basketball-men-d1 flag

Andy Katz | Correspondent | October 17, 2018

Kentucky is No. 1 in Andy Katz's preseason Power 36 college basketball rankings

Will RJ Barrett be one of Duke's next stars?

We're only a few weeks away from the AP Preseason Top 25 poll and then a potential national title game preview when Duke and Kentucky meet in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis on Nov. 6. There are plenty of teams worthy of the No. 1 spot in that first AP poll and even more for the top 10 and beyond.

We took a shot at ranking the Top 25, expanded it to include a Power 36, and predicted a range where these teams will be ranked in the AP Preseason poll. Enjoy!

1. Kentucky: John Calipari has one of his deeper teams since he took over with returning experience in P.J. Washington, Nick Richards and Quade Green. The addition of Stanford transfer Reid Travis and a stud freshman class led by Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro make the ‘Cats one of the top teams to beat.

AP prediction: 1-3.

2. Kansas: The Jayhawks are loaded, but the one thing they don’t have is veteran leadership from Kansas guards like they've had in past years with Frank Mason and Devonte Graham. OK, maybe that’s a nitpick, but that’s the one reason to knock them down from the No. 1 perch for now. Dedric and K.J. Lawson came over from Memphis and sat out last season. Cal transfer Charlie Moore, newcomer Quentin Grimes and Lagerald Vick will all take starring role turns. The return of Udoka Azubuike and Silvio De Sousa gives the Jayhawks the anchors inside. Kansas should be in the mix for the title all season.

AP prediction: 1-3.

3. Gonzaga: The Zags have nearly as much experience as they had two seasons ago when they played for the national title. They’ve got the veteran point guard in Josh Perkins, the tough matchups in Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie and the sharp-shooter in Zach Norvell. Brandon Clarke and Geno Crandall, once he’s eligible later in October, will have an immediate impact too. This team is national title good.

AP prediction: 1-4.

4. Duke: The Blue Devils have two of the most talented players in the country in freshmen Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett. The rest of the class, which includes Tre Jones and Cam Reddish, isn’t too shabby, either. Duke doesn’t have the experienced upperclassmen to rely on but they have the greatest coach to turn this young team into a possible champion.

AP prediction: 1-4.

5. North Carolina: The Tar Heels aren’t being discussed as a title contender but they could have the pieces in place with Luke Maye, Nassir Little, Kenny Williams and Cameron Johnson. That’s a lot of experience mixed with a stud freshman in Little. Don’t sleep on UNC playing deep into the tournament.

AP prediction: 5-10.

MORE: The best college basketball teams from every decade

6. Virginia: The Cavaliers are locked in after losing to UMBC in the first round. Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome said they have never worked harder. De’Andre Hunter is healthy and he could be their toughest player to defend. The key will be the bigs and if they can play their role, this team could compete for a top seed again.

AP prediction: 1-5.

7. Tennessee: The co-SEC champs have two of the better players back in the league in Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield. That’s enough for me to be fully on board with the Vols being back where they were last season.

AP prediction: 6-10.

8. Nevada: The Wolf Pack have their best team in school history. Caleb and Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline can all be double-figure scorers and newcomer Jordan Brown is an anchor inside that Eric Musselman coveted. The Wolf Pack could make a Final Four run.

AP prediction: 4-7

9. Auburn: The Tigers get Danjel Purifoy and Austin Wiley back to join a core returning group (Jared Harper and Bryce Brown especially). This team has Elite Eight potential.

AP prediction: 6-10

10. Kansas State: The Wildcats made a stunning run to the Elite Eight and return every key piece. Dean Wade was hurt for all but one game during the tournament. He’s back and so are Barry Brown Jr., and Xavier Sneed. The Kansas-Kansas State games this season will be the most anticipated in this series for quite some time.

AP prediction: 10-15.

11. Michigan State: The Spartans are still the team to beat in the Big Ten with the combo of Cassius Winston and Nick Ward. Adding Marcus Bingham inside gives the Spartans another force. Expect this MSU team to continue to get better with game experience and be a factor in March.

AP prediction: 6-10

12. Syracuse: The starting five is back from a surprising Sweet 16 run. But the Orange won’t be a sleeper this season. Syracuse should be in the hunt for a top-four ACC finish and a solid seed. Tyus Battle should be an ACC player of the year candidate, too.

AP prediction: 10-15

13. Villanova: The defending national champs lost quite a bit but still have to be the team to beat in the Big East. Phil Booth and Eric Paschall have championship experience and Albany’s Joe Cremo will come in and make a major contribution. The newcomers like Cole Swider and Jahvon Quinerly will be household names soon enough.

AP prediction: 10-15.

14. Florida State: The Seminoles got better as the season progressed and made a run to the Elite Eight. Leonard Hamilton loves this group and with Terance Mann and Christ Koumadje back, among others, the Seminoles could push for a top-three finish in the ACC.

AP prediction: 15-20.

15. West Virginia: The Mountaineers may have the best and most intimidating frontcourt in the country in Sagaba Konate and Esa Ahmad. If the Mountaineers get the needed guard play, especially on the defensive end, then this should be a second-weekend NCAA tournament team yet again.

AP prediction: 20-25.

ALSO: Which tournament droughts will end in 2019?

16. Nebraska: James Palmer Jr. and Isaac Copeland Jr., didn’t come back to go to another NIT. The Huskers won 13 games in the Big Ten last season. They should do the same again but this time earn a bid.

