For the first time in school history, Michigan State will begin the season as college basketball’s No. 1 team. The Spartans are the overwhelming favorite in the preseason AP Top 25, released Monday. Sparty returns many of its pieces from the 2019 Final Four team, led by and Cassius Winston.
In a coup for the sport, the top four teams will all be featured in the annual season-opening Champions Classic, which will be held at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 5. MSU will play Kentucky; Kansas will play Duke.
Florida checks in at No. 6, which is its highest preseason ranking since 2006, when it returned almost its entire team that won the national championship the season prior. Maryland, which has high hopes thanks to senior point guard Anthony Cowan and sophomore power forward Jalen Smith, is No. 7. The rest of the top 10: Gonzaga, which has its biggest roster turnover in five-plus years, is No. 8; the North Carolina Tar Heels, led by freshman point guard Cole Anthony, are No. 9; and the Villanova Wildcats take 10th after a down season in which Jay Wright’s team was a No. 6 seed and failed to make the Sweet 16.
Reigning national champion Virginia is 11th. The Cavaliers lost three players to the NBA Draft, which is the most in a single season in program history. Nevertheless, starters Mamadi Diakite and Kihei Clark return to Tony Bennett’s team.
Other schools highlighted that normally don’t crack the preseason poll include Seton Hall (No. 12), Memphis (No. 14), Utah State (No. 17), Saint Mary’s (No. 20) and VCU (No. 25). Twelve of the poll’s 25 teams were not featured in the final AP Top 25 of 2018-19. The highest-ranked of those teams is No. 5 Louisville, which was a No. 7 seed in the 2019 NCAA Tournament and got upset by No. 10-seeded Minnesota.
Preseason AP Top 25
|1||Michigan State (60)||1,619||32-7|
Also receiving votes: Washington 164, Colorado 152, Tennessee 78, Marquette 68, Florida State 36, Davidson 34, Harvard 24, Illinois 14, Missouri 13, Mississippi State 12, Houston 11, Georgetown 11, Cincinnati 8, Notre Dame 7, Creighton 4, Syracuse 3, NC State 3, Vermont 2, Alabama 2, USC 2, Liberty 2, Michigan 2, Dayton 1, Colgate 1, Providence 1.