AUBURN, Ala. — College basketball season is just around the corner, and I am one of the national voters in this year’s Associated Press Top 25 poll for men’s hoops.
Each Monday during the season, I’ll post my Top 25 ballot for the week’s AP poll and give some notes on why I voted the way I voted. If you would like to discuss my rankings or yell at me online about them — hi, Big Blue Nation! — give me a shout on Twitter @JFergusonAU.
First, here are my notes for this year’s preseason poll:
- Duke was a near-unanimous No. 1 in this year’s poll, and for good reason. The Blue Devils return three key members from a team that went to the Sweet 16 and added the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, according to 247Sports. That combination of young and veteran talent, along with a Hall of Fame coach like Mike Krzyzewski, makes for a clear title contender.
- I went back and forth on Villanova and Kentucky for the No. 2 spot behind Duke. In the end, I gave the slight edge to the defending national champions that return three starters and a couple of key contributors off the bench.
- But don’t get me wrong, Kentucky is scary loaded this year thanks to that recruiting class and the return of a potential star in Isaiah Briscoe. Bam Adebayo is going to be so much fun to watch for the Wildcats.
- Kentucky is the only SEC team in the Top 25 in the preseason poll and my personal ballot. It’s truly Kentucky vs. the field for the league this season. There are several tiers of challengers, but teams such as Vanderbilt and Florida are going to have to show a lot early this season.
- Even after Michigan State’s disappointment last March, I think the Spartans are a Top 10 team for 2016-17. Tom Izzo has several veteran players coming back to a team that went 29-6 a season ago, and he brought in two McDonalds All-Americans in his true freshman class.
- Count me among those who believe in Rhode Island this season. The Rams would’ve gone dancing last season with a healthy E.C. Matthews, and now they’ve added Indiana transfer Stanford Robinson to the mix. Dan Hurley is going to make that breakthrough and have one of the most fun teams in the country, regardless of conference affiliation.
Now, here’s my preseason Top 25 ballot:
- North Carolina
- Michigan State
- Saint Mary’s (Calif.)
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
- Iowa State
- Virginia Tech