On Monday afternoon we released our experts matrix of top 25 (and ones). Our six college basketball content providers chimed in and independently submitted their preseason prognostication on which teams should be ranked where when the season gets underway on Nov. 8.
In an effort to clear up the disconnect between many of the picks, I averaged out all the teams in the rankings and created a composite of all six submissions. Below is the "consensus" Top 25 (and one). Taking in six minds and melding the projections into one, it's hard to argue against this being a reasonable, marquee preseason poll. Behold!
The Wildcats are again loaded with a van-load of freshmen, led by Julius Randle, who could challenge Andrew Wiggins for the No. 1 spot in next year's draft. Biggest difference this year: Andrew Harrison is a much better point guard for UK than Ryan Harrow was last season.
You could easily make the argument for Louisville to be the top spot. Sure it lost Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng, but Russ Smith is back, as are Chane Behanan, Wayne Blackshear, Luke Hancock, Kevin Ware and Montrezl Harrell. That last name will probably be the first Cardinal taken in next year's draft, too.
3. Michigan State
Michigan State only loses Derrick Nix. Gary Harris is probably now the best player in the Big Ten. And if Keith Appling keeps it together at point guard, this team can win the national title.
Another year, another beautiful fall season, another Duke team that's got enough to reach the Final Four. And this one can win it all, too. Jabari Parker is the stud freshman name you probably know, but Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood could be a sleeper pick for All-American, and Rasheed Sulaimon is one of the tough guys in all of college hoops.
Wildcats will have a very good backcourt, a very solid frontcourt, and probably will have the best overall combination of age, athleticism, playmaking and size.
Andrew Wiggins isn't everything. Joel Embiid has gotten pub as the best practice player so far. Wayne Selden is another stud. Naadir Tharpe will run point, and he'll be damn good at it.
7. Oklahoma State
Marcus Smart enters this season as the best point guard in the country. Markel Brown is a senior wing who's probably the most underrated talent. The Cowboys can have their best season in ages.
8. Ohio State
Deshaun Thomas was an awesome offensive talent at the college level, but I get a feeling LaQuinton Ross is going to make Buckeye fans forget about Thomas in a hurry. Aaron Craft is now a senior, and many people oddly hate him despite his tremendous discipline and perfect fit inside OSU's system.
The Orange have some mystery to them after losing Michael Carter-Williams, Brandon Triche and James Southerland, but Tyler Ennis is a point guard that's going to make immediate impact. C.J. Fair is good enough to be All-ACC First Team. Rakeem Christmas, Baye Moussa Keita and DaJuan Coleman could bloom to create an elite frontcourt
10. North Carolina
The P.J. Hairston saga has created a hellish offseason for Roy Williams. Hairston will miss an undetermined amount of games, but even without him, UNC will have talent from James Michael McAdoo, Marcus Paige, Leslie McDonald and Brice Johnson. Important newcomers include Nate Britt, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks.
Gators will not have big man Chris Walker until at least the second half of the season due to academics, and there's no guarantee he's around then yet, either. Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather will be huge as returnees, and at this point Patric Young is what he is: reliable, but not as great a big man as his stature leads us to believe. Dorian Finney-Smith is the Va. Tech transfer that could break out.
The Wolverines' loss of Trey Burke will prevent this team from being an elite one, but they'll still be damn good. Mitch McGary came on huge last March; he's the team's second-best player behind Glenn Robinson III, who came back instead of chasing the NBA dream. Nik Stauskas is a deep threat. Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, Spike Albrecht: all names college hoops fans know, and all in the fold again. Solid club.
Gotta love the Tigers because they now have what I believe is the best backcourt in the nation. Josh Pastner has his first legitimate shot at expecting a Sweet 16 berth. Tigers will be very fun to watch this year. Can Joe Jackson be at his best in his senior season?
14. Notre Dame
Only players gone are Jack Cooley and Scott Martin, who were good, but the best of the Irish is back. Jerian Grant is one of the five most underrated players in the country. This team will be balanced, deep and probably one of the best major-conference 3-point shooting teams in the nation.
15. Virginia Commonwealth
Juvonte Reddic, Treveon Graham and Briante Weber are all good enough -- in a best-case scenario -- to make the Atlantic 10's First Team at season's end. The Rams are the favorite in that league because they've got the best talent and that hellacious HAVOC system on D.
Volunteers are a team a lot of casual fans might not realize are in for a very good year. Jarnell Stokes, Jordan McRae can be a power duo for the Vols that's good enough to take second in the SEC.
The Huskies have a great floorleader in Shabazz Napier. He'll be set up in the backcourt with Omar Calhoun and Ryan Boatright. There is a lot of upside here, but questions exist about how good the Huskies' frontcourt can be. At their best, UConn can threaten for No. 2 in the American behind Louisville.
The Ducks are a dark horse pick to win the Pac-12 despite losing four impact seniors. Oregon has standout sophomore guard Dominic Artis in addition to Mike Moser's one year of availability as a grad student. Moser was last at UNLV, you'll recall. Damyean Dotson should also have a nice year.
The Badgers are never bad. They're also never great. Slotting them around No. 20 seems a good fit. Josh Gasser's going to be paired with Ben Brust to combine for a robust backcourt. Forward Sam Dekker is expected to have a star-type year for Wisky.
Great backcourt, solid frontcourt, veteran team -- it's the same ol' Zags. Mark Few's team is again the best in the West Coast Conference, and despite losing Kelly Olynyk to the NBA, it'd be shock if this team failed to get to 25 wins, minimally, yet again. Kevin Pangos might be top-10 in scoring nationally at year's end.
21. Marquette (tie)
Marquette's shed that gritty-yet-good label once and for all, I think. I hope. The Golden Eagles are the best team in the Big East because they've got good frontcourt reliability in Chris Otule and Davante Gardner paired with guard play Todd Mayo and freshman Deonte Burton, who's a great athlete.
21. UCLA (tie)
Steve Alford takes over for Ben Howland. Will Kyle Anderson have a chance to truly flourish and be the point forward he was recruited as? Jordan Adams is a name more people should know by Christmastime; he was awesome last year and is the reason we're putting the Bruins in our preseason rankings.
23. New Mexico
Alford's old team falls just behind his new one. The Lobos lost Tony Snell, which is huge, but Kendall Williams won MWC Player of the Year. And he's probably not going to be the best player on the team this year. That would be Alex Kirk.
Bears lose a vital piece in point guard Pierre Jackson, who lived up to expectations last season, mostly. What does Baylor boast for 2013-14? Isaiah Austin is the lanky big man with potential dripping off his fingers. He has skill that makes him a top-five NBA pick at his best, but I gotta see it. Elsewhere, Rico Gathers, Gary Franklin, Brady Heslip and Cory Jefferson offer up enough diversity to give Baylor a puncher's chance at a No. 4 seed come March.
The Cavaliers bring nearly everyone back and will be led by Joe Harris. Leave it to Virginia to have a dude with a normal-sounding name to be so good, effecitvely underrating him in the process (just ask Mike Scott. Who? Exactly). Tony Bennett will also have Mike Tobey, a 6-11 player who's turning himself into a true 5.
(And one) California
We round up our preseason Top 25 (and one) with the Golden Bears. This team will rely on Justin Cobbs most, but Jabari Bird is as freshman with a very good reputation. The Pac-12 could be a cluster for teams three through eight this season, and Cal has potential and talent to fight through that and remain in the top half of the league.