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Rivals Roundtable: Most pressing rankings questions

This week in Rivals.com’s hoops roundtable, Rob Cassidy, Jaimie Shaw and Dan McDonald discuss rankings questions they hope the season ahead will answer, examine intriguing college teams outside the preseason top 25 and log their national title predictions.

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2022 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2023 Rankings: Rivals150

2024 Rankings: Top 40

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1. WHAT’S THE MOST PRESSING RANKINGS QUESTION YOU HOPE TO GET ANSWERED DURING THE HIGH SCHOOL SEASON?

DJ Wagner
DJ Wagner (Courtesy of USA Basketball)

CASSIDY: The top of the 2023 rankings interests me, as there seem to be new contenders for the top spot emerging. Last year at this time, I was considering the possibility of current No. 1 DJ Wagner going wire-to-wire on top of the heap. These days, cases can be made for a number of other players when it comes to challenging the incumbent. It starts with No. 2 overall ​​Marquis Cook, but Wagner’s AAU teammate, Mackenzie Mgbako, who sits at No. 3, is also in play. So is No. 10 Gregory Jackson, who is off to a wildly impressive start this season and has garnered the support of our Jamie Shaw.

McDONALD: I still think there is some potential for movement up and down the current 2022 top 10. Sure, Shaedon Sharpe earned that top spot with his play this summer, but the rest of the prospects ranked high right behind him are really strong too. Once the dust settles on the 2022 class after the first McDonald’s All-American Game in three years in March, it wouldn’t surprise me if there is quite a bit of shuffling in the top 10, and even some new names that make a move up into that range and beyond.

SHAW: The 2023 class. The class is considered by most as being down. However, DJ Wagner has had the No. 1 ranking locked in since the start. My curiosity within the season is will anyone challenge Wagner for that top spot. I have firmly planted my eyes on two players, 6-foot-9 Gregory Jackson out of Columbia (S.C.) Ridge View High and 6-foot-10 Matas Buzelis of Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Academy. Jackson is currently ranked No. 10 and Buzelis No. 27. Both are coming into their own as players; both have the size and skillset necessary. Will either take hold of the opportunity and develop the confidence to dominate each time they step on the floor?

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2. WE’RE ROUGHLY A WEEK AWAY FROM THE COLLEGE SEASON. WHO DO YOU THINK WINS THE NATIONAL TITLE AND WHY?

Hunter Dickinson
Hunter Dickinson (© Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

CASSIDY: As I wrote last week, gimme the Jayhawks. There are two reasons for this. 1) I’m a bit of a contrarian and cannot force myself to pick the betting favorite under any circumstances. 2) Remy Martin, surrounded with a deep roster of talent the likes of which he’s never had, is going to be a force. Kansas returns four starters from last year’s team and seems to have few holes. If the Jayhawks can tighten up on defense and stay healthy, I like their chances to cut down the nets.

McDONALD: I’ll go with Michigan to cut down the nets in April. The Wolverines have a really nice combination of experience and talent to go along with a great coaching staff. Michigan’s front court is loaded with Hunter Dickinson back and the addition of five-star freshman Moussa Diabate. I’d expect Terrance Williams to make a big jump this year and be the nice glue piece at the forward spots. Another five-star freshman, Caleb Houstan, will help in a big way with carrying the scoring load, while super senior Eli Brooks and transfer guard DeVante Jones will hold down the backcourt. I love the makeup of this roster and think the Wolverines have the goods to win the whole thing.

SHAW: Michigan. There are a lot of teams in consideration here. However, for me, I think Michigan has the most talent on its roster. Dickinson is a bonafide college star, as is Devonte Jones. The freshman class has three players who should eventually be first-rounders (Houstan, Diabate, and Kobe Bufkin). Brooks will bring a steadying hand to the backcourt, where Frankie Collins will push everyone to be better. Newcomers should push the returners, and if Michigan can find consistent shooting, there are not many holes in Ann Arbor.

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3. WHICH TEAM OUTSIDE THE PRESEASON TOP 25 INTRIGUES YOU MOST?

Tamar Bates
Tamar Bates (Rivals.com)

CASSIDY: Indiana interests me because I have no idea what to expect. A new coaching staff tends to breed optimism, but I’m also incredibly high on freshman Tamar Bates and his upside as a freshman. Trayce Jackson-Davis is back, and the Hoosiers did some work in the transfer portal as well. I think there’s no doubt Indiana will be improved, but just how much to expect in year one of the Mike Woodson Era remains a bit of a mystery because the roster still lacks depth. This could be a team that finds its footing mid-season and really starts to click in Big Ten play.

McDONALD: I’m really intrigued by Mike Woodson’s transition to coaching in college after spending so many years coaching in the NBA. The Hoosiers had a really good off-season on the recruiting trail and now it’s time to see what Woodson’s first Indiana team looks like on the court. Race Thompson and Jackson-Davis are back to hold down the front court. The additions of Miller Kopp, Parker Stewart and Xavier Johnson via the transfer portal and Bates as a late signee in the 2021 class is a pretty strong nucleus to build around. I’d expect this to be a team that will get better as the year goes on.

SHAW: Indiana. They return All-American candidate Trayce Jackson-Davis (19.1 points and nine rebounds) upfront and 27 game starter Race Thompson (9.1 points and 6.2 rebounds). In the backcourt, Rob Phinisee brings a veteran presence along with an expected step from former five-star Khristian Lander. Last season Pitt guard transfer Xavier Johnson averaged 14.2 points, 5.7 assists, Northwestern forward transfer Miller Kopp averaged 11.3 points on 34 made threes, and 7-foot USF transfer Michael Durr averaged 8.8 points and 7.9 rebounds. Expect big things from freshman wing Tamar Bates. This team has a lot of pieces at NBA veteran coach Mike Woodson's disposal.