The Associated Press preseason Top 25 men's basketball poll was released on Wednesday, and the Michigan State Spartans take the No. 2 spot. The Spartans were joined by the Duke Blue Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Kansas Jayhawks and Kentucky Wildcats in the top 5.
The preseason poll is not a prerequisite for a title, but a top-5 team at the beginning is a leading indicator to March success.
Michigan State is ranked in the preseason AP top 5 for the first time since 2013-14 (2nd). The No. 2 ranking ties the best in school history.
This is the fourth time since Tom Izzo became the Spartans' coach in 1995-96 that Michigan State is ranked in the top two in the AP preseason poll. The only other Big Ten team to be ranked that high in the preseason poll in that span is Indiana, in 2012-13 (No. 1). Over the last five seasons (since 2013-14), Michigan State has now been ranked in the top two 10 more times than any other Big Ten team.
Michigan State has an exceptionally deep roster with plenty of young performers, including Cassius Winston. But the headliner of them all will be Miles Bridges, whose decision to return to the team was a huge factor in determining how far the Spartans will go in the NCAA tournament. Plus, let's not forget that this team has top-dog head coach Izzo leading the pack.
The top 5 teams in the preseason AP poll are also the five favorites to win the national championship, according to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.
It's a long road in college basketball, but it's a good bet the teams at the top to start will be a factor come March.
-- Courtney Schellin