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Baylor earns No. 1 spot in preseason men’s basketball poll
USA TODAY Sports’ Scott Gleeson breaks down the latest men’s basketball coaches poll.
The preseason top 25 is a gauge into which teams are predicted to thrive based on returnees, newcomers and the longevity of program success.
But some of the teams in this year’s USA TODAY men’s basketball preseason coaches poll are underrated heading into the season.
Here’s a look at five top 25 teams that are likely to vault into the top five very soon in 2020-21:
No. 10 Illinois. The Fighting Illini are far too good to be just inside the top 10 and coach Brad Underwood finally has a team poised to compete for a Big Ten title and make a deep March Madness run. The returns of USA TODAY’s preseason All-Americans Ayo Dosunmu and center Kofi Cockburn – both elite talents bypassed the NBA – give Illinois a dangerous inside-out balance.
TEAM OUTLOOKS: Analyzing each of the Top 25 teams in the preseason poll
No. 11 Creighton. Marcus Zegarowski will be a top pick for preseason Big East player of the year, making the Bluejays a viable threat to knock off No. 3 Villanova from its long-held top spot in the Big East after finishing tied last year. Coach Greg McDermott has a veteran-laden roster beaming with talent, bringing back the core of a team that finished 24-7 and was poised to secure an NCAA tournament No. 2 seed before its cancellation.
No. 17 Arizona State. Coach Bob Hurley’s team drifted away from the NCAA tournament bubble last year after back-to-back seasons ending up in the First Four. In 2020-21 he has a team poised to ascend into the NCAA tournament top-seeding range. Remy Martin (19.1 ppg) and Alonzo Verge Jr. (14.6 ppg) are top returners on a roster that welcomes elite freshmen Joshua Christopher and Marcus Bagley. The mix of experience and new talent make the Sun Devils a favorite to win the Pac-12.
No. 18 Houston. The reigning regular-season co-champion in the American Athletic Conference, the Cougars bring back five of their top six scorers led by Quentin Grimes and Caleb Mills. Kelvin Sampson’s young roster will be mature into more of a force in the second half of the season.
No. 21 UCLA. The Bruins turned a disastrous 2018-19 into a second-place Pac-12 finish and a potential NCAA tournament at-large bid last year. Second-year coach Mick Cronin did that with a weak roster, so expect 2020-21 to start off better fueled by the return of all five starters, including leading scorer Chris Smith. The loss of five-star commit Daishen Nix, who went to the G-League, hurts but Cronin can use last year’s turnaround as a launchpad into this year.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.