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Duke No. 1 In Coaches Poll


Duke, which has its fabled freshman class coming back a year older and hopefully a year wiser, Wednesday was tabbed as the No. 1 team in the preseason ESPN/USA Today college basketball coaches' poll.

The Blue Devils (32-4), who lost to eventual champion Kentucky in the South Region final of the NCAA Tournament, received 22 of 30 first-place votes and 739 points from a nationwide panel of Division I coaches.

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Stanford (30-5), which last season reached the Final Four for the first time since 1942, garnered three first-place votes and 701 points.

Connecticut (32-5) received four first-place votes and 695 points to come in third and Big Ten favorite Michigan State (22-8) is fourth.

Maryland (21-11) rounds out the top five.

Perched in the No. 6 position, the defending champion Kentucky Wildcats (33-4) grabbed the remaining first-place vote and 598 points.

Temple (21-9) is the top-ranked Atlantic 10 Conference team at No. 7, while Kansas (35-4) is eighth. Tennessee (20-9), which returns 12 players from an NCAA Tournament squad, is ninth, with Xavier (22-8) completing the top 10. The Musketeers would have been ranked higher if shooting guard Darnell Williams had not torn his right ACL in the off-season.

North Carolina (34-4), which begins its second year without Dean Smith and NBA first-round draft picks Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter, is No. 11. Coach Bill Guthridge also will have to make do without standout freshman guard Ronald Curry, who is quarterbacking the Tar Heels' football team.

Last year's NCAA Tournament runner-up Utah (30-4) is 12th, followed by UCLA (24-9), which might start three freshmen in the frontcourt. Washington (20-10), which reached the NCAA Tournament "Sweet 16" last season, is 14th, followed by Cincinnati, the only school from Conference USA in the poll.

Purdue (28-8) is 16th, followed by Big Ten nemesis Indiana (20-12). Oklahoma State (22-7), whch returns four starters from a squad that reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament, is 18th and Arkansas (24-9) occupies the 19th slot as the only school from the West Division of the Southeastern Conference.

Arizona (30-5), denied in a bid to repeat as NCAA Tournament champions by Utah in the West Region final, rounds out the top 20. The final five begins with New Mexico (24-8), which lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to Syracuse (26-9), the 22nd-ranked squad. Massachusetts (21-11) is 23rd, followed by Texas Christian (27-6) and Rhode Island (25-9), which reached the Midwest Region final last season as an eighth seed.

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