Kansas University’s men’s basketball team remains the popular preseason pick to win the 2010 NCAA championship.
The Sherron Collins/Cole Aldrich-led Jayhawks, who went 27-8, won the Big 12 and reached the Sweet 16 a year ago, have been tapped No. 1 in today’s USA Today/ESPN preseason coaches poll.
The Jayhawks — who this afternoon are expected to garner the No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press poll and have also been named No. 1 by writers from Lindy’s and Athlon magazines, Blue Ribbon Yearbook and many dot.coms — received 27 of 31 first-place votes and 770 points from a national panel of coaches. KU also netted three second-place votes and a third.
Runner-up Michigan State earned three first-place votes and 732 points. Texas was third (676 points), followed by defending champ North Carolina, which had one first-place vote and 653 points.
Kentucky was fifth, followed by Villanova, Purdue, Duke, West Virginia, Butler, Tennessee, California, Washington, UConn, Michigan, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Georgia Tech, Georgetown, Dayton, Louisville, Clemson and Syracuse.
“It’s a great honor to be No. 1, but we’re in November,” KU junior center Aldrich said. “If you tell me we’ll be No. 1 in April, I’ll be all for it. But it is November and there are a lot of games to be played.”
This marks the third time in the 21-year history of the coaches poll KU has been named preseason No. 1. Other times were before the 1996-97 and 2004-05 seasons.
“I don’t know if we’re deserving of what they say,” KU coach Bill Self said of the 2009-10 Jayhawks, jokingly referring to the pick as “the kiss of death,” in today’s USA Today newspaper.
“The reason we are preseason No. 1 is we had two guys last year who played unbelievable. Cole and Sherron had All-America- type years and we are fortunate enough to have them come back to school this year because they love KU.”
Realistically speaking ... “There are 10 teams, 15 teams by Jan. 1 that have a legitimate shot. There are always teams that come out of nowhere that have a shot,” Self said.
KU today figures to top the AP poll for the second time in school history. AP had the Jayhawks No. 1 before the ’04-05 campaign.
“We could be real good. We have a chance to do some special things, but everything has to fall in the right place,” KU senior Collins said.
For now, KU’s coaches can try to use the No. 1 ranking to the program’s benefit in recruiting.
“It’s good that people see us as the best team in the country. We all know we have a long way to go,” sophomore guard Tyshawn Taylor said. “We all are on the same page. If we work better every day, the better we’ll be in March.”
A limited number of $20 tickets remain for Tuesday’s exhibition opener versus Fort Hays State and the Nov. 10 game vs. Pittsburg State. A limited number of $35 tickets remain for KU’s non-conference games. Fans may buy tickets by calling 1-800-34-HAWKS or logging onto kuathletics.com.