With a new season comes a new set of preseason polls. Alexis Pitchford breaks down the Top Ten.
With a 2017-18 record of 31-8 and a defeat to Villanova in the Final Four by 16, the Jayhawks somehow find themselves back at the top again. Maybe it’s the love that the polls have for Bill Self. There are several games on the Jayhawks schedule that we should tune our TVs to. The State Farm Champions Classic will spark the NCAA Men’s Basketball schedule with the no. 11 Kansas Jayhawks against the no. 10 Michigan State Spartans in Indianapolis on November 6th at 6 p.m. To round out their out-of-conference schedule, they’ll also be playing Kentucky and reigning champs Villanova.
The 26-11 2018 record may not look appealing, but with a young crew, Kentucky is still dangerous. Following the Jayhawks-Spartans match, the Wildcats will face the no. 3 Duke Blue Devils in the State Farm Champions Classic. Our UNCG Spartans will also face the Wildcats in Rupp Arena on December 1st on ESPN2.
The Blue Devils finished with a 29-8 record last year after falling to the Kansas Jayhawks in the Elite 8. Stay tuned for the Blue Devils-Wildcats match up on opening night on ESPN2. For the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the Blue Devils will host the Indiana Hoosiers in Cameron Arena on November 27th at 9:00 p.m. Being in the ACC Conference is never an easy task, therefore a slew of Top 25 teams, including North Carolina, will give Duke their best shot.
How on earth did a mid-major school come out ranked in the top five in the nation? Well, Gonzaga has consistently been a beast against Power 5 schools. Losing in the Sweet Sixteen last year to Florida State, and in the national championship game to North Carolina in 2017, means that this school deserves much more recognition this season. The Bulldogs have three notable back-to-back-to-back away games that will be broadcasted on national television: December 5th at no. Washington, December 9th in Phoenix, Arizona against no. 6 Tennessee on ESPN, and Dec. 15 in the Smith Center against no. 7 North Carolina.
The Cavaliers in 5th? After losing the biggest upset game in all of NCAA basketball? But how? UVA may be a postseason bust, but they’re a very strong regular season contender. For the ACC/Big 10 Challenge, the Cavaliers will face the Maryland Terrapins in College Park on November 28th. As an ACC contender, almost every game could affect their record going into the ACC Tournament and Big Dance.
In the Big Dance, Tennessee was defeated by the great Cinderella team, Loyola-Chicago, in the Round of 32. They also lost to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament Championship game, but the Volunteers have definitely turned their basketball program around. For the NIT Season Tip-Off, the Volunteers will travel to Brooklyn to face Louisville on Nov. 21. They could also face Kansas if they defeat Marquette. The Volunteers will also face Gonzaga for the Jerry Colangelo Classic in Phoenix. Notable SEC opponents that the Volunteers will face are no. 2 Kentucky Wildcats and no. 19 Mississippi State Bulldogs.
North Carolina is in the rebuilding phase after losing 2017 NCAA Tournament MVP Joel Berry, and notable teammate, Theo Pinson. However, with a strong freshman core and the return of Luke Maye, the Tarheels can still be competitive this season. Last year, the Tar Heels lost to a SoCon team, the Wofford Terriers. They will have to face them again, but at Wofford to open up their season. For the Las Vegas Invitational, the Tar Heels could face either no. 10 Michigan State or no. 20 UCLA. For the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the Tar Heels will travel to Ann Arbor to face the no. 18 Michigan Wolverines. Other matchups that could challenge the Tar Heels are no. 2 Kentucky, no.14 Syracuse, no. 15 Florida State and no. 17 Virginia Tech.
So the 2018 NCAA National Champions fall no. 8 in Preseason polls? Seems fair? Not really. Last year, the Villanova Wildcats ran through everyone: Gonzaga, West Virginia, Kansas, Michigan, etc. What more do they have to prove to be ranked first? The Wildcats will have to face the Wolverines again on their home court on Nov. 14th at 6:30 p.m. Villanova will have to travel to Lawrence to face the no. 1 Jayhawks on December 15th. Expect the Wildcats to win the Big East Conference Tournament once again.
Another team that lost to the Cinderella squad of Loyola Chicago, but no one expected them to even make it past the first round, nor the second after defeating Texas and Cincinnati. This year, the Nevada Wolf Pack does not have a difficult schedule, but if they do not win their conference tournament, don’t expect them to slide into the Big Dance for back-to-back seasons.
Losing in their conference semifinals to Michigan and in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to Syracuse, what have these Spartans proved to even be Top 10? It has to be the love that the NCAA polls have for Tom Izzo. The Spartans will face the Kansas, UCLA, no. 22 Purdue, and their rivals, no. 18 Michigan.