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Gonzaga carried a No. 1 rating all final season earlier than falling a win wanting changing into school basketball’s first unbeaten nationwide champion in 45 years.

Mark Few’s Bulldogs begin this season in the identical place, hoping to finish that ultimate step this time round.

The Zags have been the runaway best choice in The Associated Press Top 25 men’s college basketball preseason poll released Monday. They earned 55 of 63 first-place votes to simply outdistance No. 2 UCLA, which earned the opposite eight. Kansas, Villanova and Texas rounded out the highest 5, whereas reigning nationwide champion Baylor checked in at No. 8.

The Zags have achieved nearly each milestone attainable in 23 years below Few apart from slicing down the nets on the ultimate Monday night time of the season. They got here near finishing the primary unbeaten run since 1976 final 12 months with a wire-to-wire No. 1 team, solely to fall to the Bears in a one-sided final in Indianapolis.

Now they will strive once more.

“It’s fairly an honor to be chosen preseason No. 1 for the second consecutive 12 months,” Few mentioned in a press release to the AP. “Our returning gamers notice the problem of enjoying as much as that stage all 12 months and stay up for it.”

Gonzaga misplaced AP All-Individuals Corey Kispert and Jalen Suggs to the NBA, however second-team choice Drew Timme (19.0 factors, 7.0 rebounds) and beginning guard Andrew Nembhard return. The Zags additionally herald a prime recruiting class that includes the nation’s No. 1 general recruit in 7-footer Chet Holmgren and a five-star guard in Hunter Sallis.

Going again to the 2019-20 season, the Zags have now been ranked within the prime three for 32 straight polls, with 22 of these at No. 1.

THE TOP TIER

Second-year coach Mick Cronin has UCLA on a quick climb.

Main scorer Johnny Juzang (16.0 ppg) headlines a Bruins roster that returns practically intact after final 12 months’s run from the First Four to the Final Four, the place they misplaced to Gonzaga on a halfcourt shot in an overtime classic.

They’re beginning with their first top-10 preseason rating since 2009 and their first top-10 rating in any AP ballot since spending 13 weeks there through the 2016-17 season.

“If we taught anyone something final 12 months,,” Cronin mentioned this month, “your seed or your rating doesn’t matter come event time.”

Kansas has this system’s Tenth straight preseason top-10 rating, adopted by the Wildcats and Longhorns, who open their first season below Chris Beard with this system’s highest preseason rating since 2010.

THE CHAMPS

Baylor has a second straight top-10 preseason rating regardless of shedding 4 starters from final 12 months’s title winner, together with AP All-Individuals Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell. The Bears will attempt to be a part of Duke (1991-92) and Florida (2006-07) as the one colleges to win consecutive titles since UCLA’s run of seven straight from 1967-73.

“As we’ve talked with our group,,” Baylor coach Scott Drew mentioned, “we now have a novel alternative.”

BLUEBLOODS BACK?

Duke and Kentucky are beginning with their sometimes excessive rankings after seasons not like many of their tradition-rich histories.

The ninth-ranked Blue Devils are enjoying the ultimate season below retiring Corridor of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski. They’re coming off a 13-11 season that included missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995.

The Tenth-ranked Wildcats are proper behind them after a 9-16 season, this system’s first shedding document since 1988-89.

Then there’s North Carolina, which made the NCAA Match however was inconsistent all season and out of the High 25 earlier than Christmas. The Tar Heels open at No. 19 of their first season under Hubert Davis, promoted after the retirement of Hall of Famer Roy Williams in April.

WELCOME BACK

St. Bonaventure is ranked for the primary time in additional than 5 a long time. The Bonnies from the Atlantic 10 are No. 23, marking the primary time they’ve been ranked since January 1971. That season was additionally the final time this system was ranked within the preseason (No. 20).

CONFERENCE WATCH

The Large Ten and Southeastern conferences have a national-best 5 ranked groups every.

The Large Ten has No. 6 Michigan, No. 7 Michigan, No. 11 Illinois, No. 17 Ohio State and No. 21 Maryland. The SEC has No. 14 Alabama, No. 16 Arkansas, No. 18 Tennessee and No. 22 Auburn becoming a member of Kentucky.

The ACC is subsequent up with 4, with No. 20 Florida State and No. 25 Virginia becoming a member of Duke and UNC. The Large 12 has its Kansas-Texas-Baylor trio, whereas the Pac-12 (UCLA and No. 13 Oregon), Large East (Villanova and No. 24 Connecticut) and American Athletic Convention (No. 12 Memphis and No. 15 Houston) are the others with a number of High 25 groups.

WATCH LIST

The highest unranked groups are all from energy conferences, headlined by Michigan State because the main vote-getter. Subsequent up is Indiana under first-year coach Mike Woodson, Southern California and Arizona under new coach Tommy Lloyd.

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AP Sports activities Author Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report.

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Extra AP school basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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Comply with Aaron Beard on Twitter at http;//www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap