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Maui-bound Spartans, Jayhawks ranked 1-3 in AP preseason poll

The Associated Press

There isn’t much Michigan State has yet to accomplish under Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo, from Big Ten titles and Final Four trips to winning a national championship.

The Spartans can now add another milestone to the list: They are No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25 men’s college basketball preseason poll for the first time in program history.

The Spartans were the overwhelming choice with their veteran returnees led by star Cassius Winston. They topped 60 of 65 ballots in voting results released Monday, easily outdistancing No. 2 Kentucky and No. 3 Kansas as the only other teams to receive first-place votes.

Duke was fourth, followed by Louisville, Florida, Maryland, Gonzaga, North Carolina and Villanova to round out the top 10.

Michigan State and Kansas are both in the field for next month’s Maui Jim Maui Invitational — the Spartans and Jayhawks could meet in the final on Nov. 27 at Lahaina Civic Center.

Michigan State had been ranked No. 1 for 12 weeks in the AP poll before Monday. But none had come in the preseason poll, with the Spartans starting at No. 2 four times in the past decade.

“It’s almost bizarre to me because I would’ve thought Magic’s team was No. 1,” Izzo said in an interview with the AP.

Nope, the Magic Johnson-led bunch that beat Larry Bird and Indiana State in the 1979 NCAA title game started at No. 7.

The Spartans won 32 games last year and reached Izzo’s eighth Final Four before falling to Texas Tech. They return Winston with fellow starters Xavier Tillman and Aaron Henry from that run, and they get back another starter in Joshua Langford after he missed much of last year with a foot injury.

That nucleus is good enough that only one voter picked the Spartans as low as third, with four others picking them second and the rest at No. 1. They will be tested right away, too: the Spartans open the season against Kentucky in a 1-vs-2 matchup Nov. 5 in New York.

“This is a program deal and it’s the players in the program, and I’m really proud of them for that,” Izzo said. “Unfortunately, what you are at the beginning of the year doesn’t help you at the end of the year, but I think it does say something about the program and what we’ve done over these years.”

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AP Preseason Poll

Record Pts Prv

1. Michigan St. (60) 32-7 1619 5

2. Kentucky (2) 30-7 1497 7

3. Kansas (3) 26-10 1457 17

4. Duke 32-6 1399 1

5. Louisville 20-14 1386 —

6. Florida 20-16 1313 —

7. Maryland 23-11 1134 —

8. Gonzaga 33-4 1096 4

9. North Carolina 29-7 1060 3

10. Villanova 26-10 1048 23

11. Virginia 35-3 1007 2

12. Seton Hall 20-14 863 —

13. Texas Tech 31-7 837 9

14. Memphis 22-14 773 —

15. Oregon 25-13 742 —

16. Baylor 20-14 523 —

17. Utah St. 28-7 491 25

18. Ohio St. 20-15 407 —

19. Xavier 19-16 356 —

20. Saint Mary’s (Cal) 22-12 330 —

21. Arizona 17-15 265 —

22. LSU 28-7 234 12

23. Purdue 26-10 230 13

24. Auburn 30-10 210 14

25. VCU 25-8 193 —

Others receiving votes–Washington 164, Colorado 152, Tennessee 78, Marquette 68, Florida St. 36, Davidson 34, Harvard 24, Illinois 14, Missouri 13, Mississippi St. 12, Houston 11, Georgetown 11, Cincinnati 8, Notre Dame 7, Creighton 4, Syracuse 3, NC State 3, Vermont 2, Alabama 2, Southern Cal 2, Liberty 2, Michigan 2, Dayton 1, Colgate 1, Providence 1.