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UCLA Ranked No. 19 to Start

For the first time in three years, the Bruins are in the Associated Press preseason men's top 25. Duke begins at No. 1 for sixth time.

November 08, 2005|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

The UCLA Bruins are in the Associated Press preseason men's college basketball poll for the first time in three years. The Bruins are ranked 19th on a list topped by Duke.

North Carolina, the defending NCAA champion, didn't make the list of the top-25 teams in a poll released Monday. It is the first time a defending champion has been left off the next year's preseason poll since Kansas was omitted in 1988-89.

Voters in a 72-member national media panel were obviously aware that the Tar Heels lost their top seven scorers from last season, three seniors along with four undergraduates who went to the NBA.

Two other Pacific 10 Conference schools were ranked -- Arizona 10th and Stanford 13th. Arizona, the defending conference champion, was picked to repeat in the Pac-10 media poll. UCLA was picked to finish third.

Coaches seldom seem comfortable with high expectations but Bruin Coach Ben Howland was especially cautious about his team's ranking because the team he can put on the court now is not the one voters envisioned. Four of his projected starters sat out Friday night's exhibition opener against Carleton University because of injuries.

Guard Jordan Farmar, suffering from a strained groin, was cleared to resume practice Monday. None of the three others -- forward Josh Shipp (hip), center Michael Fey (groin) and forward-center Alfred Aboya (knee) -- is expected back for several weeks.

"Our ranking is based on our team being at full strength and healthy," Howland said. "Obviously, now we are not. We're looking forward to being at full strength and I think that, once we are, we can compete with anyone, night in and night out.

"The league is very, very strong with three teams in the preseason top 25. I'm positive at least a couple more teams from the Pac-10 will be ranked at some point in the season."

This is the sixth time Duke has begun a season atop the poll. Second behind the Blue Devils is Texas, followed by Connecticut, Michigan State and Villanova.

Kansas, ranked No. 1 in last year's preseason poll, was, like North Carolina, left off this year's list.

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