It was obvious when Memphis hired Penny Hardaway in March 2018 that he’d quickly secure commitments from multiple elite prospects considering he already had relationships with some of the nation’s best — most notably James Wiseman, the top-ranked player in the Class of 2019.
But what would happen when those relationships no longer existed? Could Hardaway really keep it up? Would he actually be able to continue successfully going head-to-head with programs like Duke and Kentucky for five-star players with zero local ties?
Based on what took place Friday night — it appears so.
Hardaway and his staff, which was recently bolstered by Hall of Famer Larry Brown and might soon include NBA champion Rasheed Wallace, beat out Kentucky (plus Miami and the G League) for the services of Philadelphia native Jalen Duren, a 6-foot-10 center who also reclassified into the 2021 class after recently being labeled the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2022. In other words, barring a surprise, Duren will play for Memphis this season and presumably start in the middle as an upgrade over Moussa Cisse, the former five-star center who announced his transfer to Oklahoma State last month.
Memphis, now, is pretty loaded.
The top three players in minutes-averaged-per-game from a team that finished 31st at KenPom — Landers Nolley, DeAndre Williams, Lester Quinones — are back and being joined by a projected one-and-done lottery pick (Duren), a transfer from Miami some also project as a future first-round pick (Earl Timberlake), a transfer from Oregon who just helped the Ducks win back-to-back outright Pac-12 titles (Chandler Lawson) and a freshman wing who was a consensus top-50 prospect in the Class of 2021 (Josh Minott). That blend of talent and experience is why Memphis has moved up to No. 17 in Version 23.0 of the 2021-22 CBS Sports Preseason Top 25 And 1.
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An even better ranking could come soon, too.
That’s because the Tigers might also eventually add Emoni Bates — the No. 2-ranked prospect in the Class of 2022 who is, like Duren, reclassifying to 2021. Bates is reportedly considering Memphis, Michigan State, Oregon and the G League. But sources have told CBS Sports in recent days that Memphis should be considered the leader to land the 6-8 wing from Michigan who is friends (and former teammates) with Duren. If things do indeed go down that way, Memphis will move into the top 10 of the Top 25 And 1 and be viewed by most as a legitimate candidate to compete for the 2022 national title.
Top 25 And 1 rankings
The Zags are expected to bring back Drew Timme and Andrew Nembhard, both of whom started for a team that finished 31-1. They’ll combine with a star-studded recruiting class – highlighted by five-star prospects Chet Holmgren and Hunter Sallis – and allow Gonzaga to enter the season as the favorite to win the national title.
Every player who helped the Bruins make the Final Four is returning – among them NCAA Tournament star Johnny Juzang. UCLA will add five-star prospect Peyton Watson and Rutgers transfer Myles Johnson to that core and have all of the pieces necessary to compete for the national title.
Chris Beard has used the transfer portal to add five players who averaged double-figures in points last season — namely Marcus Carr (Minnesota), Tre Mitchell (UMass), Timmy Allen (Utah), Christian Bishop (Creighton) and Dylan Disu (Vanderbilt). As a result, he appears to have enough experienced talent to compete for a national championship in his first year at Texas.
The Jayhawks are expected to return four of the top five scorers from a team that beat Baylor in February and finished second in the Big 12. The addition of high-level transfers Remy Martin (Arizona State) and Joseph Yesefu (Drake) should make Kansas the favorite to win what would be the 20th conference championship of Bill Self’s career.
The return of Collin Gillispie and Jermaine Samuels means the Wildcats will return four of the top five scorers from a team that won the Big East title by multiple games. So Jay Wright will have the pieces necessary to compete for his third national championship.
The return of Hunter Dickinson and Eli Brooks provides Juwan Howard with high-level experienced pieces to pair with the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class that features five-star prospect Caleb Houstan, five-star prospect Moussa Diabate and reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year DeVante’ Jones. The Wolverines should be the favorite to win what would be a second straight Big Ten title.
Duke is the only program expected to add three five-star prospects from the Class of 2021 – among them Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin, both of whom project as one-and-done top-10 NBA Draft picks. So even with Matthew Hurt and DJ Steward both leaving school early, Mike Krzyzewski should have enough talent to take the Blue Devils back to the top of the sport.
The Bears are losing Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler to the NBA Draft. But with a returning core of Adam Flagler, Matthew Mayer and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, and a top-10 recruiting class highlighted by five-star wing Kendall Brown and Arizona transfer James Akinjo, Scott Drew has the pieces to make another run at a national title.
