Baylor narrowly edges Gonzaga for No. 1 in USA TODAY Sports preseason men’s basketball poll

It seems only fitting in an election year that the voting in the preseason USA TODAY Sports men’s basketball coaches poll came right down to the wire.

With all 32 precincts – er – panelists reporting, Baylor will enter the 2020-21 campaign with the No. 1 ranking. It's the first time the school has led the preseason balloting since USA TODAY started administering the poll in 1991.

The Bears finished fourth in the final poll in March after the 2020 NCAA tournament was canceled but did hold the No. 1 position for a stretch last season. In the preseason balloting, they received 764 poll points and 12 first-place votes to narrowly edge out Gonzaga and Villanova for the top spot.

Baylor returns guard Jared Butler (12) and guard Davion Mitchell (45) in this year's quest for a NCAA national title, shown during a game last season at West Virginia. (Photo: Ben Queen, USA TODAY Sports)

The second-ranked Zags picked up 10 firsts and 762 total points, and the Wildcats got 755 points with eight top nods to open at No. 3. This is the closest preseason vote since the 2015-16 season, when Kentucky and North Carolina started out the year tied for first.

TOP 25: Complete USA TODAY Sports preseason men's basketball poll

TEAM OUTLOOKS: Analyzing each of the Top 25 teams in the preseason poll

The remaining two No. 1 votes went to Iowa and Duke, ranked No. 6 and 8, respectively. Virginia, the winner of the most recent NCAA tournament in 2019, will open at No. 4, while perennial contender Kansas rounds out the top five.

For the most part, the top 25 is dominated by the power conferences. The Big Ten has the  most representatives with six, headed by the Hawkeyes and No. 7 Wisconsin. That list also includes No. 23 Rutgers, which cracked the top 25 for a week last season but has its first preseason ranking in the USA TODAY poll. 

The Big 12 checks in with five ranked clubs, followed by the ACC with four. The SEC and Pac-12 have three representatives each.

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