College Basketball: Winners and Losers of the First AP Poll
In reality, the preseason AP Top 25 poll means next to nothing in the long run for college basketball.
There's no mythical computer formula that is disproportionately impacted by preseason positions to determine who will play in the championship game.
Ultimately, if you win enough games and look good doing it, there will be a spot for you at the Big Dance.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to discuss, especially before any games have been played.
With that in mind, read on to see which teams were the “winners” and “losers” of the first AP Top 25 poll.
Winner: North Carolina State
North Carolina State has been on the receiving end of a significant amount of praise this offseason.
Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Leslie are two of the best players in the nation at their respective positions, and the Wolfpack are considered by many as the favorites to take home the ACC title.
However, that didn’t necessarily mean that the official AP voters were going to give North Carolina State the benefit of the doubt. After all, traditional powers Duke and North Carolina often receive plenty of votes of their own.
Much to the delight of Wolfpack fans, their squad was given the No. 6 spot in the AP Poll. What’s more, Duke is two spots below them and the Tar Heels occupy the No. 11 slot.
NC State will need to prove that it's worthy of its high ranking on the court, but the Wolfpack have the ability and players to do just that.
I personally think Michigan is a very serious Final Four contender with a ton of talent and a great coach.
But the fact of the matter remains—the Wolverines lost their first round NCAA tournament game to Ohio last season.
They also lost a number of critical contributors, including Zack Novak, Stu Douglass and Evan Smotrycz from a year ago.
Despite this attrition, Michigan is ranked No. 5 in the country in the first AP poll.
It wouldn’t be difficult to make the argument that the five spot is a bit high for a team that is relatively unproven and was shocked on the national stage last March.
Then again, if you look at the talent level of the freshmen coming in and the fact that Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. return, it wouldn’t be too difficult to make a case that Michigan definitely deserves its Top Five status, either.
Considering Michigan plays in the deep Big Ten, the Wolverines will have plenty of chances to show us if they are worthy or not.
Winner: Ohio State
Ohio State is coming off of a Final Four run, so if the AP poll is giving credit to the Buckeyes for last season’s success, then they deserve the No. 4 spot they were given.
However, there are so many question marks in Columbus right now it's hard to make the argument that Ohio State is the fourth best team in the nation to start the year.
What’s more, the Buckeyes lost two-time All-American Jared Sullinger and the solid production of William Buford.
Whether Thad Matta’s squad lives up to the lofty ranking or not ultimately depends on whether Deshaun Thomas can fill the role of the top option on offense and if Aaron Craft can continue to lead the team with his tenacious defense.
Furthermore, a number of young players must develop quickly, including Amir Williams, LaQuinton Ross and Shannon Scott.
The Buckeyes could very well answer all the “ifs” and fulfill their potential. But for the time being, No. 4 might be a bit high.
This may be the deepest and most talented team Tubby Smith has had during his tenure at Minnesota.
The Gophers return Trevor Mbakwe (who recently avoided jail time for a drunk driving charge) for a sixth year of eligibility and will be counting on him to return to pre-injury form. If he does, don’t be surprised if he leads the Big Ten in blocks and rebounds.
But it won’t be just The Mbakwe Show this season for the Gophers.
Rodney Williams and Austin Hollins provide Smith with plenty of athleticism, meaning Minnesota should be able to play at a faster pace than some Big Ten teams are comfortable with.
Combine a healthy Mbakwe with a talented surrounding core and Smith could have the Gophers finally playing deep into March.
There has been a lot of love given to mid-major teams this offseason. In fact, half of the preseason All-American team is made up of players outside the power conferences.
One mid-major school that has been overlooked, the Ohio Bobcats, return the vast majority of their contributors from a team that marched to the Sweet 16 last season, where they gave North Carolina a serious scare.
The only real significant loss Ohio had was the loss of its head coach, John Groce (which is admittedly a significant loss).
The Bobcats will win a bunch of games this season behind the excellent play of All-American candidate D.J. Cooper and the contributions of role players Walter Offutt and Nick Kellogg.
Expect to see Ohio in the Top 25 at some point this season.
No team will want to play the Bobcats in March.
Perhaps Texas isn’t ranked because of a general mistrust about what head coach Rick Barnes will do with all the talented players he has in Austin.
After all, the Longhorns have a number of enticing players that theoretically should be enough to garner a spot in the Top 25.
J’Covan Brown is no longer wearing burnt orange, but the Longhorns have a loaded backcourt anyway.
Jonathan Holmes, Myck Kabongo and Sheldon McClellan all return and are joined by highly-regarded freshman Javan Felix.
The frontcourt is a bit more of a question mark, but Barnes’ recruiting should help in that category.
Cameron Ridley could become a star and young players Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert will also contribute.
Brown’s loss is a lot to overcome, but this team should have a spot in the initial AP poll (they do in the USA Today poll).
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