How college basketball’s road to Atlanta will begin

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Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened in 2017, but in its short life it's hosted some big events

The 2019-20 college basketball season begins Nov. 5 and ends in Atlanta with the Final Four in April. And the early favorite to claim the national championship trophy at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, according to preseason pollsters and Las Vegas oddsmakers, is Michigan State.

The Spartans were ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25 men's preseason poll, released Monday. They collected 60 of the 65 first-place votes to top the preseason list for the first time in school history.

Michigan State, which reached the Final Four last season before losing a semifinal to Texas Tech, returns star point guard Cassius Winston and two other starters. Kentucky, Kansas, Duke and Louisville are ranked Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5, respectively. Kentucky got two first-place votes and Kansas three.

AP poll

Meanwhile, oddsmakers have Michigan State with the shortest odds to win the championship in Atlanta at 6/1, followed by Kentucky and Kansas at 8/1, according to VegasInsider.com.

The season tips off Nov. 5, when the schedule will be highlighted by having the AP’s top four teams in action in the Champions Classic at New York’s Madison Square Garden: Kansas vs. Duke and Michigan State vs. Kentucky.

When the season culminates in Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the semifinals April 4 and the championship game April 6, it'll be the fifth time in Atlanta for the men's Final Four, the previous ones held in buildings that no longer exist: The Omni in 1977 and the Georgia Dome in 2002, 2007 and 2013. The 2020 Final Four was awarded to Atlanta in 2014, when the new Falcons stadium was in the early stage of construction and had not yet been named.

NCAA basketball executives are scheduled to be in Atlanta early next week as preparations continue for the event here. A delegation of 35 people from Atlanta was in Minneapolis for a behind-the-scenes look at last season's Final Four in U.S. Bank Stadium.

The 2020 Final Four will be the third sports mega-event in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in a 28-month stretch, continuing a run that began with the College Football Playoff national championship game in January 2018 and continued with the Super Bowl in February 2019.

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