The Razorbacks are losing a lot – including projected first-round pick Moses Moody. But JD Notae is returning as a double-digit scorer, and Eric Musselman is adding at least four other experienced double-digit scorers via the transfer market, most notably Chris Lykes (Miami) and Au’Diese Toney (Pitt).
The Boilermakers are returning the top eight scorers from a team that received a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The star is Trevion Williams, who averaged 15.5 points and 9.1 rebounds as a junior while setting himself up to be a possible First Team All-American next season.
Alabama is losing three of the top five scorers from a team that won the SEC regular-season title and SEC Tournament – most notably Herb Jones and John Petty Jr. But the enrollment of a top-10 recruiting class highlighted by five-star point guard JD Davison, four-star big Charles Bediako, and transfers Nimari Burnett (Texas Tech) and Noah Gurley (Furman) should give Nate Oats a chance to compete for back-to-back conference championships.
As long as Kelvin Sampson remains the coach, Houston will likely be a mainstay in the Top 25 And 1. The early loss of Quentin Grimes hurts, but probably not too much with Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark set to return and be joined by Texas Tech transfer Kyler Edwards.
John Calipari has solved Kentucky’s point guard problems by enrolling five-star prospect TyTy Washington and Georgia transfer Sahvir Wheeler. Combine that with the return of Davion Mintz and Keion Brooks, and the additions of transfers Kellan Grady (Davidson), Oscar Tshiebwe (West Virginia) and CJ Frederick (Iowa), and the Wildcats look like a team set to have the biggest year-over-year turnaround in the sport.
The return of Armando Bacot and Caleb Love will give Hubert Davis a chance to keep the Tar Heels nationally relevant in his first season after replacing Roy Williams. They’ll be joined by a couple of proven transfers – namely forwards Brady Manek (Oklahoma) and Dawson Garcia (Marquette) – who will make UNC’s frontcourt one of the sport’s best.
Dana Altman has been among the best at reloading his roster each offseason via the transfer market — and now he’s doing it again. The additions of Oklahoma transfer De’Vion Harmon, Syracuse transfer Quincy Guerrier and Rutgers transfer Jacob Young to an experienced core of Will Richardson, Eric Williams and N’Faly Dante should make the Ducks the biggest threat to UCLA in the Pac-12.
The return of Kofi Cockburn allows Illinois to return four of its top six scorers from a team that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. So even with the massive loss of Ayo Dosunmu to the NBA Draft, Brad Underwood’s team shouldn’t slip too much in the Big Ten standings.
The return of DeAndre Williams, Landers Nolley and Lester Quinones provides Penny Hardaway with an experienced core that led the Tigers to 2021 NIT championship. They’ll be joined by an incoming class featuring Jalen Duren and Earl Timberlake, two projected NBA Draft picks who should help get Memphis back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014.
Duane Washington’s decision to remain in the NBA Draft (despite the possibility that he’ll go unselected) is an obvious blow to Ohio State’s roster. But Chris Holtmann is still returning six of the top eight scorers from a team that earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the addition of Louisiana transfer Cedric Russell will provide the Buckeyes with another proven shooter.
The Seminoles should be good again despite losing four of their top five scorers – among them projected lottery pick Scottie Barnes. A veteran core of Anthony Polite and Malik Osborne will be joined by a top-five recruiting class highlighted by former Houston standout Caleb Mills and five-star wing Matthew Cleveland.
John Fulkerson’s decision to return for another season means Tennessee is bringing back five of the top eight scorers from a team that earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That experienced core will pair nicely with a recruiting class highlighted by one of the best point guards in the Class of 2021 (Kennedy Chandler) and another newcomer who just averaged 11.7 points while shooting 44.2% from 3-point range at Auburn (Justin Powell).
Mark Turgeon has used the transfer market to add a quality guard (Fatts Russell) and big (Qudus Wahab). That should help offset the losses of Aaron Wiggins and Darryl Morsell and get the Terrapins to the Big Dance for the sixth time in a span of seven NCAA Tournaments.
Auburn’s frontcourt of Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler might end up being the best frontcourt in the SEC. That’s two bigs who were five-star prospects in high school joining a roster returning two double-digit scorers, most notably Allen Flanigan, who averaged 14.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists last season.
