Duke No. 1 in AP; Tar Heels, Jayhawks left off

Duke is back at No. 1 in The Associated Press' preseason college basketball poll while defending champion North Carolina failed to even make the Top 25.

Kansas, the preseason No. 1 last year and another regular in the poll, also was not among those teams ranked Monday.

The Blue Devils were a runaway choice for No. 1, the sixth time they have started the season atop the rankings.

North Carolina becomes the first defending national champion not to be in the preseason poll the next season since Kansas in 1988-89. The Tar Heels lost their top seven scorers from last season, three to graduation and four underclassmen as NBA lottery draft picks.

Bolstered by the return of All-America guard J.J. Redick and all-conference center Shelden Williams from a team that went 27-6 and reached the third round of the NCAA Tournament, Duke received 61 first-place ballots and 1,785 points from the 72-member national media panel.

Texas, which has four double-figure scorers back from a 20-11 that was beaten by Nevada in the NCAA's opening round, was second with six first-place votes and 1,652 points. It matches the highest ranking in school history.

Duke and Texas meet Dec. 10 in East Rutherford, N.J.

Kansas had been in the preseason poll every year since 1991-92, being out of the top 10 only three times. North Carolina was in all but one of the last 20 preseason polls, only three of the rankings out of the top 10.

The Blue Devils had a seven-year run of at least one week at No. 1 snapped last season, reaching as high as second.

"I do expect us to be the best team in America," Redick said. "I expect that every year. That is just the confidence and mentality that we have to have."

Connecticut, which will play without suspended point guard Marcus Williams until Jan. 3, was third followed by Michigan State, which had four first-place votes, and Villanova, which was No. 1 on one ballot.

Oklahoma was sixth and Louisville, which moved from Conference USA to the Big East, was seventh. Gonzaga, Kentucky and Arizona rounded out the top 10.

Boston College, which left the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference, was 11th, followed by Memphis, Stanford, West Virginia, Alabama, Syracuse, Illinois, Wake Forest, UCLA and Iowa.

The last five ranked teams were George Washington, Nevada, Indiana, Maryland and Iowa State.

The preseason poll started with the 1961-62 season. UCLA has the most No. 1 rankings with eight, followed by Duke's six and North Carolina's five.

The Blue Devils have been ranked for 167 consecutive polls, dating to the preseason poll of 1996-97 season. Kansas had the second-longest streak but the Jayhawks are out of the rankings for the first time since the preseason poll of 2000-01, a span of 93 polls.

Kentucky now has the second-longest active streak at 80, dating to Feb. 12, 2001.

The record streak for consecutive polls is 221 by UCLA from the preseason poll of 1966-67 through Jan. 8, 1980.

Texas was ranked No. 2 for one week in December 2002.

"We don't talk about it," coach Rick Barnes said of the lofty ranking. "I think it's a compliment to our program and these players. But we realize it's preseason."

The Big East leads the conferences with five ranked teams -- Connecticut, Villanova, Louisville, West Virginia and Syracuse -- the first three in the top seven.

The ACC and Big Ten each had four teams in the preseason Top 25.

Four of the teams in the Top 25 weren't ranked at all last season -- Stanford, UCLA, Indiana and Iowa State. This is Iowa State's first time in the poll since the final poll of 2000-01.

Kansas, Wake Forest and Illinois were ranked No. 1 last season. The Illini ran the last 15 weeks and were a unanimous pick six times.

The season starts Tuesday night with No. 16 Syracuse playing Bethune-Cookman in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.

The Maui Invitational on Nov. 21-23 has four teams in the top 10 (Connecticut, Michigan State, Gonzaga, Arizona) and No. 24 Maryland in its eight-team field along with Kansas, Arkansas and Chaminade, the Division II host school.