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Andy Wittry | NCAA.com | October 17, 2018

College basketball: These schools have improved the most on their preseason AP poll ranking in the past 15 years

The preseason AP Top 25 poll for the 2018-19 season will be released on Monday and it will inevitably create expectations — some realistic and others, not so much — for those schools that will have a number assigned next to their name.

Once the regular season starts, we should soon have an idea of how accurate the initial AP rankings are and what schools deserve to be moved up or down in the poll.

Some schools, including defending national champion Villanova, have made it a habit of consistently outperforming their ranking in the preseason AP poll.

We analyzed the preseason and final AP polls from each of the last 15 seasons, and tracked which schools have improved upon their preseason rankings the most in the last decade and a half.

Here are the results.

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Note: Average Preseason Rank and Average Final Rank were calculated only using seasons in which a school was ranked in the preseason or final poll for each category. For Net Change, a school earned +1 for moving from outside of the Top 25 to No. 25 and -1 if it moved from No. 25 to being unranked, such that the most spots a school could move in a single season is 25.

School

Net Change

Years Ranked in Preseason Poll

Years Ranked in Final Poll

Average Preseason Rank

Average Final Rank

New Mexico

+45

1

4

23

14

Villanova

+39

8

9

9

6.5

Florida State

+35

1

3

25

14

Georgetown

+29

5

7

15

14

Cincinnati

+28

4

5

18.8

14.6

Wisconsin

+27

10

11

15.7

13.3

Xavier

+27

3

6

12.7

14.8

BYU

+25

1

3

24

17

Ohio State

+25

7

8

9.3

8.3

Virginia

+25

4

5

11.8

7.6

West Virginia

+25

4

7

13.3

15.1

A common theme among the schools listed above is that they have been ranked in a higher number of final AP polls than preseason polls in the last 15 seasons. New Mexico, Xavier and West Virginia have each been ranked in the final poll three more times than they have been ranked in the preseason.

Of course, this analysis naturally benefits schools that frequently start the season unranked or in the teens or 20s of the AP poll, versus schools that are consistently ranked in the top five in the preseason.

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For example, Duke had an average preseason ranking of 5.7 in the last decade and a half. The Blue Devils’ maximum possible net change would be +71 if they were ranked No. 1 in the final AP poll in each of the last 15 years.

The 11 schools listed above have won at a high level – combining for two national championships with two national runner-up finishes, five other Final Four appearances and earning 11 No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament in the last 15 years – while still “overachieving” based upon their preseason AP Top 25 poll rankings.