By JIM O’CONNELL, AP Basketball Writer
Kentucky and its roster full of high school All-Americas is the narrow choice over Michigan State in The Associated Press’ preseason college basketball poll.
The Wildcats, who finished last season with an NIT opening-round loss at Robert Morris, received 27 first-place votes and 1,546 points from the 65-member national media panel.
The Spartans, who return four starters from the team that lost to Duke in the NCAA tournament’s round of 16, snared 22 first-place votes and 1,543 points.
The last preseason No. 1 not to be ranked in the final poll of the previous season was Indiana in 1979-80.
Defending national champion Louisville received 14 first-place votes and was third while Duke, which received the other two No. 1 votes, was fourth.
Kansas was fifth and was followed by Arizona and Michigan. Oklahoma State and Syracuse tied for eighth and Florida rounded out the Top Ten.
Ohio State was 11th and was followed by North Carolina, Memphis, VCU, Gonzaga, Wichita State, Marquette, Connecticut, Oregon and Wisconsin.
The last five ranked teams were Notre Dame, UCLA, New Mexico, Virginia and Baylor.
This is Kentucky’s third preseason No. 1 and first since 1995-96 when the Wildcats won the national championship. The other preseason No. 1 was in 1980-81. Kentucky was ranked for just one week in the final 16 polls of last season but coach John Calipari enters this season with a roster featuring two returnees _ Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein _ and six freshmen who were selected McDonalds All-Americans last season.
Indiana was the preseason No. 1 last season and the Hoosiers were fourth in the final poll.
Gonzaga was No. 1 in the final poll last season and 18 teams in that final poll were in the preseason Top 25.
The Atlantic Coast Conference had the most teams in the preseason Top 25 with five and the Big Ten had four. The new American Athletic Conference, the Big 12 and Pac 12 all had three ranked teams.
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