The Preseason AP Top 25 College Basketball Poll dropped Monday, which means we’re one step closer to meaningful, on-court action in the sport we know and love.
Here are our reactions to the preseason AP poll.
Will this be the best Champions Classic ever?
For the first time ever, the Champions Classic will feature the teams ranked Nos. 1-4 in the AP poll as No. 3 Kansas and No. 4 Duke will meet in the undercard before No. 1 Michigan State and No. 2 Kentucky square off inside Madison Square Garden.
Could one of those two matchups, if not both, wind up featuring more talent than the loaded rosters of Duke-Michigan State in 2017 or Kentucky-Kansas in 2014?
By the way, those two games can potentially be a real difference-maker in terms of a team’s season-long resume, and it can be a predictor of future success this season. Last season we found that the teams that won their Champions Classic matchup averaged a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, while the losing teams had an average seed of roughly 3.7 — not including the 2013 Kentucky team that was derailed by Nerlens Noel’s knee injury and missed the tournament entirely.
Can Louisville be a title contender in Year 2 of the Mack era?
There’s a reason that Louisville Head Coach Chris Mack’s contract with the school was for seven years and guaranteed an extra year for every season that Louisville is potentially impacted by a postseason ban or penalties handed down by the NCAA that result in a loss of scholarships.
There was a chance that Mack and the Cardinals would have to navigate through some troubled waters given how the Rick Pitino era ended, but as of right now, they’re on the right path.
After the four teams that are competing in the Champions Classic, the No. 5 Cardinals are the highest-ranked team in the country.
By the way, Mack’s alma mater and former employer, Xavier, is doing alright, too.
The Musketeers missed the NCAA Tournament last season but they return four of their top five options on offense from last season and check in at No. 19 in the preseason AP poll.
Can Maryland live up to expectations?
The last time that Maryland was ranked in the Preseason AP Top 25 Poll and finished that season ranked higher in the poll than it was in the preseason was the 1998-99 season, when the Terps started at No. 6 in the preseason and finished at No. 5.
They’re No. 7 in this year’s preseason poll.
That’s not to say Maryland has been a letdown for the last two decades. Heck, they won the national championship in 2002 — plus another Final Four appearance in 2001 and two other second weekend appearances.
But you could make the case that there hasn’t been a Maryland team in the Mark Turgeon era that was supposed to be really, really good based on preseason expectations and then was really, really good.
The Terrapins were No. 3 in the preseason 2015-16 poll, went 27-9, finished No. 18 in the final AP poll and No. 22 on kenpom.com.
In a Big Ten that could be wide open after Michigan State, Maryland — and its roster that includes two potential All-American-caliber players in Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith — has the chance to win the most games of any season in Turgeon’s tenure, earn the highest tournament seed and make the deepest tournament run.
Respect for last season’s national championship finalists
Defending national champion Virginia checks in at No. 11 in the preseason AP poll and national runner-up Texas Tech is No. 13. The ‘Hoos lost their top three scorers to the NBA and center Jack Salt also graduated, while the Red Raiders lost four of their top five scorers.
They were two of the top five stingiest defenses in the country last season, and if Tony Bennett’s pack line defense and Chris Beard’s “no middle” defense can continue with renovated rosters, then the two programs that played for last season’s national title are worthy of being ranked in the preseason top 15.
Is Memphis undervalued or valued correctly?
Penny Hardaway’s Tigers enrolled the No. 1 recruiting class in the country for 2019, headlined by top recruit James Wiseman, and yet they’re only No. 14 in the Preseason AP Top 25 Poll.
If you’re a Tigers fan and think that’s an injustice, kenpom.com put Memphis at No. 50 in its preseason ratings, which take into account previous seasons for a program.
Memphis will be very young and very talented, and by playing in the American Athletic Conference, the Tigers may not compete in many high-profile games once conference play starts.
We might look up in March and wonder how the AP poll-voting populace was so wrong on Memphis when everyone was aware of how talented its freshman class is, or we could say, “Eh, the voters pretty much got it right” if the Tigers experience early growing pains against a non-conference schedule that features Oregon, Ole Miss, NC State, Tennessee and Georgia.