The college basketball season moved one step closer on Monday, when the preseason men's basketball AP Top 25 poll was released.
NCAA.com is here with all that you need to know about the poll, including analysis, takeaways and historical context.
First, here's the preseason poll:
Gonzaga is a first-time preseason No. 1
Gonzaga being ranked No. 1 in the AP poll isn't a new phenomenon, but the 'Zags being the preseason No. 1 is a historic event. For the second year in a row, the team atop the preseason men's basketball poll holds a title it never held before, as Michigan State was the first-time preseason No. 1 in the 2019-20 season.
Gonzaga reached No. 1 in the AP poll for the first time during the 2012-13 season, when the Bulldogs earned their first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. They also reached the top of the poll in 2017, 2019 and 2020, as they spent four consecutive weeks ranked No. 1 last season.
The 'Zags have been ranked No. 1 in the final AP poll (in 2013) and No. 2 (2017, 2020), but to start the season as the team to beat is yet another first for one of the strongest programs in the sport.
There was far from a consensus at No. 1, however
Gonzaga received 28 of a possible 65 first-place votes, with Baylor receiving 24. The Bears won 23 games in a row last season as they steadily climbed to No. 1 in the AP poll, where they stayed for five weeks in January and February.
Then there's the two dominant "V" schools – Villanova and Virginia, which have won three of the last four NCAA tournaments. Villanova starts the season ranked No. 3 in the preseason AP poll after receiving 11 first-place votes and preseason No. 4 Virginia received a lone first-place vote.
The Big Ten's case to be the best conference
Good luck trying to figure out who will win the Big Ten. Iowa leads all Big Ten teams in the preseason AP poll with its No. 5 ranking, following by No. 7 Wisconsin and No. 8 Illinois. Then there's No. 13 Michigan State, No. 23 Ohio State, No. 24 Rutgers and No. 25 Michigan.
Indiana was fifth among "Others receiving votes," which gives the Big Ten seven teams in the AP Top 25 and eight of the top 30 vote-getters.
The Big Ten has depth, and lots of it. It has depth at the top of the AP poll. It has depth at the bottom of the AP poll.
If the conference is as strong as the preseason AP poll suggests it will be this winter, it could be a challenge for any of its teams to contend for a No. 1 seed, and maybe even a No. 2 seed, based purely on the strength of the conference and the challenges of a 20-game conference schedule, but the Big Ten could put seven or eight teams in the NCAA tournament as a single-digit seed, which would be impressive.
New territory for Duke and Kentucky
The two blue bloods check in at No. 9 and No. 10 in the preseason AP poll, respectively. Duke hasn't started a season ranked that low since it was No. 9 in the preseason poll before the 2009-10 season (when the Blue Devils ended up cutting down the nets in Indianapolis) and Kentucky hasn't been ranked that low since it was preseason No. 11 in the 2010-11 season, which culminated in a Final Four appearance for the Wildcats.
That goes to say that it may be unusual to have to scroll that far down – heck, to have to scroll at all – to see Duke and Kentucky's names, but both schools had successful NCAA tournament runs the last time they were ranked in a similar spot.
This is the first year since the 2008-09 preseason poll that both schools are ranked outside of the top five.
The Big 12's top-end depth is alongside the Big Ten's
Of the Big 12's 10 teams, five are ranked in the top 20 of the AP poll, highlighted by preseason No. 2 Baylor. Kansas checks in at No. 6, followed by No. 14 Texas Tech, No. 15 West Virginia and No. 19 Texas. For comparison, the Big Ten's fourth-highest ranked team is No. 13 Michigan State and the Big 12's fourth-highest ranked team is No. 15 West Virginia.
Texas is ranked higher than the Big Ten's fifth-highest ranked team, No. 23 Ohio State.
The Big 12 has historically been dominated by Kansas, but the preseason AP poll suggests that Baylor is the team to beat this season, but a number of teams in the conference will have a say about who takes the regular-season title.