Indiana No. 1 in preseason NCAA men's basketball poll

Cody Zeller #40 of the Indiana Hoosiers dunks the ball in the first half against New Mexico State Aggies in the second round of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Rose Garden Arena on March 15, 2012, in Portland, Oregon.
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You can't teach height -- or at least that's the old adage about the invaluable place big men hold on the basketball court.

For the Indiana men's basketball team, it also helps that 7-foot, 240-pound sophomore Cody Zeller is athletic, aggressive and smart.

Zeller helped propel the Hoosiers to the top of the year's first USA Today-ESPN preseason poll. Indiana beat out the reigning champions - the Kentucky Wildcats, who start the preseason ranked third - by getting 21 out of 31 possible first-place votes. Indiana finished last season ranked 13th.

Rounding out the top 5 are Louisville in second place, Ohio State in fourth, and Michigan in fifth.

Men's college basketball teams often live and die by their stars, and all indications are that Zeller is in line for a huge year if he stays healthy. writes: "Offseason intel on Zeller indicates that he's been extending his offensive game, taking mid- and even long-range jumpers that should stretch defenses and keep him from being double-teamed too often on the low's worth acknowledging how good Zeller was even without the jump-shot option as a freshman.

The USA Today-ESPN preseason top 25, with first-place votes in parentheses:

1. Indiana (21)

2. Louisville (5)

3. Kentucky (5)

4. Ohio State

5. Michigan

6. N.C. State

7. Kansas

8. Duke

9. Syracuse

0. Florida

11. Arizona

12. North Carolina

13. UCLA

14. Michigan State

15. Creighton

16. Memphis

17. Missouri

18. Baylor

19. UNLV

20. San Diego State

21. Wisconsin

22. Gonzaga

23. Notre Dame

24. (tie)Florida State

24. (tie)Texas