The preseason AP Top 25 poll for the 2018-19 college basketball season will be unveiled Monday, October 22. After the annual cycle of roster turnover and coaching changes in the offseason, along with the unpredictable nature of March Madness, are there any big-picture takeaways we can glean from the poll?

While it’s not a perfect predictor, the preseason AP poll is a fairly accurate and consistent barometer for which teams have realistic national title aspirations.

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We analyzed the last 25 college basketball seasons and found that just 16 teams made the Final Four in the last quarter century after not being ranked in the preseason AP poll. That means roughly two teams ranked outside the top 25 will advance to the final weekend of the season every three years, on average.

Here are some of the major takeaways from our findings:

  • The preseason No. 1 team has made the Final Four 11 times in the last 25 seasons
  • 36 teams ranked in the top four in the preseason have made the Final Four
  • 2008 was arguably the most accurate preseason AP poll in history when No. 1 North Carolina, No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Memphis and No. 4 Kansas – all of whom earned No. 1 seeds – made the Final Four
  • The AP polls in 2001 (No. 1 Arizona, No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Michigan State and No. 5 Maryland) and 2007 (No. 1 Florida, No. 6 UCLA, No. 7 Ohio State and No. 8 Georgetown) also proved to be great indicators of the best teams in the country
  • 2006 was the most unpredictable year since 1994 with three teams that started the year outside the preseason Top 25 – Florida, George Mason and LSU – along with preseason No. 19 UCLA advancing to the Final Four
  • In 13 of the 25 seasons, all four Final Four teams were ranked in the preseason
  • In 23 of the 25 seasons, at least two teams in the preseason top 10 made the Final Four
  • The national champion has been ranked in the preseason 22 times in the last 25 years; 19 times in the top 10; 14 times in the top 5
  • The average preseason ranking of the national champion in the last 25 years is 8.2 (we assigned a preseason rank value of 30 for teams that were unranked to start the season)
  • Syracuse has made the Final Four three times in the last 25 years after starting the season unranked in the AP Top 25

Here’s the full breakdown of the teams that made the Final Four in each of the last 25 seasons, along with their preseason rank.

Final Four teams vs. preseason ranking
Year Team Team Team Team
2018 No. 4 Kansas No. 6 Villanova NR Loyola Chicago NR Michigan
2017 No. 5 Oregon No. 6 North Carolina No. 14 Gonzaga NR South Carolina
2016 No. 1 North Carolina No. 8 Oklahoma No. 11 Villanova NR Syracuse
2015 No. 1 Kentucky No. 3 Wisconsin No. 4 Duke No. 18 Michigan State
2014 No. 1 Kentucky No. 10 Florida No. 18 Connecticut No. 20 Wisconsin
2013 No. 2 Louisville No. 5 Michigan No. 9 Syracuse NR Wichita State
2012 No. 2 Kentucky No. 3 Ohio State No. 9 Louisville No. 13 Kansas
2011 No. 11 Kentucky No. 17 Butler NR Connecticut NR VCU
2010 No. 2 Michigan State No. 8 West Virginia No. 9 Duke No. 11 Butler
2009 No. 1 North Carolina No. 2 Connecticut No. 6 Michigan State No. 23 Villanova
2008 No. 1 North Carolina No. 2 UCLA No. 3 Memphis No. 4 Kansas
2007 No. 1 Florida No. 6 UCLA No. 7 Ohio State No. 8 Georgetown
2006 No. 19 UCLA NR Florida NR George Mason NR LSU
2005 No. 4 North Carolina No. 5 Illinois No. 13 Michigan State No. 14 Louisville
2004 No. 1 Connecticut No. 2 Duke No. 25 Oklahoma State NR Georgia Tech
2003 No. 2 Kansas No. 4 Texas No. 18 Marquette NR Syracuse
2002 No. 2 Maryland No. 7 Kansas No. 22 Indiana No. 25 Oklahoma
2001 No. 1 Arizona No. 2 Duke No. 3 Michigan State No. 5 Maryland
2000 No. 3 Michigan State No. 6 North Carolina No. 8 Florida R Wisconsin
1999 No. 1 Duke No. 2 Connecticut No. 5 Michigan State NR Ohio State
1998 No. 4 North Carolina No. 8 Kentucky No. 14 Stanford No. 16 Utah
1997 No. 3 Kentucky No. 8 North Carolina No. 19 Arizona No. 22 Minnesota
1996 No. 1 Kentucky No. 7 UMass No. 9 Mississippi State NR Syracuse
1995 No. 1 Arkansas No. 2 North Carolina No. 6 UCLA No. 21 Oklahoma State
1994 No. 3 Arkansas No. 4 Duke No. 18 Arizona NR Florida

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