The first installment of the USA Today Coaches Poll was released on Thursday afternoon, and it shouldn’t come as a shock to many of you that Kentucky was named the Preseason No. 1 team in the country. Believe it or not, that’s only the second time in program history that Kentucky has been named Preseason No. 1 in the coaches poll. The last time was in 1995-96, the year that Rick Pitino led the wildcats to a national title.
Back to this year’s poll, it also shouldn’t come as a surprise that Michigan State was slotted at No. 2 or that reigning champions Louisville checked in at No. 3.
Duke and Arizona round out the top five, while Kansas, Syracuse, Florida, Michigan and Ohio State make up the rest of the top ten.
None of those rankings are out of the ordinary.
In fact, I’d say the most shocking thing about the poll is that there’s really nothing all that shocking about it.
Sure, Oregon is probably slotted a bit too high at No. 18, especially when you consider that Cal checks in at 34th, Arizona State only got two votes for the top 25 poll and Stanford was no where to be found in the rankings of any of the 32 coaches who voted.
Four teams from outside the seven power conferences (I’m including the Big East and the AAC in that conversation) made the top 25: Gonzaga, Wichita State, VCU and New Mexico. Ironically enough, that’s the same as the number of former Big East teams currently ranked: Louisville, Syracuse, Notre Dame and UConn. Marquette is the only current Big East member in the top 25.
This post will be updated throughout the night.
Butler (KenPom: 41, RPI; 67) at Seton Hall (KenPom: 31, RPI: 37), 6:30 p.m.
LSU (KenPom: 53, RPI: 76) at South Carolina (KenPom: 45, RPI: 28), 7:00 p.m.
Nebraska at Wisconsin (KenPom: 51, RPI: 62), 7:00 p.m.
Saint Joseph’s (KenPom: 48, RPI: 30) at George Washington (KenPom: 71, RPI: 34), 7:00 p.m.
Missouri at Vanderbilt (KenPom: 35, RPI: 58), 9:00 p.m.
No. 14 Iowa State at Texas Tech (KenPom: 59, RPI: 51), 9:00 p.m.
Michigan (KenPom: 46, RPI: 56) at Minnesota, 9:00 p.m.
Washington (KenPom: 80, RPI: 57) at Utah (KenPom: 44, RPI: 16), 9:00 p.m.
San Diego State (KenPom: 65, RPI: 47) at Fresno State, 11:00 p.m.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: LSU at South Carolina, 7:00 p.m.
LSU attempts to stay atop the SEC standings when they travel on the road to face South Carolina. The Gamecocks have been very tough at home this season and they’re trying to form a potential four-way tie in the conference standings if they’re able to win this one (and Texas A&M wins tonight). It will be intriguing to see how Ben Simmons fares against South Carolina’s stingy defense.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: Saint Joseph’s at George Washington, 7:00 p.m.
An important game in the Atlantic 10 as Saint Joseph’s heads to the Smith Center to play surging George Washington. The Colonels have won three straight games as they try to stay with VCU and Dayton and make a move to tie the Hawks in the league standings. CBT’s Rob Dauster will be in the building for this one, so make sure to follow him on Twitter for updates.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
- No. 21 Baylor will have a tough one in the Big 12 when they go on the road at Kansas State. The Wildcats just knocked off Oklahoma and the Octagon of Doom is a very tough place to play, even if Kansas State is struggling in the standings.
- No. 16 SMU will try to stay in the lead in the American as they host Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane could really use a road win like this for its postseason chances.
- An intriguing Pac-12 contest tips as Washington heads to Utah. The Pac-12 standings are a mess right now, but these two teams still have a chance to make one final move for the regular season title if they start building momentum now.
- In the SEC, Alabama hosts No. 15 Texas A&M, a team that has lost three of its last four games. The Aggies will be favored in this road contest, but this one could be interesting because of Avery Johnson’s unique connection to Texas A&M. Avery Johnson Jr., a transfer guard sitting out this season at Alabama, played for the Aggies last season, so he could have some useful tips for his dad on slowing down Texas A&M’s potent offense.
- No. 20 Providence will be looking for revenge when they head to Milwaukee to face Marquette. The Golden Eagles currently sit eighth in the Big East standings, but they did win on the road by a point over the Friars earlier this season.