BOZICH | My AP college basketball preseason Top 25 ballot
By Rick Bozich
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — I like your team. Promise. I really, really do like your team.
I know they added strength and quickness during the offseason. I know they bought into a greater commitment to defense. I know they’ve been motivated by the disappointments from last season.
But I can only include 25 teams on my preseason ballot in the Associated Press college basketball preseason poll. I can only include 10 teams in the Top 10. I can only vote one team No. 1.
Difficult choices had to be made. I made them. But I do like your team.
I like Louisville, but I believe the Cardinals are a couple players short of the preseason Top 25.
I like Indiana. But I believe it’s risky to get carried away by a team that lost to Indiana State, Fort Wayne and Rutgers last season.
I like Western Kentucky, but I see a hole or two on the Hilltoppers’ roster.
But I like the Hilltoppers, Hoosiers and Cardinals. I simply like these 25 teams more.
1. Kansas (31-8)
What I Like: I’ve heard some stories recently that suggest Bill Self knows the secrets to successful recruiting.
What I Don’t Like: I’ve seen examples that Bill Self knows how to underachieve in March.
2. Gonzaga (32-5)
What I Like: The wise guys say this team is deeper and more talented than last season’s version of the Zags.
What I Don’t Like: Florida State had no problems bouncing the Zags out of the Sweet Sixteen.
3. Duke (29-8)
What I Like: This year’s edition of the greatest recruiting class of all-time.
What I Don’t Like: There’s not a Bobby Hurley, Jay Williams or Nolan Smith in the point guard rotation.
4. Kentucky (26-11)
What I Like: Freshmen. Sophomores. Even a — exhale — talented senior.
What I Don’t Like: The Wildcats were pre-season number five last season — and got beat in the Sweet Sixteen; They were pre-season number two in 2017 and got beat in the Elite Eight; They were pre-season number two in 2016 and lost in the round of 32. They …
5. Tennessee (26-9)
What I Like: You do realize that Street & Smith’s College Basketball Yearbook picked the Vols to finish ahead of Kentucky in the SEC, right?
What I Don’t Like: Player for player, the Vols don’t have the star power of the teams ranked ahead of them.
6. Virginia (31-3)
What I Like: De’Andre Hunter can get you a basket. Tony Bennett is terrific. These guys should be motivated.
What I Don’t Like: UMBC. That's not going away for a long time.
7. North Carolina (26-11)
What I Like: The winning blend of old (Luke Maye) and young (Nassir Little)
What I Don’t Like: The point guard prospects are not on the NBA radar.
8. Nevada (29-8)
What I Like: Everybody thinks that Eric Musselman has built a dangerous, talented team.
What I Don’t Like: Getting to the Top 10 is tough; Staying in the Top 10 is tougher.
9. Michigan State (30-5)
What I Like: Nice point guard in Cassius Winston; nice power player in Nick Ward.
What I Don’t Like: The Spartans lost two lottery picks from a team that crashed in the Round of 32.
10. Kansas State (25-12)
What I Like: The gang that took down Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen is all here for another run.
What I Don’t Like: Bruce Weber has another Coach ‘Em Up squad, which means the Wildcats won’t overwhelm you with their talent.
11. Villanova (36-4)
What I Like: Villanova is not a program; it’s a culture.
What I Don’t Like: The culture will be challenged by the departure of Nova’s top four scorers.
12. Virginia Tech (21-12)
What I Like: Buzz Williams. He’s got his kind of guys — and remember that at Marquette, his kind of guys included Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder.
What I Don’t Like: Back-to-back first-round NCAA Tournament losses.
13. Michigan (33-8)
What I Like: John Beilein doesn’t need elite recruits to beat you.
What I Don’t Like: Replacing Mo Wagner, Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman will take time, even for Beilein.
14. West Virginia (26-11)
What I Like: Bob Huggins has his usual collection of defenders and shot blockers.
What I Don’t Like: Bob Huggins does not have a Kenyon Martin or Danny Fortson.
15. Auburn (26-8)
What I Like: Bruce Pearl knows how to tune out the noise and distractions and get his guys to play hard and together.
What I Don’t Like: The noise and distractions are pretty loud.
16. Oregon (23-13)
What I Like: Payton Pritchard is one of the top experienced point guards in the nation.
What I Don’t Like: The Ducks have lost a ton of talent the last two seasons.
17. Mississippi State (25-12)
What I Like: Four of Ben Howland’s guys considered leaving for the NBA — and all four returned.
What I Don’t Like: If those guys were good enough to be first-round picks, they wouldn’t be back in Starkville.
18. Syracuse (23-14)
What I Like: Jim Boeheim says he likes his club.
What I Don’t Like: His club had a losing record in the ACC last season, losing to Boston College and Wake Forest.
19. Florida State (23-12)
What I Like: Somehow Leonard Hamilton always finds dudes.
What I Don’t Like: Somehow the Seminoles always seem one shooter shy of a load.
20. UCLA (21-12)
What I Like: Kris Wilkes is a sleeper all-American pick.
What I Don’t Like: The grapevine always seems to whisper that Steve Alford is either on the hot seat or trying to get out of Westwood.
21. TCU (21-12)
What I Like: Winning at Pitt and TCU gives Jamie Dixon another season of credibility.
What I Don’t Like: The Horned Frogs exited in the first rounds of the 2018 Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments.
22. Marquette (21-14)
What I Like: Marcus Howard (20.4 ppg) is the best scorer/shooter/slasher you’re not talking about.
What I Don’t Like: The Golden Eagles' DNA shows only 0.0001 percent obsession with defense,
23. Wisconsin (15-18)
What I Like: People are sleeping on the Badgers, who return everybody, including Ethan Happ.
What I Don’t Like: Bo Ryan doesn’t live in Kohl Center any more.
24. Buffalo (27-9)
What I Like: Buffalo 89, Arizona 68.
What I Don’t Like: The history of the NCAA Tournament is littered with one-hit wonders.
25. Florida (21-13)
What I Like: Mike White is one of the rising coaching stars in the game.
What I Don’t Like: The Gators seemed to underachieve last season.
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