AP prediction: 15-20.

17. Purdue: Carsen Edwards could end up being the national player of the year. He’s not Kemba Walker. But he could be a Walker-like lead guard who takes his team to a higher level than projected because of his ability to get his own shot and be so prolific.

AP prediction: 15-20.

18. Washington: The Huskies had one of the biggest wins of the season last year by taking out Kansas. Mike Hopkins has the team all in on the zone and he’s got the length and disruption with Matisse Thybulle and Noah Dickerson. I’m not sold the rest of the country is all in on the Huskies just yet.

AP prediction: Receiving votes.

19. Marquette: Markus Howard is a scoring machine. Sam Hauser is the perfect compliment. The Golden Eagles are going to score in bunches. The key will be whether or not this team defends at a high level. If it does then Marquette could win the league.

AP prediction: Receiving votes.

20. UCLA: The Bruins will be one of the better offensive teams on the West Coast with Kris Wilkes’ ability to fill the stat sheet. This team is still young in spots, but it will definitely be a threat to win the Pac-12 by late February.

AP prediction: 20-25.

21. Indiana: Juwan Morgan will be in contention for Big Ten player of the year and should get competition from his teammate, freshman Romeo Langford. The Hoosiers have bought into Archie Miller’s defensive philosophy now too. This team is a riser in the Big Ten and in the country this season.

AP prediction: 20-25.

22. Loyola Chicago: The Ramblers are not a one-hit wonder. They have a real shot to make another deep run. Clayton Custer, Marques Townes and Cameron Krutwig have all improved and shouldn’t be frazzled in any situation this season. I dropped them few spots just because it will take time to deal with the losses of Donte Ingram, Ben Richardson and Aundre Jackson.

AP prediction: 15-20.

23. UCF: I’m all in with the Knights. Getting B.J. Taylor, Tacko Fall and Aubrey Dawkins back this season means the Knights should be the team to beat in the American and deliver Johnny Dawkins an NCAA tournament team that could get to the second weekend.

AP prediction: Also receiving votes.

24. Michigan: The Wolverines have a healthy John Beilein back on the bench. And they’ve got Charles Matthews, Isaiah Livers, Zavier Simpson, Jordan Poole and a few studs in Ignas Brazdeikis and Brandon Johns Jr. This team may not compete for the title but they will be relevant all season long,

AP prediction: 20-25.

25. Mississippi State: The NIT semifinal appearance should be a launching pad for a squad that returns its core. Ben Howland was patient and should have the Bulldogs back in the NCAA tournament.

AP prediction: 20-25.

The other 11 (some of whom might be ranked in the top 25)

26. Clemson: The Tigers are on the doorstep of my preseason poll. Marcquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell give the Tigers one of the more experienced backcourts on the East Coast.

27. Virginia Tech: I may regret not having the Hokies in the top 25. They are just outside, though, so don’t fret. Justin Robinson is a stud and will be heard from throughout the season.

28. Oregon: The Ducks have a stud newcomer in Bol Bol but the return of Payton Pritchard gives them the experience to make an NCAA tournament run.

29. Cincinnati: Another team I may regret not having in the top 25 to start the season. Expect Jarron Cumberland to be the next Bearcat star.

30. Wisconsin: The Badgers have a Big Ten player of the year candidate in Ethan Happ, one of the toughest guards in the country in Brad Davison and the healthy return of Kobe King and D’Mitrik Trice. The Badgers will be back in the NCAA tournament.

31. Minnesota: Two words to remember: Jordan Murphy. He’s a double-double machine. The Gophers will be healthier, and hopefully won’t have any distractions en route to an NCAA tournament berth.

32. TCU: Jamie Dixon has his most talented team during his brief tenure at his alma mater. Alex Robinson is one of the top guards in the league and once the host of newcomers mesh this should be a top-four team in the Big 12.

33. Butler: Kamar Baldwin could be one of the top guards in the league. Nova coach Jay Wright had the Bulldogs as the team to beat in the Big East. But let’s cool on that and have the Bulldogs as a top-four Big East team for now.

34. Davidson: Kellan Grady should be the best player in the A-10 this season, or at the very least lead the league in scoring. The Wildcats went on a late run to earn a bid last season with an  A-10 title game win over Rhode Island on Selection Sunday. They won’t have to worry about that this season.

35. Buffalo: The Bulls were not a fluke last season in knocking off Arizona. C.J. Massinburg is back to lead Buffalo back to the NCAA tournament (although Eastern Michigan will push the Bulls in the MAC).

36.  Providence: No reason to doubt Ed Cooley. He will have the Friars in the NCAA tournament behind Alpha Diallo’s leadership. Book it.

Gonzaga tops UCLA in another instant classic as Drew Timme's huge day powers Bulldogs to Elite Eight

Gonzaga and UCLA played in another instant classic in March Madness as the Bulldogs and Bruins both had big rallies and clutch shots late. In the end, Gonzaga advanced, 79-76.

March Madness: One stat shows AP No. 1 is far from a championship lock

It seems like a safe pick. But it’s happened just once since 2002.

College basketball: Longest active NCAA tournament streaks

Sustaining excellence in men's college basketball is no easy task. But some teams have active ongoing streaks that have lasted two decades.

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from and our partners