NBC Sports recently released a top 25 NCAAMB preseason ranking, just for fun. It may be too early to predict much, but practice has officially started so we’re going to break down the top ten teams.
1. Michigan State
The Spartans were the only hope for the Big 10 last season leading into the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight. Michigan State is expected to be back on top, and not just of the Big 10 this year. They lost three players to the draft - Nick Ward, Kenny Goins and Matt McQuaid. All three will be missed, as they collectively averaged 82.5 points per game. Fortunately for the Spartans their returning list is much longer, including Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford, Xavier Tillman, Aaron Henry, Kyle Ahrens and several others off the bench. Winston, Langford, Henry and Marcus Bingham Jr. are all expected to shoot around 40% from the three. Tillman will look to fill Goins’ shoes and be the dominant rebounder and defender under the basket.
Kentucky lost PJ Washington, Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro to the draft and graduated Reid Travis. Returning are sophomores Ashton Hagans, EJ Montgomery, Immanuel Quickley and junior Nick Richards. Kentucky is a hopeful young team, with three freshman having potential to start this season -- Tyrese Maxey, Kahlil Whitney and Keion Brooks. While their team shooting stats from last season aren’t terribly impressive, a large reason Kentucky is ranked #2 in this pre-season poll is because of Maxey’s potential to lead the team. He was the No. 10 ranked prospect in the high school class of 2019.
Without Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, you might be surprised to see Duke on this list. But then again, Duke never really has an off year no matter who they lose. Returning for Duke is sophomore Tre Jones and junior Alex O’Connell, but joining them are freshman Wendell Moore, Matthew Hurt and Vernon Carey Jr.. Moore is the No. 3 small-forward joining the NCAA this year, Hurt is the No. 2 power-forward, and Carey Jr. is the No. 3 center.
Kansas is back this season at #4. They lost a few good ones in Dedric Lawson and Lagerald Vick, but returning for the Jayhawks are a few high scorers Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson who collectively contributed about 25.7 PPG. Ex-Iowa guard, Isaiah Moss, is joining the Kansas team as a graduate transfer, giving them an extra boost to its outside shooting.
Villanova will miss Eric Paschall and Phil Booth, but are welcoming back Collin Gillepsie, Saddig Bey, Jermaine Samuels and Jahvon Quinerly. Joining the team are projected starters Bryan Antoine and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.
The top shooter for Louisville, junior forward Jordan Nwora, is back. Though Kentucky lost Christen Cunningham, a big points contributor, after his final season, incoming freshman Samuell Williamson and graduate transfer Lamarr “Fresh” Kimble are joining the team and expected to make the starting five. Incoming freshman Samuell Williamson and graduate transfer Lamarr “Fresh” Kimble are joining the team and expected to make the starting five. Williamson is a five-star recruit and Kimble is a three-time captain and two-year starter for his former team, Saint Joseph's University.
Maryland is another Big 10 team to join in the top ten of the preseason rankings. With the loss of only one player to the draft in Bruno Fernando, the Terrapins have notable players returning and four incoming freshman to fill out their bench. Their leading scorer, Anthony Cowen, is returning for his senior year and looking to top his 15.8 points per game record made during his sophomore season.
The reigning NCAA Champions lost several key players in De’Andre Hunter, MVP Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome to the League and Jack Salt to the Polish Basketball League. However, the outlook for their 2019 season hardly looks dim. Seniors Braxton Key, Mamadi Diakite and Kihei Clark showed promising performances last year as they added 5.7, 7.4 and 4.5 points per game, respectively.
9. Texas Tech
Texas Tech has a long list of losses since their 2019 Championship appearance, including two losses to the NBA draft in standout players Jarrett Culver and Matt Mooney. Davide Moretti, Kyler Edwards, Deshawn Corprew and Andrei Savrasov are all back to play, though, and are welcoming three freshmen as potential starters. In the previous season, Moretti contributed 11.5 points per game and averaged 45.9% from behind the arc.
Florida lost five players, retained five players and are gaining five freshmen for the start of the 2019 season. Returning for the Gators is sophomore Noah Locke, who contributed 9.4 points per game last season. Accompanying him will be Kevyontae Johnson (8.1 PPG) and Andrew Nembhard (8.0 PPG). Two incoming players are projected to start, Virginia Tech transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. and true freshman Scottie Lewis.