College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

UCLA  Mick Cronin

Mick Cronin and his UCLA Bruins were ranked second in Monday’s AP Top 25 preseason poll. UCLA tips off the 2021-22 season on Nov. 9 when the Bruins host Cal State Bakersfield.

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Illinois basketball beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey breaks down the preseason poll — and shares his Top 25 ballot:

The Top 25 teams in The Associated Press’ college basketball poll, with 2020-21 records, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last year’s final ranking:

The Associated Press Top 25

Rk., TEAM 2020-21 REC. PTS PREV.

1. Gonzaga (55) 31-1 1,562 1

2. UCLA (8) 22-10 1,459 NR

3. Kansas 21-9 1,427 12

4. Villanova 18-7 1,332 18

5. Texas 19-8 1,315 9

6. Michigan 23-5 1,255 4

7. Purdue 18-10 1,213 20

8. Baylor 28-2 992 3

9. Duke 13-11 963 NR

10. Kentucky 9-16 894 NR

11. Illinois 24-7 861 2

12. Memphis 20-8 831 NR

13. Oregon 21-7 775 NR

14. Alabama 26-7 713 5

15. Houston 28-4 694 6

16. Arkansas 25-7 673 10

17. Ohio State 21-10 581 7

18. Tennessee 18-9 563 NR

19. North Carolina 18-11 547 NR

20. Florida State 18-7 381 14

21. Maryland 17-14 294 NR

22. Auburn 13-14 267 NR

23. St. Bonaventure 16-5 238 NR

24. Connecticut 15-8 161 NR

25. Virginia 18-7 125 15

Others receiving votes: Michigan State, 87, Indiana 41, Southern California 30, Arizona 26, Virginia Tech 25, Oklahoma State 25, Xavier 22, Texas Tech 17, Richmond 13, Rutgers 11, Colorado State 11, LSU 7, Belmont 7, San Diego State 5, St. John’s 5, Mississippi State 5, Syracuse 5, Drake 4, Colorado 4, BYU 3, Notre Dame 3, Louisville 3.

SCOTT RICHEY’S TOP 25

The Top 25 teams in News-Gazette college basketball writer and Associated Press Top 25 voter Scott Richey’s latest poll, along with where he ranked teams in last year’s final poll:

TEAM SEASON OPENER

1. UCLA Nov. 9 vs. Cal State Bakersfield

2. Gonzaga Nov. 9 vs. Dixie State

3. Texas Nov. 9 vs. Houston Baptist

4. Kansas Nov. 9 vs. Michigan State

5. Illinois Nov. 9 vs. Jackson State

6. Kentucky Nov. 9 vs. Duke

7. Purdue Nov. 9 vs. Bellarmine

8. Michigan Nov. 10 vs. Buffalo

9. Baylor Nov. 12 vs. Incarnate Word

10. Villanova Nov. 9 vs. Mount St. Mary’s

11. Duke Nov. 9 vs. Kentucky

12. Alabama Nov. 9 vs. Louisiana Tech

13. Memphis Nov. 9 vs. Tennessee Tech

14. Arkansas Nov. 9 vs. Mercer

15. North Carolina Nov. 9 vs. Loyola (Md.)

16. Ohio State Nov. 9 vs. Akron

17. Houston Nov. 9 vs. Hofstra

18. Tennessee Nov. 9 vs. UT Martin

19. Oregon Nov. 9 vs. Texas Southern

20. St. Bonaventure Nov. 9 vs. Siena

21. Auburn Nov. 9 vs. Morehead State

22. Indiana Nov. 9 vs. Eastern Michigan

23. Texas Tech Nov. 9 vs. Texas Tech

24. Florida State Nov. 10 vs. Pennsylvania

25. UConn Nov. 9 vs. Central Connecticut

WHO’S UP

Eleven teams that were included in this year’s preseason AP Top 25 weren’t ranked at the end of last season. That included blue bloods like Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA. That final poll came before the NCAA tournament meaning the Bruins’ run to the Final Four wasn’t a factor. It is now — particularly since coach Mick Cronin returned every notable rotation player from that team. Expectations for the Blue Devils, Wildcats and Tar Heels are just as high, with last year’s struggles considered an anomaly.

WHO’S DOWN

Virginia barely held on to its spot in the AP Top 25, checking in at No. 25 to push its streak of consecutive weeks ranked to 21. The advanced-metric projections don’t favor the Cavaliers nearly as much, as they barely made the top 50 in KenPom and just managed to stay in the top 70 in Torvik. If Virginia can’t play the same kind of elite defense it’s been known for — and that’s what the metrics say — it might be a brief stay among the ranked teams for Tony Bennett and Co. in 2021-22.

WHO TO WATCH

The obvious is answer is ESPN’s doubleheader on Nov. 9 featuring a matchup between No. 9 Duke and No. 10 Kentucky in the Champions Classic. Michigan State (first among other teams receiving votes) just missed on making it two ranked matchups against Kansas. But if you’re looking for potential upsets, Morehead State at Auburn and Louisiana Tech at Alabama certainly have that potential. The Eagles’ Johni Broome and Bulldogs’ Kenneth Lofton Jr. are two of the better under-the-radar (at least for the casual fan) players in the country.

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

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