Duke, Michigan State highlight top of preseason rankings

The Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball team finds itself out of the AP preseason top-25 rankings for the first time since the 2010-’11 season, a team that was led by the likes of Jordan Taylor, Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil. But enough of the Badgers, as this column will focus on a national outlook for the upcoming college basketball season. With over 9,000 regular season games to be played in this year (there are 347 NCAA Division 1 teams with a minimum of 27 regular season games each) the possibilities are endless, so to get a clearer look on who we’ll see competing for a national title, let’s consult the current AP preseason top-25.

With a mix of traditional blue bloods and fresh faces to the preseason top-25, the 2017-’18 college basketball season is full of intrigue. The real contenders include perennial powerhouses Duke, Michigan State, Arizona, Kansas and Kentucky. Villanova, Wichita State, Florida, North Carolina and USC fill out the rest of the top 10. Any doubters of these rankings or these teams’ dominance over the last few years can look no further than the numbers as Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and North Carolina haven’t missed a preseason top-25 ranking since 2010, while Coach Izzo and Sparty have only missed one in that time period.

Looking deeper into our top teams’ storylines, Michigan State and Duke will look to be dominant in the Big Ten and ACC after both had lackluster conference records last year, while Kansas looks to win a 14th straight title in the Big 12. Head coach Tom Izzo will be reliant on his Naismith-calibur forward Miles Bridges, who’ll hope to have another breakout season after bringing home Big Ten Freshman of the Year in his first season in East Lansing. Running in tandem with offensively talented sophomore Nick Ward and speedster Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr., Michigan State seems poised to come on strong in the Big Ten and thrive all the way to March. In a somewhat similar fashion, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his fantastic four of freshman talent — including Trevon Duval, Marvin Bagley, Gary Trent and Wendell Carter — along with senior Grayson Allen have their eyes set on an ACC championship in the always loaded conference. Duke could get off to a slow start as a result of its inexperienced lineup, but after this team gels, look out for the Blue Devils to make it far. Lastly, Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks are likely to continue their dominance in the Big 12 even after losing Naismith Award-winning guard Frank Mason. The Jayhawks will be trying for their 14th straight Big 12 title and continue their dominance over the conference. Reloading with Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman, and Svi Mykhailiuk, Kansas shouldn’t be facing too much adversity aside from a talented Texas team and Bob Huggins’ 11th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers.

Accompanied by traditional powerhouses, there are also some new teams making national waves after their top-25 rankings. Minnesota, USC and Texas A&M haven’t cracked the top-25 in over 15 years combined and are hungry to prove themselves. Minnesota should be a Big Ten contender with a dangerous backcourt couple of Amir Coffey and first-team all Big Ten guard Nate Mason, but it’ll be in a competitive Big Ten West with Purdue, Northwestern and Wisconsin. Southern California will be fun to watch as it is chock-full of talent such as Jordan McLaughlin, De’Anthony Melton and Elijah Stewart. But the Trojans may face adversity with assistant coach Tony Bland caught up in the same FBI case that brought down former Louisville head coach Rick Pitino. Finally, coach Bill Kennedy and the Aggies greet the top-25 with four returning starters ready to improve upon its 16-15 record from last season. With returning experience in senior forward Tonny Trocha-Morelos and junior starters Admon Gilder and Tyler Davis, the A&M will hope to throw its name in the mix of a rising in talent Southeastern Conference.

Overall, the 2017-’18 college basketball season promises to be a good one with multiple teams in contention to make deep runs in their conferences and postseason tournaments.

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