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College Basketball Rankings: Jay Bilas has Kansas at No. 4

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas expects Kansas' dynamic freshmen to keep the Jayhawks in the national title hunt.

John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

Despite losing All-American Thomas Robinson and having nine freshmen on the roster, Kansas is poised to contend yet again for a national title. That's how Jay Bilas sees it, as he slotted the Jayhawks as the No. 4 team in his preseason rankings.

"The Jayhawks will grow and be there at the end, and will be among the top teams in the country," Bilas writes in his ESPN Insider column ranking the nation's top 68 squads. "Remember, this was a top-five defensive team last season."

Among the players Bilas expects to take a key role in leading the Jayhawks are senior point guard Elijah Johnson and redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore. Johnson, who was part of the squad that went all the way to the NCAA Tournament championship game only to fall to Kentucky, will be counted on heavily to facilitate scoring for Kansas.

Along with McLemore, Kansas head coach Bill Self will turn to other top-flight freshmen, like fellow redshirt and big body Jamari Traylor. The Jayhawks are also expecting big things from five-star prospect Perry Ellis. Self will rely on those young players to make up for the loss of Robinson, as well as Tyshawn Taylor.

Nonetheless, Bilas expects Self to be able to lead his team to postseason success. Big 12 coaches agree; they've already voted Kansas the unanimous favorite for the conference title. In the preseason AP poll, the Jayhawks are ranked sixth.

Kansas' season kicks off against Southeast Missouri State on Friday, Nov. 9.