My preseason Associated Press basketball ballot

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner | Tiger Tracks on Facebook

CLEMSON — This will be my first crack at contributing to the Associated Press poll; much thanks to Pete Iacobelli, Robbie Mendelson and the folks at the AP for asking me to take part.

This will be my most in-depth blog breaking down my own basketball ballot, but I will try to periodically post my thoughts on the poll and how I view teams. You can always find my latest ballot posted here on the AP’s web site.

No, I didn’t vote for Clemson. The Tigers have got much work to do. But I do have five ACC squads on my ballot before we tip off, bested only by six from the Big Ten, last year’s best basketball conference.

AARON BRENNER’S PRESEASON TOP 25

1 Louisville | The champ until dethroned. Even the loss of Chane Behanan isn’t enough to demote the Cardinals. AP ranking: 3

2 Duke | Early-season appetizers with Kansas, Michigan, UCLA and one or two more powerhouses in New York City will be tasty. AP ranking: 4

3 Kansas | Prepare to hear Andrew Wiggins’ name more often on SportsCenter than LeBron James. If that’s possible. AP ranking: 5

4 Michigan State | Tom Izzo’s never gone four straight years without a Final Four. Last Final Four was in 2010. Guess what that means? AP ranking: 2

5 Kentucky | Sorry, I don’t crown teams based on their Scout.com profiles. How’d that work out last year, anyhow? AP ranking: 1

6 Arizona | Only two years ago the Wildcats couldn’t win an NIT game. Sean Miller’s done a nice, if not inconsistent, job in Tucson. AP ranking: 6

7 Ohio State | Led by 63rd-year senior point guard Aaron Craft, the Buckeyes are good for another 30 wins. AP ranking: 11

8 Marquette | Trivia time: only four teams have made the past three Sweet 16s. Two are obvious (Ohio State, Kansas.) Two aren’t: Marquette, and one coming soon. AP ranking: 17

9 Michigan | Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III won’t let this finalist fall too far. AP ranking: 7

10 Syracuse | The ACC will need some time to adjust to the 2-3 zone. C.J. Fair might be the league’s best player after all. AP ranking: T8

11 Gonzaga | A disappointing finish compounded by Kelly Olynyk’s exit, but the northwest Bulldogs never seem to disappear. AP ranking: 15

12 North Carolina | Marcus Paige is a year older and a year better. Still, the competition is only getting tougher. AP ranking: 12

13 Wichita State | The Shockers lost their top five scorers before last year, and were in the Final Four. Doubt them at your own peril. AP ranking: 16

14 VCU | It almost behooves the Rams to remain competitive but not a front-liner in order to keep Shaka Smart in town. AP ranking: 14

15 Florida | Of course you remember the back-to-back titles; but also, along with OSU, Kansas and Marquette, the Gators hunt their fourth straight regional semifinal. AP ranking: 10

16 Oklahoma State | Marcus Smart is probably the best guard in the whole nation, and guard play is instrumental in college basketball. AP ranking: T8

17 Memphis | The newly-created American Athletic Conference gives Memphis an easy regular season slate. AP ranking: 13

18 Virginia | Tony Bennett’s improved every year in Charlottesville, and the Cavaliers return nearly 90 percent of their scoring and rebounding. AP ranking: 24

19 Notre Dame | One concern about Mike Brey’s program, which can’t complain at his seven straight 20-win campaigns: only one Sweet 16 in 18 years. AP ranking: 21

20 Wisconsin | Win 20ish games. Finish fourth or better in the Big Ten. Take a game or two in March, bow out. Rinse, repeat. AP ranking: 20

21 Connecticut | Back from postseason jail due to academics, expect the Huskies to quietly return to the tournament. AP ranking: 18

22 Indiana | We’ll find out just how essential Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo were as top-shelf players, when the Hoosiers’ depth is tested. AP ranking: RV

23 Missouri | This program plays too helter-skelter, and in too poor a league, not to be mentioned in the top 25. AP ranking: RV

24 Iowa | The Hawkeyes may not be ranked right now. Just wait. The NIT runners-up, with basically everybody back, will get there. AP ranking: RV

25 Colorado | Best coach you’ve never heard of: Tad Boyle. Don’t cry out about any home-state allegiance, because I’m not a Buffaloes guy whatsoever. AP ranking: RV

Ranked teams I left out: 19 Oregon, 22 UCLA, 23 New Mexico, 25 Baylor

Aaron Brenner’s Preseason All-America

Gary Harris, G, Michigan State: High school guards across the country should be lining up to play in Tom Izzo’s system.

Doug McDermott, F, Creighton: Dude falls out of bed and pours in 20 and 12. Chasing more school and national records this year.

Jabari Parker, F, Duke: Don’t fight it, this Chicago kid has the stuff to be as big a star as fellow Simeon product Derrick Rose.

Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State: Confidence and smooth, he makes the Cowboys into a top-16 outfit all by himself.

Andrew Wiggins, F, Kansas: He better be worth the hype. We’d all as basketball fans be entertained if he is.

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