College Basketball Top 25 Pre-Season Rankings

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Johnny Mambrino, Editor

     1. Gonzaga

Year in and year out Gonzaga is one of the best teams in the country, and they always have a lot of talent but they don’t always get the top prospects coming out of high school. That changed this year as they landed the number 1 point guard in the country, Jalen Suggs. He will be an instant difference-maker as the floor general of this team along with 2 other 4 star recruits from the 2020 class, and 4 double-digit scorers from last season which includes preseason All American, Filip Petrusiv. The departed big man Killian Tillie will be a big loss for the Bulldogs but they have more than enough talent to make another Final Four run.

     2. Baylor

Baylor returns their entire team from last year that was atop the AP Top 25 rankings for 5 straight weeks towards the end of the season. The Bears look to be in good shape with their AP preseason All-American point guard, Jared Butler, coming back to Butler to finish what they started last year before the season got canceled due to COVID-19. The Bears were not only a great offensive team, but they were at or close to the top of every defensive statistical category. With all of their important pieces back, I don’t see why they can’t dethrone Kansas and win the Big 12 and potentially make a deep run into March.

      3.Villanova

Villanova is looking to repeat as Big East champions once again. Jay Wright didn’t have a great recruiting class but he didn’t need much help considering this Wildcats team goes 9 men deep and could potentially have even more contribution from the end of the bench. They would’ve been almost certainly the number one team in the country coming into this year but the leading scorer of last year’s squad, Saddiq Bey, will most likely be a first-round pick in the NBA Draft. Regardless Villanova is one of the most well-coached, best outside shooting, and one of the best defensive teams in the country with 2 Preseason first-team All-Big East players in Collin Gillespie and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.

     4. Iowa

 It took a while for Iowa to crack the Top 25 last year but they snuck in towards the end of the year with the help of one of the best players in the country and preseason AP All American, Luke Garza. Iowa returns 2 of their top 3 scorers, Garza and Joe Wieskamp, and their point guard and leader Jordan Bohannon. He sustained a hip injury at the beginning of last year and had to have surgery but he was able to return for the last 10 games of the season was productive averaging around 9 points and 3 assists per game. If he can stay fully healthy they are most definitely the favorite to win the very tough Big Ten conference.

      5. Virginia

Virginia did lose 2 of their top 3 leading scorers but they were able to add legit talent through recruiting and through the transfer portal. The Cavaliers are led by one of the best coaches in the country in Tony Bennet and star point guard Kihei Clark who was one of the main facilitators for the National Championship team in 2018. Another very disciplined, defensive-minded team that can hold any team to under 60 or even 50 points any given game. The Cavaliers also added 3 four-star freshmen with the highlight of the recruiting class being Jabri Abdur Rahim who will most definitely be one of the teams leading scorers. However, their biggest add was the big man from Marquette, Sam Hauser, who had to sit out a year. With their newfound talent and defensive presence, they look to be the surefire favorite in the ACC with potential down years for UNC and Duke.

     6.Kansas

Kansas was the top-ranked team in the country at the end of last season and it showed. They consistently won in big games and showed why Allen Fieldhouse is one of the toughest places to play in College Basketball. Unfortunately for the Jayhawks their star point guard, Devon Dotson, has declared for the NBA Draft. On top of that their All-American big man Udoka Azubuike graduated last year. While their top 2 players are gone that leaves the door open for other players to step up and prove their worth. With Dotson gone the three best guards behind him, Marcus Garret, Ochai Ogbai, and Isiah Moss all averaged at least 8 points a game last year and each showed star potential. The other productive big man for the Jayhawks David McCormack showed at times that he could be the next great big man for Kansas, but his potential was stunted by his inability to play well when on the floor with the departed Udoka Azubuike. Bill Self also added three 3 star or better recruits, with one of them being 5-star combo guard Bryce Thompson. With McCormack, Thompson, and a flurry of other guards, Kansas is more than able to repeat as Big 12 champions.

     7. Creighton

7 might seem a little high for Creighton, but some might forget that they finished at 7th in last year’s final rankings, and they only got better. They lost leading scorer Ty-Shon Alexander, but the point guard and ultimate facilitator, Marcus Zegarowski is one of the best point guards in the country and is extremely underrated. Creighton is one of the best shooting teams in the country and they added another great shooter from Duke, Alex O’Connell. Losing Ty-Shon Alexander will be hard but it will open up more opportunities for other players to develop and get shots up which will result in a more proficient and spread offense. The Big East is looking really competitive as always but with Saddiq Bey leaving Villanova this could be Creighton’s year to take the Big East.

     8. Illinois

Illinois has finally returned to the top of the college basketball hierarchy and is ranked for the first time since 2014. They return 3 of their top 5 scorers from last year and bring in 2 top 50 recruits. The AP preseason All-American guard Ayo Dosunmu is the leader of this team and is one of the best all-around players in college basketball. They ranked anywhere in the top 15-25 for most of last year, but with another year of experience under their belts, Dosunmu and star big man Kofi Cockburn have a legitimate chance of leading the Fighting Illini to their first Big Ten championship since 2005.

     9. Duke

Every year is mostly the same for Duke. They lost a few players to the draft and then they replace those players with at least two 5 star recruits. Their biggest loss was their point guard Tre Jones who was their best defender and their floor general. The stud freshman Vernon Carey also declared for the draft after leading the team in points and rebounds. The Blue Devils do return two big-time recruits from last year in Wendell Moore and Matthew Hurt and also add 3 five star recruits and 3 four-star recruits. Their two highest-ranked recruits, Jalen Johnson and Jeremy Roach should take over Tre Jones and Vernon Carey’s old responsibilities without any worry. Another year and another run at the ACC title should be in store for Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils.

     10. Kentucky 

Similarly to Duke, Kentucky will be replacing their 5-star freshman that left for the draft last year with three 5 star recruits and three 4 star recruits. They lost a bit more than Duke as they lost their top 6 leading scorers with 4 of those players all projected to be NBA draftees. Again, this happens every year and John Calipari manages to lead the Wildcats to countless SEC championships and deep runs in March every year. The two freshman guards, Terrence Clark and Brandon Boston, both stand at 6’7 and weigh in at just under 200 pounds so there is already a lot of versatility added to this team with two players with Kevin Durant like bodies and playstyles. Calipari also landed one of the best grad-transfers in the country, Davion Mintz, who will also look to be a facilitator for the Wildcats at the guard position. With the overflow of talent watch out for Kentucky to make another championship run in March Madness.

11. Wisconsin   

12. Tennessee

13. North Carolina

14. Michigan State

15. Houston

16. Arizona State

17. Oregon

18. Ohio State

19. Michigan

20. West Virginia

21. Texas Tech

22. UCLA

23. Texas

24. Indiana

25. Memphis