UConn No. 1 in preseason USA Today/ESPN hoops poll

Updated: October 30, 2003, 7:55 PM ET

ARLINGTON, Virginia - Connecticut, which boasts a pair of Player of the Year candidates, tops the USA Today/ESPN preseason coaches' poll, which was released Thursday.

UConn returns three starters on a team that went 23-10 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Among them is center Emeka Okafor and forward Ben Gordon, a pair of preseason Player of the Year hopefuls.

The Huskies, who totaled 762 points, also will introduce freshman forward Charlie Villanueva as they look for their second national title in six seasons. They ended the 2002-03 season 11th in the poll.

Duke, which features six sophomores, was second with 697 points. The Blue Devils (26-7) have gone three years without reaching the Final Four and two without winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title.

Michigan State (22-13) was third with 677 points, followed by Arizona (28-4) with 638 and Kansas (30-8) with 589. Bill Self takes over as Jayhawks' coach for Roy Williams, who left for North Carolina. Kansas also lost Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich to the NBA.

Missouri (22-11) is ranked sixth, just in front of reigning national champion Syracuse (30-5), which lost Carmelo Anthony but returns two frontcourt starters, including Hakeem Warrick.

Florida (25-8) is eighth in the poll, followed by Kentucky (32-4) and North Carolina (19-13). The Tar Heels were the only team among the preseason top 10 that was not ranked at the end of last season.

Texas (26-7) is ranked 11th. The Longhorns made it to the Final Four last March but lost point guard T.J. Ford to the NBA.

Gonzaga (24-9), which also ended last season out of the poll, was 12th, followed by Illinois (25-7), Wisconsin (24-8), Oklahoma (27-7), Louisville (25-7), Stanford (24-90) and St. Joseph's (23-7).

Cincinnati (17-12) and Notre Dame (24-10) shared the 19th spot, with Wake Forest (25-6) next and Pittsburgh (28-5), Final Four squad Marquette (27-6), Oklahoma State (22-10) and Maryland (21-10) rounding out the poll.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index