When the preseason AP Top 25 poll dropped this time last year, I set out to rain on as many parades as possible. I declared UCLA overrated. I said Kentucky was overrated. Ditto for top-15 preseason team Oregon.
And, by golly, I was right on all counts.
UCLA, ranked No. 2 in the preseason, finished outside the top 10 of the poll. Kentucky, ranked No. 10 in the preseason, failed to win the SEC and lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to No. 15 seed Saint Peter's. And Oregon, which was ranked No. 13, finished the season unranked and missed its first NCAA Tournament since 2018.
It brings me
no joy so much joy to say "I told ya so."
So who will I inevitably be right about again this year after Monday's release of this season's preseason AP Top 25? Which teams are too high in the preseason or too low? I've consulted my crystal ball. I'm ready to crash some preseason parties before they begin.
AP Top 25 preseason ranking: No. 1
North Carolina is a very good basketball team and easily ranks top-10 for me next season. Just not No. 1. Like UCLA last year, the magical NCAA Tournament run it is coming off of has skewed the reality of what it really was last season: which was a just-OK team that got really hot end of year. Remember: UNC at one point last season didn't even look like it'd be a tourney team. It had to catch fire down the stretch and eventually got in as a No. 8 seed. The return of four of five starters from its NCAA runner-up roster makes UNC an easy pick here, but UCLA's similar trajectory over the last two years should serve as a cautionary tale for the Tar Heels and expectations surrounding them this season. Good team, not the No. 1 team.
AP Top 25 preseason ranking: Tied for No. 5
To rank Kansas No. 5 in the AP poll -- a Kansas team that is coming off an NCAA championship -- seems totally reasonable. But to consider the context of this team, it's a smidge too high. KU lost not only Final Four MOP Ochai Agbaji (and the real Final Four MOP, David McCormack), but also Christian Braun and Remy Martin. It has some nice incoming pieces led by Gradey Dick and Texas tech transfer Kevin McCullar, but I'm not convinced this is definitely a top-two team in the Big 12 -- much less a top-five team nationally.
AP Top 25 preseason ranking: 13
Someone has to step up in the Big Ten this season and there is no clear and obvious pick, hence an unusual amount of preseason Hoosiers love. While Indiana might very well be the best of the league, No. 13 in the AP poll feels extremely generous. Yes, Trayce-Jackson Davis is back, as are most of the team's starters. (Plus, freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino has star potential.) But this team just narrowly made the NCAA Tournament last season as a 12 seed. Expecting them to make the leap to No. 1 in the Big Ten is quite the ask. It's much more likely IU finishes the season unranked than it finishes as the winner of the Big Ten.
AP Top 25 preseason ranking: 4
The injury (and subsequent surgery) for reigning national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe is a concern worth monitoring, but if healthy, Kentucky is the clear No. 1 preseason team for me. UK added a ton of shooting to address concerns from last year (Antonio Reeves and Cason Wallace can ball) and it should have some breakout vets who could be difference-makers like Jacob Toppin, CJ Frederick and Daimion Collins.
AP Top 25 preseason ranking: Tied for No. 5
Baylor is the best team in the Big 12. Period. The last two seasons, that distinction has led to two NCAA Tournament titles -- first with Baylor and most recently with Kansas. It could definitely go back Baylor's way in 2022-23. Coach Scott Drew has a superstar freshman in Keyonte George, a cast of returning studs in LJ Cryer and Adam Flagler and a cast of supporting vets who could lead the Bears back to the promised land.
AP Top 25 preseason ranking: 9
The addition of Baylor Scheierman this offseason for Creighton might have been the singularly most underrated in college hoops. The reigning Summit League Player of the Year is a difference-making backcourt presence who can score it, handle it and distribute it. He joins a Creighton team that brings back Ryan Nembhard, Trey Alexander and Arthur Kaluma -- all prospects who have pro potential. Oh, and Ryan Kalkbrenner? He's our preseason Big East Player of the Year pick. This team has the weaponry to be the best in the Big East and could finish the regular season as a No. 1 seed come tourney time.