(AP) – 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 yesterday 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.