Kentucky, last year’s national runner-up, will enter the season as the top ranked team followed by Arizona, Wisconsin, Duke and Kansas. The Badgers reached the Final Four for the first time under coach Bo Ryan in 2014 and return four starters from that team. They received eight first-place votes in the preseason poll, the second most of any team.
The Buckeyes are the third Big Ten team in the rankings with Michigan State coming in at No. 18. Nebraska, who surprised many with a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten last year at 11-7, is one spot behind Ohio State, ranked No. 21 in the preseason AP Poll. Michigan is the final conference team in the rankings at No. 24.
For Ohio State it is the lowest preseason ranking since they entered the 2008-09 season unranked. Considering the team lost Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross from last year’s fifth-place Big Ten team, the lower ranking shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Sophomore Marc Loving is alright with being an uncelebrated team entering the year.
“There’s not a lot of buzz around this team but we don’t mind that at all, we kind of like that we are under the radar, we should probably be able to sneak up on a couple teams,” he said. “As we play more games, that will die down.
“We had LaQuinton who was our leading scorer and Aaron who was you defensive anchor, but with the guys we have we can make up for losing those key guys. A lot of guys on our team can guard multiple positions and a lot of guys can put the ball in the basket it’s going to work out tremendously.”
With five teams in the rankings, the Big Ten is tied with the ACC for the most schools represented. Four of the five ACC schools, however, are ranked in the top 10.
In addition to games against their ranked conference opponents, Ohio State will play at No. 8 Louisville on Dec. 2 and against No. 6 North Carolina as part of the CBS Sports Classic at the United Center in Chicago on Dec. 20.