The 2017-18 RTC16: Preseason Edition

Posted by Walker Carey on November 9th, 2017

And so it begins — that wonderful time of year when we once again see old familiar faces on the television along with our favorite teams playing college basketball. It is a glorious time, indeed. With a sizable slate of games set to commence on Friday, we officially unveil our 2017-18 preseason (and revamped) RTC Top 16. We have decided to trim our poll from 25 to 16 teams this season as a means to provide more thorough analysis and justifications for the best teams in the country. This initial poll will hold for the next 10 days or so, but you can expect our weekly regular season RTC16 to release on every subsequent Monday morning starting November 20. Along with the rankings will be the usual quick and dirty analysis that dives more deeply into how those teams are shaking out from top to bottom. To see how we did last year, check out our 2016-17 preseason poll — sure, we nailed a few (North Carolina, Oregon, Kansas, Gonzaga and Kentucky), and missed on some others (Indiana, Syracuse, Connecticut and Texas). We promise we will try to do better this time around. Here’s the preseason poll. Enjoy opening weekend!

Quick N’ Dirty Thoughts.

  • Michigan State checks in as the preseason #1 team. After an up-and-down injury-plagued season that ended with Kansas blowing out the Spartans in the Round of 32, Michigan State is fully loaded and will be back with a vengeance. Many national pundits have tabbed sophomore wing Miles Bridges as their preseason National Player of the Year, and seniors Tum Tum Nairn and Gavin Schilling bring back the intangible of plenty of winning experience. Also returning with those veterans are sophomores Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford and Nick Ward — a group that gained seasoning last year due to various injuries suffered by their teammates. Tom Izzo adds ballyhooed freshmen Jaren Jackson, Jr. and Xavier Tillman, a duo that will be counted on to play major minutes in their inaugural campaigns. Given all the top-flight talent and experience Michigan State has on this team, it is easy to see why the majority of our pollsters (seven of 11) decided to post the Spartans in the top spot of the preseason rankings.
  • Defending national champion North Carolina begins the season at #12. After surviving a scare from Arkansas in the Round of 32, Roy Williams’ Tar Heels subsequently caught fire at the right time and knocked off Gonzaga in Glendale to take home the National Championship. North Carolina lost several standout performers from last season’s squad — most notably Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks — but it does return Final Four Most Outstanding Player Joel Berry II along with key contributors Theo Pinson and Luke Maye. No team has repeated as the champion since Florida pulled the feat in 2006-07, so it will be intriguing to see if Berry can lead a younger group of Tar Heels back to the mountain top.
  • #15 Louisville will be an interesting team to track all season. The Cardinals return excellent talent this season with point guard Quentin Snider and athletic wing Deng Adel returning to the fold. From that perspective they should have enough firepower to be right in the ACC mix. That will not be the story for Louisville this season, though, as most attention will be paid to the fallout over the firing of legendary head coach Rick Pitino and his connection to his staff’s illegal conduct on the recruiting trail. Former Cardinals’ big man David Padgett has been installed as the team’s acting head coach and it will certainly be interesting to track how his group does under his direction. It is a bit of a shame that the coaching situation will overshadow what should be a very talented group primed for another successful season, but that’s the reality in a season already tainted by all of the FBI allegations.

Poll Defenses.

  • “I consider Mick Cronin one of the best coaches in the country. His team is always stout defensively and should be again this year. What’s different? This team should be able to score. It’s still unclear how Cane Broome’s game will transfer to big-time college basketball, but the kid clearly knows how to get buckets. We know what Jacob Evans and Gary Clark can do. The X-factor? Jarron Cumberland. I’m buying all of his stock. He shot 65 percent from the field last year and 35.5 percent from three, good for an effective field goal rate of 58.7%. That was in only 19.0 MPG. As a starter this year who should play considerably more minutes, I expect him to become the go-to-scorer and perhaps a first-team all-conference performer. Experience + great coach + multiple guys who can score + great team defense = a top five team to me.” – pollster Mick McDonald on his decision to rank Cincinnati fifth, easily the highest any pollster ranked the Bearcats.
  • “The Wildcats return their top five scorers from a team that finally broke the school’s NCAA Tournament schneid last season. Led by a pair of seniors in the backcourt in Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey, Northwestern checks all the boxes to be an extremely tough out come March. Talented and experienced, I think Chris Collins’ bunch finishes the regular season second in the Big Ten behind only Michigan State.” – pollster Matt Auerbach defending his decision to rank former also-ran Northwestern in his RTC16. Auerbach was the only pollster to give the Wildcats a preseason vote.

Game of the Week: #1 Michigan State vs. #2 Duke. It is extremely exciting that the top two teams in the RTC16 will face off in the very first week of the college basketball season. The marquee match-up at the Champions Classic in Chicago on Tuesday night will be an early heavyweight battle between a pair of teams that just may see each other again in San Antonio next April. Both teams are coached by Hall of Famers. Both programs have illustrious histories. Both rosters have a tremendous amount of star power. This game will be a must-watch for all college hoops fans. The specific match-up to keep an eye on will be how Duke defends Michigan State star (and RTC All-American) Miles Bridges. If the Blue Devils can limit Bridges’ offensive production and force the other Spartans to beat them, they will have an excellent shot at emerging victorious.

Keep Tabs On. #11 West Virginia vs. Texas A&M; #4 Kansas vs. #7 Kentucky; #16 Xavier vs. Wisconsin; #8 USC vs. Vanderbilt.

Conference Call: ACC (5), Pac-12 (2), Big 12 (2), Big East (2), SEC (2), AAC (2), Big Ten (1)

WCarey (318 Posts)

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