The Kentucky Wildcats are back on top. For now, at least.
On Thursday, USA Today released its first preseason Top 25 coaches' rankings, and few will be surprised to see Kentucky as the No. 1 team after coach John Calipari secured one of the most heralded recruiting classes in years.
Here is the complete poll, per USA Today:
|USA Today Top 25 Coaches' Poll|
|Courtesy: USA Today|
This marks just the second time in school history that Kentucky has been No. 1 in the preseason ranks, according to USA Today's Eric Prisbell. As Prisbell notes, the other time came in 1995 under Rick Pitino, and those Wildcats finished as national champs with a roster that featured 11 future NBA players.
Calipari has been something of a one-man NBA factory in recent years, with some of his top recruits turning into bona fide NBA players, including Derrick Rose, John Wall and more recently Anthony Davis. If predictions hold true, Calipari just added a couple of other future NBA players with his eight-man recruiting class that features six McDonald's All-Americans.
Headlining the group are forward Julius Randle and point guard Andrew Harrison, who were two of Kentucky's six recruits included in ESPN's Top 100 for the class of 2013.
Calipari spoke about his recruiting class and the depth of the squad at Kentucky's media day (per the Associated Press via ESPN.com):
"I'd like this to play out a little bit and look back, but I will tell you this team is deeper," Calipari said during media day.
Expectations are high for Kentucky winning a ninth national title -- especially after the Wildcats went 21-12 last season and lost in the NIT.
This roster at least has Calipari thinking of fulfilling his dream of coaching an unbeaten national championship team.
"For eight years I've said that before I retire I'd like to coach a team that goes 40-0," Calipari said during media day. "Will it happen? I don't know. But we've got the will to win."
According to Prisbell, this is the first time a team entered the polls at No. 1 a year after finishing unranked since the USA Today poll was introduced in 1991-92. Talk about heightened expectations.
The rest of the Top Five is filled out with the usual suspects: powerhouse program No. 2 Michigan State, last year's national champ Louisville at No. 3, Duke at No. 4 and Arizona at No. 5. If the rest of the poll is any indication, there will be plenty of parity this year in college basketball.
The Big Ten, which was arguably the nation's deepest conference last year, features five teams in the Top 25: Michigan State (2), Michigan (9), Ohio State (10), Wisconsin (21) and Indiana (24).
The revamped ACC also has five teams in the Top 25: Duke (4), Syracuse (7), North Carolina (11), Notre Dame (22) and Virginia (25).
There is also plenty of representation for mid-major teams like Gonzaga (14), Virginia Commonwealth (15), Wichita State (16) and New Mexico (20).
By the time March Madness rolls around, these preseason rankings will likely be long forgotten, but they're good for sparking debate now. Did the coaches get it right?