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The March to March Madness Starts Tonight

  • North Carolina's Luke Maye (32) loses the ball while Mount Olive's Cameron Robinson defends during the first half of a college basketball exhibition game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

  • Western Kentucky center Charles Bassey (23) drives while guarded by Kentucky Wesleyan forward Amandas Urkis during WKU's 96-71 win in an exhibition college basketball game Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, in Bowling Green, Ky. (Austin Anthony/Daily News via AP)



Tuesday, November 06, 2018

The 2017-18 college basketball had everything a fan could want. Standout performances, a No. 1 seed finally falling in first game of the NCAA Tournament and Villanova cutting down the nets for the second time in three seasons.

Oh, and Sister Jean and Chicago-Loyola giving hope to underdogs everywhere by reaching the Final Four.

A new season starts Tuesday and it’s been a long seven months to wait for a sport that seems to top itself every year.

To get you ready, we’ve got a guide of the top teams, players and other tidbits to look for in 2018-19:

Top Teams

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Kansas. Bill Self has another strong recruiting class, a preseason All-American in Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson and a No. 1 ranking.

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Kentucky. Coach Cal has another roster full of future pros. He’s also got Reid Travis, a grad transfer from Stanford who also happens to be one of the nation’s top players.

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Gonzaga. The Zags broke through to the Final Four two years ago. They could be even better this year.

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Duke. Coach K outdid himself with this year’s recruiting class with what could be three of the top five picks in the NBA draft.

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Virginia. OK, so that first-round NCAA Tournament loss to UMBC was ugly and history making. But the Cavaliers have nearly everyone back and plenty of motivation.

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Tennessee. The Vols have never been to the Final Four. That could change this season — they’re that good.

Top Players

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Carsen Edwards, Purdue. He was super productive as a sophomore last season. Expect even more from him now that the Boilermakers need him even more.

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Luke Maye, North Carolina. The player who hit the shot to send the Tar Heels to the Final Four in 2017 averaged a double-double last season and will be counted on even more this year.

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>R.J. Barrett, Duke. The athletic freshman has yet to play a game, but has already created a buzz and could be the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NBA draft.

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Dedric Lawson, Kansas. The former Memphis forward gives the Jayhawks plenty of talent and experience on an otherwise young roster.

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Ethan Happ, Wisconsin. The Badgers sure are glad this multi-talented big man decided to withdraw from the NBA draft. Opponents will not be.

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Caleb Martin, Nevada. The do-everything forward’s decision to return with twin brother Cody are a big reason the Wolf Pack are being mentioned as a Final Four team.

Mid-Major Monsters

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Nevada. The Muss bus is loaded with talent and is driving toward what could be the best season in program history.

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Loyola-Chicago. No way the Ramblers and Sister Jean will be overlooked again.

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Western Kentucky. Top recruit Charles Bassey will push the Hilltoppers up the big hill.

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Buffalo. Bulls have five of their top six scorers back from a team that knocked off Arizona in the opening round of the NCAAs.

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Marshall. The Thundering Herd and coach Dan D’Antoni are looking for an even deeper March run after knocking off Wichita State in last year’s NCAA Tournament opening round.

Freshman Phenoms

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Zion Williamson, Duke. Basket supports beware, one of the nation’s top freshmen is a known rim wrecker.

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Cam Reddish, Duke. Doesn’t get the pub Barrett and Williamson get, but he’s a legit top-five NBA prospect.

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Romeo Langford, Indiana. Locking up the state of Indiana’s best player was a huge get for coach Archie Miller as he tries getting the Hoosiers back to national prominence.

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky. He eschewed the Power Five programs to stay in-state and could dominate Conference USA — and beyond.

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Nassir Little, North Carolina. Long and athletic, he was a big get for coach Roy.

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"><mt xmlns:t="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" xmlns="http://www.teradp.com/schemas/GN3/t.xsd" /></sqbull></sbull>Bol Bol, Oregon. Manute’s son can shoot inside, outside and swat shots, just like pops.

TOP NONCONFERENCE GAMES

No. 4 Duke vs. No. Kentucky, Tuesday in Indianapolis. It will be a blue blood kickoff to the season.

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 10 Michigan State, Tuesday in Indianapolis. The opening act in Indy isn’t bad, either.

No. 19 Michigan at No. 9 Villanova, Nov. 14. Early-season, title game rematch? Yes, please.

Ohio State at Cincinnati, Wednesday. It finally happened and hoops fans are the beneficiaries.

Marquette at Indiana, Nov. 14. Marquette’s Markus Howard vs. Indiana freshman Romeo Langford is worth it right there.

Arizona vs. No. 3 Gonzaga, Maui Invitational. OK, both teams have to win their opening games, but we can dream of the West’s two marquee programs meeting in Maui, can’t we?

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More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25