College Basketball Preseason Rankings
by Trevor Whenham - 11/6/2009
The college basketball exhibition season has started (much to the chagrin of Syracuse), so that means that the real season is just around the corner. I'm sure I'm not the only one who can't wait. The AP preseason poll is out. At this point the rankings are pure guesswork and speculation - we have no way of knowing what the teams will actually be like until we see them play. Any time you look at a poll this early in the season there will be teams that will jump out at you as being potentially over-ranked, and others that aren't getting enough respect. Here are three of each in my eyes:
Kentucky (No. 4) - Let me say up front that I think that John Calipari is quite possibly the best coach in the country, and I have no doubt that he is going to succeed here and cut down a bunch of nets in his time. This is a perfect pairing. I just think it is unreasonable to have them ranked this highly at this point in the season - even if there is a good chance that they will finish this high or better. Just think of all that they are up against here - they have a new coach who brings in a radically different system, their best player from last year is now a Milwaukee Buck, they are coming off a season that saw them in the NIT, and they are going to be playing a stunning number of freshmen in key roles. It would be an absolute shock if this team didn't go through growing pains of some sort early on before they find their stride.
Villanova (No. 5) - The Wildcats were very impressive in making the Final Four last year, and people seem to think that that was just the beginning for this squad. I'm not sure I'm buying it. I don't think that they are going to be a bad team by any means, but they still have a lot to prove. They have lost two starters, and will have to work in a number of young players and Taylor King, a transfer from Duke, to pick up the slack. It may or may not be seamless. My biggest concern is that the players that left were leadership types, and this team will need to replace that in a hurry. I'm also not convinced that this is a team that is built to hold up under the intense expectations that they face. There is certainly a chance that this team will be as good as this ranking indicates, but they aren't there yet, and that makes this an unreasonable ranking now.
North Carolina (No. 6) - You have to respect a defending national champion, but you also can't forget that this is a defending national champion that is now without it's two best players. Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson were, in every way, the heart of this team. Lawson won't be the best pro point guard from his class, but he was the best there was at running his team. Larry Drew II has the unenviable task of taking over. Last year he struggled in limited playing time, and it is far from certain that he will be up to the task. Roy Williams relies heavily on a quarterbacking point guard, so this is a real concern. The other player that concerns me is Deon Thompson. He needs to step up and become the leader of this team, and I'm not entirely sure that he can step out of the shadows that he has lived in and do that. This ranking is asking too much of this team given where they are ranked.
Purdue (No. 7) - You don't have much to complain about when you are ranked No. 7, but Purdue deserves better. They are returning all five of their starters, and they are an impressive bunch. Robbie Hummel fought a back injury all season last season that limited his effectiveness, but he's healthy this year and he has the potential to be a contender for the National Player of the Year. The team doesn't have a glaring weakness, and will give Michigan State a serious fight for the Big Ten title. Purdue has been poised for big things for a couple of years. I think this could be the year they finally achieve their potential.
Dayton (No. 21) - The A-10 has been a strong conference for a while now, and Dayton is clearly the class of the group. They are returning four starters from a team that won a tournament game last year, including junior forward Chris Wright, an impressively athletic player who is a strong favorite to be Conference Player of the Year. They also have very enviable depth. This team is a lot less flawed than some of the teams that are ranked ahead of them.
Notre Dame (UR) - Given what this team offers I am surprised that they couldn't make it into the bottom of the rankings. Luke Harangody is an early frontrunner for the National Player of the Year. Point guard Tory Jackson is a tough, gritty senior. They are the only returning starters, but they will be helped out by a couple of transfers who will be ready to hit the ground running - Scott Martin and Ben Hansbrough. They have spent time practicing with the team already, and will play major roles. This team collapsed last year after a strong start, but they surely have learned from that - coach and players. This should be a ranked team.
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