College basketball gets going on Friday and I cannot wait. I am so excited that I decided that it was time for a preseason bracket. These are always fun because there is no data to go by. It is all speculation. So, get out your Ouija boards and play along.
You would think not much has changed since I did my pre-preseason bracket, but you would think incorrectly. In that time, four assistant coaches at major conference programs were arrested, Rick Pitino was fired and a few players are being held out over eligibility concerns. Also, Marvin Bagley III decided to get started on what figures to be a brief college basketball career and signed with Duke.
There are a lot of familiar names at the top of the bracket, but no team is that much better than anyone else.
The No. 1 seeds
Grayson Allen returns for what he hopes is a senior season of redemption, and is joined by a top recruiting class, topped by the late addition of Bagley. Wendell Carter and Gary Trent Jr. are also part of the embarrassment of riches that coach Mike Krzyzewski has to work with.
Tom Izzo got a pleasant surprise in the offseason when Miles Bridges decided to return to school. Last year's freshman class, led by Bridges, went through a baptism of fire and is now ready for the battles ahead. They will be joined by veterans Ben Carter and Gavin Schilling, who sat out last year due to injury.
The Jayhawks are the overwhelming favorite to win a 14th consecutive Big 12 championship despite the losses of National Player of the Year Frank Mason and top freshman Josh Jackson. Devonte' Graham will be this year's Player of the Year candidate. Transfer Malik Newman and a strong recruiting class will help Kansas be near the top of college basketball once again.
The Wildcats also had NBA-level players decide to return to school. Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins are back to try to make another stab at a national championship. The only negative going into this season is that Arizona is one of the schools in the crosshairs of the FBI. Assistant coach Emanuel Richardson was one of four coaches arrested by the Feds.
The No. 2 seeds
Nobody has more 5-star talent than Kentucky, and nobody does a better job of getting that much talent to play nicely than John Calipari. One of those newcomers is Hamidou Diallo, who played well in the FIBA U-19 World Cup after sitting out last season with the Wildcats.
The expectations are high every year now at Villanova and they have a chance to meet those again. Villanova is the favorite in the Big East again, despite the loss of Josh Hart to graduation. Veterans Jalen Brunson and Mikel Bridges return along with Omari Spellman and Phil Booth, who missed last season.
The defending champs will not give up their title quietly. Joel Berry II will miss a little time at the beginning of the season with a broken hand, but there are other veterans returning that will keep the Heels more than competitive, including Theo Pinson and Luke Maye.
The Shockers have moved to the American Athletic Conference in one of the most obvious win-win conference switches so far. The conference switch provides an upgrade to their schedule, which can help get a better seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Shockers' top eight scorers return, including Landry Shamet and Markis McDuffie, although both of those guys have missed time this fall with injuries. They are not expected to miss much time at the beginning of the season, and Shamet may be ready to go for the start.