Five college basketball teams not in the preseason AP Top 25 who will crack the rankings this season

Ranking college basketball teams is an inexact science, and yet every week during the college basketball season, we react and discuss them. We debate quality wins, strength of schedule, NCAA Tournament seeding ramifications. Then we debate them some more. The reality is that there is no perfect way to rank college basketball teams.

And so every year, teams begin the season unranked and, inevitably, work their way into the rankings. Since the NCAA Tournament field expanded in 1985, four teams have even started the season unranked and gone on to win the national championship, according to the NCAA. That's why, despite the obvious chatter about ranked teams, an eye should be kept on the field, too. Teams often come from nowhere into the limelight unexpectedly. We're here to make sure you're not the one who gets caught off guard with five teams not ranked in the preseason AP Top 25 who could fit that profile.

1. Washington Huskies

  • 2018-19 record: 27-9
  • National title odds: 80-1

Despite losing the four best players from a resurgent Washington team a year ago that won 27 games, the Huskies appear to have reloaded. They have Kentucky transfer point guard Quade Green set to reclaim eligibility at the mid-year point, and two one-and-done freshmen prospects in Jaden McDaniels and Isaiah Stewart, both of whom figure to help the Huskies defend their Pac-12 title.

2. Alabama Crimson Tide

  • 2018-19 record: 18-16
  • National title odds: 200-1

First year coach Nate Oats inherited a great roster primed to help him achieve early success on the job. That roster centers around second-year point guard Kira Lewis Jr., who last season led the team in scoring and assists, averaging 13.5 points and 2.9 assists per game -- and doing so as the second-youngest player at the Division I level. With Lewis Jr., graduate transfer James Bolden and a strong returning support cast, the Crimson Tide are a lock to outperform expectations.

3. Cincinnati Bearcats

  • 2018-19 record: 28-7
  • National title odds: 100-1

Cincinnati has been ranked during the regular season in every year but one over the last decade, according to Sports Reference. Even with long-tenured coach Mick Cronin now at UCLA, I don't expect that trend to be bucked. The Bearcats have the best returning player in the AAC by a wide margin in Jarron Cumberland and a more than capable new coach in John Brannen who worked wonders building Northern Kentucky into the best program in the Horizon. Now he takes over the most stable program in the AAC with a real shot to keep building onto what Cronin established.

4. Colorado Buffaloes

  • 2018-19 record: 23-13
  • National title odds: 100-1

In our preseason predictions, the CBS panel of hoops experts came to an agreement: Colorado is a top four team in the Pac-12 this season. The Buffaloes return their top six scorers from last year's team and have a clean bill of health for McKinley Wright IV, who dealt with a nagging shoulder injury most of last season. We have yet to see the ceiling of this team, but with Wright IV at full strength and Tyler Bey expected to make another leap, it's a safe bet to think this team, when healthy, can give any Pac-12 team on any night a run for its money.

5. Illinois Fighting Illini

  • 2018-19 record: 12-21
  • National title odds: 100-1

We saw flashes of just how good Illinois can be at various points last season, with impressive wins over Michigan State, Minnesota and Maryland. We also saw just how rotten it can be, too, with baffling lopsided losses to Florida Atlantic, Iowa, Indiana and Penn State. Expect more of the former this season as the Illini return their starting point guard led by Ayo Dosunmu, a sophomore in line to make a big leap in his second season.

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