The initial AP men's basketball top 25 poll was released Monday, with North Carolina set to begin the season ranked first for a record ninth time.

I would argue the preseason poll, particularly the lower third or so, is the most difficult to select during the entire season. Once the games finally begin, these choices will be made based on results.

And we're now just 11 days from CU's opener against No. 7 Iowa State.

Here's how I voted in the preseason AP poll, with each team's actual ranking in parenthesis:


1. North Carolina (1): Tar Heels return nine of top 10 scorers.

2. Maryland (3): Sophomore Melo Trimble is one of nation's premier players.

3. Kentucky (2): Eligibility clearance of freshman Skal Labissiere again makes Wildcats tough to top in terms of raw talent.

4. Kansas (4): Jayhawks have won a record 11 consecutive Big 12 Conference regular-season titles.

5. Virginia (6): Guard Malcolm Brogdon was a first team All-ACC selection and second team All-American last year.

6. Duke (5): What else is new? Coach K will have Blue Devils in national mix once again.

7. Oklahoma (8): Senior Buddy Hield was named preseason Big 12 Player of the Year.


8. Iowa State (7): Talented roster with touch of uncertainty as now-Chicago Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg is replaced by former Murray State coach Steve Prohm.

9. Wichita State (10): Talented senior class led by Fred VanVleet, whose 95 career wins ranks second among active players.

10. Villanova (11): Unanimous preseason Big East favorites add talented freshman Jalen Brunson to the mix.

11. Michigan State (13): Even in a so-called down year like last season, coach Tom Izzo still had Spartans in the Final Four for the ninth time.

12. Arizona (12): Season-ending injury to promising freshman Ray Smith brings Wildcats a little closer to the pack in the Pac-12.

13. Gonzaga (9): Consistent Zags are coming off a school-record 35-win season.

14. Cal (14): Golden Bears return four of top five scorers and add a heralded freshman class.

15. Notre Dame (19): Irish lost two gritty senior leaders but still return three starters from a squad that nearly toppled Kentucky in the Elite Eight.

16. Indiana (15): Sophomore guard James Blackmon Jr. reportedly good to go after enduring knee surgery over the summer.

17. Baylor (22): Bears will boast perhaps the top front court in the Big 12.

18. Georgetown (NR): Senior guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera among most overlooked players in the nation.

19. Wisconsin (17): Will he or won't he? Uncertain retirement decision by coach Bo Ryan could prove to be a distraction.

20. Utah (16): Austrian Jakob Poeltl already is one of the top big men in the west after dominating as a true freshman season.

21. Vanderbilt (18): Sharpshooting Commodores poised to return to NCAA tourney for first time since 2012.

22. Michigan (25): Wolverines are healthy after injuries ruined promising 2014-15 campaign.

23. Texas A&M (NR): Aggies are the only team in the SEC returning more than one all-conference honoree from a year ago.

24. Butler (24): Senior Kellen Dunham is the top returning scorer in the Big East.

25. UConn (20): Young but talented group of Huskies aiming to return program to NCAA tourney.

Pat Rooney: or