Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 10/21/11
, By Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY North Carolina is the No. 1 team in the USA TODAY/ESPN Top 25 preseason basketball coaches poll -- and it's not even close. The Tar Heels collected 30 of 31 first-place votes; on the one ballot they didn't get picked first, they were No. 2. North Carolina returns all five starters from last season, including three All-American candidates: sophomore forward Harrison Barnes, senior forward Tyler Zeller and junior forward John Henson. The trio accounted for 43.1 points a game last season, and all three turned down the NBA for a shot at what would be Tar Heels coach Roy Williams' third NCAA title. The Tar Heels won 29 games and reached the regional final last year. "We feel fortunate to be in a position where that (No. 1) would come our way and we're excited about it," Williams said. "I don't mind people throwing that at us because we are going to be pretty good. We had a nice little run at the end of last season, we have some nice pieces coming back and we have very high expectations for this season. "But in basketball, you have to do it on the court and being No. 1 now doesn't mean anything. We know that." Bolstered by the nation's top recruiting class, Kentucky is No. 2 in the poll after receiving one first-place vote. Ohio State, Connecticut and Syracuse round out the top five. The Huskies are the defending national champions, but if they're going to repeat, they'll have to do it without star guard Kemba Walker, who left for the NBA. With the release of the poll, the annual debate surrounding the top college basketball conference can begin. The Big East leads all conferences with five teams in the Top 25, followed by the Southeastern Conference (4) and the Big 12 (4). The Atlantic Coast Conference has just two teams in Top 25, but they're both in the top six (North Carolina at No. 1, Duke at No. 6). Taking a closer look at the poll: - Kentucky did not appear lower than No. 6 on any ballot. The Wildcats received one No. 1 vote, the only team besides North Carolina to receive a first-place vote. - No. 16 Arizona is the highest-ranked team from a West Coast conference. The Wildcats appeared on 26 of the 31 ballots, and they appeared as high as No. 8. - 12 of the Top 25 teams were not ranked in the final poll of the 2010-11 season. - Butler, coming off back-to-back NCAA championship game appearances, is not ranked. ----@ Copyright 2011, USA TODAY International. Dist. by Tribune Media Services International.
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