My preseason AP Top 25 ballot, All- America team
Here's my preseason Top 25 ballot that I submitted last night, along with a five-man All-America team we're asked to contribute. Just couldn't vote North Carolina No. 1. (I mean, is everybody just going to keep whistling in the wind and ignoring perhaps the worst academic scandal in college sports, at least in recent years?) Instead, I'm going with the Heels' former ACC rival, Maryland, which boasts some terrific returnees (Melo Trimble, Jake Layman) and some top-notch newcomers ... including, of course, Diamond Stone.
And while I understand that many freshmen have burst onto the scene and been stars right off the bat in recent years, even leading teams to national titles, I'm erring on the side of caution and not ranking freshman-laden teams too high, for the most part. I'm also excluding freshmen from my preseason All-America team.
And, as you'll notice, I'm giving the AAC some love. This isn't bias or homerism. This is voting for the teams whose talent I'm most familiar with. I really believe UConn has the chance to be a terrific team -- though it may take a little bit for all the newcomers to get on the same page. You could make an argument that the Huskies have four of the league's top 10 players -- and that's not even including Shonn Miller.
I love SMU's talent but was a little wary about how the team would perform, knowing it's barred from the postseason. That wariness changed after Tuesday's AAC Media Day, where Markus Kennedy and Nic Moore appeared to have the perfect attitude in handling the situation -- though it remains to be seen if they can keep that focus when everybody starts talking March Madness come February.
And I'm really high on Cincinnati. I know they're boring, but you can't deny the Bearcats' defense. And, to be honest, they shoot the ball pretty well, too, and figure to score a little better this season. They've got just about everybody back from last year's NCAA team that gave Kentucky all it could handle in the Round of 32, including Octavius Ellis, Troy Caupain and, perhaps the most talented of them all, Gary Clark. And, of course, they've got Mick Cronin back on the sidelines this season.
I wouldn't be surprised if UConn, SMU or Cincinnati win the AAC regular season title. These are three very good teams, and I'm giving them the love they deserve.
2. North Carolina
6. Iowa State
11. Wichita State
15. Michigan State
23. Notre Dame
25. Texas A&M
Kris Dunn, Providence
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
Melo Trimble, Maryland
Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga
Georges Niang, Iowa State