Dan Hurley has rebuilt UConn to the point where it should be a consistent challenger to Villanova in the Big East. Even the early loss of James Bouknight, a projected first-round NBA Draft pick, shouldn’t change that – especially with Tyler Polley set to return for a fifth season.
Aaron Henry is following Joshua Langford and Rocket Watts out the door. But the arrival of five-star guard Max Christie and Northeastern transfer Tyson Walker should have Tom Izzo in his 24th straight NCAA Tournament.
All five starters from a team that won the Atlantic 10 regular-season title and Atlantic 10 Tournament are expected back – most notably Kyle Lofton, who averaged 14.4 points and 5.5 assists as a junior. Wake Forest transfer Quadry Adams will provide depth.
Trey Murphy left school early for the NBA Draft, which means Virginia is losing its top three scorers. But Kihei Clark will provide Tony Bennett with an experienced point guard capable of keeping the Cavaliers near the top of the ACC, and the addition of East Carolina transfer Jayden Gardner could be a big boost.
Coach: Mark Few | 2020-21 record: 31-1
Notable players gone: Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs, Joel Ayayi, Aaron Cook, Oumar Ballo, Pavel ZakharovNotable players returning: Drew Timme, Andrew Nembhard, Anton Watson, Julian Strawther, Dominick Harris, Ben GreggNewcomers: Chet Holmgren, Hunter Sallis, Nolan Hickman, Rasir Bolton, Kaden Perry
Coach: Mick Cronin | 2020-21 record: 22-10
Notable players gone: Chris SmithNotable players returning: Johnny Juzang, Jaime Jaquez, Jules Bernard, Tyger Campbell, Cody Riley, David Singleton, Jake Kyman, Mac Etienne, Jaylen Clark, Kenneth NwubaNewcomers: Peyton Watson, Will McClendon, Myles Johnson
Coach: Chris Beard | 2020-21 record: 19-8
Notable players gone: Matt Coleman, Greg Brown, Jericho Sims, Kai Jones, Donovan Williams, Kamaka Hepa, Royce Hamm Jr.Notable players returning: Andrew Jones, Courtney Ramey, Jase Febres, Brock CunninghamNewcomers: Marcus Carr, Tre Mitchell, Timmy Allen, Dylan Disu, Devin Askew, Christian Bishop, Jaylon Tyson, Avery Benson
Coach: Bill Self | 2020-21 record: 21-9
Notable players gone: Marcus Garrett, Bryce Thompson, Tyon Grant-Foster, Tristan Enaruna, Gethro MuscadinNotable players returning: Ochai Agbaji, David McCormack, Jalen Wilson, Christian Braun, Mitch Lightfoot, Dajuan Harris, Chris TeahanNewcomers: Remy Martin, Joseph Yesufu, Cam Martin, Jalen Coleman-Lands, Zach Clemence, KJ Adams, Bobby Pettiford
Coach: Jay Wright | 2020-21 record: 18-7
Notable players gone: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Cole SwiderNotable players returning: Collin Gillespie, Jermaine Samuels, Justin Moore, Caleb Daniels, Brandon Slater, Eric Dixon, Bryan Antoine, Chris Arcidiacono, Trey PattersonNewcomers: Jordan Longino, Nnanna Njoku, Angelo Brizzi
Coach: Juwan Howard | 2020-21 record: 23-5
Notable players gone: Isaiah Livers, Franz Wagner, Mike Smith, Chaundee Brown, Austin DavisNotable players returning: Hunter Dickinson, Eli Brooks, Brandon Johns, Terrence Williams, Zeb Jackson, Jace Howard, Adrien Nunez, Jaron Faulds.Newcomers: DeVante’ Jones, Caleb Houston, Moussa Diabate, Kobe Bufkin, Frankie Collins, Isaiah Barnes, Will Tschetter
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski | 2020-21 record: 13-11
Notable players gone: Matthew Hurt, DJ Steward, Jordan Goldwire, Jaemyn Brakefield, Patrick Tape, Henry ColemanNotable players returning: Wendell Moore, Jeremy Roach, Mark Williams, Joey BakerNewcomers: Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin, Trevor Keels, Theo John, Jaylen Blakes
