Matt Dougherty & Drew White | Staff Writers
College basketball season is finally upon us, whether October’s abnormally warm weather made you forget about it or not. Here at Duquesne, excitement abounds as coach Keith Dambrot prepares to head the men’s team for the first time in an unwelcoming Atlantic 10. Across the country, many top contenders remain the same. Therefore, The Duke has ranked its Top 25, but don’t let us kid you: We know that this will look like a joke by season’s end. We tried our best to give you a primer for the nation’s top teams ahead of the beginning of the season, but we’re just as prepared for mayhem in the ensuing months as anybody out there. Who knows, maybe the Dukes will crack the Top 25 by the end of the year!
Jokes aside, enjoy The Duke’s Top 25 college basketball rankings to begin the season, for what it’s worth:
1. Duke – The Blue Devils have the best recruiting class in the nation as they look to return to the top of college basketball’s ranks this season. They landed four of the top eight recruits in the nation as Trevon Duval, Gary Trent Jr., Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. all signing their national letters of intent to play under one of the best coaches in the country in Coach K in Durham. Those four will join senior Grayson Allen, who will look to bounce back after a controversial 2016-17 campaign.
2. Michigan State – Tom Izzo’s team returns one of the nation’s top players in versatile preseason All-American forward Miles Bridges, who decided to return to the Spartans and Izzo instead of declaring for the NBA Draft, like many presumed he would. Michigan State also brings back experience and an inside presence in center Nick Ward, coupled with a talented, maturing sophomore class which could very well lead to a Spartans national title run.
3. Kansas – The Jayhawks hold one of the most impressive streaks in college basketball and look to keep it alive this season by winning their 14th-straight regular-season Big XII title. Undisputed favorites to do so, they welcome a weaker recruiting class than usual. Expect their veteran leadership to help this season as they look to make yet another title run.
4. Arizona – Arizona will look for leadership and experience from junior guard Allonzo Trier this season to help overcome adversity on and off the court, especially after being involved in an FBI investigation headlining several NCAA basketball coaches and figures suspected of conspiracy and fraud, among other charges. With an assistant coach already fired and additional coaches and players facing possible implications, Arizona will need a talented freshman class to step up and aid Trier amid potential scrutiny this season.
5. Villanova – The Wildcats, just one year removed from a national title, look to contend once again. They are led by preseason All-American Jalen Brunson, who is joined by a very good supporting cast. They are the favorites to win the Big East once again, per usual.
6. Wichita State – The Shockers are coming off of a 31-win season and return every key player from last year’s roster. Assuming guard Landry Shamet and wing Markis McDuffie both fully recover from foot injuries, the Shockers are in a position to let their talent and experience carry them deep into March.
7. Kentucky – John Calipari will try to do the same thing he has done for many years now in replacing one-and-dones with a new talented group of young players. Unlike last year’s class, this year’s class is strong up front but lacks headline guards, so expect for Kentucky to pound the ball down low and have its athletes crash the hoop to win games.
8. North Carolina – The reigning National Champion Tar Heels look to remain strong behind battle-tested guard Joel Berry. With the addition of former ACC foe Cameron Johnson, who transferred this season from Pitt, UNC will hope to make another deep postseason run this year.
9. Florida – The Gators have perhaps their most talented team in recent memory as they welcome back electrifying point guard Chris Chiozza and leading scorer KeVaughn Allen. They will look to contend in a suddenly deep SEC.
10. USC – Out west, the Trojans return their top eight scorers from last year’s 26-win team. Long, athletic and experienced, USC appears to be the biggest challenge to Arizona for the Pac-12.
11. Cincinnati – Cincinnati looks to make its eighth-consecutive postseason appearance behind Mike Cronin with high production expected from Jacob Evans and Gary Clark. Barring catastrophic injury, the Bearcats should be Wichita State’s tallest competitor in the AAC.
12. West Virginia – Coach Bob Huggins’ squad looks to build off a very good season which saw them reach the Sweet 16. They return three starters, including guard Jevon Carter. If the defense labeled “Press Virginia” can do the same thing that they’ve become known for under Huggins, be wary of them come March.
13. Miami (FL) – Miami brings back six of its top eight scorers, and welcomes a Top 10 recruiting class to South Beach. If five-star prospect Lonnie Walker remains healthy, Miami could certainly challenge for the ACC.
14. Notre Dame – The Irish return preseason All-American Bonzie Colson and scrappy point guard Matt Farrell as they look to lead a veteran Notre Dame team back to The Dance.
15. Louisville – Louisville is another intriguing team to watch this year, as former head coach Rick Pitino was fired in October as a result of FBI investigations. It will be interesting to see how a very talented Cardinals team responds on the court this season, led by Quentin Snider, Deng Adel and prized freshman Brian Bowen II.
16. Minnesota – Richard Pitino, Rick’s son, will welcome back almost the same exact roster as last year’s team, which finished 24-10. They should be very prominent in a weaker Big 10, who’s experiencing a down year.
17. Northwestern – The Wildcats were a Cinderella story last year, qualifying for their first tournament in school history. They look to repeat their feat and head back to the Big Dance as they return all five starters from last year’s team this season.
18. Xavier – Xavier enters this season led by a pair of seniors in Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura. After an underwhelming 2016-17 campaign, the Musketeers look to bounce back and contend with Villanova for the Big East.
19. Gonzaga – Gonzaga was hit hard by graduation this past offseason, as a large portion of the team Mark Few rolled out for the national championship versus North Carolina will not return. The ’Zags will look to rebound behind Few, as he looks to lead his team to its third 35-win season in four years.
20. UCLA – The Bruins will be without four of their starters from last season entering this year, but hope to sustain success by combining veteran leadership with young talent and athleticism. LiAngelo Ball, Lonzo’s younger brother, already has UCLA in the news following his alleged arrest for shoplifting during a team trip in Hangzhou, China.
21. Purdue – The loss of Caleb Swanigan will hit Purdue hard from multiple angles, but the impact he left on current players should suit them well as they prepare to have another successful season in a moderately decent Big 10. Isaac Haas remains down low for Matt Painter
22. Alabama – While football is the main sport in ‘Bama, look for the basketball team to make some waves as they enter this season, as well. The Tide return four starters and also added the eighth-best recruiting class in the country.
23. Baylor – Baylor returns three solid starters, and while the loss of Johnathan Motley hits hard, the Bears appear prepared to make the tournament for a fifth-straight year.
24. Seton Hall – The Pirates return three starters from last season, including perhaps one of the best defenders in the nation in Angel Delgado. They look to make the tourney for the third time in a row.
25. St. Mary’s (Ca.) – Saint Mary’s faced tough competition in last year’s tournament, but certainly proved to the basketball world that it belonged on that stage. With plenty of talent returning, the Gaels are poised to challenge Gonzaga in the WCC once again this year.