The Associated Press preseason Top 25 men’s basketball poll will come out Thursday, so here is the ballot I turned in to the AP.
Before you get to that, if you missed it in today’s paper or on the website, here is the link to my story on Tech’s 1973 NIT championship team
1. Michigan State, a future Hokies foe, gets my top spot. Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Adreian Payne are back from a Sweet 16 team. All three averaged double figures in scoring last season.
2. Defending champ Louisville is my No. 2 team. The Cards will miss Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng, but Russ Smith, Luke Hancock, Wayne Blackshear and former VT signee Montrezl Harrell are back. Suspended Chane Behanan and injured Kevin Ware will eventually be back too. JUCO ooint guard Chris Jones will have to come through.
3. Duke goes here. The Blue Devils will miss Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly, but Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook are back from an Elite Eight team, with Miss. State transfer Rodney Hood and highly touted freshman Jabari Parker added to the mix.
4. Kentucky goes here. If Coach Cal’s freshman class can live up to the hype, and if the team chemistry works out, this will be a title contender. Julius Randle and the Harrison twins are part of the rookie class. Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein return. Some people will put Kentucky No. 1, but I am reluctant to put them quite so high, especially this early in the season, because we have to see how the team jells.
5. Oklahoma State, one of the favorites in the Big 12, goes here. Marcus Smart is back, as are Markel Brown, Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte. All four averaged double figures in scoring.
6. Ohio State. The Buckeyes will miss Deshaun Thomas but return Aaron Craft and three other starters from an Elite Eight team.
7. Arizona. Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons are gone, but Nick Johnson and two other starters are back from a Sweet 16 team. Freshman Aaron Gordon should make an impact, as well as Duquesne transfer TJ McConnell.
8. Kansas. Another favorite in the Big 12, the Jayhawks boast highly touted freshman Andrew Wiggins. Memphis transfer Tarik Black is also on board, as is freshman Joel Embiid.
9. Michigan. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway are gone, but Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson and Nik Stauskas are back from a Final Four team. Freshman Derrick Walton has come aboard.
10. Syracuse. The Orange will miss James Southerland, Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche. But C.J. Fair is back from a Final Four team, as are Rakeem Christmas and DaJuan Coleman. Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis will have to come through.
11. VCU. Shaka Smart’s team is the favorite in the A-10. Troy Daniels and Darius Theus are gone, but Juvonte Reddic, Rob Brandenberg and Treveon Graham are back from a Sweet 16 team. Former FSU forward Terrance Shannon has come aboard.
12. Florida. Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy and Mike Rosario are gone, but Patric Young and Scottie Wilbekin are back from an Elite Eight team. Ex-Hokie Dorian Finney-Smith is now eligible. So is South Carolina transfer Damontre Harris.
13. UConn. The Huskies were not eligible for the NCAAs last season, but they are this season. They return Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels, Omar Calhoun and Shabazz Napier from a 20-win team.
14. Memphis. Adonis Thomas is gone, but Chris Crawford, Joe Jackson and Geron Johnson are back.
15. Marquette. The favorite in the new Big East will miss Vander Blue, but Davante Gardner is back from an Elite Eight team. JUCO transfer Jameel McKay has arrived.
16. UNC. Reggie Bullock is gone, but James Michael McAdoo and Marcus Paige are back. The suspended P.J. Hairston will play eventually. Freshmen Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks have come aboard.
17. New Mexico. Tony Snell and coach Steve Alford are gone, but Alex Kirk and Kendall Williams are back for the Mountain West favorites.
18. Notre Dame. Jack Cooley is gone, but Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant are back.
19. Wichita State. Malcolm Armstead and Carl Hall are gone from Gregg Marshall’s Final Four team, but Cleanthony Early is back. JUCO transfer Darius Carter has come aboard the Missouri Valley favorite.
20. Creighton. It will be interesting to see how Doug McDermott and company do in the new Big East.
21. Harvard. The team that beat New Mexico in the NCAAs returns Wesley Saunders, Siyani Chambers and Laurent Rivard, and welcomes back Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry after their academic issues.
22. Colorado. Andre Roberson is gone, but Askia Booker, Spencer Dinwiddie and Josh Scott are back from an NCAA tourney team.
23. La Salle. Ramon Galloway is gone from the Sweet 16 team, but Tyreek Duren, ex-Hokie Tyrone Garland and Jerrell Wright are back.
24. Boise State. Anthony Drmic, Jeff Elorriaga and Derrick Marks are back from an NCAA team.
25. So many teams to choose from for my last spot. I looked hard at UCLA, Gonzaga, St. Louis, Tennessee and Baylor. I also considered Georgetown, Villanova, Florida Gulf Coast, California, Indiana, Oregon, Wisconsin, UNLV and Iowa.
But in the end, I went with UVa. The Cavaliers return Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell and should be NCAA tourney bound.
Next week, the AP preseason All-America team will be revealed.
I went with, in no particular order, Marcus Smart, Doug McDermott, Russ Smith, Aaron Craft and Mitch McGary.
I looked hard at Harris and Payne from Michigan State, as well as Joe Harris and CJ Fair. I also looked at Andrew Wiggins. But while I have no problem putting a freshman on my end-of-season All-America team, I will not do it for the preseason team — not when Wiggins has yet to play any college basketball and there are returning college players who are worthy.