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Florida tops AP preseason poll; North Carolina second

11/13/2006 - College Football

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.

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.