With college basketball right around the corner, the AP released their preseason Top 25 poll, which will clearly highlight certain storylines for the 2015 season. Before I break down the most interesting aspects of the poll, here is the Top 25 for this year so you can get an idea of how the AP placed these teams before the season officially started.
- North Carolina
- Iowa State
- Wichita State
- Michigan State
- Notre Dame
I found this preseason poll to be one of the most interesting rankings in recent years, which hopefully should indicate a very exciting season in the NCAA. With that being said, it’s time to break down the major discussion topics heading into the season and evaluate why the preseason poll creates hype for specific programs but not others.
#1 North Carolina
The #1 team in the AP preseason poll for the 2015 season is bringing back their three key players from last year in Marcus Paige, Kennedy Meeks, and Justin Jackson. The Tar Heels will look to capitalize on a great opportunity to make some serious noise in the ACC this year. The reason I found this ranking interesting is although they’re returning a large majority of their contributors, the Tarheels have a reputation of underperforming when their expectations are highest. The AP placing this talented team as the #1 team in the country could set up North Carolina for a let down in 2015-16.
In my honest opinion, I believe that Maryland should’ve been named the #1 team in the country for this year’s preseason poll. It’s easy to choose North Carolina because of their returning contributors, or Kentucky because of their superstar recruiting classes year in and year out, but this year Maryland deserved it. The Terrapins have an absolutely loaded roster with returning star guard Melo Trimble and starting senior forward Jake Layman, recruiting five-star big man Diamond Stone, and bringing in Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon. Head coach Mark Turgeon had been on the hot seat for a few years, but now this team has the talent to win the national championship as well as send multiple players to the NBA, so the Terps are absolutely a team to watch this year.
#10 Wichita State
The yearly diamond in the rough Shockers round out the top 10 teams in the country for this year’s preseason poll. Returning senior guards Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker make this team, without a doubt, one of the most dangerous mid-majors in the country come tournament time. The best asset that Wichita State has is head coach Gregg Marshall, who was in the spotlight this offseason with rumors of Marshall being the main candidate to take over the Texas Longhorns program. With a mature, talented backcourt and one of the best coaches in the country, the Wichita State Shockers are once again one of the premier teams in the country.
The Wisconsin Badgers are coming off a national championship appearance where they lost to the Duke Blue Devils, but were clearly one of the best teams in the country. However, after losing center Frank Kaminsky and forward Sam Dekker to the NBA (both first round picks), the Badgers are still getting respect, being named in the top 20 teams to start the year. The returning player that looks to be the focal point of the team is junior forward Nigel Hayes, who is the prototype versatile wing that Wisconsin uses so effectively. Head coach Bo Ryan was rumored to be seriously considering retiring after last year, but is back for at least this year. Although Wisconsin isn’t a favorite to win the national championship, you can bet that Bo Ryan has his Badgers ready to make a deep push in the NCAA tournament.
Throughout the last few years, the only two teams to make national news coming out of the SEC for basketball are Kentucky and Florida. However, in my opinion, the most interesting team in the country is the LSU Tigers. They’re bringing in the #1 overall recruit in the country in forward Ben Simmons, as well as the #15 recruit in guard Antonio Blakeney. For the last few years, LSU has been making noise and slowly rising up the ranks of the SEC. With two incredibly talented and nationally known recruits coming in to play for the Tigers, this should make for a fun year in Louisiana.
Overall, the AP poll tries to generate discussion and headlines before the tip-off of each college basketball season. There could be articles written on every single team in the top 25 as well as the teams that didn’t make the preseason poll, but I simply felt the need to highlight which teams stuck out the most in their rankings and why. Without the use of the AP poll, most common fans wouldn’t have the ability to understand which teams are expected to play at the best caliber in the nation, so it allows for a baseline of each team’s expectations for the season. The preseason poll utilizes its rankings in order to judge who the top teams are in the offseason while releasing them early so that people can discuss, and this year the poll did its job very well.