Preseason Top 25
Since Kris Jenkins hit that insanely clutch three-pointer that allowed Villanova to cut down the nets last spring, college basketball fans have been waiting to see where their team will place in the rankings for the new season. I know I’m not the AP or even a coach in the coaches poll, but I think my analytics alone are enough to make this an entertaining read. Finally, after a seven month wait, the college basketball season is finally upon us, so without further ado…here is my preseason Top 25:

All complaints, suggestions, and constructive criticism can be sent to jakeinthepaint@gmail.com, if you do send me an email, be prepared for an email back most likely defending my case, because I do feel strongly about most of these rankings.

1. Duke
The Blue Devils are the obvious choice at number 1 here. They had, in my opinion, the best recruiting class. These stars will join the experienced preseason player of the year, Grayson Allen. The top two incoming freshmen in Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles are both suiting up for the Blue Devils. Giles told me back in April that it has been their dream to play at Duke together since the beginning of high school. Coach K also brought in athletic point guard Frank Jackson, who should run the show and contribute to the scoring. This team has the perfect combination of talent and experience–basically ensuring a deep run in March.

2. Kentucky
Honestly, not much separates Duke and Kentucky this year. In my eyes, these two teams are leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else talent wise. This team will be special due their athleticism at all five positions. Also, De’aaron Fox and Malik Monk have been making a strong early case for backcourt of the year. The Wildcats can really run…you can only beat them by slowing the game down, which is very hard to do against a team this talented. I believe this is Coach Cal’s best team in his tenure at Kentucky, because this team is a real basketball team, meaning he has talent with roles and in specific positions. They aren’t just ten McDonald’s All Americans wearing the same jersey.

3. Villanova
The Cats are here solely for their experience and coaching. Jay Wright not taking any of the NBA offers flying at him shows he’s committed to this program, which only makes the players buy-in more. Also, they return two key players from last year’s championship team in Josh Hart and of course, Kris Jenkins. The team will go as far as those two take them. They proved me wrong last year in my early bracket predictions, let’s see what they have left in the tank.

4. Kansas
Many other polls have the Jayhawks at two or three and even though four isn’t a massive change, I’m just not a believer in Kansas. Nothing against Coach Self or any of the players, because I think they have plenty of talent, but I always feel that Bill Self’s team’s never reach their full potential and that’s why they slid out of my top three. Although, I do believe they have a future number one pick in Josh Jackson. When I talked to him, he was uncommitted and told me he was looking for the school that fits him best, so clearly he feels that Kansas is the best system for him. And Josh Jackson in the right system, is just scary.

5. North Carolina
The Heels are a frightening team this year. They return everyone except Marcus Paige from their team that went to the National Championship last year. They are carried by upperclassmen like Kennedy Meeks, Justin Jackson and a couple others, but also added very good freshmen in Tony Bradley and Seventh Woods. The freshmen, especially Bradley, should be able to contribute immediately and provide a good scoring boost to this team.

6. Oregon
I really like the Ducks this year. They return basically everyone from their explosive west coast team last year. They have the perfect balance of roles that a team needs to be successful. Jordan Bell and Chris Boucher controlling the inside with their insane wingspans, freshman Payton Pritchard and sophomore Tyler Dorsey controlling the backcourt. And, the star Dillon Brooks as the go to scorer. Also, Dana Altman has every single one of his players buying into his system, and with this team, that is huge. The injury to Brooks is an early setback, but I believe it will help them in the long run because they will learn to score without him and he will be back when it really matters.

7. Virginia
I really like what this team is capable of this year. They aren’t always the most entertaining team to watch but they seem to get the job done most of the time (not including the missed layups in the Elite 8 against Syracuse). What makes the Cavs so good is they have a bunch of good scorers but not really one “go-to”. Freshman Kyle Guy told me he loved Virginia, because he “loves Coach Bennet’s philosophy on and off the court but especially how he runs his team on the court.” With the addition of Guy and the leadership of 8th year senior (or it feels like) London Perrantes, the Cavaliers could be special.

8. Arizona
I’m always very high on the Wildcats, I don’t know if it’s because they’re actually good or they just have really cool gear (or both). I’m usually a big fan of Sean Miller’s team, and this year’s team is no different. They lost two very talented players in Terrence Ferguson (to overseas) and Ray Smith (to injury) but don’t kid yourself, the roster is still LOADED with talent. The Wildcats backcourt for whatever reason gets completely overlooked, the combination of freshmen Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins to go along with maybe the best scorer in College Basketball in Allonzo Trier is just dirty. The Wildcats humiliated me last March when I told the whole world they were making a deep run, and then they made it look like it was impossible for a basketball to fit in a hoop in their disgusting loss to Wichita State. But somehow someway, I still have faith.

9. Indiana
I am a HUGE fan of the Hoosiers team this season. Big time scorer James Blackmon is back from an injury and will be the go to scorer they were missing last year. And one of my favorite players in all of college basketball, Thomas Bryant will be an absolute problem for teams down low. I love Bryant not only because he is an extremely talented player, but he has one of the highest motors in all of college basketball. They also have a great two way player in OG Anouby.

10. Xavier
I’m never a big believer in the Musketeers, only because I feel like we never know how good they REALLY are due to their strength of schedule. But, I believe this is Chris Mack’s best team yet, and they are led by one of the best players in all of college basketball in Edmond Summer. They should be a competitive team come March.

