College basketball Top 25: Gonzaga stays on top, Illinois moves up; plus, my ballot

You can expect to see a post like this each week until the cows come home or somebody’s up on a ladder cutting down a net.

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Arkansas State v Illinois

Coleman Hawkins looks like the next Illini player to watch.

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The first regular-season AP Top 25 basketball poll came out Monday, kind of a big deal to those of us who know better than to keep the college game on the pay-no-mind list until March. Why does anybody do that, anyway? Too many cases of NBA load management to monitor? Too many fantasy football moves to make? Too many episodes of “The Bachelor” and “Love Island” to pretend not to be watching?

But now I’ve wandered off into tortured reverie again.

Look, folks: The poll is out. That’s what I’m trying to tell you here. And, this season, I’m an AP Top 25 voter, which means you can expect to see a post like this each week until the cows come home or somebody’s up on a ladder cutting down a net — whichever comes first. That’s not counting the inevitable time or two I’ll forget to vote because I’m (what’s that word again?) an idiot. I’m not the sort who makes it through an entire season unblemished.

Get ready for a couple of fat paragraphs.

AP Top 25

1. Gonzaga, 2. UCLA, 3. Kansas, 4. Michigan, 5. Villanova, 6. Purdue, 7. Duke, 8. Texas, 9. Baylor, 10. Illinois, 11. Memphis, 12. Oregon, 13. Kentucky, 14. Alabama, 15. Houston, 16. Arkansas, 17. Tennessee, 18. North Carolina, 19. Ohio State, 20. Maryland, 21. Auburn, 22. St. Bonaventure, 23. Connecticut, 24. Florida, 25. USC.

(Click here to see the poll in more complete list form.)

My ballot

1. Gonzaga, 2. Kansas, 3. UCLA, 4. Villanova, 5. Michigan, 6. Duke, 7. Purdue, 8. Illinois, 9. Memphis, 10. Houston, 11. Alabama, 12. Oregon, 13. Kentucky, 14. Baylor, 15. Connecticut, 16. Virginia Tech, 17. St. Bonaventure, 18. Arkansas, 19. Maryland, 20. Tennessee, 21. Ohio State, 22. Auburn, 23. USC, 24. North Carolina, 25. Texas.

(Click here and then on “all voters” to see each voter’s individual ballot.)

Five things

• Unlike most of my fellow voters, I dropped Texas wayyy down on my ballot because its first half at Gonzaga — admittedly, a ridiculously tough place to play — was a pathetic effort. You and your cousin Earl could take turns defending Drew Timme in the post and fare as well as the Longhorns’ bigs did. Put it this way: If it were football, Texas would’ve lost to Kansas. Oh, wait.

• Villanova and Kentucky also have early losses. Jay Wright’s Wildcats played a great game at UCLA but lost in overtime. John Calipari’s Wildcats played not-so-great in a loss to Duke, but it was a fairly promising showing. These teams don’t deserve to be punished like Texas (or like North Carolina for barely surviving against Brown).

• I dig Virginia Tech. Second place in the ACC could happen for this team.

• Illinois, up from 11th in the preseason poll, showed a heck of a lot playing shorthanded for a couple of games. The Illini are going to defend like madmen no matter who’s out there, a great sign.

• Nobody is going to call the Pac-12 the best league, but both Oregon and USC are potential climbers. USC might be the biggest climber of all before it’s done. If UCLA lives up to its billing, look out.

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