Rick Pitino (left) and John Calipari are trying to bring a third straight NCAA title back to the state of Kentucky.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The start of college basketball practice always arrives with the backdrop of college basketball pre-season Top 25 polls.
I have uncovered five – Athlon, The Sporting News, Lindy's, Blue Ribbon Yearbook and Yahoo.com. I charted the numbers. Here are the consensus results:
1. Kentucky – The Wildcats have the best talent in the nation. They'll have to prove they're the best team.
2. Michigan State – Can the Spartans really contend for the title while only adding a pair of 3-star recruits? Sure, if Gary Harris and Adreian Payne stay healthy.
3. Louisville – The Cardinals return their leading scorer (Russ Smith) and the Final Four Most Outstanding Player (Luke Hancock). You know what happened to the last team (Florida 2006-07) that went back to work with pieces like that. Plus, Rick Pitino's team is 10 or 11 deep.
4. Duke – This seems like a stretch for a team that lost its top three scorers, but freshman Jabari Parker has already been on the cover of Sports Illustrated and Rodney Hood is another future pro.
5. Kansas– Bill Self has coached a string of NBA guys, but he's never had a player like Andrew Wiggins.
6. Arizona – Last year Aaron Gordon would have been considered the best freshman in the nation. Gordon is no better than fourth or fifth best in this class, but don't underestimate him. He's terrific.
7. North Carolina – Academic scandals. The P.J. Hairston follies. Recruiting defeats. I can't remember this much background noise in Chapel Hill.
8. Florida – Eli Carter from Rutgers, Dorian Finney-Smith from Virginia Tech and Damontre Harris from South Carolina. Does anybody appreciate transfers more than Billy Donovan?
9. Michigan – Are Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III good enough to thrive without Trey Burke? Stay tuned.
10. Syracuse – Jim Boeheim has his usual collection of talented 6-8 guys. Now he needs Tyler Ennis to play like the best freshman point guard in the country.
11. Ohio State – Watch LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson thrive now that Deshaun Thomas is not there to take all the shots.
12. Oklahoma State – Marcus Smart is the wise guy pick as the national pre-season player of the year, even though he's a 40 percent shooter.
13. Memphis – Louisville becomes the measuring stick now that the Tigers and Cardinals are in the same league again, and Memphis has the guards (Joe Jackson, Michael Dixon, Chris Crawford) to test Louisville.
14. Marquette – Toughness has been the calling card of the Golden Eagles during the Buzz Williams' Era. Davante Gardner and Todd Mayo are tough – and talented.
15. Gonzaga – The Zags won't sneak into a top seed again, but they have their usual collection of sleepers, including former U of L wing Angel Nunez.
16. Connecticut – DeAndre Daniels is a wise pick as a breakout player on the national scene.
17. Wichita State – Rick Pitino will tell you what the Shockers can do. Just ask him.
18. VCU – Don't worry about the names of the returnees or the recruits. Shaka Smart likes his team. That's all you need to know.
19. Notre Dame – Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant and Demetrius Jackson are the kind of guards who can win in the ACC, Notre Dame's new league.
20. Oregon – The Ducks have taken advantage of the fifth-year transfer situation by adding Mike Moser, who averaged a double-double at UNLV two seasons ago.
21. UCLA – This is another strange pick considering the Bruins have undergone a coaching change and lost Shabazz Muhammad, but Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson are talented.
22. Tennessee – Cuonzo Martin has the pieces to play his preferred hard-nosed style, especially on the glass with Jarnell Stokes.
23. Wisconsin – Leaving the Badgers out of the Top 25 is always a stupid thing to do.
24. Iowa – The Hawkeyes have nearly every important piece back from a team that nearly won the NIT. Beware.
25. Baylor – The Bears often have somebody on the brink of playing in the NBA. This season that somebody is named Isaiah Austin. He's a 7-foot-1 center.