The USA TODAY preseason men’s college basketball coaches poll has been released based off of expectations heading into the 2018-19 season. But like many preseason projections, the top 25 teams were selected and ordered largely off of the potential of returning and incoming talent.
Since that’s never a surefire gauge, here’s a look at five teams from the poll that were ranked too high or snubbed altogether:
Underrated: Loyola-Chicago (Not ranked). The Ramblers shocked the nation last March by winning four NCAA tournament games to reach the Final Four as an underdog mid-major. While the Ramblers lose two starters from last year’s storybook team, they also return three of their best players that fit with coach Porter Moser’s floor-spacing offense. Guard Clayton Custer is the reigning Missouri Valley player of the year and slimmed-down big man Cameron Krutwig is poised for a breakout season. The Ramblers will have an early opportunity to make some noise with a Nov. 27 matchup against No. 9 Nevada, a team it bounced in the Sweet 16.
PRESEASON POLL: Kansas start at No. 1 followed by Kentucky and Duke
SKIPPING TRIP: NCAA men's basketball champion Villanova won't visit White House
Underrated: Cincinnati (Not ranked). Coach Mick Cronin has piloted the Bearcats to back-to-back 30-win seasons in spite of losing talent, so Cincinnati’s departures of key players from 2017-18 shouldn’t be looked at as that big of a blow. Jarron Cumberland and Cane Broome are back from last year’s No. 2 NCAA tournament seed and American Athletic Conference champion. Junior college transfer Rashawn Fredericks should provide immediate help. Cronin has been a single-digit seed in the NCAA tournament in each of his five season in Cincinnati. A sixth time seems likely.
Overrated: No. 6 Tennessee. The Volunteers bring back their entire roster from last season’s No. 3 NCAA seed and SEC regular-season co-champion. That’s usually an equation for success, especially with reigning SEC player of the year Grant Williams back in the fold. But last year’s team was limited despite its success, and the SEC will be much better this season with the likes of No. 12 Auburn, No. 19 Mississippi State and should-be-ranked LSU all vastly improved. Coach Rick Barnes has excelled at getting the most out of less talent, but unlike another well-coached team without five-star players, Kansas State, Tennessee didn’t surge in the NCAA tournament, bowing out early with a second-round loss to Loyola-Chicago. Failing to peak last March illustrated a lower ceiling than a top-10 prospectus.
Overrated: No. 8 Villanova. The Wildcats are the defending national champions and that surely elicits some preseason respect given coach Jay Wright is still steering the ship. But roster wise, this is a pretty significant makeover. Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges were expected to go pro, but national championship hero Donte DiVincenzo’s unexpected NBA departure should have bumped this team out of the top 10. Wright welcomes top-tier young talent this season, but he’s not the typical one-and-done type coach so veteran returnees Eric Paschall and Phil Booth will be key to keeping the championship culture going. The Big East will be down in 2018-19, so ‘Nova still will be the favorite. But that’s more of a reason to push this team down in the rankings, if anything.
Overrated: No. 22 Purdue. The Boilermakers have perhaps the best player in the country — or at least the best scorer — in elite guard Carsen Edwards. But outside of their preseason All-American, virtually the entire roster is gone from last year’s Sweet 16 team. That puts a lot of weight on Edwards’ shoulders (and stress on coach Matt Painter’s bench). Plus, there are other rising Big Ten teams that would’ve fit better here, like No. 25 Nebraska, unranked Indiana, unranked Wisconsin or unranked Maryland. Purdue has found its footing with Big Ten hardware in recent years, but this time the cupboard’s more bare.
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