It’s been seven months since the Villanova Wildcats brought home their second NCAA Championship trophy in three years, and we’re finally ready to ring in the 2018-19 college basketball season.
After reaching last year’s Final Four, the Kansas Jayhawks headline the AP Top 25 preseason poll with 37 first-place votes. But for the first time since the 2004-05 season, seven different teams received first-place votes, including No. 2 Kentucky, No. 3 Gonzaga, No. 4 Duke, No. 5 Virginia, No. 6 Tennessee, and No. 9 Villanova.
On the other end of the spectrum, No. 12 Kansas State, No. 14 Oregon, No. 15 Virginia Tech, No. 16 Syracuse, No. 18 Mississippi State, No. 23 LSU, and No. 25 Washington all launched into this year’s top 25 after failing to make the list at any point during the 2017-18 season.
With so much uncertainty at the top and a ton of new faces in the mix, this college basketball season is primed to be extremely unpredictable and incredibly exciting. Check out Business Insider’s previews for the nation’s top teams before the season tips off:
1. Kansas Jayhawks
Head coach: Bill Self
Last season’s record: 31-8, 13-5 in the Big 12
Players to know: F Dedric Lawson (19.2 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.1 BPG at Memphis), G Lagerald Vick (12.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG), C Udoka Azubuike (13.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.7 BPG)
Led by Consensus First Team All-American Devonte‘ Graham, last season’s Jayhawks secured their 14th consecutive Big 12 title before advancing to the Final Four to take on eventual national champion Villanova. Even after losing their top three scorers in Graham, Svi Mykhailuik, and Malik Newman, Kansas is ranked first with 37 first-place votes in this year’s AP Top 25 preseason poll. Three top-30 recruits will bring their talents to Lawrence to compliment senior guard Lagerald Vick and junior center Udoka Azubuike. Additionally, head coach Bill Self brings in a heralded transfer class in former Memphis standouts Dedric and KJ Lawson and Cal point guard Charlie Moore. There is little doubt that this is a ragtag group of players, but there is even less doubt that they have enough talent to do big things this season.
2. Kentucky Wildcats
Head coach: John Calipari
Last season’s record: 26-11, 10-8 in the SEC
Player’s to know: F P.J. Washington (10.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG), F Reid Travis (19.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG at Stanford), F E.J. Montgomery (Five-star recruit, No. 14 in ESPN 100)
No one has embraced the one-and-done era quite like Kentucky head coach John Calipari, but this year’s Wildcats roster is less stacked with NBA-caliber talent than usual. Still, four five-star recruits and Stanford graduate transfer Reid Travis join experienced sophomores P.J. Washington, Quade Green, and Nick Richards in Lexington in what promises to be a better season for Kentucky than 2017-18. Midway through last year’s campaign, the Wildcats fell out of the AP rankings for the first time since 2014 and finished in a three-way tie for fourth in the SEC. As per usual, however, Kentucky came alive in March to win the SEC Tournament and make a run to the Sweet 16. The bar is even higher this season, with the Wildcats looking to return to the Final Four for the fifth time in nine years.
3. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Head coach: Mark Few
Last season’s record: 32–5, 17–1 in the WCC
Players to know: F Killian Tillie (12.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG), G Zach Norvell Jr. (12.7 PPG, 3.9 RPG), G Josh Perkins (12.3 PPG, 5.3 APG)
Over the past four years, head coach Mark Few has led the Bulldogs to two Sweet 16s, and Elite Eight, and a national championship game appearance. In his 20th year at the helm, Few will look to earn the program’s first-ever national championship with yet another cast of talented veterans. Gonzaga lost its leading scorer and rebounder in Johnathan Williams but returns its next four top scorers. Guard Josh Perkins ranked fourth in the conference with 5.3 assists per game last season while forward Killian Tillie averaged 24 points on 13-of-14 shooting from beyond the arc during the WCC Tournament to earn MVP honors. Each of the Bulldogs‘ starters could very well make his case for WCC player of the year en route to yet another NCAA Tournament run.
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Source: Business insider