No surprise here: North Carolina dominated the first pre-season ESPN/USA Today college basketball poll of the season, nabbing 30 of the 31 first-place votes, and rightfully so. A team that reached the Final Four last season not only has leading scorers Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, and John Henson returning, but will also add a highly touted recruiting class. The biggest names include 6'8" James Michael McAdoo and 6'5" PJ Hairston, both rated in the top 10 of their class. Expectations are at all time high in Chapel Hill with a team this loaded, and anything less than a championship would be a let down.
The only other team to receive a first place vote was Kentucky. Terrence Jones (15.7 ppg last season) will join a stacked recruiting class that includes Anthony Davis and Michael Gilchrist on a team poised to make a Final Four run. Wildcat fans should just hope that once the dust clears they get to keep the banner up, unlike Calipari's past teams in 1996 and 2008.
Rounding out the Top Five are #3 Ohio State, #4 UConn, and #5 Syracuse, but the team I have my eye on is Baylor who was voted 12th. Sophomore Perry Jones is the most intriguing player in the country in my opinion. The 2012 projected lottery pick averaged 13.9 ppg and 7.2 rebounds per game last season despite being the team's second banana, but with LaceDarius Dunn gone, Jones will carry this team to March. Guard AJ Walton and swingman Quincy Acy will look to mentor big-time recruits Deuce Bello and Quincy Miller as they try to knock Kansas off its perennial perch atop The Big 12.
Here's the full top 25:
1. North Carolina
3. Ohio State
19. Texas A&M
Others receiving votes: Florida State 108, Texas 107, Michigan State 73, Temple 59, Washington 29, Butler 25, New Mexico 22, Creighton 19, Villanova 18, Purdue 17, UNLV 16, West Virginia 13, George Mason 12, Mississippi State 11, St. John's 11, Saint Mary's 5, Virginia 5, Virginia Commonwealth 4, Drexel 2, Kansas State 2, Long Beach State 2, Notre Dame 1, Brigham Young 1