Defending national champion Duke was a runaway No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason Top 25 men’s basketball poll.
At the other end of the Top 25 there was big news Thursday with San Diego State entering the rankings for the first time ever.
And right in the middle is Gonzaga, at No. 12.
Duke, on top for a seventh time, has two starters returning to a roster featuring highly touted freshman Kyrie Irving and transfer Seth Curry, Stephen’s little brother.
Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski doesn’t think it’s fair to say a team is trying to repeat when there have been so many changes since the Blue Devils beat Butler for their fourth national championship.
“To repeat is a bad word (to use),” said Krzyzewski, who spent the summer leading the U.S. national team to the gold medal at the world championship. “… What you want to do is have the same result, of winning the national championship, but figure out what journey you’re going to be on along the way. And so pursue is a good word for me, and develop. We’re going to be a developing team throughout.”
They’re also a team that garnered 55 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel, easily outdistancing Michigan State, which had eight No. 1 votes. Kansas State was third, followed by Ohio State and Pittsburgh.
Kansas State, which matched its highest ranking since 1962, got the other two first-place votes.
Pittsburgh, Villanova, Kansas, North Carolina, Florida and Syracuse round out the top 10.
“Anytime a team is voted No. 1, it is an honor,” Krzyzewski said. “We’ve been fortunate to be in that position several times at Duke, and we are appreciative when people think so highly of us. However, we have a lot of work to do to get ready for the regular season. We have a talented, but developing, team. As always, our defense needs to be constant throughout the year in order to succeed at the highest level.”
Since the preseason poll began in the 1961-62 season, Duke’s seven No. 1 nods are tied with North Carolina and one behind all-time leader UCLA.
The six previous preseason No. 1 rankings turned into one national championship (repeating in 1991-92), one national runner-up (1998-99), one other Final Four appearance (1988-89), two regional semifinal losses (2001-02, 2005-06) and one second-round exit (1978-79).
Kentucky, which had five underclassmen taken in the first round of the NBA draft, was 11th followed by Gonzaga, Illinois, Purdue, Missouri, Baylor, Butler, Washington, Memphis and Georgetown.
The last five ranked teams were Virginia Tech, Temple, Tennessee, BYU and San Diego State.
The Aztecs return five starters from last season’s team that won 25 games and earned the school’s sixth NCAA tournament bid, all of which resulted in first-round losses.
“I didn’t know San Diego State had never been ranked until someone mentioned it to me earlier this week,” said Aztecs coach Steve Fisher, who led Michigan to one national championship and two other title game appearances. “This is nice surprise but makes me — and I believe all of us — proud of the fact we now have national recognition for San Diego State that’s always had a good basketball program. It’s not just Orange County now, a lot of places will be surprised and pleased we’re there. It’s another first for our program and hopefully not the last.”
Duke is tied with Michigan State for the longest current streak for being ranked in consecutive polls at 59. The streaks started with the preseason poll of 2007-08.
Four schools that were not ranked at all last season made the preseason poll: Missouri, Memphis, Virginia Tech and San Diego State.
Four schools in the poll did not play in the NCAA tournament last season, including No. 8 North Carolina, which reached the NIT championship game. The others were Illinois, Memphis and Virginia Tech.
The Big Ten, Big 12 and Big East all had four teams in the rankings, while the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference both had three. The Mountain West was the only other conference with more than one team in the poll.
Three teams from last season’s Final Four made it — Duke, Michigan State and Butler — with West Virginia the only one not to make it.