Cats ranked No. 4 in preseason AP Top 25 poll

Tubby Smith's Cats enter the 2001-02 season ranked No. 4 in the AP Top 25...

LEXINGTON, Ky. --- Kentucky's drive for an eighth national championship begins with the Wildcats ranked No. 4 in The Associated Press' preseason college basketball poll.

Duke and Maryland are ranked first and second, followed by Illinois at No. 3. It marked only the second time in history two teams from the same conference have held the 1-2 spots in the preseason poll. The first time was in 1985-86 when Georgia Tech and North Carolina occupied the positions.

As defending national champion, Duke was the strong choice for No. 1 in voting by the national media panel. The Blue Devils, who return four starters --- Jason Williams, Chris Duhon, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer --- from a team that went 35-4, received 61 of 72 first-place votes.

Maryland received six first-place votes and Illinois garnered. Kentucky was No. 1 on three ballots. The Top 10 is rounded out by UCLA, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Saint Joseph's.

Spots 11-20 are occupied by the following: Virginia, Memphis, Stanford, Georgetown, Michigan State, Temple, Boston College, Oklahoma State, North Carolina and Southern California.

Syracuse, Indiana, Texas, Alabama and Oklahoma round out the Top 25.

The Big 12 led the way with five teams represented in the debut poll. The ACC and Big Ten each placed four.

Arizona, which lost to Duke in last season's title game and returns only one starter (guard Jason Gardner) from that squad, saw its run of 108 straight appearances in the poll snapped. The Wildcats had been in every Top 25 since the preseason 1995-96 poll.

The longest streaks now belong to Duke and Stanford, who have been ranked 91 straight times since the preseason 1996-97 poll.


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