How the college basketball scandal changes the Top 25 (and 1) preseason rankings
How far did Louisville fall in our early preseason rankings?
The previous update of the CBS Sports Preseason Top 25 (and one) had Louisville ranked sixth — one spot ahead of Kentucky. But, obviously, things changed drastically in the final week of September. An FBI investigation into corruption in the sport of college basketball led to Rick Pitino's removal as the Cardinals' head coach and five-star forward Brian Bowen's suspension. And there's now just no way Louisville will be what it was supposed to be.
The roster is still good, sure.
But it's totally reasonable to be skeptical of what's possible with a 32-year-old with no head-coaching experience in charge. And I don't write that to be disrespectful to David Padgett. All I mean is that he's in a tough spot. And, more than anything, my words are a compliment to Pitino, who is one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history. Losing him matters way more than losing Bowen matters. But both developments absolutely matter. So Louisville is now 18th in the CBS Sports Preseason Top 25 (and one).
Could be higher.
Could be lower.
Time will tell, I suppose. But 18th feels about right for now. And the complete Top 25 (and one) is below..
|1||Duke||Marvin Bagley's late commitment and enrollment are the reason the Blue Devils are atop these rankings. He's a top-shelf athlete and highly-skilled player who should be a great college player in what will almost certainly be his lone year on campus. And he'll be surrounded by other future NBA players, which makes Duke the nation's most talented team. Problem is, the Blue Devils are totally inexperienced at every position except Grayson Allen's position, which isn't ideal. But talent tends to trump everything in basketball. So Duke should be the favorite on paper.||--||14-2|
|2||Arizona||It's possible Arizona could lose a player from the fallout of the ongoing FBI investigation that's rocked college basketball. But if not, the Wildcats should be strong. The return of Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins and Dusan Ristic means Sean Miller has three double-digit scorers back to pair with a heralded recruiting class headlined by DeAndre Ayton and Emmanuel Akot. So the Wildcats are both experienced and talented. And that's usually a combination that produces lots of wins and even championships.||--||13-4|
|3||Kansas||Kansas lost both Frank Mason and Josh Jackson from last season's team that earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. But four of the top eight scorers are back - and the Jayhawks are also adding five-star transfer Malik Newman and five-star freshman Billy Preston. So Bill Self will likely win a 14th straight Big 12 title and then have an opportunity to add his second national championship.||--||15-2|
|4||Michigan St.||The most surprising -- and significant -- NBA Draft development was Miles Bridges' decision to return to Michigan State for his sophomore season. It means four of the Spartans' top five scorers are back. And Bridges could now become the favorite to win National Player of the Year - especially if he leads Michigan State to what should be Tom Izzo's eighth Big Ten regular-season title.||--||15-2|
|5||Wichita St.||Almost every relevant player from a Wichita State team that won 31 games and finished eighth at KenPom is back -- most notably Landry Shamet and Markis McDuffie. That's the good news. But the bad news is that the offseason hasn't been kind. Shamet had foot surgery in July. And McDuffie suffered a stress fracture in his left foot that will likely cause him to be sidelined until mid-December. Regardless, when healthy, Wichita State will be strong and the favorite in the American Athletic Conference.||--||7-8|
|6||Kentucky||The late addition of Kevin Knox bolstered an already top-ranked recruiting class that should keep Kentucky competing near the top of the sport. The Wildcats will have eight five-star recruits on their roster -- most notably Hamidou Diallo, who withdrew from the NBA Draft at the deadline. So UK will be incredibly inexperienced, sure. But John Calipari will once again have as much talent as anybody, if not more.||1||13-3|
|7||Villanova||Don't forget that Villanova didn't have a key returning player (Phil Booth) or its best recruit (Omari Spellman) last season. But the Wildcats should have both this season. So a fifth consecutive Big East title seems likely for Jay Wright's program that has become a fixture in the national rankings.||1||13-4|
|8||USC||USC has lost players early because of questionable NBA Draft decisions before. But not this year. So every relevant piece from a team that won a school-record 26 games is back -- most notably Bennie Boatright and Chimezie Metu. Consequently, the Trojans should be in the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year under Andy Enfield. And, if things break right, they just might have a shot at winning their first Pac-12 regular-season title since 1985.||1||9-8|
|9||Florida||Michael White has rebuilt Florida into a real challenger to Kentucky in the SEC. Obviously, the loss of Devin Robinson early to the NBA Draft hurt. But the Gators should still be at or near the top of the league standings again - even with freshman forward Isaiah Stokes sidelined by injury for part of the season.||1||9-7|
