The 2018-19 RTC16: Preseason Edition

Posted by Walker Carey on November 5th, 2018

And so it begins — that wonderful time of year when we once again find our favorite teams playing college basketball. It is a glorious time, indeed. With a sizable slate of games set to commence on Tuesday evening, we are ready to officially unveil our 2018-19 preseason RTC Top 16. This initial poll will hold for the next two weeks but you can expect our weekly RTC16 to release on every subsequent Monday morning starting November 19. Along with the rankings will be the usual quick and dirty analysis that dives more deeply into trends that the poll reveals. To see how we did last year, check out our 2017-18 preseason poll — sure, we nailed a few (Villanova, Kansas and Duke), and missed on some others (USC, Notre Dame and Louisville), but we promise to do better this time around. Here is our preseason poll. Enjoy opening week!

Quick N’ Dirty Thoughts.

  • Kansas checks in as the preseason #1 team. Fresh off its first Final Four appearance since 2012, Bill Self‘s squad begins the 2018-19 season in the #1 spot. While the stars of that Final Four squad — Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman, and Svi Mykhailiuk — are no longer in Lawrence, the Jayhawks still have a loaded roster. Junior forward Udoka Azubuike and senior swingman Lagerald Vick return and will be called upon to handle bigger roles. Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson is also now eligible and is expected by to rank among the most impactful transfers in the country. Fellow Memphis transfer K.J. Lawson and Cal transfer Charlie Moore are also newly eligible and seem primed to be solid contributors. Freshmen Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes and David McCormack all come to Kansas as highly-touted recruits as well and figure to be important rotation pieces. The Jayhawks have now won 14 straight regular season Big 12 titles and are strong favorites to earn a 15th crown while remaining a serious contender to cut down the nets in Minneapolis next April.
  • Defending national champion Villanova beings the season at #9. The Wildcats are going to look significantly different than the team that steamrolled through the bracket last spring on their way to a second national championship in the last three years. Gone are All-American guard Jalen Brunson, Final Four Most Outstanding Player Donte DiVincenzo, NBA lottery pick Mikal Bridges and breakout forward Omari Spellman. Replacing that group would be a daunting task for any team, but Villanova has enough reserves in its tank to make Jay Wright‘s task much more manageable. Guard Phil Booth and forward Eric Paschall both return for their senior seasons and will be asked to shoulder the scoring load. Sophomore guard Collin Gillespie and sophomore forward Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree both saw time as freshmen and that experience should serve them well this season in increased roles. Villanova will also rely on newcomers like freshman guard Jahvon Quinerly and Albany graduate transfer Joe Cremo to contribute on both ends of the court. It would not be surprising if the new-look Wildcats undergo some growing pains at the beginning of the season, but considering Wright’s track record, rest assured that they will be ready to go when Big East play commences.
  • #5 Gonzaga and #8 Nevada should be the class of the non-power leagues. Gonzaga and Nevada were both Sweet Sixteen teams a season ago and they project to be even better this year. The Bulldogs return a veteran-laded group with guards Josh Perkins and Zach Norvell Jr. back to provide veteran leadership, and junior forwards Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie continuing to cause match-up nightmares for the opposition. The only thing Gonzaga is not excited about is that Tillie is expected to miss the first eight weeks of the season with a stress fracture in his ankle. Nevada was a recipient of some fairly unexpected great news in the offseason when standout performers Caleb Martin, Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline all decided to put professional careers on hold to return for their senior seasons. The Wolf Pack will also receive a boost from the arrival of highly-touted freshman forward Jordan Brown and a stable of transfers in Corey Henson, Trey Porter, Tre’Shawn Thurman and Nisre Zouzoua. It would be wise to look for the Bulldogs and Wolf Pack to remain within the RTC16 all season long.

Poll Defenses.

  • Personallly, I’m always going to err on the side of a team that blends experienced productivity, reasonable anticipated improvement from returnees, and an influx of talent that fits. For the most part, when you step back from falling in love with the glitz and glamour of top-rated recruiting classes, this is still the recipe that wins big when it matters. With that said, there’s no more proven returning commodity than Luke Maye. A healthy Cameron Johnson has the potential to even usurp Maye as the team’s leading scorer, while it would be very surprising to me if at least one of Sterling Manley, Garrison Brooks or Brandon Huffman didn’t make a gigantic leap in year two in Chapel Hill. Toss in freshman point guard Coby White and the team’s most talented player, frosh Nassir Little, and this is a team with the balance and explosiveness to be the best in the country.” – RTC pollster Matt Auerbach on his decision to rank North Carolina at #1, the only pollster to put the Tar Heels in the top spot.
  • “I really like the balance of this year’s Gonzaga team. Obviously the loss of Jacob Larsen may hurt the interior depth until Killian Tillie gets back from his injury, but it could give Filip Petrusev a chance to establish himself in the rotation. I absolutely love their perimeter. Based on his breakout performance in last year’s NCAA Tournament, I expect Zach Norvell to be awesome as a sophomore. Finally, I just trust Mark Few’s track record at blending talented veterans, redshirts and transfers.” – RTC pollster Brad Jenkins on his reasoning for putting Gonzaga at #2.

Game of the Week. #2 Kentucky vs. #3 Duke. How great is it that two of the three top teams in the RTC16 will face off on the very first night of the college basketball season? The premier match-up of the Champions Classic in Indianapolis this year will be an early heavyweight battle between Hall of Fame coaches with loaded rosters that may very well see each other again in Minneapolis next April. The specific area to keep an eye on will be in the frontcourt. Kentucky will look to establish an interior presence with Stanford graduate transfer Reid Travis, P.J. Washington and Nick Richards while Duke will counter with freshman phenom Zion Williamson and juniors Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier. If the Wildcats can take advantage of their size advantage down low, they will have an excellent shot of emerging with the benchmark victory.

Keep Tabs On. #1 Kansas vs. #11 Michigan State; #14 Florida State vs. Florida; #8 Nevada vs. BYU; #10 Auburn vs. Washington; #9 Villanova vs. Michigan; #12 Syracuse vs. Connecticut; #5 Gonzaga vs. Texas A&M.

Conference Call. ACC (6), SEC (3), Big 12 (2), Big Ten (1), Big East (1), Pac-12 (1), WCC (1), Mountain West (1).

WCarey (318 Posts)

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