NCAA Basketball is finally here. Check out some takeaways from the Preseason AP Top 25 Poll as we gear up for another exciting season!
The NCAA basketball season is practically here. After an offseason with so many moving parts in the world of today’s transfer portal, buzz about teams rebuilding, resetting, or even taking a step backwards has been the talk of the hoops world for months. With the amount of parity that exists in college basketball especially, it is truly hard to gather a sure-fire prediction of what teams are going to be the best and what teams will fall back. Many teams come out of nowhere and push themselves into the limelight, while others start with high hopes and maybe fall short.
Nonetheless, there is still a lot you can tell from the AP Poll even in the preseason based on roster construction, previous success, and other factors. So with all of this in mind, let’s talk about some standout points and key takeaways when looking at this year’s AP Preseason Men’s Basketball Poll.
1. Familiar Faces
So after half a year away from some of basketball’s biggest brands, it’s time to welcome back some programs that have been in the top 25 conversation consistently these last few years. Duke is back near the top along with Purdue, Kansas, Gonzaga, and others all making a familiar return to the top 25. In fact, USC is the ONLY team that did not make the AP Poll at all last year. A few teams only saw a ranking very briefly such as Villanova who fell tremendously after some injuries last season, but look primed for a consistent bounce back year here.
That may feel repetitive, but a lot of these teams look significantly better such as Michigan State who could very well remain top 10 or others. So even with familiar faces, a lot of new teams will be in the mix for championship contention.
2. Hello Mid-majors
Okay, okay… Gonzaga is always ranked so no surprise there. Still, we’re seeing Florida Atlantic impressively coming in at #10, Gonzaga at #11, San Diego State at #17, and Saint Mary’s at #23 making it four mid-major teams starting out with some high expectations this year. Perhaps the most impressive of these is FAU finding themselves in a top 10 spot.
However, considering they’re returning a lot of the team that made a historic run last year, it’s easy to see why. This isn’t your one year run like previous Cinderella stories, the Owls look like they want to be here to stay and give mid-major hoops some great notoriety. Saint Mary’s has really been consistent under head coach Randy Bennett. Gonzaga looks as good as ever after some retooling, and San Diego State looks to pick up where they left off much like FAU.
Plenty of teams lay in waiting right off the top 25 such as Drake, New Mexico, College of Charleston, and more. So, in light of the NIT restructuring, there’s some positive storylines to look for mid-major fanatics paving a way for hopefully more programs to be taken seriously and make some form of a run into the postseason more attainable.
3. Some Key Programs Missing
Although a lot of familiar faces return, there are some notable absences from the first poll. Just missing the cut are both Indiana and UCLA – teams that stayed consistent in the top 25 last year. UCLA remained ranked the entire season finishing at #7, and Indiana at #21. Florida also misses the list as they remain in limbo right now after some down years with at least a potential to take a step forward this year.
So in that sense, some sort of changing of the guard has occurred and shown to be true this season with some new teams making a return and some tried and true programs missing the cut.
4. “SEC, SEC, SEC”
So conference tribalism is always an argument that someone will dive into, and that is not the focus of this point. Rather, this is just an observation. If someone told you five years ago that the SEC would have the most teams out of any conference landing in the AP Basketball Preseason poll, you might consider them drunk.
Yet, here we are in 2023 with Tennessee at #9, Arkansas at #14, Texas A&M at #15, Kentucky at #16, and Alabama down at #24. Although in truth, this is sort of a moot point because even though a lot of fans associate the SEC with football predominantly, the conference has actually seen a lot of success in basketball too. Programs like Kentucky, Florida, Auburn, Arkansas, and others in the past have all had great success.
Somehow still this feels like a continuation of a new era in a way with some different programs leading the charge. Disregarding how you read into this, the point is that the SEC has the most ranked teams starting this season off with some great programs knocking at the door.
Something else to note that really isn’t a new idea this year, but still shown to be true is the evolution of college basketball is the value of quality guard play. A lot of teams on here focus on great guard play/backcourts and can in a lot of cases can move their rotation through multiple positions on the court. Also, there are a lot of great teams that may be overlooked such as Wisconsin, Syracuse, Virginia, and others. With all of this in mind, it is looking to be a great basketball season ahead of us.
With so many teams this year that can be argued as the favorite, many more that have upset potential, and even still some who could find their way to the top 25 at some point this year, this is a sure fire formula for a great season for so many fanbases. College hoops is finally here!