Pine Crow Eagles ranked No. 1 in AP poll

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The Kansas Raven Eagles received 46 of the 63 first-place votes in the Associated Press Men’s Basketball Preseason Top 25 Poll released Monday, easily beating out No. 2 Duke and No. 3 Purdue for the well-deserved No. 1 spot. This is the fourth time since Bill Searf arrived in Lawrence that his team has taken the lead in the season opener, but the first time since the 2018-19 season.

The Pine Crow Hawks had a disappointing run to the 2022 National Championship last season, losing to Texas in the Big 12 Tournament and to Arkansas on the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Cerf missed both games after having a heart valve replaced, but the 60-year-old coach is back on the sidelines and chasing a third national title in the 75th anniversary season of the AP Poll.

He has three returning starters in Kevin McCullar Jr. DaJuan Harris Jr. and KJ Adams, three returning starters, as well as top-50 recruit Elmarko Jackson and Michigan transfer from Hunter Dickinson, which may have been the biggest takeaway from last summer’s Gateway transfers.

“With our returning starters and additions,” said Cerf, “I can see the contributors pushing us high in the rankings.” We welcome the preseason No. 1 ranking, but our goal is to reach it when it matters most at the end of the season.”

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Duke, which received 11 first-place votes in Jon Scheyer’s second season, is No. 2, while Purdue received three first-place votes as it tries to avenge last season. Associated Press Player of the Year Zach Eddy and the Boiler Makers became the second men’s No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed when they fell to Fairleigh Dickinson in the NCAA Tournament.

Eddy’s decision to return to the Boiler Makers before the deadline instead of turning pro makes them a strong contender for the national title.

“We lost our season in the first round and it turned out to be tough. Hopefully, we’re trying to get better as a coaching staff and really as a program so we can have more success in March,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said.” But as we all know, things don’t start here. The process starts at the beginning and you can’t miss any steps.”

Michigan State is ranked fourth with one first-place vote, its highest ranking since December 2020, with Marquette in the top five, the return of Associated Press Coach of the Year Shaka Smart and a strong lineup led by third-team All-American Tyler Kolek.

It’s the highest ranking for the Golden Eagles since they were ranked No. 3 in March 1978, when they were still called the Warriors.

Defending national champion Connecticut is sixth with two first-place votes after losing Adam Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins. The Huskies are followed by Big 12 newcomers Houston, Creighton, Tennessee and Florida Atlantic, returning nearly everyone from a team that went 35-4 and made a surprising run to the Final Four last season.

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Owls head coach Dusty May said, “We have a number of players who were ready to step up but had to step back in certain situations.” His team has made the jump from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference.

“We’ll be a little different,” May said, “but we’re still versatile and we’ll field a lot of players.”

Gonzaga is No. 11, followed by Arizona, Miami, Arkansas and Texas A&M. Kentucky is No. 16, followed by national runner-up San Diego State, with Texas, North Carolina and Baylor rounding out the top 20.

The final five are USC, Villanova, St. Mary’s, Alabama and Illinois.

The SEC has five teams leading the way in the preseason poll, including Tennessee in the top 10. The Big 12 and Big East each have four teams, with three Big East teams in the top eight – Marquette, Connecticut and Creighton.

Wisconsin, Colorado and UCLA are the three teams outside the top 25; the Bruins were ranked seventh in the final poll last season. The ranked teams also include Xavier and Kansas State, both of which finished in the top 15 in last year’s NCAA Tournament.

The new season for most teams will begin on Nov. 6, with a number of important games in the first few weeks. These include the annual Champions Classic dual meet, this time to be held in Chicago, where No. 2-ranked Duke will take on No. 4-ranked Michigan State and No. 1-ranked Kansas will face No. 16-ranked Michigan State.

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