Blue Devils receive 28 of 31 first-place votes

Take four returning senior starters from a 27-win team. Add a bunch of big-time freshmen. What do you get? The nation's No. 1 team.

That talented mix of experience and youth has carried Duke to the top spot in the preseason ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll. The Blue Devils (27-6 last season), returning All-Americans J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams, received 28 of a possible 31 first-place votes and 767 points, easily pushing them past Connecticut, which landed at No. 2 despite not receiving a first-place vote and still dealing with the ongoing suspensions of point guards Marcus Williams and A.J. Price.

Big 12 co-favorite Texas (two first-place votes) is a close third, followed by Villanova (one first-place vote), which recently lost senior Curtis Sumpter to a knee injury, and Big Ten preseason pick Michigan State, fresh off last season's Final Four appearance.

Texas' Red River rival, Oklahoma, is sixth, with Gonzaga, Louisville, Arizona and Kentucky rounding out the top 10.

Behind Craig Smith and Jared Dudley, ACC newcomer Boston College is 11th, followed by Conference USA favorite Memphis, Stanford, Alabama and West Virginia, which fell just short of last season's Final Four and returns sharpshooting big man Kevin Pittsnogle.

Gerry McNamara and Syracuse are 16th, followed by last year's finalist, Illinois, then UCLA and Wake Forest (tied for 18th) and Iowa at No. 20.

The final five include Maryland, Indiana, Iowa State, George Washington and Nevada. Defending national champion North Carolina, having lost its top seven scorers from last season, received 16 points, placing them 36th.