Jan. 25, 2010
Kentucky is back in a familiar place, and so is its coach.
The Wildcats, the last unbeaten team in Division I, were a unanimous No. 1 in The Associated Press’ college basketball poll on Monday, their first time on top since the final poll of 2002-03.
Only three schools have been No. 1 more often.
For first-year coach John Calipari, Kentucky is the third school he has taken to No. 1. He led Massachusetts to the top spot in 1994-95 and 1995-96, and Memphis in 2007-08.
The Wildcats (19-0) moved up one spot, replacing Texas (17-2), which was No. 1 for two weeks before losing to Kansas State and Connecticut, both on the road. The Longhorns, who were ranked No. 1 for the first time in school history, dropped to sixth.
Kentucky went into Saturday’s game against Arkansas knowing it could move to No. 1 and the Wildcats responded with a 101-70 rout of the Razorbacks.
“I knew they wanted to be ranked No. 1 and came out and really took it right at Arkansas,” Calipari said Monday. “We are inexperienced and we did play great against Arkansas, but that doesn’t tell you how you’re going to play the next game.”
Kentucky’s first game as the nation’s No. 1 team will be at South Carolina on Tuesday night, and Calipari isn’t sure what to expect.
“They don’t understand that 40-minute thing yet,” he said. “There’s games where they’ll play 20-25 minutes and the other 15-20 minutes the other team beats us. We’ve got to learn it before late February, starting into March, we’ve got to be more consistent.”
This is Kentucky’s 89th week at No. 1, which trails only UCLA (134), Duke (111) and North Carolina (105).
Kansas, the only other No. 1 team this season, Villanova, Syracuse and Michigan State all moved up one place from last week to be second through fifth.
After Texas, Georgetown, Duke, West Virginia and Purdue rounded out the top 10.
North Carolina (12-7), the defending national champion and loser of three straight and four of five, did not receive a vote and dropped out of the poll for the first time since January 2006. The Tar Heels were sixth in the preseason poll.
Clemson, Northern Iowa and Mississippi State also dropped out of the Top 25 while Connecticut, Vanderbilt, New Mexico and UAB, all of whom were ranked earlier this season, moved into the rankings.
Kansas State and BYU led the second 10, with the Cougars’ No. 12 ranking their highest since being 11th in February 1988.
Gonzaga was 13th, followed by Tennessee, Temple, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Mississippi, Connecticut and Ohio State. The last five teams were Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, New Mexico, Baylor and UAB.
Connecticut (13-6) fell out of the rankings for the first time this season last week, having lost three straight games. Huskies coach Jim Calhoun took an indefinite medical leave of absence, and UConn then beat St. John’s and top-ranked Texas.
Vanderbilt (15-3), which was ranked in the second poll of the regular season, returns on a nine-game winning streak, including a 4-0 start in the Southeastern Conference.
New Mexico (18-3) was ranked for four weeks – getting as high as No. 13 – before dropping out the last two weeks. The Lobos return having won four straight and they host Mountain West leader BYU on Wednesday.
UAB (17-2) was ranked for one week last month and fell out following losses to Butler and Virginia. The Blazers are back in the rankings on a six-game winning streak with three of the wins by one point and another by two.
Clemson (15-5) dropped out from 17th following losses last week to Georgia Tech and Duke. Northern Iowa (17-2) entered the rankings last week on a 15-game winning streak, but the Panthers dropped out from 20th after losing to Wichita State and beating Indiana State.
Mississippi State (15-4) was ranked 18th in the preseason poll, lost to Rider to fall out and then returned last week at No. 23. The Bulldogs lost to Alabama in their only game last week.
Two of the nine games between ranked teams this week are top 10 matchups, and Georgetown plays in both. The Hoyas were set to visit Syracuse on Monday night and they host Duke on Saturday.