|10||Miami (Fla.)||Six of Miami's top eight scorers are returning -- and they'll be joined by a top-10 recruiting class highlighted by five-star prospect Lonnie Walker, who had knee surgery in July but is expected to be healthy to start the season. If so, watch out. The Hurricanes could challenge for their second ACC regular-season title in a six-year span.||1||9-7|
|11||N. Carolina||Everybody always assumed Justin Jackson was headed to the NBA. So that departure was expected. But the somewhat surprising loss of Tony Bradley after just one season was a big blow to the Tar Heels' back-to-back hopes. Bradley projected as a breakout star and possible double-double guy. So his departure hurts and means the reigning national champions will be replacing four of their top five scorers. But the return of Joel Berry should be enough to keep them relevant.||1||13-4|
|12||Notre Dame||The loss of V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia will be noticeable on the court. But Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson comprise one of the top returning inside-outside duos in the country. So Mike Brey should have the Irish in the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in a nine-year stretch.||1||11-6|
|13||Minnesota||Minnesota's fourth-place finish in the Big Ten was one of last season's biggest surprises, and most of the key players from that team are back. So Richard Pitino should return to the NCAA Tournament in 2018 and have a chance to advance to the second weekend.||1||13-3|
|14||Northwestern||Northwestern making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history was among the coolest stories on Selection Sunday. Now the Wildcats are headed toward back-to-back Big Dance appearances thanks to the fact that their top five scorers are all returning.||1||10-7|
|15||Cincinnati||Mick Cronin has guided the Bearcats to seven consecutive NCAA Tournaments. And an eighth trip appears on tap considering Jacob Evans, Kyle Washington, Gary Clark and Jarron Cumberland are all back and capable of helping Cincinnati compete at or near the top of the AAC standings again.||1||15-3|
|16||Gonzaga||The early loss of Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the NBA Draft will make it difficult for Gonzaga to record a third 35-win season in a four-year span. Regardless, as usual, Mark Few should again have a team that wins the West Coast Conference and makes the NCAA Tournament.||1||16-2|
|17||Baylor||The early loss of Johnathan Motley is huge and will prevent Baylor from having a preseason All-American. But Scott Drew is still returning three of his top five scorers from a 27-win team that made the Sweet 16 and was ranked in the top 10 for much of last season. So the Bears should be in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight year.||1||10-6|
|18||Louisville||The Cardinals looked like a top-10 team before Rick Pitino and Brian Bowen were linked to an FBI investigation. And they still might become one. But it's impossible to overstate what losing a Hall of Fame coach and five-star prospect could mean to Louisville's ACC hopes.||12||11-5|
|19||Alabama||Nobody knew for sure if Avery Johnson would ever get things going at Alabama. And he still has to do it on the court. But recruiting has gone well. And the result is that Alabama will have one of the SEC's most talented rosters thanks to a top-five class headlined by point guard Collin Sexton.||--||10-5|
|20||UCLA||UCLA lost four starters -- among them one-and-done products Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf. But Steve Alford has enrolled three top-40 recruits to help offset those departures. So the Bruins should be talented again. It'll just be a matter of meshing the experienced veterans with the talented newcomers, which is always challenging but forever possible.||--||10-7|
|21||Saint Mary's||Saint Mary's proved, in its NCAA Tournament loss to Arizona, that it was a legitimate top-25 team that just didn't match up well with Gonzaga. Now most of the rotation from that team is returning. So the Gaels should be back in the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in 11 years.||1||11-7|
|22||Xavier||Trevon Bluiett's return means Xavier's roster is headlined by an All-American candidate who averaged 18.5 points last season. Combine that with a top-15 recruiting class, and the Musketeers should be Villanova's biggest threat in the Big East.||1||11-7|
|23||W. Virginia||Bob Huggins has had a top-25 team every year since he committed to a pressing style of defense in advance of the 2014-15 season. So there's no real reason to think he won't have one again even if the roster isn't littered with well-known prospects or players. And even though Esa Ahmad will be suspended for the first semester of games.||2||8-9|
|24||Purdue||The early-but-expected loss of Caleb Swanigan is massive in multiple ways. But there are too many other good and experienced winners on Purdue's roster to expect Matt Painter's team to slip too much, if at all.||--||11-6|
|25||Rhode Island||Eight of Rhode Island's top 10 scorers are back from a team that nearly upset Oregon in the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament. That's why the Rams are a clear favorite in the Atlantic 10, where Dayton and VCU are both adjusting to offseason coaching changes.||--||8-7|
|26||Providence||Providence returns the top seven scorers from a team that made the NCAA Tournament -- among them four double-digit scorers - and adds a top-20 recruiting class. So Ed Cooley should be in the Field of 68 for the fifth consecutive season. And this could end up being the best team he's ever coached.||--||11-6|
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