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Andy Katz | NCAA.com | October 19, 2021

12 things to know about the preseason AP Top 25, according to Andy Katz

College basketball rankings: UCLA heads final Power 36 of the preseason

The preseason AP Top 25 is here ahead of the men's college basketball season beginning Nov. 9. Here's what NCAA.com basketball expert Andy Katz wants you to know from the initial rankings.

No. 1

No. 1 Gonzaga certainly deserves the spot with the return of Drew Timme and the arrival of Chet Holmgren. But I lean towards No. 2 UCLA with the return of Johnny Juzang, Jaime Jaquez Jr., Tyger Campbell, and Cody Riley, plus the additions of Myles Johnson (Rutgers transfer) and freshman Peyton Watson.

Top 7

Experience matters. The top seven teams, No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Kansas, No. 4 Villanova, No. 5 Texas, No. 6 Michigan, and No. 7 Purdue, are all loaded with experience and/or transfers. The one-and-done era is still dominated by experienced teams winning the title.

RELATED: Gonzaga, UCLA, Kansas lead men's basketball preseason AP Top 25 poll

No. 8 Baylor

The Bears won the title last season and they return enough with Matthew Meyer and Adam Flagler that the tough-defensive-minded, gritty, long, and athletic Bears will be in the mix. A top-10 ranking is deserved.

No. 9 Duke and No. 10 Kentucky

The two bluest of Blue Bloods are back in the top 10 after missing the NCAA tournament. There should be ZERO reasons either team isn’t in the field, let alone challenges for a Final Four berth.

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Kofi Cockburn

The Illini big man means so much to Illinois that the Illini may not have been ranked had he not returned. Instead, Illinois is No. 11.

No. 12 Memphis

The NIT champs bring in two of the highest-profile freshmen in Jalen Duren and Emoni Bates. That’s the reason why the Tigers check in at No. 12. There are loads of expectations for Penny Hardaway’s crew. It’s an NCAA tournament berth or bust.

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Respect

Head coaches Kelvin Sampson, Leonard Hamilton, and Dana Altman have earned the preseason love that they will be in the mix every season. That’s why No. 13 Oregon, No. 15 Houston, and No. 20 Florida State are in the top 20. The Ducks, Cougars, and Seminoles lost key players to the draft and/or the exhausting of eligibility, but the consensus is that they will always be a factor. The Cougars are coming off a Final Four while the Seminoles and Ducks are consistently tournament pests that make deep runs.

The Big Ten

Five Big Ten teams are in the top 25, with No. 17 Ohio State and No. 21 Maryland joining No. 6 Michigan, No. 7 Purdue, and No. 11 Illinois. Expect five Big Ten teams in the top 25 — at least all season. Indiana, Michigan State, and Rutgers will take a turn in the rankings at times this season.

The SEC

The much-maligned SEC put five teams in the field with No. 10 Kentucky, No. 14 Alabama, No. 16 Arkansas, No. 18 Tennessee, and No. 22 Auburn, which had a self-imposed postseason ban in 2021. These are five of the likely eight teams that will rotate spots. Florida, Mississippi State, and LSU will take turns in the top 25 as well.

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The No. 23 Bonnies

No. 23 St. Bonaventure is tucked away in the snow belt of Olean, New York, but the Atlantic 10 conference is well aware of the Bonnies. They are no longer a secret and the A-10 champs are in the preseason poll at No. 23.

Hubert Davis

Head coach Hubert Davis is starting off his head coaching career at North Carolina, ranked at No. 19. The ranking is well deserved and expected for a team that should challenge for the ACC title.

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No. 24 UConn

Villanova is the consensus pick to win the Big East, but the Huskies under head coach Dan Hurley should be the top challenger and debut at No. 24 in the poll.

Overall, the rankings will fluctuate wildly from 20 and beyond, with at least 20-plus schools that could have made a claim for a preseason spot.

Let’s go!

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