Unranked in the Associated Press preseason poll a year ago, Kansas University's men's basketball team opens the 2006-07 season the No. 3-rated team in the land.
"This puts a lot of pressure on us now. Being ranked so high, I think we'll be the hunted," KU sophomore Brandon Rush said Monday after learning Florida was tapped No. 1, North Carolina No. 2 and the Jayhawks No. 3.
"Last year nobody expected much of us. Everybody is expecting so much from us now. Everybody probably has us circled on their schedule. I think it'll be pretty good," Rush added.
Florida received 63 first-place votes and 1,788 points from the 72-member media panel. The Tar Heels notched the other nine first-place votes and 1,704 points.
KU tallied 1,636 points, compared to No. 4 Pittsburgh's 1,407.
LSU was fifth, followed by UCLA, Ohio State, Georgetown, Wisconsin and Arizona. Texas A&M; was ranked 13th and Texas 21st. Oklahoma State and Kansas State were the other Big 12 teams to receive votes.
"I think it's a great ranking for us," sophomore guard Mario Chalmers said. "We've got to keep coming out and playing hard, not let it get to our heads and stay focused on the season."
KU coach Bill Self, whose squad also was ranked No. 3 in the USA Today/ESPN preseason poll, also took the news of the AP ranking in stride.
"Based on what I've seen it's been Florida, Carolina and us," Self said. "I don't know if we're quite ready to play to that ranking yet. I think we're gaining on it. I think I'd rather be ranked up there than not be up there. I think it's good."
Better than last year when KU was unrecognized nationally.
"I think it's going to be a cyclical deal," Self said of teams being ranked high one year and low the next. "You are going to play with freshmen a lot every three years now. If you really have a talented group, in the past you were playing with freshmen every five years.
"If you have a group that comes through (leaving for NBA) there will be more opportunities for young players to play, but also the lack of experience will keep teams from becoming very good teams until they had a chance to get some experience."
Poll notes: Former KU guard Mark Turgeon's Wichita State Shockers were ranked No. 26. ... Defending national champion Florida will meet KU on Nov. 25 in Las Vegas. "We appreciate and respect that people think this highly of our basketball team," Gators coach Billy Donovan told the AP. "That being said, this ranking has everything to do with what we were able to accomplish last year and nothing to do with this year." ... The last preseason No. 1 to win the national championship was UConn in 2004, and before that Kentucky in 1996. ... George Mason, the first mid-major to reach the Final Four, received one point, a single 25th-place vote. ... Duke is ranked 12th for its 186th consecutive poll appearance, the second-longest streak of all time. UCLA was ranked in 221 consecutive polls from 1966 to 1980. UConn has the second-longest current streak at 59 weeks, a run that started with the final poll of 2002-03. ... Texas A&M; is ranked for the first time since Dec. 30, 1980.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report