The early-entry withdrawal deadline has elapsed and college basketball rosters are being set. That means it’s time for our first pre-preseason Power 36 for 2018-19.

 

The one major decision still to be determined is where stud Stanford forward Reid Travis lands as a graduate transfer. He could easily change the course of a team, and of course the Power 36. Get ready to dissect, debate and crush our first rankings of the season. Have at it:

1. Gonzaga: Experience matters. You will hear that phrase often. Sure, Duke and Kentucky may have the most talented rosters, but just look at the last few Final Fours and national title games – experienced teams have been playing for and have won the championship. No team survived the early-entry NBA draft process better than the Zags. They didn’t even have to sweat it since Rui Hachimura, Killian Tillie and Zach Norvell all didn’t bother putting their names in for consideration, even though all three would’ve and could’ve pushed the deadline with a tough decision. Josh Perkins is the leader at the point and Brandon Clarke is getting rave reviews from the staff. Let’s just hope Gonzaga and Duke play each other in the semifinal or final of the Maui Invitational for a possible Final Four preview.

2. Kansas: Bill Self said Kansas State could be picked to win the Big 12. Not quite. The Jayhawks will be one of the teams projected to win the national title. Udoka Azubuike’s decision to return gives Kansas an anchor inside who is only going to blossom with more touches. Self said he has another possible Big 12 and national player of the year candidate in Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson. Freshman Quentin Grimes could be a special player, too. But Kansas’ best teams have had key, experienced guards returning, which this team does not. So, Kansas would be bucking a bit of its own trend. Still, it’s hard to ignore what is in place in Lawrence.

3. Virginia: The Cavaliers should get consideration for the top spot. Yes, I know Virginia lost to UMBC in the first ever 16-over-1 victory. But let’s not totally forget the Cavaliers won the ACC regular season and tournament title. Virginia has its core returning with Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome. Both said they have never worked harder in their life. De’Andre Hunter wasn’t healthy for the UMBC game and is easily the team’s top NBA prospect. Jack Salt could be the anchor inside for the Cavaliers. This team will still be the toughest to score on in the country. The drive and edge to get back and advance deep will keep the Cavaliers going all season long.

4. Tennessee: The Volunteers will be in quite a tussle atop the SEC with Kentucky and Auburn. But Tennessee has an experienced frontline that will be tough to match in Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams. This team also is no longer sneaking up on opponents. The Volunteers will head into the season confident and self-assured that they can compete for a deep NCAA tournament run.

5. Nevada: The Wolf Pack went from a possible top-25 team to a top-five team with the return of Caleb and Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline. Those three were the core group that led the Wolf Pack to the Mountain West Conference regular season title and a Sweet 16 appearance. Now toss in heralded big man Jordan Brown and the Wolf Pack will have someone to throw the ball inside to if the offense stalls. Eric Musselman wants to play fast and his roster will have the numbers to create fatigue for opponents. This team will be a joy to watch throughout the season as it makes Reno a happening spot for basketball throughout the winter.

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