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Men’s basketball ranked No. 11 in AP Preseason Top 25

The reigning national champions start the season at No. 11 after four former standouts leave the program

<p>The Cavaliers will need key contributions from underclassmen if they look to ascend in the rankings once the season starts.&nbsp;</p>

The Cavaliers will need key contributions from underclassmen if they look to ascend in the rankings once the season starts. 

The Associated Press released its top 25 men’s college basketball preseason poll Monday. While Virginia won the national championship last year, the Cavaliers are ranked No. 11 in the AP Poll, which should come as no surprise to Virginia fans considering the number of players who left the program this summer.

All-ACC guards Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome as well as forward De’Andre Hunter, who was the ACC defensive player of the year, declared for the NBA Draft following the 2018-19 season. Hunter and Jerome were chosen in the first round of the draft — fourth and 24th, respectively — while Guy was taken with the 55th pick.

Center Jack Salt graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Virginia and is now playing for Trefl Sopot in the Polish Basketball League. 

Although Virginia is bringing in five new and talented players including transfers senior forward Sam Hauser, junior guard Tomas Woldetensae and freshmen, forwards Kadin Shedrick and Justin McKoy and guard Casey Morsell, it is evident the new-look Cavaliers have huge shoes to fill. 

However, Coach Tony Bennett’s squad still stacks up well despite the losses in personnel. Virginia is ranked ahead of No. 13 Texas Tech, No. 23 Purdue and No. 24 Auburn, all of whom the Cavaliers faced in the 2019 tournament. All three teams similarly lost key players to the NBA draft. 

Looking at the conference, the ACC boasts four ranked teams, including three in the top 10 — No. 4 Duke, No. 5 Louisville and No. 9 North Carolina. Virginia faces these three opponents a total of five times this season in what is shaping up to be another fierce battle for the conference title. 

Notably, the Cavaliers and the three other ranked ACC teams have combined for four of the last seven NCAA Tournament champions, when including Louisville’s vacated 2013 title.

Rounding out the top five along with Duke and Louisville are No. 1 Michigan State, No. 2 Kentucky and No. 3 Kansas. 

Despite the hype that surrounds preseason polls, Virginia is no stranger to how quickly rankings can change once the season starts. In the 2017-18 season — following a round of 32 exit in the previous year’s tournament — the Cavaliers became the first ACC team to go from unranked in the preseason poll to ranked No. 1 in the country.

Virginia begins its title defense this season against ACC foe Syracuse Nov. 6 at 9 p.m in the Carrier Dome. The game will be televised on the ACC Network.