Coach: Scott Drew | 2020-21 record: 28-2
Notable players gone: Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, MaCio Teague, Mark VitalNotable players returning: Adam Flagler, Matthew Mayer, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchouwa, L.J. Cryer, Flo Thamba, Zach Loveday, Jordan TurnerNewcomers: James Akinjo, Kendall Brown, Langston Love, Jeremy Sochan, Dain Dainja, Dale Bonner
Coach: Eric Musselman | 2020-21 record: 25-7
Notable players gone: Moses Moody, Justin Smith, Jalen Tate, Desi Sills, Vance Jackson, Ethan HendersonNotable players returning: JD Notae, Davonte Davis, Connor Vanover, Jaylin Williams, Khalen RobinsonNewcomers: Au’Diese Toney, Chris Lykes, Stanley Umode, Kamani Johnson, Trey Wade, Chance Moore, Jaxson Robinson
Coach: Matt Painter | 2020-21 record: 18-10
Notable players gone: Aaron Wheeler, Emmanuel DowuonaNotable players returning: Trevion Williams, Jaden Ivey, Sasha Stefanovic, Zach Edey, Eric Hunter Jr., Brandon Newman, Mason Gillis, Isaiah Thompson, Ethan Morton.Newcomers: Trey Kaufman, Caleb Furst
Coach: Nate Oats | 2020-21 record: 26-7
Notable players gone: John Petty, Herb Jones, Joshua Primo, Jordan Bruner, Alex ReeseNotable players returning: Jaden Shackelford, Jahvon Quinerly, Keon Ellis, Juwan Gary, James Rojas, Darius Miles, Keon Ambrose-HyltonNewcomers: Noah Gurley, JD Davison, Charles Bediako, Jusaun Holt, Nimari Burnett, Alex Tchikou
Coach: Kelvin Sampson | 2020-21 record: 28-4
Notable players gone: Quentin Grimes, Dejon Jarreau, Justin Gorham, Bryson Gresham, Cameron TysonNotable players returning: Marcus Sasser, Tramon Mark, Fabian White, Reggie Chaney, Jamal Shead, Kiyron Powell, J’Wan RobertsNewcomers: Kyler Edwards, Ja’Vier Francis, Taze Moore, Ramon Walker, Robbie Armbrester, Josh Carlton
Coach: John Calipari | 2020-21 record: 9-16
Notable players gone: Brandon Boston, Olivier Sarr, Terrence Clarke, Isaiah Jackson, Devin Askew, Cam’Ron FletcherNotable players returning: Davion Mintz, Keion Brooks, Dontaie Allen, Jacob Toppin, Lance WareNewcomers: TyTy Washington, Kellan Grady, Oscar Tshiebwe, Sahvir Wheeler, C.J. Frederick, Daimion Collins, Bryce Hopkins
14. North Carolina
Coach: Hubert Davis | 2020-21 record: 18-11
Notable players gone: Garrison Brooks, Day’Ron Sharpe, Walker Kessler, Andrew Playtek, Sterling ManleyNotable players returning: Armando Bacot, Caleb Love, R.J. Davis, Kerwin Walton, Leaky Black, Anthony Harris, Puff Johnson.Newcomers: Dawson Garcia, Brady Manek, Dontrez Styles, D’Marco Dunn, Justin McKoy
Coach: Dana Altman | 2020-21 record: 21-7
Notable players gone: Eugene Omoruyi, Chris Duarte, LJ Figueroa, Chandler Lawson, Amauri Hardy, Will Johnson, Jalen TerryNotable players returning: Will Richardson, Eric Williams, N’Faly Dante, Aaron Estrada, Franck Kepnang, Lok WurNewcomers: Quincy Guerrier, De’Vion Harmon, Jacob Young, Rivaldo Soarez, Nathan Bittle, Isaac Johnson
Coach: Brad Underwood | 2020-21 record: 24-7
Notable players gone: Ayo Dosunmu, Adam Miller, Giorgi BezhanishviliNotable players returning: Kofi Cockburn, Trent Frazier, Andre Curbelo, Da’Monte Williams, Jacob Grandison, Coleman Hawkins, Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk, Austin HutchersonNewcomers: Omar Payne, Alfonso Plummer, Luke Goode, Ramses Melendeez, Brandin Podziemski
Coach: Penny Hardaway | 2020-21 record: 20-8
