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With top 8 players back, NCAA champ Arizona tops poll

SHARE With top 8 players back, NCAA champ Arizona tops poll

Defending champions usually have to worry about replacing a key player or two who made the run through the NCAA tournament so special. Not Arizona.

The Wildcats return the top eight players from the school's first national championship team."There's no question we're going to be a whole lot better than we were last year, but we should be because the top eight are back and so many of them were inexperienced going into last year," Arizona coach Lute Olson said Thursday, the day the Wildcats were voted the No. 1 team in The Associated Press' preseason Top 25.

They received 30 first-place votes and 1,708 points from the 71-member national media panel to edge Kansas, which received one less No. 1 vote and 1,684 points.

"My feeling about preseason polls is they're the best guess people can make. Really, that's where it is right now," Olson said. "It shouldn't be a case where we would be surprised because we returned our top eight players from a year ago, and so it's nice recognition, but it's not going to make any difference."

The No. 1 ranking is the first for Arizona since 1988-89, when the Wildcats held it for four weeks, including the final three polls of the season.

Arizona's schedule is as loaded as its roster as Kentucky and Duke join the Wildcats in the Maui Invitational, and they will play Kansas on Dec. 2.

"I think they play better in that enviroment than they do if they play somebody they don't feel is a challenge," Olson said.

Arizona, which beat Kentucky in overtime in last year's title game, is the first defending champion to be ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll since Arkansas in 1994-95.

Three Atlantic Coast Conference teams rounded out the top five: Duke, which had eight first-place votes; North Carolina, which was No. 1 on four ballots; and Clemson.

UCLA was sixth and was followed in the Top Ten by South Carolina, Kentucky, Purdue and Xavier, Ohio.

The Second Ten was New Mexico, Connecticut, Fresno State, Stanford, Iowa, Utah, Indiana, North Carolina Charlotte, Georgia and Oklahoma. The Top 25 was rounded out by Rhode Island, Texas, Mississippi, Temple and Louisville.

Women's poll

This basketball season is starting out just like most others in recent years for the Tennessee Lady Vols.

They're No. 1 again.

Tennessee, which has won the last two national championships, was an overwhelming choice today for the top spot in The Associated Press preseason women's basketball poll.

Coach Pat Summitt's team, which features national player of the year candidate Chamique Holdsclaw and a ballyhooed freshman class, received 35 of a possible 40 first-place votes from a national media panel. The other five votes for first went to No. 2 Louisiana Tech.

It's the seventh time in the last 11 years and the ninth time overall that Tennessee has begun the season ranked No. 1. The Lady Vols had 994 points and Louisiana Tech 950.

Old Dominion, which lost to Tennessee 68-59 in the national championship game last March, was third in the poll, and Stanford, coming off three straight Final Four appearances, was fourth.