LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The University of Kentucky basketball team will begin the season as the No. 1-ranked team in the Associated Press preseason poll for the first time since the 1995-96 season, and coach John Calipari hopes for similar results.

The University of Louisville will begin defense of its NCAA championship ranked No. 3 in the preseason poll. Michigan State is No. 2.

Voters, as they were in the USA Today coaches' poll, were a bit split on No. 1. UK received 27 first-place votes from the 65-member media panel. Michigan State received 22 first-place votes, Louisville snagged 14 and Duke two. Kansas, with the favorite for player of the year, Andrew Wiggins, is ranked fifth.

"It's a nice honor, but it's way too early to figure out who's the best team in the country," Calipari said. "We may be very talented, but I can't imagine us being the best team in the country at this point."

Calipari has the nation's top-ranked recruiting class and at least two players -- Julius Randle and James Young -- who could figure into the national player of the year discussion.

But don't expect any coach to embrace early accolades. A year ago, Indiana was the preseason No. 1 team, but bowed out of the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16. UK was ranked No. 3 in the preseason, but wound up in the National Invitation Tournament, where it lost in the first round.

Pitino, whose Louisville team might've improved position a bit had it not lost returning starter Chane Behanan to an indefinite suspension, said he thinks college basketball is, on the whole, much deeper this season.

"Last year you felt like there were 4-5 teams that could win it all," Pitino said. "This year there might be 15. . . . We're certainly in that mix, but we're a completely different team."

UK is 171-26 all-time as the nation's top-ranked team, and has won 18 of its last 19 with the AP No. 1 ranking.

The complete poll:

1. Kentucky (27)
2. Michigan State (22)
3. Louisville (14)
4. Duke (2)
5. Kansas
6. Arizona
7. Michigan
8. Oklahoma State (tie)
8. Syracuse (tie)
10. Florida
11. Ohio State
12. Memphis
13. North Carolina
14. VCU
15. Gonzaga
16. Wichita State
17. Marquette
18. Connecticut
19. Oregon
20. Wisconsin
21. Notre Dame
22. UCLA
23. New Mexico
24. Virginia
25. Baylor


WDRB Sports journalist Eric Crawford is a 22-year veteran of covering sports in the region and recently was voted LEO's Readers' Choice Award for Best Local Columnist. He co-authored Rick Pitino's new book, The One-Day Contract, and chronicled the University of Louisville's 2013 National Championship season in an electronic book, The Run. You can follow Eric on Twitter by clicking here, or on Facebook here.

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