Kansas is the team to beat in the Big 12 Conference.
So say the league men's basketball coaches, who made KU the unanimous pick to win the 2000-01 conference crown. The Jayhawks received all 11 first-place votes in the preseason poll released Wednesday. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own teams.
Oklahoma finished second, followed by Missouri, Iowa State, Texas, Oklahoma State, Colorado, Nebraska, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Baylor and Kansas State.
KU sophomore forwards Nick Collison and Drew Gooden were named first-team preseason all-league. They were joined by Preseason Player of the Year Jamaal Tinsley of Iowa State, plus Kareem Rush of Missouri and Kimani Ffriend of Nebraska.
KU's Kenny Gregory and Eric Chenowith both received votes.
"We're pleased and honored to be chosen as the preseason selection to win the league," KU coach Roy Williams said. "But we also realize that last year Iowa State was picked No. 6, and they ended up winning. What you do out on the court is actually the only thing that matters. We do feel good about the experience that we have on the team a lot of youngsters that were very important to us last year are back. I'm hoping that we can keep everybody healthy, and use that experience to have a great year."
The Jayhawks return all five starters, plus key reserves Eric Chenowith and Luke Axtell off a 24-10 team.
Collison was KU's third-leading scorer (10.5 ppg) and second-leading rebounder (6.9 rpg) last season, while Gooden ranked second on the team in scoring (10.6 ppg). He led the team with 248 rebounds second most by any KU freshman behind Danny Manning.
"I'm very pleased that the coaches feel that Nick and Drew deserve this kind of recognition," Williams said. "It will be a challenge to them to work as hard as they can in the preseason and see if this comes to fruition at the end of the season, because again that's when it's most important.
"It's a good honor for them and it means that the coaches do respect their game and respect what they did over the summer with USA Basketball."
The coaches also picked the Jayhawks to win the league a year ago. KU went 11-5 during the regular season, good for fifth.
The Jayhawks took their first day off of practice on Wednesday.
"Mario (Kinsey) has a little case of Compartment Syndrome (to miss 2-4 weeks following surgery). Other than that, everybody knock on wood is fairly healthy," Williams said, noting Kenny Gregory has had some back problems. "There's been great attitude and enthusiasm at practice."
"Through four days, Luke is in as good a shape as I can remember physically. He hit 220 (pounds on 6-10 frame) the other day for first time in his life. He's been playing well."