Defending national champion Connecticut was the No. 1 team in The Associated Press' preseason college basketball poll Monday, with Cincinnati and Michigan State close behind.
The Huskies, who went 34-2 in winning the school's first national title last season and have three starters returning, received 21 first-place votes and 1,669 points from the national media panel.
Cincinnati received 19 first-place votes and 1,630 points, 23 more than Michigan State, which was No. 1 on 20 ballots.
This is the third season Connecticut has been ranked No. 1. The Huskies were there for 10 weeks last season and for one week in 1994-95.
Since 1980, four teams ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll have gone on to win the national championship -- North Carolina in 1982, UNLV in 1990, Duke in 1992 and Kentucky in 1996.
Connecticut was ranked second in last year's preseason poll, behind Duke, the team it beat in the national title game.
"I really believe this is a carryover from our winning the national championship this past March," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said Monday. "I guess the voters said we're pretty good and have some quality players returning and I guess they didn't feel anyone had jumped past us.
"Ultimately I think what they're saying is `Let's roll the balls out and see who's best."'
Cincinnati has four starters back from the team that went 27-6 and was knocked out in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The Spartans, who were 33-5 and made their first Final Four appearance since 1979 last season, would most probably have been selected No. 1 but All-America Mateen Cleaves, one of three returning starters, broke his foot and will be out until mid-December at the earliest.
Four other teams -- Auburn, Ohio State, North Carolina and Temple -- also received first-place votes.
Auburn was ranked fourth with four No. 1 votes and 1,567 points, 145 more than Ohio State, which received three first-place votes. North Carolina had three first-place votes and 1,421 points and was ranked sixth. Temple, which was No. 1 on two ballots, had 1,381 points.
Florida, Arizona and Duke rounded out the Top Ten.
Duke has been ranked in the Top Ten in every poll since February 1996, and the 43 consecutive polls is the longest active streak.
North Carolina has the longest stretch of being ranked in the Top 25 as the Tar Heels have been in every poll since the preseason poll for the 1990-91 season.
Kansas led the Second Ten and was followed by UCLA, Stanford, Kentucky, Utah, Illinois, Syracuse, St. John's, Tennessee and DePaul.
The last five ranked teams were Texas, Oklahoma State, Purdue, Gonzaga and Miami.
The ranking was the first ever for Gonzaga, which had a great NCAA tournament run last season, losing to Connecticut in the regional finals. The Bulldogs have four starters back from that team, but coach Dan Monson left for Minnesota and assistant Mark Few was promoted.
The season's first games between ranked teams will be Thursday night's opener in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in New York when Duke faces Stanford. If Duke wins and Connecticut beats Iowa, the title game will be the season's first Top Ten matchup.
The Big East, Big Ten and Southeastern Conference each had four teams in the preseason poll, while the Pacific-10 and Big 12 had three each.
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