Once again, Kansas, Kentucky and Duke are among the top contenders for an NCAA basketball title
Tonight’s games mark the beginning of another season of college basketball. Even on the first day of the season, there are already some matchups with potential championship implications. At 7 p.m., the preseason top-ranked University of Kansas will take on Michigan State, who are ranked 10. Later, at 9:30 p.m., second-ranked University of Kentucky will take on No. 4 Duke University. Within just two hours of opening day, there will be two games featuring two hall of fame coaches going against each other. In that spirit, let’s take a look at some of the teams that are most likely to come out on top when the season concludes in early April.
University of Kansas
Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks have been among the frontrunners in the NCAA for quite some time now, and at 56 years old, one begins to wonder how many years this legendary coach has at the helm. There is speculation that after this season, Self could potentially leave for the NBA after a near 15-year dynasty of excellence as the head coach of the Jayhawks. This squad could be one of his best. Udoka Azubuike will be joined by Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson to make up one of the best 1-2 big man combos in the nation. Combined with the play of senior Lagerald Vick and likely one-and-done guard Quentin Grimes, this Jayhawk team is already looking better than the team last year, which made the final four.
University of Kentucky
Kentucky has one of the strongest veteran squads in the nation, so it is no surprise that they were voted as the preseason no. 1. Sophomores Quade Green, P.J. Washington and Nick Richards all return and look to make an impact on the team’s success. Pair them with Stanford transfer Reid Travis, whose 19.5 points a game last year ranked him third in the Pac-12, and you have a dangerous core. Kentucky also looks to be more dangerous from behind the arc, giving them an extra advantage to keep defenses on edge.
While Kentucky is notable because of their veterans, Duke might be the exact opposite. They have three of the top five freshmen in this class, all of whom will start on day one. While no team that has started four freshmen has won the championship game, Duke hopes to have better luck than their predecessors. Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett will be dueling all year for who will end up as the number one overall pick, but both won’t make it out of the lottery. Cam Reddish will join them as well. He slotted right behind Williamson in last year’s ESPN Hot 100.
Gonzaga looks to be one of the most complete teams in college basketball this season. They have the potential to finish in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, which usually puts the team in the title conversation. The one dagger in their side might be their lack of a true big man, but talented forwards should make up for that.
University of Nevada
There is no team in the nation that can rival Nevada in terms of stockpiling talent. They currently have eight seniors and five juniors on the roster, many of them redshirt transfers who had to sit out for a year. Following a 29-win season last year, the team is hopeful that they are trending in the right direction. The team’s experience, combined with the talents of the first five-star recruit in school history, Jordan Brown, places them as the final school in the conversation for teams that could potentially win it all. Nevada is clearly the dark horse among the top contenders, but don’t count them out.