College basketball rankings: Villanova may have lost to UCLA, but the Wildcats showed they are a top-five team

I ranked UCLA No. 1 in Version 1.0 of the 2021-22 CBS Sports Preseason Top 25 And 1 last April. Then, in May, Gonzaga added another five-star prospect, which caused me to flipflop the Bruins and Zags in Version 10.0. But I never had UCLA lower than No. 2 the entire offseason.

Some readers took great issue with it.

I was constantly asked, month after month after month, where I would rank UCLA if the Bruins had lost in the First Four last season and, you know, not advanced to the Final Four. Respectfully, I always thought it was a weird question, if only because it’s pretty normal to gauge and label teams based on what they actually do, and what UCLA actually did is make the Final Four, finish 13th at KenPom, return every player who was responsible for it, and add a five-star freshman in Peyton Watson who projects as a likely one-and-done lottery pick. I didn’t really understand why the Bruins had skeptics. But they did – although, after Friday night’s impressive comeback victory, I have to assume the number of skeptics is shrinking.

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