It may be sneaking up on you, but college basketball returns tonight. We have a pair of huge matchups at the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York, with No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Kentucky, and No. 3 Duke vs. No. 4 Kansas.
ESPN’s leading college basketball analyst, Jay Bilas, is ready for tonight’s action. Ahead of the season tip-off, he released his list of the sport’s top 68 teams, which lines up with the number of teams that will make the NCAA Tournament field.
He has the same team at the top of his rankings as the preseason AP Poll. Bilas believes Michigan State’s impressive coaching, and combination of talent and experience will take the Spartans far this year.
“Hard to believe that Tom Izzo has never snagged a preseason No. 1 ranking, despite the fact that his program is a true ‘blue blood.’ Izzo has the nation’s best point guard in Cassius Winston and an emerging star in Aaron Henry. The keys will be at the 4 position — where the Spartans need consistent production — and avoiding turnovers. For some odd reason, the only thing one could criticize in Michigan State is consistent turnover issues. Still, the Spartans hang banners, and 2020 could bring another banner year, much like 2000.”
Beyond the Spartans, his rankings differ quite a bit from the rankings. Here is Bilas’ Top 10:
2. Kansas Jayhawks
3. Florida Gators
8. North Carolina
The biggest disparity between the AP and Bilas actually comes with his alma mater, Duke. The Blue Devils start the year ranked No. 4, but he has questions about their shooting and starpower in a post-Zion Williamson world.
“Coach K has another excellent recruiting class but without the superstar firepower of the past few seasons. In other words, he has first-rounders but perhaps not top-5 or lottery picks. Vernon Carey Jr. is the best player and a beast in the post and on the glass, but Tre Jones needs to lead the way. This should be a versatile, deep and determined pressure-defensive team. Will Duke shoot the ball better than last season? If the answer is no, there will be growing pains this season.”
We should have a great night of hoops in store here.