Northwestern makes AP Top 25 preseason poll for first time

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For the first time ever, Northwestern checked into The Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Northwestern basketball was ranked in the Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll for the first time Wednesday. Coming off a historic season, the No. 19 Wildcats are the third-highest-ranked Big Ten team, behind No. 2 Michigan State and No. 15 Minnesota. Purdue is No. 20.

Northwestern returns four starters from a team that played in the school’s first NCAA tournament and reached the second round. The Wildcats won a school-record 24 games and won 10 conference games for the first time since the 1932-33 season. Their fifth-place finish in the Big Ten was their best since 2003-04.

Related Read: Northwestern RB Justin Jackson is among 13 finalists for scholar-athlete award

Duke, led by freshman Marvin Bagley III and senior guard Grayson Allen, was the preseason No. 1 for the second consecutive season and ninth time overall, matching rival North Carolina for the most all-time. The Blue Devils received 33 of 65 first-place votes.

The Atlantic Coast Conference had the most ranked teams with five. The Big 12 had four and the Big East and Pac-12 had three each.

No. 4 Kansas was ranked in the 162nd consecutive poll, the longest streak in the nation. The run began Feb. 3, 2009. Arizona is next at 98.

No. 3 Arizona, No. 10 USC and No. 16 Louisville enter the season with uncertainty after assistant coaches from each school were arrested in a federal investigation into bribing players. Louisville will play under interim coach David Padgett after coach Rick Pitino was fired in the wake of the scandal.

The season will have an early 1-2 matchup No. 14, when Duke plays Michigan State at the United Center in the Champions Classic. No. 4 Kansas plays No. 5 Kentucky in the second game.

Here’s the full top 25 list:

1. Duke

2. Michigan State

3. Arizona

4. Kansas

5. Kentucky

6. Villanova

7. Wichita State

8. Florida

9. North Carolina

10. Southern California

11. West Virginia

12. Cincinnati

13. Miami (FL)

14. Notre Dame

15. Minnesota

16. Louisville

17. Xavier

18. Gonzaga

19. Northwestern

20. Purdue

21. UCLA

22. Saint Mary’s (Cal)

23. Seton Hall

24. Baylor

25. Texas A&M

Contributing: Associated Press

Follow me on Twitter @madkenney.

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