Virginia basketball doesn’t need to rebuild; it just reloads. That’s the message from preseason polls and rankings that are rolling in, as the Cavaliers are a consensus top-ten pick despite the losses of Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey, and Evan Nolte.
The USA Today Coaches Poll has UVA as the #7 team in the nation. Duke leads the way, followed by Kansas, Villanova, Kentucky, Oregon, and UNC. (With a home-and-home against UNC, a home game against Duke and a road game at Villanova, Virginia will play four games against the top six.) Louisville and Syracuse also cracked the top 25.
USA TODAY PRESEASON COACHES POLL:
|Others Receiving Votes: Florida State 65; Iowa State 56; California 43; Miami (Fla.) 35; Dayton 34; Oklahoma 33; Seton Hall 24; Texas A&M 22; Notre Dame 18; San Diego State 17; Virginia Tech 16; Wichita State 15; Southern California 14; Butler 14; Ohio State 12; Florida 11; Clemson 11; Colorado 11; Michigan 10; Pittsburgh 7; Georgia 6; Virginia Commonwealth 6; Yale 6; Chattanooga 5; Washington 4; Nevada 3; Kansas State 3; Arkansas 2; Davidson 2; Valparaiso 2; Southern Methodist 1; Utah 1.|
The preseason AP Poll will be released next week.
KenPom’s preseason rankings also have Virginia at #7. The ratings, based on analyzing the returning, departing, and incoming players on each roster, project that Virginia will have the nation’s best defense and the #17 offense. Duke is the number one team in Pomeroy’s rankings as well, as the six teams in front of the Cavaliers are surprisingly unchanged (though in a different order) from the Coaches Poll.
Pomeroy’s rankings help us understand how brutal Virginia’s schedule is. Because his system is high on Louisville, Ohio State, and Syracuse, the Hoos will play eight games against the nation’s top 15 teams. Pomeroy defines two tiers of high-quality games: “A game in “Tier A” represents a top 50 opponent adjusting for the location of the game, and “Tier B” is the same concept for a top 100 opponent.” After Virginia’s exam break, the team plays 13 “A” games, 5 “B” games, and just 3 “untiered” games, none after January 21st. That’s absurd, but mainly speaks to the high quality of the conference. Duke’s breakdown in the same time period is 9 A/6 B/5 untiered. UNC’s is 11 A/8 B/2 untiered, with no “untiered” games at all during ACC play. Still, his system projects that Virginia will finish the year 21-8 (12-6 ACC).
SBNation picked Virginia at #7 in its college basketball preview series as well, while CBSSports was the outlier, pegging UVA all the way down at #8. Despite the lack of data inherent in preseason rankings and the potential variability implied by the loss of multiple key starters, the consistency in the predictions released thus far is impressive. It’s reasonable to argue that all of this is meaningless until teams have played actual games. But at the very least, it demonstrates that an array of experts and systems have confidence in the pieces on the team’s roster.