A Look At The AP’s Preseason Top 10 In College Basketball
The Associated Press has released its preseason top 25 for the upcoming college basketball season, effectively giving us our first look at the experts’ rankings. So, with the start of the season now just around the corner, we’re taking a closer look at the top 10 teams in this long-awaited preseason poll.
1- Michigan State
It’s hard to remember there ever being more hype surrounding a Tom Izzo-coached team than now. But Michigan State appears to be a runaway favorite for the coming season. Led by point guard Cassius Winston (who’s likely to be in contention for various player of the year honors) and his fellow senior guard, Joshua Langford, the Spartans will boast an almost unusual amount of experience for a modern contender. They may also still get better if Marquette transfer Joey Hauser gets eligibility – though as of now that’s still an open question.
2 – Kentucky
Kentucky has established itself behind Michigan State, even if the Spartans appear to be well clear of the field in most people’s expectations. Interestingly enough, the two teams will play in the Champions Classic to open the season. For their part, the Wildcats will be relying on a talented blend of freshmen and sophomores. Their guard rotation looks formidable (and could be one of the few to challenge Michigan State’s senior backcourt), though there’s a lack of depth among the big men.
3 – Kansas
Kansas is always right in the mix, and this year will be no different. The team itself will look a little bit different from what we’ve come to expect though, featuring a combination of upperclassmen (most notably Udoka Azubuike), transfers, and freshmen. It’s actually a tricky team to project, but there’s talent on the roster and we know what Bill Self can do with it.
4 – Duke
Duke won’t be turning heads the way it was with Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett on the roster last year, but it’s still being taken seriously as a contender. In fact, while the NCAA basketball betting picture hasn’t quite been made clear for the upcoming season yet, a few sources posting early odds have the Blue Devils neck-and-neck with Michigan State atop the field. This Duke team will welcome four more impact freshmen, but will also be led by sophomore point guard Tre Jones and a trio of upperclassmen.
5 – Louisville
While Michigan State’s Cassius Winston is, as mentioned, out in front for player of the year awards, Louisville’s junior forward Jordan Nwora is one of the few players being talked about on a similar level. He and senior center Steven Enoch will lead the way for a talented, versatile team that looks to be Duke’s main challenger in the ACC, and a Final Four contender nationally.
6 – Florida
If there’s a team on this list that seems almost undervalued, it might be Florida. Granted, the Gators finished just 8th in the SEC a season ago, but they look formidable heading into 2019-20. Lead guard Andrew Nembhard and tough-as-nails forward Keyontae Johnson return from last season’s group, and will be aided by ultra-talented freshman Scottie Lewis and Virginia Tech transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. – who should be one of the best big men in the country.
7 – Maryland
Maryland has fooled us before with a gaudy preseason roster that fails to live up to expectations. That may be the case again, but on paper this is a tough group to count out. The Terps will rely largely on a veteran lineup. Jalen Smith, in particular, is likely to emerge as one of the Big Ten’s best players. If Anthony Cowan Jr. and Eric Ayala reach their full potential in the backcourt, this can be a title-contending team. Maryland will miss Bruno Fernando in the paint though.
8 – Gonzaga
Gonzaga lost a lot of talent in the offseason. The Zags do not typical rebuild teams quickly like Kentucky, Kansas, and Duke routinely pull off. However, Killian Tillie is still with the Zags and should be a dominant forward – if he can stay healthy. Mark Few will also get some transfer help, namely in the form of ex-Texas A&M guard Admon Gilder. Title contention, or even a Final Four, seems like a long shot. But Gonzaga’s ranking here seems if nothing else like a vote of confidence in Few.
9 – North Carolina
North Carolina also lost a lot of talent in the offseason. Still, they brought in one of the top freshmen in the current class in Cole Anthony. It’s a simple equation: The Tar Heels will go as far as Anthony takes them. With help from his fellow freshman Armando Bacon and a few veteran forwards. Shooting might be man issue for North Carolina. Anthony is one of those rare freshmen. He’s good enough to carry a mediocre supporting cast to the Final Four.
10 – Villanova
Villanova is a very tough team to figure, but number 10 in the preseason rankings seems about right. Basically, it’s a team full of good-but-not-great veterans. How much they’re able to step up as a group will determine how far the Wildcats can go. Jermaine Samuels, Saddiq Bey, and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree are the names to know. Though freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl may make an impact as well. It’s also still uncertain whether top recruit Bryan Antoine will wind up playing this season given his spring shoulder surgery. If he’s able to go, Villanova’s ceiling will be higher.