On Monday the Associated Press unveiled its first Top 25 poll for the 2020-21 men’s college basketball season.
Gonzaga, Baylor, Villanova, Virginia and Iowa round out the top five of the AP Top 25 preseason poll.
You can find the full poll right here:
Here are our five biggest takeaways from the preseason AP Top 25:
AP voters correctly slotted Gonzaga at No. 1
There appears to be a fairly defined upper tier heading into the new college basketball season, which consists of Gonzaga, Baylor and Villanova. It’s no surprise that these three teams make up the top three of the poll and are the only programs to receive multiple first-place votes.
Just one voter point separated Gonzaga (1,541 points) and Villanova (1,540 points) for the overall No. 1 slot. The Bulldogs finished last season No. 2 in the final AP poll and are poised for their first-ever national title. Joel Ayayi, Corey Kispert and Drew Timme are All-American candidates and Jalen Suggs is the highest-rated recruit in school history. The stars are aligning for a special season in Spokane.
Even with Luka Garza, Iowa at No. 5 is a reach
Iowa is one of the most divisive teams this offseason and its No. 5 ranking will only stir the pot further. The Hawkeyes bring back All-American Luka Garza and the rest of their supporting cast from last season. But how much can Iowa improve? That’s the million dollar question.
Last year’s team was solid but far from elite. Iowa finished 20-11 with a tie for 5th in the Big Ten at 11-9. Defense was a major issue for Fran McCaffery’s squad, though, as the Hawkeyes were 97th in adjusted defensive efficiency and 260th in points allowed per game. By year’s end, Iowa was projected to receive a No. 6 seed for the NCAA Tournament. Is this the year Fran and Iowa are able to make it happen in March?
Duke, Kentucky outside top 8
For the first time since 2007, both Duke and Kentucky will start the new season outside of the top 8. Both teams experienced massive roster turnover in the spring but again combat the losses with a heavy infusion of talent.
No. 9 Duke brings back sophomores Wendell Moore and Matthew Hurt, and Mike Krzyzewski will happily welcome in a quartet of 5-star freshmen in Jalen Johnson, Jeremy Roach, DJ Steward and Mark Williams for a young but promising group. No. 10 Kentucky, meanwhile, has zero rotational players back but John Calipari has the nation’s top-ranked freshmen class, including BJ Boston and Terrence Clarke. Also keep an eye on transfers Olivier Sarr (Wake Forest), Davion Mintz (Creighton) and Jacob Toppin (Rhode Island).
Tennessee, Texas Tech lead new poll entrants
In total, eight teams that were outside the final Top 25 of the ’19-20 season saw their names listed in Monday’s preseason poll. Tennessee highlights the list, checking in at No. 12 with pollsters expecting the Vols to see a big turnaround following last year’s 17-14 campaign.
Texas Tech isn’t far behind at No. 14, North Carolina is No. 16, and Arizona State and Texas are 18th and 19th, respectively. No. 22 UCLA, No. 24 Rutgers and No. 25 Michigan also make the cut.
Mid-majors to monitor
Gonzaga is the only team in the preseason Top 25 outside of a high-major conference. Whether that’s a fair assessment by AP voters or not, the lack of mid-major flavor in the preseason poll is notable.
After the Bulldogs, the next team outside of a high-major league is Richmond, which received 40 voter points and is the seventh team outside of the Top 25. Others include Saint Louis (8 voting points), San Diego State (6), BYU (4), Loyola Chicago (3), UNC Greensboro (2) and Northern Iowa (1).
Eli Boettger is a college basketball writer and founder of HeatCheckCBB.com. He has previously worked for Sporting News, DAZN and USA TODAY SMG.
Boettger’s content has been featured by Bleacher Report, NBC Sports, FiveThirtyEight, Yahoo Sports, Athletic Director University, Washington Post, Illinois Law Review and Notre Dame Law Review, among other publications. Boettger is also a current USBWA member and Rockin’ 25 voter.