11. Michigan State
Tom Izzo, with tons of talent, is a recipe for a national championship, and that’s exactly what this team is. This Spartans team is loaded with top young talent in freshmen Miles Bridges and Cassius Winston, and they both live for the Spartans. They told me that they both grew up together, dreaming of playing for Michigan State, and that they were going to cherish every minute together in East Lansing. Those are a lot of magical components.

12. UCLA
This year’s Bruins are absolutely poised for a big season, coming off a disappointing season last year. They have an extremely talented recruiting class coming in. I believe that Lonzo Ball is the best high school point guard since Kyrie Irving, and that puts him in good company. Ball is also joined by a polished inside out big in TJ Leaf. Those two together could carry the Bruins deep in March.

13. Wisconsin
Wisconsin wins their games, by getting you to play their game. It seems that when an opposing team plays the Badgers, they forget everything they know about up-tempo basketball, shooting over 40% and scoring over 60 points. That being said, the Badgers still bring back the experienced stars in Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, which if the team follows their lead, Wisconsin could be dangerous.

14. Gonzaga
Like Tom Izzo, Mark Few makes great teams without a lot of talent, but when he has talent, it’s usually must-see-TV. I wouldn’t call this team must-see-TV, but I definitely wouldn’t want to play them when they get things together. The Bulldogs are led by Nigel Williams-Goss, one of the best guards in the country and added freshman Zach Collins who can also stretch the floor.

15. Louisville
The Card’s could be very hit or miss this year. They struggled to score the ball at times last year, and they lost their leading scorer from that year. Young players like VJ King and Donovan Mitchell will need to step up if the Cardinals want to maintain their same level of competitiveness that they’ve had in the past.

16. Connecticut
Proven many times before, never count out Kevin Ollie’s Huskies. Although they aren’t as talented as other teams in these polls, they bring back guards Jalen Adams and Rodney Purvis from last year and add the energizer bunny in freshman Alterique Gilbert. With all that being said, do I think this team is taking Kevin Ollie back to the final four, no. But that’s not to say they won’t win some tough games and surprise some people.

17. Syracuse
The Orange are a team that I definitely see going through very tough times in the season, and going through very good times during the season. It’s questionable where all the scoring will come from in order for Syracuse to win games, but never count Jim Boeheim and his 2-3 zone out of the picture completely.

18. Purdue
Although the Boilmakers lose one of their twin towers due to AJ Hammons graduating, they return Issac Haas and swing man Caleb Swanigan to man the inside. They also return guard Vince Edwards from last year and add Michigan graduate transfer Spike Albrecht. This team is a very big and experienced group that I expect to avenge their first round loss with a big run in this year’s big dance.

19. St. Mary’s
The Gaels always seem to fall under the radar out west, and I’m warning you, don’t be surprised when they upset one of your favorite blue bloods late in the season. The Gaels return their two top scorers and are ready to make a run with their leadership and experience.

20. Rhode Island
I was very high on Rhode Island last year, but then their star player EC Matthews got hurt and was out for the season. But, they still finished over .500 and return their leading scorer from last year to go along with one of the most underrated players in college basketball in EC Matthews. Rhode Island is my pick to win a very competitive A-10.

21. Florida State
The Seminoles didn’t crack the top 25 in either the AP poll or the coaches poll which is beyond me. They have one of the best scorers in the entire country in Dwayne Bacon and they add one of the most talented incoming freshmen in Jonathan Isaac. They also return point guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes to give some experience to the group.

22. Texas
I’m a huge fan of whatever team Shaka Smart is coaching, especially when they are loaded with young talent like this group is. Smart was able to bring in two McDonald’s All American’s in sharpshooter Andrew Jones and polished big man Jarret Allen. It will take a while for these two to adapt to the college game, but when they do, I’d watch out.

23. West Virginia
Bob Huggins Mountaineer’s don’t always score the most points, or make the most threes, but they are exhausting to play against. They return most of their scrappy guards from last season that completely set the tone for the game, no matter who they are playing. Bob Huggins is one of those guys that recruits people for his system, and if you get intimidated by ANYONE, West Virginia isn’t the place for you.

24. Iowa State
The Cyclones lost their star player in Georges Niang which are very large shoes that most likely won’t be filled this season. But, they still have veteran point guard Monte Morris running the show, which in my eyes, allows the Cyclones to crack my top 25.

25. Maryland
Last but not least, the Maryland Terrapins. I mainly did these because I couldn’t decide between about five teams for the last spot, and if the Terps made the AP poll but not my poll, I’d get a lot of texts that said, “Are you kidding me”, “Why are you so biased”, “Maryland hater”, mixed in with some words I’d rather not put here and last but not least, I’d lose some serious everyday readers of this blog. I’m just kidding. The Terps return All-American Melo Trimble for another season, and add talented freshman in Kevin Huerter and local star Anthony Cowan to go nicely with Trimble in the backcourt. They don’t have the talent they did last year but, in my eyes they have enough to be in the top 25.

If you’ve made it this far, I guess you can really call yourself a true fan, because I know this takes a solid ten minutes to really read. For those of you who skimmed through it in 60 seconds just to see where your team was ranked, I respect that too. Let’s get ready for a great season!

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