2014 Men's Basketball preseason poll includes Arizona, Utah
Arizona is ranked second in the 2014-15 preseason Associated Press men’s basketball poll, while Utah also earned a top-25 nod, tying for 25th with Harvard. The ACC and Big Ten each have five teams in the top 25 to share honors for most-represented conference in the AP poll.
Sean Miller has things a-rollin’ in Tucson with three Sweet 16 appearances and two Elite 8’s in the last four seasons. While the No. 2 ‘Cats do lose Aaron Gordon to the Orlando Magic and Nick Johnson to the Houston Rockets, everybody else who was a significant contributor returns to the McKale Center: Brandon Ashley, T.J. McConnell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Kaleb Tarczewski – you name it, they’re back. Also propelling Arizona to its highest preseason ranking since the 2002-03 season is the addition of freshman Stanley Johnson, who was rated as the No. 3 overall recruit in his class by both Rivals and Scout. At 6’7 and 245 pounds, he should be ready to contribute immediately. Plenty of tests await the Wildcats before they reach January: Arizona heads to the Maui Invitational, where they start off with Missouri and could potentially play 16th-ranked San Diego State or perennial March Madness player BYU in the championship round. After that are home dates with 13th-ranked Gonzaga and 24th-ranked Michigan before a road trip to UTEP and UNLV closes out the non-conference slate. Arizona received five first-place votes and is only behind top-ranked Kentucky in the AP poll.
There has been clear improvement from year-to-year ever since the Pac-12’s Coach K set foot in Salt Lake City, and 2014-15 appears to be the year that the Utes break through and get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009. With Delon Wright coming back for his senior season and every other top-6 scorer returning from a year ago, pundits have taken notice and rewarded the Runnin’ Utes with a No. 25 ranking alongside Harvard. As the Utah athletics site points out, this is the first time Utah has been ranked in the preseason poll since the 2000-01 season. While a weak non-conference slate probably kept the Utes out of the Big Dance last year, a very strong non-league schedule will provide the Utes with plenty of opportunities to make significant jumps in the rankings: Utah plays its first road game at No. 16 San Diego State, hosts 11th-ranked Wichita State and travels to Kansas City for a game with fifth-ranked Kansas. Road dates with BYU and UNLV will also provide nice tests for the Utes.
While only two Pac-12 teams cracked the top 25 (or 26, really), three others received votes. You could say that Stanford is the No. 27 team in the nation as the first team left out of the poll with 71 voting points, with Colorado not far behind at 57 and UCLA immediately following up the Buffs with 35 tallies. Including others receiving votes, the Pac-12 has five teams in the top 30 (Stanford No. 27, Colorado No. 29, UCLA No. 30).