2013-14 RTC Top 25: Preseason EditionPosted by Walker Carey on November 7th, 2013
And so it begins. The time of year where we hear familiar voices on the television, see the faces on the floor, and our favorite teams finally playing games that count in the standings. It is a beautiful time, indeed. With the games commencing on Friday evening, we officially unveil RTC’s 2013-14 Preseason Top 25. Starting November 18, you can expect our weekly poll to come out every Monday morning. Along with the rankings will be the usual quick and dirty analysis that dives deeper into how the teams shake out from top to bottom. To see how we did last year, check out our 2012-13 preseason poll — we nailed some (Louisville, Michigan, Indiana, Kansas), and swung and missed on others (Kentucky, NC State, Missouri, UCLA). We promise to do better this time around.
Quick n’ Dirty Thoughts.
- A Majority Likes Kentucky – Four out of our seven pollsters are in agreement that Kentucky is the top team in the country, while the other two teams that were picked first were Louisville (one #1 vote) and Michigan State (two #1 votes). It is really difficult to argue with any of the three selections, but Kentucky reigned supreme due to the star-studded recruiting class of Julius Randle, James Young, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson that John Calipari was able to lure to Lexington. Do not forget that Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein also return for the Wildcats. Defending national champion Louisville is once again loaded with talent, led by preseason All-American Russ Smith and 2013 Final Four Most Outstanding Player Luke Hancock. Michigan State is a squad that was helped immensely when both sophomore Gary Harris and senior Adreian Payne bypassed the NBA Draft to return to East Lansing.
- Top Five, Next Six, Everyone Else. If you look at the means listed above, you see very clearly that the eight pollsters were largely in agreement on which teams they think are the top five in America this season — Kentucky, Michigan State, Louisville, Kansas and Duke. There’s a bit of a gap to the next group, which includes the six schools of Arizona, Michigan, Syracuse, Oklahoma State, Ohio State and Florida. And then there’s a fairly large drop-off to everybody else, starting with North Carolina at #12 and moving on down the list. Of the 11 schools in the top two tiers, how many will we see at this year’s Final Four? Three?
- Michigan Should Be Stellar Once Again – While the Wolverines lost a great deal of offensive production when 2013 National Player of the Year Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. left Ann Arbor for the NBA, last season’s national runners-up return sophomores Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas – who should all be ready to step up their production in their second seasons in the program. Even with the aforementioned losses of Burke and Hardaway Jr., all of our pollsters have John Beilein’s squad back in the top 10 to begin the season.
- VCU, Gonzaga, and New Mexico Are The Lone Representatives From Non-Power Conferences - With conference realignment and the creation of the American Athletic Conference, both #14 Memphis – a member of the AAC – and #21 Creighton – a member of the Big East – find themselves in power leagues. That leaves #13 VCU (Atlantic 10), #17 Gonzaga (WCC), and #22 New Mexico (Mountain West) as the only squads from non-power leagues to make our preseason Top 25. Wichita State (Missouri Valley), Harvard (Ivy League), and Boise State (Mountain West) also received votes, but were unable to crack the preseason poll. Nevertheless, it would be irresponsible to not believe that a team from a non-power league can make a significant impact this season.
Games of the Week – Take your pick at the Champions Classic in Chicago on Tuesday night: #1 Kentucky vs. #3 Michigan State followed by #4 Kansas vs. #5 Duke. Quite possibly the two most highly-anticipated games of the 2013-14 season take place in its opening week. In the “undercard,” we will be introduced to Kentucky’s fabulous freshman class as it battles a Michigan State squad that returns a plethora of elite talent from last season. In the nightcap, newcomers will take center stage, as tremendously hyped freshman Andrew Wiggins will lead Kansas into its contest with Duke and its own tremendously hyped newcomers – Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood and freshman Jabari Parker.
Other Key Top 25 Games.
- #10 Florida vs. #20 Wisconsin, Tuesday November 12
- #11 Ohio State at #16 Marquette, Saturday November 16
Keep Tabs On – #20 Wisconsin vs. St. John’s; #25 Baylor vs. Colorado; #18 Oregon vs. Georgetown; #13 VCU vs. Virginia; #6 Arizona vs. San Diego State; #7 Michigan vs. Iowa State; #23 Notre Dame vs. Indiana State.
Conference Call – Big Ten (5), ACC (4), Big 12 (3), SEC (3), AAC (3), Big East (2), Pac-12 (2), Atlantic 10 (1), WCC (1), Mountain West (1).