Kansas skyrocketed from No. 9 to No. 2 overall in ESPN.com’s “Way Too Early Top 25” poll on Thursday, a day after Svi Mykhailiuk announced plans to withdraw from the NBA Draft and return to campus for a senior season.
ESPN’s Myron Medcalf said Mykhailiuk’s “allows Kansas to make the case it now owns the nation’s best backcourt. Mykhailiuk, Devonté Graham and Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman, a former top-10 recruit, will merge into a strong unit that can lead Kansas to another Big 12 championship.”
Medcalf added: “Billy Preston is a 6-foot-10, 230-pound power forward who has the skills to compete in the paint the day he arrives. With a healthy Udoka Azubuike, Kansas will have the frontcourt strength to battle any opponent. It’s never easy to move forward after losing a Wooden Award winner like Frank Mason or a potential top-three pick like Josh Jackson. But Kansas has an intriguing roster with weapons at every spot on the floor.”
In the poll, KU trailed only Arizona, which vaulted from No. 11 to No. 1. Rawle Alkins and Allonzo Trier spurned the NBA in deciding to return to Arizona, joining top recruits DeAndre Ayton, Brandon Randolph and Emmanuel Akot.
Kentucky’s roster was bolstered late Wednesday night when Hamidou Diallo announced plans to withdraw from the NBA Draft. The 6-foot-5 freshman joined Kentucky’s team in January and practiced but never played during the 2016-17 season.
Even with the good news from Diallo, Kentucky, which earlier lost De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo and Isaiah Briscoe to the draft, fell from No. 1 to 4 in ESPN’s poll. The Wildcats and their No. 1-ranked recruiting class of Kevin Knox, P.J. Washington, Nick Richards, Jarred Vanderbilt and Quade Green, will meet Kansas in the Champions Classic on Nov. 14 at Chicago’s United Center. KU beat Kentucky 79-73 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Jan. 28 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.
The ESPN preseason Top 25: Arizona, KU, Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke, Wichita State, North Carolina, Florida, West Virginia, Louisville, Villanova, Miami, USC, UCLA, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Xavier, Seton Hall, Gonzaga, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, Butler, Texas and Missouri.
Texas A&M unscathed by draft
Unranked by ESPN.com, Texas A&M nonetheless is expected to improve on last year’s 16-15 mark.
The Aggies, who will meet Kansas in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Jan. 27 at Allen Fieldhouse, return standout sophomore forward Robert Williams.
“Williams was considered a lock as a first-rounder (in NBA Draft) and possibly even a lottery pick, but the athletic freshman big man didn’t even bother to test the process,” ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman wrote Thursday.
“His return, along with the addition of point guard J.J. Caldwell, is huge for Billy Kennedy and the Aggies. Texas A&M also returns Tyler Davis and Tonny Trocha-Morelos up front and D.J. Hogg and Admon Gilder on the perimeter,” Goodman added.
KU ranked No. 2 by CBSsports.com
KU dropped from No. 1 to No. 2 in cbssports.com’s revised “Top 25 (and one) poll” on Thursday.
“KU is losing Frank Mason and Josh Jackson. But four of the top eight scorers should be back — and the Jayhawks will also add five-star transfer Malik Newman and five-star freshman Billy Preston. So Bill Self will likely win a 14th straight Big 12 title and then some,” wrote CBS’ Gary Parrish.
Arizona and KU are followed by Michigan State, Wichita State, Kentucky, Duke, Louisville, Villanova, USC, Florida, Miami, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Minnesota, Northwestern, Cincinnati, Gonzaga, Butler, Baylor, Alabama, UCLA, West Virginia, Saint Mary’s, Xavier, Purdue and Rhode Island.
Jayhawks third in NBC poll
KU is ranked No. 3 in the updated poll of NBCsports.com.
“The Jayhawks are going to have a lot to replace, but they do have some players coming in,” wrote Rob Dauster. “With Devonté Graham back, I think he’ll be a star and all-Big 12 player at the point, and he’ll be joined by a former top 10 prospect in Malik Newman and a current top ten prospect in Billy Preston.”
The NBCsports.com top 25: Michigan State, Arizona, KU, Kentucky, Duke, Miami, Florida, Louisville, Villanova, Wichita State, West Virginia, USC, Minnesota, UCLA, Cincinnati, Seton Hall, Xavier, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Northwestern, Alabama, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Saint Mary’s and Baylor.
More than 60 remain in draft
More than 60 of the 137 college players who had considered turning pro decided to remain in the NBA Draft following Wednesday night’s deadline to withdraw and retain their college eligibility, ESPN reported Thursday. Notable players who remained in the draft Wednesday were Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan and Michigan’s D.J. Wilson. Maryland’s Justin Jackson and Michigan’s Moe Wagner withdrew their names on Wednesday. West Virginia’s Jevon Carter and Texas’ Andrew Jones earlier in the week announced they’d return to school.
2018 NBA Draft projections
KU’s Mykhailiuk, who was seen as a possible second-round pick had he stayed in the 2017 Draft, will be taken No. 28 in the first round in 2018, according to draftexpress.com. Devonté Graham is listed as the first pick of the second round. NBAdraft.net says Lagerald Vick will be selected No. 25 in the first round in 2018 followed by second-round picks Malik Newman (34 overall), Billy Preston (36), Mykhailiuk (43) and Graham (48).