This Friday marks the opening night of the 2013-14 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I men's college basketball season. While the University of Richmond Spiders prepare to host to the University of Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens in the newly renovated Robins Center, other teams around the nation are also gearing up for what promises to be a year for the ages.
A combination of highly talented newcomers and familiar programs at the top of the rankings makes this season one to look forward to. This year, the University of Kentucky, Michigan State University, the University of Louisville, Duke University and Kansas University sit atop the Associated Press' preseason top 25 rankings. These legendary basketball programs hold 20 national championships among them, including four in the last 13 years.
The No. 1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats and coach John Calipari welcome in a freshman class that experts have regarded as one of the best they have ever seen. The high-powered class includes six McDonald's All-Americans and the team also returns promising sophomores Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress. It's another championship-or-bust year in Lexington.
Louisville and Michigan State both return strong teams from last year to add to two of the best coaches in the country, Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo. Louisville's Russ Smith, an AP preseason All-America selection, hopes to lead his team to back-to-back national titles. The Cardinals defeated the University of Michigan 82-76 in last season's national championship game. The Michigan State Spartans return six of their top seven scorers from a year ago.
For the Duke Blue Devils and Kansas Jayhawks, the success of their seasons depends on two of the most talked about recruits of the decade. The Blue Devils will feature the versatile freshman Jabari Parker in its frontcourt this season. Coach Mike Krzyzewski, not known for relying heavily on freshman, will look to get as much as he can from the projected future-NBA phenom. Scouts have called Jayhawks' freshman forward Andrew Wiggins the best talent coming out of high school since LeBron James. Wiggins, an AP preseason All-America selection, has already announced that he will be leaving for the NBA after one season but his goal is to help Kansas compete for a national title.
Keeping up with the theme of storied programs being the frontrunners this season, the University of Arizona, the University of North Carolina, Syracuse University, the University of California at Los Angeles and Indiana University are among the teams rounding out the preseason top 25 rankings. These programs have won a combined 23 national championships. Overall, the teams in the preseason top 25 have won a combined 50 national championships to go along with many Final Four appearances. The best coaches and the best programs in college basketball history will take the stage this season.
For the Richmond Spiders, an Atlantic 10 conference title and a trip back to NCAA tournament is not out of the question. The Spiders return eight of its top 10 scorers from last season's first-round exit from the A-10 tournament. The Spiders will be challenged by crosstown foe Virginia Commonwealth University, who, on paper, may have its best team in program history. The Rams are ranked 14th in the AP's preseason poll and will face the Spiders twice this season.
The sides split the season series last year but it was the Rams who qualified for the NCAA tournament. There promises to be exciting college basketball in Richmond, Va. this season.
All of college basketball will be competing the next six months for a spot in the NCAA tournament. With the Final Four being held at Cowboys Stadium, this season, college basketball is as exciting as ever.
Contact staff writer Oliver Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org
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