2018-19 college basketball rankings: Kentucky jumps to No. 1 in the way-too-early Top 25 (and 1)
The Wildcats added some new pieces and climbed to the top of our early offseason rankings
Kentucky lost a lot of players early to the NBA Draft, per usual. But you can still reasonably argue that, all things considered, this has been a great offseason for the Wildcats. PJ Washington and Quade Green returned to school. Ashton Hagans reclassified. And Reid Travis committed. So now John Calipari has an immensely talented roster that's also sprinkled with experience.
That's a great combination.
The Wildcats could have three non-freshmen starters -- two of whom (Washington and Green) are former five-star prospects who combined to average 20.1 points per game last season, the other a 22-year-old graduate transfer who averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds as a junior at Stanford.
Combine that with the nation's second-ranked recruiting class that's highlighted by the top-ranked point guard (Hagans), and it's enough to make Kentucky the No. 1 team in the updated CBS Sports Top 25 (and one).
Yes, you could make an argument for Kansas. Perhaps Duke too.
But nobody has a better mix of experienced talent and incredible talent than UK. So a fifth Final Four in a 10-year span seems possible, and a second national championship for Calipari is very much in play.
The complete Top 25 (and one) is below.
|1||Kentucky||Two of the top five scorers -- specifically PJ Washington and Quade Green -- are back from a team that advanced to the Sweet 16. Plus, graduate-transfer Reid Travis has committed. Plus, the nation's No. 2 recruiting class -- that improved in June when five-star point guard Ashton Hagans reclassified -- is set to enroll. So the Wildcats, on paper, look like the nation's best team.||3||26-11|
|2||Kansas||Bill Self will once again have a roster loaded with talent and experience - the kind that makes the Jayhawks the clear favorite to win a 15th straight Big 12 title. Former Memphis star Dedric Lawson should be a double-double nightmare for opponents right from the jump. And the arrival of five-star guards Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson makes the losses of Malik Newman and Lagerald Vick less of a big deal.||1||31-8|
|3||Duke||Duke is losing its entire starting lineup. But the recruiting class is again loaded thanks to commitments from the No. 1 (R.J. Barrett), No. 2 (Cameron Reddish) and No. 3 (Zion Williamson) prospects in the Class of 2018. So the Blue Devils should be factors on the national stage again. Same old, same old in Durham.||1||29-8|
|4||Tennessee||Tennessee should return most of the important pieces from a team that shared the SEC regular-season title. More specifically, the top six scorers are back - among them SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams. So it'll come as no surprise when the Vols finish at, or near, the top of the league again.||1||26-9|
|5||Gonzaga||Gonzaga has finished in the top 25 at KenPom each of the past seven years - and in the top 10 in three of the past four. So the Zags are an undeniable benefit-of-the-doubt team. Sure, they lost their leading scorer in Johnathan Williams III. But they'll still be a national power thanks to the fact that Killian Tillie and Rui Hachimura decided to pass on the NBA Draft.||--||32-5|
|6||Nevada||The late addition of five-star forward Jordan Brown was a huge development for Nevada -- and something that would've eased the pain if Caleb and Cody Martin had remained in the NBA Draft. But they didn't. The twins withdrew at the deadline. So Nevada is absolutely loaded considering five of the top six scorers from a 29-win team that advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament are expected back. Consequently, it's very reasonable to project Eric Musselman's team to maybe make the first Final Four in school history.||--||29-8|
|7||Virginia||Virginia's historic loss to UMBC in the NCAA Tournament was a less-than-ideal way to end things. But it shouldn't make anybody forget that Tony Bennett's team put together the nation's best resume in advance of Selection Sunday. They were terrific most of the season. And seven of the top 10 players from that team should be back to help Virginia compete for another ACC title.||--||31-3|
|8||N. Carolina||With the NCAA cloud no longer hovering, UNC is back to recruiting like UNC - evidence being that the Tar Heels secured commitments from five-star prospects Nassir Little and Coby White in the Class of 2018. Those two will pair with veterans like Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson and Kenny Williams to put Roy Williams in a position to perhaps win a fourth national title. And Maye could be a First-Team All-American if he averages 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds again -- or improves on those numbers, which is possible.||--||26-11|
|9||Villanova||Villanova is losing Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman to the NBA Draft. That's a lot of good pieces gone. But Eric Paschall, Phil Booth and a top-15 recruiting class -- highlighted by five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly -- should have Jay Wright's program as Big East favorites again.||--||36-4|
|10||Auburn||The Tigers are losing Mustapha Heron to transfer, which is surprising. But they were expected to lose him anyway, one way or another, so the end result is the same. And, even with that development, Auburn is still returning six of the top eight scorers from a team that shared the SEC regular-season title last season. So another league championship is very much a possibility.||--||26-8|
|11||Michigan St.||The losses of Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson to the NBA Draft will hurt. But it's not like Tom Izzo didn't have time to prepare for that development. And there are still enough nice pieces in East Lansing - plus a top-15 recruiting class on the way - to make the Spartans the favorite to win back-to-back Big Ten regular-season titles. Cassius Winston will be the leading returning scorer. He averaged 12.6 points in 28.1 minutes per game last season.||--||30-5|
