The Virginia men’s basketball team starts its national title defense with a No. 11 ranking in the preseason AP Top 25 poll, which was released on Monday.
The Cavaliers, who lost guards Kyle Guy, De’Andre Hunter and Ty Jerome to the NBA and big man Jack Salt to graduation, return Mamadi Diakite, Kihei Clark and Jay Huff, among others. A year after relying on backcourt production, the Cavaliers will likely lean on their frontcourt this season, even with Salt’s departure.
Clark leads UVa’s guards after a strong freshman campaign. He’s expected to handle a bigger role given the departures of Guy and Jerome.
Virginia’s ranking came a day after the Cavaliers were slotted at No. 5 in the initial KenPom rankings, which are a popular set of rankings based on numerical data. The preseason ranking takes into account last year’s results, which helps explain the Cavaliers’ top-5 result.
This marks the sixth time in the past seven seasons that Virginia has earned a spot in the AP Top 25. UVa received votes prior to the 2017-18 season, but the Cavaliers weren’t in the AP Top 25.
They went on to finish the regular season as the top-ranked team in the country that year.
Four of Virginia’s appearances in the preseason AP Top 25 have been top-10 appearances since Tony Bennett’s arrival in Charlottesville.
The Cavaliers, who were picked to finish fourth in the ACC, are one of four ACC teams in this year’s AP Top 25 poll. Duke leads the way at No. 4, followed by Louisville (No. 5), North Carolina (No. 9) and Virginia (No. 11).
Michigan State tops the entire poll to start the season, followed by Kentucky and Kansas. Texas Tech, which lost to Virginia in last season’s national championship game, was 13th, while VCU came in at No. 25.