Considered one of the early favorites to earn a berth in the NCAA Final Four, Villanova came in at No. 3 in the Associated Press men’s college basketball preseason Top 25 poll released Monday.
The Wildcats, who have almost everyone back from the team that finished 24-7 last season and earned a share of the Big East regular-season championship, received 11 first-place votes from a media panel.
They were topped in the poll only by No. 1 Gonzaga, which amassed 28 first-place votes, and No. 2 Baylor, which netted 24 and finished one point behind the Zags in the overall balloting. Fourth-ranked Virginia picked up the one remaining first-place vote from the 64-member panel.
Rutgers, which posted its first winning record in 14 years last season, came in at No. 24 in the preseason poll. It marks the first time the Scarlet Knights have been ranked in the preseason since 1978.
It was announced Monday that Villanova will play its season opener in the first game of the 2K Empire Classic on Nov. 25, taking on Boston College at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The second game pits Baylor against No. 18 Arizona State, meaning an early-season showdown between the Bears and 'Nova could happen Nov. 26.
The Wildcats also will play at Texas on Dec. 6 in the Big 12-Big East Battle. That is the last part of the 10-game early phase of the schedule when 'Nova will take on four Big East opponents, play a pair of Big 5 games against St. Joseph’s and Temple, and meet Virginia on Dec. 19 at Madison Square Garden.
Iowa came in at No. 5 in the poll with Kansas, the No. 1 team in last season’s final poll, ranked sixth. Wisconsin, Illinois, Duke, and Kentucky make up the rest of the top 10. Creighton is ranked 11th, the only other Big East team besides Villanova in the top 25.