Notable players gone: DJ Jeffries, Boogie Ellis, Moussa Cisse, Damion BaughNotable players returning: DeAndre Williams, Landers Nolley, Lester Quinones, Alex Lomax, Malcolm Dandridge, Jayden HardawayExpected additions: Jalen Duren, Earl Timberlake, Chandler Lawson, Josh Minott, Johnathan Lawson, Tyler Harris, Sam Onu, John Camden
18. Ohio State
Coach: Chris Holtmann | 2020-21 record: 21-10
Notable players gone: Duane Washington, CJ Walker, Musa Jallow, Jimmy SotosNotable players returning: E.J. Liddell, Justice Sueing, Kyle Young, Justin Ahrens, Zed Key, Seth Towns, Meechie Johnson, Eugene BrownNewcomers: Cedric Russell, Malaki Branham, Kalen Etzler, Jamari Wheeler, Joey Brunk
19. Florida State
Coach: Leonard Hamilton | 2020-21 record: 18-7
Notable players gone: MJ Walker, RaiQuan Gray, Scottie Barnes, Balsa Koprivica, RayQuan Evans, Nathaniel Jack, Tanor NgomNotable players returning: Anthony Polite, Malik Osborne, Sardaar Calhoun, Wyatt Wilkes, Quincy BallardNewcomers: Caleb Mills, Cam’Ron Fletcher, Matthew Cleveland, Jalen Warley, John Butler, Naheem McLeod
Coach: Rick Barnes | 2020-21 record: 18-9
Notable players gone: Jaden Springer, Keon Johnson, Yves Pons, EJ Anosiki, Davonte Gaines, Drew PemberNotable players returning: Victor Bailey, John Fulkerson, Santiago Vescovi, Josiah-Jordan James, Olivier Nkamhoua, Uros PlavsicNewcomers: Kennedy Chandler, Justin Powell, Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, Jonas Aidoo, Jahmai Mashack, Quentin Diboundje
Coach: Mark Turgeon | 2020-21 record: 17-14
Notable players gone: Aaron Wiggins, Darryl Morsell, Galin Smith, Chol Marial, Aquan Smart, Reese Mona, Jairus HamiltonNotable players returning: Eric Ayala, Donta Scott, Hakim Hart, James Graham III, Marcus DockeryNewcomers: Qudus Wahab, Fatts Russell, Julian Reese, Ike Cornish, Ian Martinez, Pavlo Dziuba
Coach: Bruce Pearl | 2020-21 record: 13-14
Notable players gone: Sharife Cooper, Justin Powell, JT Thor, Jamal Johnson, Javon FranklinNotable players returning: Allen Flanigan, Jaylin Williams, Devan Cambridge, Dylan Cardwell, Chris Moore, Babatunde AkingbolaNewcomers: Walker Kessler, K.D. Johnson, Jabari Smith, Zeb Jasper, Wendell Green
Coach: Dan Hurley | 2020-21 record: 15-8
Notable players gone: James Bouknight, Brendan Adams, Josh CarltonNotable players returning: R.J. Cole, Tyrese Martin, Isaiah Whaley, Tyler Polley, Adama Sanogo, Jalen Gaffney, Andre Jackson, Akok Akok, Richie SpringsNewcomers: Rahsool Diggins, Jordan Hawkins, Samson Johnson
24. Michigan State
Coach: Tom Izzo | 2020-21 record: 15-13
Notable players gone: Aaron Henry, Joshua Langford, Rocket Watts, Foster Loyer, Thomas KithierNotable players returning: Joey Hauser, Gabe Brown, Malik Hall, Julius Marble, Marcus Bingham, AJ Hoggard, Mady SissokoNewcomers: Tyson Walker, Max Christie, Jaden Akins, Pierre Brooks
25. St. Bonaventure
Coach: Mark Schmidt | 2020-21 record: 16-5
Notable players gone: Alejandro Vasquez, Jalen Shaw, Jermaine TaggartNotable players returning: Kyle Lofton, Jaren Holmes, Jalen Adaway, Dominick Welch, Osun Osunniyi, Alpha Okoli, Eddie CrealNewcomers: Linton Brown, Justin Ndjock, Quadry Adams, Abdoul Karim, Coulibaly, Oluwasegun Durosinmi
Coach: Tony Bennett | 2020-21 record: 18-17
Notable players gone: Sam Hauser, Jay Huff, Trey Murphy, Tomas Woldentensae, Jabri Abdur-Rahim, Casey Morsell, Justin McKoyNotable players returning: Kihei Clark, Reece Beekman, Kody Stattman, Kadin Shedrick, Francisco Caffaro, Carson McCorkle, Chase Coleman, Malachi PoindexterNewcomers: Armaan Franklin, Jayden Gardner, Taine Murray