The Kansas Jayhawks are ranked #1 as the top team in men’s college basketball by the preseason AP Poll. The first poll of the year ranked Villanova, the defending champion, as ninth overall.
Top Ranking for Kansas
Kansas received 37 first-place votes, nearly twice as many as Kentucky. Villanova, the eventual champion, knocked out Kansas in the Final Four.
Despite losing a trio of starters including Devonte’ Graham, Bill Self assembled a high-potent team led by 7-footer Udoka Azubuike (13.0 ppg) and Lagerald Vick (12.1 ppg), who both averaged double digits in scoring last season. Vick, a 6’5″ shooting guard, had second thoughts about going pro and decided to return to Kansas for his senior year.
New faces include Dedric Lawson, a 6’9″ power forward who transferred from Memphis. In his sophomore season at Memphis, Lawson averaged 19.2 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game. K.J. Lawson, Dedric’s twin brother, also transferred from Memphis.
Kansas also landed top recruit 6’5″ point guard Quentin Grimes, who is already on the short list for potential NBA lottery picks.
Kansas boasts exceptional depth with a deep bench consisting of Silvio De Sousa, K.J. Lawson, Charlie Moore, Marcus Garrett, plus McDonald’s All Americans David McCormack and Devon Dotson.
Preseason AP Top 25 Poll
- Kansas (37)
- Kentucky (19)
- Gonzaga (1)
- Duke (4)
- Virginia (2)
- Tennessee (1)
- North Carolina
- Villanova (1)
- Michigan State
- Kansas State
- West Virginia
- Virginia Tech
- Florida State
- Mississippi State
(First place votes in parentheses)
One-and-Done Kentucky Ranked #2
With 19 votes, the Kentucky Wildcats received the second-most first-place votes. Kentucky ended up with the #2 spot, despite losing four players to the professional ranks, including two were lottery picks. The New York Knicks selected Kevin Knox with the #9 pick. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Hamidou Diallo were also drafted into the NBA.
Coach John Calipari has sophomore Nick Richards as a returning starter and he’s looked outstanding in scrimmages. Richards is a 6’11” center with a 7-4 wingspan. Coach Cal will also be relying on sophomores Quade Green and PJ Washington. Kentucky also welcomed senior forward Reid Travis, a transfer from Stanford.
Kentucky landed the top shooting guard in the country with 6’3″ Tyrese Maxey.
Zags, Blue Devils, Cavs in Top 5
Representing the West Coast Conference, #3 Gonzaga received their highest preseason ranking in school history. The Zags are led by Rui Hachimur, a junior 6’8″ forward from Toyama, Japan.
Duke is ranked #4 this year because Coach K landed five highly-touted freshmen. Their incoming class is led by blue chip recruit 6’7″ Zion Williamson. The Blue Devils also recruited the top high school player from Canada with 6’7″ forward R.J. Barrett. Expect Cam Reddish and Tre Jones to also compete for playing time.
Virginia is still reeling from an astonishing first-round exit from March Madness. The #1-seed had never lost to a #16-seed until Virginia broke the 135-0 streak. #16 U.M.B.C. is a school many people never heard of until they saw Virginia (31-2 at the time) lose to them by twenty points in a shocking blowout. Tony Bennett’s squad at #5 Virginia this season includes three returning starters. Small forward De’Andre Hunter, the ACC’s Sixth Man of the Year, is expected to have an outstanding season.
Nine for Nova
Defending champions Villanova Wildcats were listed #9 overall and received only one first place vote. Nova lost three key players including Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson, and Donte DiVincenzo.
Villanova tops the Big East, who had a disappointing one team in the Top 25. Marquette was a bubble team and missed the Top 25 by a few spots.
Top Conference in College Basketball: ACC
With 7 teams in the Top 25, the ACC had the most ranked-teams out of any conference. The ACC has two teams in the Top 5 with #4 Duke and #5 Virginia. In addition, #8 North Carolina, #15 Virginia Tech, #16 Syracuse, #17 FSU, and #20 Clemson were all ranked.
The SEC saw five of their teams ranked in the preseason poll with #2 Kentucky leading the way. Also ranked were #6 Tennessee, #11 Auburn, #18 Mississippi State and #23 LSU.
Four teams represented the Big 12 in the Top 25. Kansas is the top spot, but #12 Kansas State, #13 West Virginia and #20 TCU all made the cut.
The Big Ten have just three teams in the Top 25 this year. Perennial powerhouse Michigan State is the only one to crack the AP Top 10, coming in at #10.
Loyola (Chicago) was the biggest snub, much to the dismay of Sister Jean, the 99-year old nun and spiritual leader of the team. The Loyola Ramblers received 162 total votes and bubbled the Top 25, trailing #25 Washington by three votes.
Loyola played the role of Cinderella in last year’s March Madness tournament. The #11-seeded squad went all the way to the Final Four, before their magical run ended in the semifinals.