AP College Basketball Poll 2019: 1st Regular-Season Rankings Released

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistNovember 11, 2019

DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - NOVEMBER 08: Tre Jones #3 of the Duke Blue Devils against the Colorado State Rams during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on November 08, 2019 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The first week of college basketball is complete.

That means it's time for the first regular-season Associated Press poll. Below, we'll break down those rankings and preview the top contenders this season.

               

Rankings

1. Kentucky

2. Duke

3. Michigan State

4. Louisville

5. Kansas

6. North Carolina

7. Maryland

8. Gonzaga

9. Virginia

10. Villanova

11. Texas Tech

12. Seton Hall

13. Memphis

14. Oregon

15. Florida

16. Ohio State

17. Utah State

18. Saint Mary's

19. Arizona

20. Washington

21. Xavier

22. Auburn

23. LSU

24. Baylor

25. Colorado

                 

Preview

Kentucky came into the season with 247Sports' No. 2 recruiting class, led by a trio of 5-star freshmen (Tyrese Maxey, Kahlil Whitney and Keion Brooks) and 4-star additions in Johnny Juzang and Dontaie Allen. Factor in returning players like Ashton Hagans, Nick Richards and Immanuel Quickley—and Bucknell transfer Nate Sestina—and it wasn't a shock that Kentucky opened the season with a 69-62 win over then-No. 1 Michigan State.

Kentucky's defense appears set to once again be dominant. These Wildcats will go as far as players like Maxey (26 points against Michigan State) and Whitney can take them on the offensive end.

As for Michigan State, the Spartans remain a threat despite their opening loss.

For starters, guard Cassius Winston was the only consensus selection to the AP preseason All-America team.

"He is the straw that stirs the drink and I think deserves all the attention he's been getting because he is a special player," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said of Winston, per the AP. "But I think he's handled it pretty well too with a lot of class and has worked hard."

During Sunday's 100-47 win over Binghamton, Winston posted 17 points and 11 assists, just a day after his brother Zachary Winston was killed when he was hit by a train.

"I guess if I was to be honest, I expected him not to play, but everyone grieves a different way, and we left it 100 percent up to Cassius," Izzo told reporters. "His brothers are the world to him. I've never seen a kid over my years that was as close with his brothers. Zachary grew up around the team so much. He grew close to all the guys."

Michigan State's talented supporting cast will need to rally around a grieving Winston. Even with Joshua Langford out indefinitely with foot and ankle issues, the Spartans are loaded with Xavier Tillman, Aaron Henry, Kyle Ahrens, Marcus Bingham Jr., Rocket Watts and Malik Hall.

Duke, of course, is always a threat. Its hopes hang on a pair of 5-star freshmen, Vernon Carey and Matthew Hurt, along with returning point guard Tre Jones. The Blue Devils made their case as one of the top teams in the nation with a 68-66 win over Kansas to start the season.

"The depth we have this year is much different than we've had in years past," Jones told reporters. "We can go much deeper into the bench and not drop off at all. This year the focus is really on the team, more than just one or two guys. The depth that we have is much more, the team effort that we had tonight was huge."

Don't sleep on Kansas with star center Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson, even if that loss to Duke was a disappointment for the Jayhawks.

One of the fascinating teams to monitor this season will be Memphis, which crushed the 2019 recruiting cycle by landing two 5-star talents—top overall recruit James Wiseman and No. 15 overall prospect Precious Achiuwa. Add in five 4-star additions (Boogie Ellis, DJ Jeffries, Lester Quinones, Malcolm Dandridge and Damion Baugh) and Memphis could be a real problem this season.

The problem for Memphis is that Wiseman might not have his eligibility for long after the NCAA told Memphis he was "likely ineligible" for the rest of the season. Memphis responded by obtaining a temporary restraining order, allowing Wiseman to play this week. As the situation heads to court, Memphis' future is in question.

That's a shame because Wiseman has been brilliant in his first two games, averaging 22.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game. With him, Memphis is a potential title contender. Without him, it'll still be a solid team, but likely one outside the national discourse.

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