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College basketball is back! The first ever release of After the Whistle’s 2017-18 CBB power rankings is filled with surprises and controversy.
1. Michigan State
Others have Duke here, but the Spartans have a ridiculously talented roster. Cassius Winston is a terrific passer, albeit with turnover issues, (read: Chris Paul) and is a top five point guard. Nick Ward returns after averaging 13.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in under 20 minutes last year. Five star recruit Jaren Jackson slots in at the four.
Then there’s Miles Bridges. The preseason Player of the Year pick is back. What a roster. From Bridges to backup point guard Tum Tum Nairn, (what a name!) Tom Izzo has plenty of weapons to work with.
Point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright and center Dusan Ristic add experience to the star-studded Wildcats. DeAndre Ayton, Allonzo Trier, and Rawle Atkins are sublime talents on a championship contender.
There they are! Potential lottery pick Marvin Bagley III headlines a recruiting class also bringing in Gary Trent, Jr. and Wendell Carter. The Blue Devils get bumped down due to their point guard. Trevon Duval is a terrific talent, but his shoot-first mentality needs to go. Duval will need to run the offense and be a distributor. Unless that happens, Duke won’t eclipse MSU and Arizona.
Jalen Brunson transformed into a terrific playmaker post-January, small forward Donte DiVincenzo took strides, and redshirt freshman Omari Spellman will anchor the frontcourt. There’s not much to criticize about Villanova, and Jay Wright once again has a Final Four contender.
5. Wichita State
According to many advanced metrics, Wichita State was the most underseeded team in NCAA history last year. Even so, the Shockers pushed Kentucky to the brink. The only player Gregg Marshall lost was a third string point guard. Wichita State features a Player of the Year candidate in point guard Landry Shamet, and center Shaq Morris will be a force in the paint. Noted flamethrower Connor Frankamp is back, and Markis McDuffie could be the best power forward in the AAC.
That’s right. The Shockers left the Missouri Valley to join the American. We get to see Wichita State vs. Cincinnati!
Devonte’ Graham finally gets to play point guard. Five-star recruit Malik Newman joins him, and could lead the Jayhawks in scoring. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk is back at the three. The problem lies with the frontcourt. Once again Kansas has razor thin depth, and the days of playing small ball with Josh Jackson at power forward are over. How will they handle it?
Five star recruits Quade Green and Hamidou Diallo lead a talented Kentucky into a difficult year. Kevin Knox joins them, but Jarred Vanderbilt is out until January. The Wildcats should win the SEC, as Florida projects for a big drop-off. Kentucky has a roster built to defend, but how will they score? No one is particularly adept at shooting threes or spacing the floor. Someone will need to answer, or the Wildcats won’t fulfill expectations.
This is the most talented roster the Trojans have ever had. Jordan McLaughlin runs the point with Shaqquan Aaron and Chimezi Metu in the frontcourt. Opponents have to key in on the frontcourt. Can Elijah Stewart knock down jumpers consistently?
It’s almost guaranteed coach Jim Larranaga plays a three man backcourt. Dark horse POY candidate Bruce Brown is joined by Ja’Quan Newton in one of the ACC’s finest guard combos. That’s before five star recruit Lonnie Walker IV is factored in. Miami is going to be good.
Akeem Springs is the only player gone from last year’s most surprising team. Richard Pitino and Minnesota are one of three teams in the top 10 not to be mentioned in the FBI’s college basketball probe, and return all their starters. Underrated Nate Mason forms a backcourt also including ever-consistent Dupree McBrayer. Reggie Lynch is a terrific center, and Jordan Murphy provides solid minutes. Amir Coffey is projected to be Minnesota’s first draft pick since Kris Humphries, and could rise into the lottery if he fixes his three point accuracy.
Lonzo Ball is gone, but the Bruins still have one of the nation’s finest backcourts with Jaylen Hands and Aaron Holiday. Kris Wilkes rounds up a terrific recruiting class, and UCLA will be just as good as last year.
The Bearcats return everyone from a team that won 30 games in 2016-17. Transfer Cane Broome will provide a scoring threat from the point, and leading scorer Jacob Evans will ensure Broome and fellow wing Jarron Cumberland receive plenty of opportunities.
13. North Carolina
Four of last year’s five leading scorers are gone, and Joel Berry broke his hand. Hero Luke Maye will assume a greater role in a shell of a UNC offense, although North Carolina aren’t champions by luck.
14. Notre Dame
Matt Farrell is one of the ACC’s best point guards. No question. The problem with the Irish is size. 6’5″ Bonzie Colson saw time at center due to a lack of depth. Will Martinas Geben take strides?
15. Seton Hall
The Pirates are set to be a threat in the Big East. Angel Delgado and Khadeen Carrington could be all-Big East good, and Desi Rodriguez can light up a scoreboard.
16. West Virginia
Jevon Carter plays point in a middle of the conference offense featuring Esa Ahmad. Ahmad won’t play until January, but the strength of every Bobby Huggins team is its defense. Press Virginia will not find it hard to keep opponents under 60 points.
Bryant McIntosh will vie for B1G Player of the Year, while Scottie Lindsey is an underrated wing. Derek Pardon should do just enough to keep pressure off of the perimeter.
The FBI investigation’s biggest victim, Louisville’s projections dropped off a cliff. Brian Bowen is gone, Rick Pitino is gone, and more could be implicated. Quin Snider and Deng Adel still anchor the perimeter and frontcourt for a decent Cardinals team.
The Gators come off a surprise Elite 8 trip and lost a lot. KeVaughan Allen is the sole top four returning scorer from a decimated Florida roster. They should be good. . . just not as good as last year.
When Trevon Blueitt chose to stay in college, Xavier was thrust back into the conversation. Kerem Kanter headlines a solid recruiting class, and Sean O’Mara is still manning the paint. The concern is Quentin Goodin’s point guard play coming off a foot injury.
KenPom’s 10th best defense in college basketball added the best scorer in the freshman class. Collin Sexton is the point guard the Tide needs to make a tournament run.
Jaylen Fisher returns from a torn meniscus injury to attempt to lead TCU to its first NCAA Tournament in over 20 years. Fresh off a victory in the NIT, coach Jamie Dixon’s team wants more.
Manu Lecomte is one of the Big 12’s finest point guards. Joined by rim protector Jo Lual-Acuil, Scott Drew will have two big contributors to turn to.
24. Texas A&M
Robert Williams is the star of a talented A&M roster, but the Aggies’ success hinges on Tyler Davis. The underrated center could be a top ten rebounder in the nation, and will need to take pressure off of Williams.
Michael Porter, Jr. is the obvious star of a decent Missouri roster. Leading scorer Jordan Barnett is back, as well as distributor Terrence Phillips. The pass-first point guard will benefit from having more than one option to pass the ball, and might take some shots of his own.