Of course, everyone is a preseason genius.
Kentucky’s freshmen would be ready from the opening jump. Wisconsin was so-so. Villanova’s glory days were far behind. Michigan was bound for another Final Four run.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
As the college basketball season turns the page to the conference season, here’s a primer on what we have learned so far.
1. No. 11 Villanova (11-1). The Wildcats received only 14 votes in the AP preseason poll. With showy wins against Iowa and Kansas and their only loss at Syracuse, they’re carrying the banner in the new — and otherwise struggling — Big East coming in at No. 6 in the RPI. Big East opener: Tuesday at Butler.
2. No. 4 Wisconsin (13-0). The Badgers started the season as usual. With little respect. They were voted No. 20 in the preseason poll, but forwards Sam Dekker (14.5 ppg) and Frank Kaminsky (14.2 ppg) led them through an undefeated nonconference schedule. Big Ten opener: Thursday at Northwestern.
3. No. 13 Iowa State (11-0). The Cyclones didn’t get a single vote in the AP preseason poll and only two in the coaches’ poll. Their reputation changed after quality victories against Michigan and Iowa. They rank in the top 12 nationally in points (87.2), rebounds (42.8) and assists (18.5). Big 12 opener: Saturday at Texas Tech.
1. Michigan (8-4). What could have been with a healthy Mitch McGary (back) will drive Wolverines fans up the wall, especially in March. Big Ten opener: Thursday at Minnesota.
2. No. 14 Louisville (11-2). Not only did the defending NCAA tournament champions lose to rival Kentucky last week, they dismissed Chane Behanan (7.6 ppg) from the team and may redshirt Kevin Ware (leg injury). American Athletic opener: Tuesday at Central Florida.
3. Notre Dame (9-4). The Irish were considered a Top 25 team at the start of the season. They probably won’t be back in the polls after they lost leading scorer Jerian Grant (19 ppg) for the season for academic reasons. They needed overtime without him to beat Canisius. ACC opener: Saturday against Duke.
WAIT FOR IT
1. No. 5 Michigan State (11-1). Wait for what, you say? The Spartans are a top-five team. But by the end of the season, if everyone remains healthy, they’ll be No. 1. MSU is getting the necessary production from Adreian Payne (18 ppg) and Keith Appling (15.9 ppg) to help take pressure off Gary Harris (17.9 ppg). Big Ten opener: Tuesday at Penn State.
2. No. 15 Kentucky (10-3). So they’re not No. 1 anymore? So what. The Wildcats proved in the victory against Louisville that they’re not a one-man show with star freshman Julius Randle. SEC opener: Thursday against Mississippi State.
3. Marquette (8-5). The Golden Eagles put together a kamikaze schedule featuring Ohio State, San Diego State and Wisconsin among the five top-50 teams they played. Their offense has struggled, but is it any wonder? The Golden Eagles should be tougher from the nonconference character-builders come March. Big East opener: Tuesday at Creighton.
GAMES TO WATCH
Tuesday: Indiana at Illinois, 2 p.m., ESPN2. Two young teams playing better than expected thanks to strong coaching and chemistry.
Saturday: Oklahoma State at Kansas State, 3 p.m., ESPNU. The Wildcats have showed some spunk. They know beating the Cowboys would enhance their profile.
Duke at Notre Dame, 3 p.m., CBS. Welcome to the ACC, Irish. At least you’re getting Duke at home.
Sunday: Iowa at Wisconsin 6:30 p.m., BTN. The Big Ten’s not wasting any time. The meeting between these tough teams should make for a must-watch game.
San Diego State at Kansas, 3:30 p.m., CBS. This is how we’ll know whether to take the Aztecs seriously.