK: Dylan Disu to Texas 

Dylan Disu
Dylan Disu (AP Images)

Chris Beard has wasted no time putting together a terrific roster in Austin, particularly through the transfer portal. This week, it’s the addition of former Vanderbilt star Dylan Disu that helps bolster an already-talented roster for the Longhorns. Disu is coming off a sophomore season in which he averaged 15 points and 9.2 rebounds per game for the Commodores. He’ll make a huge impact back in his home state of Texas.



2021 COMMIT OF THE WEEK: KJ Simpson to Colorado

The former Arizona commit backed out of his initial decision upon the news of Sean Miller’s departure. Simpson is a huge addition for Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes. He’s the third four-star prospect in Colorado’s 2021 class that now ranks 14th overall on The 6-foot-3 combo guard is a really good athlete that competes on both ends and is a truly gifted scorer.



2022 COMMIT OF THE WEEK: Branden Smith to Purdue

It only took two days for Braden Smith to get back to Matt Painter with a commitment after receiving a scholarship offer on Tuesday night. Purdue was the first high-major offer for the Indiana native, who also had interest coming in from Gonzaga, Indiana, Oregon and Villanova. Smith is coming off a junior season in which he averaged 22 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds per game while shooting 45% from three-point range. He joins fellow Indiana native Fletcher Loyer in Purdue’s 2022 class.