|12||Kansas St.||Every relevant player from KSU's 25-win team that advanced to the Elite Eight of the 2018 NCAA Tournament is expected back. So it's hard not to have Bruce Weber's program somewhere in the top 15. Remember, they could've made the Final Four if Dean Wade was never injured. So don't be surprised if Kansas State is the biggest threat to Kansas' string of Big 12 titles.||--||25-12|
|13||Va. Tech||Justin Bibbs was a double-digit scorer. So losing him matters. But just about every other meaningful piece from a team that earned a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament should be back - including Justin Robinson, who averaged 14.0 points in 30.9 minutes per game last season. Bottom line, this is expected to be Buzz Williams' best team in five years at Virginia Tech. A top-four finish in the ACC is very possible.||--||21-12|
|14||Florida St.||Leonard Hamilton had FSU one win away from the Final Four -- and his top two players from that team are expected back considering Phil Cofer has been granted a fifth year of eligibility. Consequently, odds are, Florida State should be in the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year -- and a factor in the ACC once again.||--||23-12|
|15||Miss. State||The top six scorers from a 25-win team that advanced to the semifinals of the NIT should be back, which will make Mississippi State a factor in the SEC and likely NCAA Tournament team for the first time under Ben Howland. Among the returning players is Quinndary Weatherspoon, who averaged a team-high 14.4 points and 6.0 rebounds last season. His brother, Nick, averaged 10.8 points while shooting 47.9 percent from the field.||--||25-12|
|16||W. Virginia||The Mountaineers are losing a lot from that 26-win team - most notably Jevon Carter. But West Virginia has never finished outside of the top 25 since Bob Huggins committed to "Press Virginia" before the 2014-15 season. So there's no reason to think they'll slip too much even with key players gone.||--||26-11|
|17||Oregon||Oregon is set to enroll the nation's No. 3 recruiting class that's highlighted by possible one-and-done prospects Bol Bol and Louis King. Combine that with the return of leading scorer Payton Pritchard, and Dana Altman's Ducks should be the favorite to win the Pac-12 while Arizona goes through something of a rebuild.||--||23-13|
|18||UCLA||Steve Alford has secured consecutive top-five recruiting classes, which gives him the talent necessary to make the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in six years at UCLA. The star of the class is Moses Brown, a 7-foot center from New York. He's one of five top-75 prospects enrolling at UCLA -- where Kris Wilkes will be the Bruins' leading returning scorer. He averaged 13.7 points and 4.9 rebounds last season.||--||21-12|
|19||LSU||Will Wade's effective recruiting has totally rebuilt LSU's roster and made it one of the SEC's most talented. Tremont Waters is terrific and should be an SEC Player of the Year candidate. And the arrival of a top-five recruiting class highlighted by Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams gives the Tigers a real chance to go from the bottom half of the SEC to somewhere near the top in a span of just one year.||--||18-15|
|20||TCU||Jamie Dixon guided TCU to the NCAA Tournament in just his second season, and he should do it again in this third even though he's losing his top two scorers. Either Desmond Bayne or Jaylen Fisher will emerge as TCU's new leading scorer. Both averaged more than 12 points per game last season as sophomores.||--||21-12|
|21||Michigan||Even with the unsurprising loss of Mo Wagner, Michigan still belongs in the Top 25 (and one) -- especially with Charles Matthews back on the roster. The Kentucky transfer averaged 13.1 points and 5.6 rebounds in 30.1 minutes per game last season. His development under John Beilein, like most players' development under the top-shelf coach, has been noticeable. Matthews could compete for Big Ten Player of the Year honors.||--||33-8|
|22||Syracuse||The top six scorers from a team that finished 41st at KenPom and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament should be back -- among them Tyus Battle, who withdrew from the NBA Draft at the deadline. So the Orange should be good enough to make the NCAA Tournament for the third time in a four-year span -- and maybe compete for a trip to the second weekend.||--||23-14|
|23||Maryland||Kevin Huerter's last-day decision to remain in the NBA Draft is a blow to Maryland, undeniably. But the Terrapins are still returning three of the top five scorers from a team that finished 39th at KenPom -- most notably Anthony Cowan, who averaged a team-high 15.8 points and 5.1 assists last season. Combine that with a top-10 recruiting class (highlighted by five-star big Jalen Smith), and Mark Turgeon's Terrapins should remain competitive.||--||19-13|
|24||Clemson||Clemson is losing two of the top three scorers from a 25-win team that finished in the top 15 at KenPom. But the Tigers played down the stretch without Donte Grantham - meaning they proved to be good even without him. And with four of the top six scorers back - among them Marcquise Reed, who averaged 15.8 points in 34.9 minutes per game last season -the expectation is for Clemson to be good again.||--||25-10|
|25||Indiana||Archie Miller is returning five of the top seven scorers from a team that got better as the season progressed -- and adding a top-10 recruiting class to the mix highlighted by Indiana high school legend Romeo Langford. If he's a star the way so many project, the Hoosiers should be back in the NCAA Tournament in 2019 for the first time since 2016.||--||16-15|
|26||Cincinnati||The loss of Jacob Evans early to the NBA Draft isn't necessarily a killer. But it hurts. And I realize Cincinnati's roster might not scream Top 25 (and one). But Mick Cronin has led the Bearcats to eight straight NCAA Tournaments, largely with unheralded prospects. So I'm simply trusting him to do it again.||--||31-5|
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