The Wildcats, who finished last season with an NIT opening-round loss at Robert Morris, received 27 first-place votes and 1,546 points from the 65-member national media panel.
The Spartans, who return four starters from the team that lost to Duke in the NCAA tournament's round of 16, snared 22 first-place votes and 1,543 points.
The last preseason No. 1 not to be ranked in the final poll of the previous season was Indiana in 1979-80.
The last five ranked teams were Notre Dame, UCLA, New Mexico, Virginia and Baylor.
This is Kentucky's third preseason No. 1 and first since 1995-96 when the Wildcats won the national championship. The other preseason No. 1 was in 1980-81. Kentucky was ranked for just one week in the final 16 polls of last season but coach John Calipari enters this season with a roster featuring two returnees -- Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein -- and six freshmen who were selected McDonalds All-Americans last season.
Indiana was the preseason No. 1 last season and the Hoosiers were fourth in the final poll.
Gonzaga was No. 1 in the final poll last season and 18 teams in that final poll were in the preseason Top 25.
The Atlantic Coast Conference had the most teams in the preseason Top 25 with five and the Big Ten had four. The new American Athletic Conference, the Big 12 and Pac 12 all had three ranked teams.