Florida tops AP preseason poll; North Carolina second
The same starting five that left the court in Indianapolis with Florida's first national championship will start this season with the No. 1 ranking.
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The Gators were the runaway choice Monday in The Associated Press' preseason college basketball poll -- no surprise, since they have everyone back for a run at being the first repeat national champion since Duke in 1992.
Florida received 63 first-place votes and 1,788 points from the 72-member national media panel to easily outdistance North Carolina, which got the other nine No. 1 votes and 1,704 points.
"We appreciate and respect that people think this highly of our basketball team," Gators coach Billy Donovan said Monday. "That being said, this ranking has everything to do with what we were able to accomplish last year and nothing to do with this year. We're very honored to be the preseason No. 1, but at the same time, we fully realize we have a lot of work ahead of us."
Some of that work comes early in the season with a game against third-ranked Kansas in Las Vegas on Nov. 25.
The last preseason No. 1 to win the national championship was Connecticut in 2004, and before that it was Kentucky in 1996.
Pittsburgh was fourth, matching its highest preseason ranking ever in 1987-88.
LSU, a Final Four team last season, and UCLA, which lost to Florida in the championship game were fifth and sixth. George Mason, the first mid-major to reach the Final Four and the team the Gators beat in the national semifinals, received just one point, a single 25th-place vote.
Ohio State had what was considered the nation's best recruiting class, though 7-foot-1 center Greg Oden won't be available until January while he recovers from offseason wrist surgery. Still, the Buckeyes were seventh, followed by Georgetown, Wisconsin and Arizona.
The last team to return all the starters from a national champion was Arizona in the 1997-98 season. The Wildcats, who also won the title in Indianapolis and were the preseason No. 1 the next year, lost to Utah in the 1998 tournament, one win shy of the Final Four.
Florida became the fourth team to win the national championship after not having been ranked in the preseason poll. The others were Texas Western in 1966, Villanova in 1985 and Syracuse in 2003.
Alabama was 11th in the preseason poll and was followed by Duke, Texas A&M, Memphis, Boston College, Marquette, Washington, Connecticut, Creighton and Syracuse.
The last five ranked teams were Texas, Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Nevada and Tennessee.
Duke was No. 1 the final rankings after the last regular season ended. This marks the Blue Devils' 186th consecutive poll appearance, the second-longest streak of all time.
UCLA was ranked in 221 consecutive polls from 1966 to 1980. Duke's current streak started with the preseason poll of 1996-97. Connecticut has the second-longest current streak at 59 weeks, a run that started with the final poll of 2002-03.
Kansas has the longest current streak of consecutive appearances in the preseason rankings having been in every one since 1991-92.
Florida was 11th in last season's final poll and all but seven members of the preseason Top 25 were in the last rankings of last season.
Texas A&M, which has four starters back from a 22-9 team that made the Aggies' first NCAA tournament appearance since 1987, is ranked for the first time since Dec. 30, 1980.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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