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College Basketball Preseason Top 25: 5-1

The college basketball season is right around the corner. There has been a lot of anticipation for the season in particular with some star-studded recruiting classes and a lot of good players returning. The question before every season is: Who are the best teams in the country? These articles will help clear that up heading into the season. Here is College Basketball Preseason Top 25: 5-1.

5. Virginia Cavaliers

College basketball preseason top 25
Kyle Guy (Photo by accsports.com)

Yes, they were the victim of the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history, but they were still good enough to earn the top seed in the big dance. Even though last season ended in despair, the Cavaliers should feel good about themselves heading into this season with a lot of good players back and head coach Tony Bennett leading the way.

Ty Jerome uses his good size to run the point and to play good defense. He’s been getting experience for the past two seasons and now is a leader on the team. Kyle Guy is the leading scorer as a shooting guard that averaged 14.1 points per game. That number is misleading, as Virginia plays at a very slow pace and he could score more in a different system. ACC Sixth Man of the Year De’Andre Hunter will step into a starting role. Kody Stattman and Kihei Clark are both freshmen who need to provide good minutes off the bench immediately.

Jack Salt will be back on the interior. He is a great defender, but won’t be relied on to score a lot. Mamadi Diakite will likely start this season after taking the last two seasons to develop. Jay Huff, Francesco Badocchi and Francisco Caffaro will come off the bench for the Cavaliers.

Depth could be an issue, but the Cavaliers have the talent to contend with Duke and North Carolina for the ACC.

4. Gonzaga Bulldogs

Last season Gonzaga got a no. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament and it almost seemed like a down year for a program that has been seeded higher recently and made Final Fours. That may be in store for the Bulldogs this season though, as they have the talent and coaching to get it done.

Josh Perkins will be back to run the point guard spot for his final season after a long career at Gonzaga. He averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 assists per game. Zach Norvell came along well last season with 12.7 points per game as a freshman and hit some clutch shots for the Bulldogs. Geno Crandall scored 16.6 points per game last season at North Dakota and will back up Perkins. Joel Ayayi and Greg Foster Jr. will compete for any leftover minutes.

Killian Tillie returns to the frontcourt with a great inside-out game. He can really stretch the floor and got hot early in the month of March. Rui Hachimura averaged 11.6 points per game last season, but has potential to be a breakout star this season. San Jose State transfer Brandon Clarke should see minutes as a good shot blocker and scorer. Filip Petrusev and Jacob Larsen will show flashes of what they can become off of the bench.

While they may not be in the biggest conference, Gonzaga has the talent to make it to a Final Four for the second time in school history this season.

3. Kansas Jayhawks

College basketball preseason top 25
LaGerald Vick (Photo by kansan.com)

Kansas made the Final Four last season and has a squad that is capable of doing so again. They did lose three key parts of last season’s team in Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk and Malik Newman, but have filled the roster out with freshmen and transfers.

Lagerald Vick had one foot out the door for the NBA, but decided to return to Lawrence for his senior season. He has great athleticism and can shoot, which helped him average 14.2 points per game. K.J. Lawson averaged 11.5 points at Memphis two years ago and will benefit from practicing against some great players last season. Charlie Moore is the likely starter at point guard after sitting out last season for transferring from Cal. Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes are two big-time recruits that will produce early in their careers. Ochai Ogbaji and Marcus Garrett likely won’t see much time this year and will develop for the future.

The frontcourt depth took a hit when Silvio De Sousa was implicated in the FBI investigation in college basketball and is now being held out of competition. The Jayhawks still have an experienced 7-foot player in Udoka Azubuike who does a lot of the dirty work on the boards. Mitch Lightfoot got some playing time last season and is capable of providing a spark off the bench. Dedric Lawson has a chance to be a star after averaging 17.5 points per game at Memphis two seasons ago. They also have David McCormack, who was a McDonald’s All-American, to fit into the rotation.

They have talent and depth, but have a lot of pieces to put together this season. Kansas will be vying for another Big XII Championship and another Final Four.

2. Kentucky Wildcats

Kentucky is almost always ranked highly, but sometimes isn’t able to live up to the hype. This season though, they have a great mesh of experience and incoming talent. John Calipari will have to manage players’ minutes, but has a team that has enough talent to win a National Championship.

The backcourt returns Quade Green, who got experience on and off-ball last season. He will help stretch the floor with his three-point shooting. Jemarl Baker had to redshirt last season after he had a knee injury, but is a known shooter who can produce off the bench. Two freshmen point guards join the squad in Immanuel Quickley and Ashton Hagans. Quickley is a great playmaker on offense, while Hagans uses his quickness and length to do well on defense. Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson are athletic freshmen wings who can also shoot the ball.

On the interior, P.J. Washington and Nick Richards return. Washington might be the toughest player on the team and does a lot of the physical work down low. Richards struggled some last season, but showed improvements on offense and shot blocking in the Wildcats’ offseason trip to the Bahamas. Grad transfer Reid Travis is the most experienced player on the team with 19.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season in the Pac-12. E.J. Montgomery is a big who can play inside, but can also step outside a little bit too.

The Wildcats have the necessary depth, talent, coaching and defense to win a National Championship.

1. Duke Blue Devils

College basketball preseason top 25
Zion Williamson (Photo by zagsblog.com)

Duke lost five double-figure scorers from last year’s team which lost to Kansas in the Elite Eight. They have now reloaded for another run at a championship. They have an out-of-this-world recruiting class and a legendary coach to lead them this season.

Tre Jones might just be a freshman, but the point guard doesn’t play that way and will run the team in his first season. Cam Reddish is 6-foot-7, but will have to play guard with so many players bigger than him on the roster. He will be tasked with keeping the floor spread with his shooting. Alex O’Connell saw limited minutes last year and will be asked to knock down threes off the bench. Jordan Goldwire didn’t play much at all and will need to add depth.

Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett are two players who NBA executives will be watching very closely this season. Barrett is a great offensive player, while WIlliamson is a human highlight reel with his athleticism. Marques Bolden was a former highly-coveted recruit, but is now a role player who defends well. Joey Baker and Javin DeLaurier will see a lot of minutes off the bench.

There may be some depth issues with this team, but they have all the talent in the world. They should be able to make another Final Four for Coach K.

 

For the rest of the rankings: 25-21 20-16 15-11 10-6 5-1

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