Nov. 29, 2010
There’s no arguing Duke is No. 1 in The Associated Press college basketball poll and no doubt that Connecticut has moved into the Top 25.
The Blue Devils (6-0) received all 65 first-place votes from the national media panel Monday, and the Huskies (5-0) made the second-most impressive jump into the rankings in the last 21 years, moving in at No. 7.
Duke was No. 1 on all but seven ballots last week but Michigan State, which got six No. 1 votes, and Kansas State, which had the other, both lost – the latter to the Blue Devils as they won the CBE Classic.
The wins over Marquette, Kansas State and Oregon made the Blue Devils the first unanimous No. 1 since Kentucky did it for one week last season.
Connecticut beat then-No. 2 Michigan State and then-No. 8 Kentucky on the way to winning the Maui Invitational. Since the poll expanded to 25 teams in 1989, the only more impressive entrance was Kansas’ jump to No. 4 after beating No. 2 LSU, No. 1 UNLV and No. 25 St. John’s on the way to winning the 1989 Preseason NIT.
“It’s tough to imagine something like that even though everybody says they don’t pay attention to the polls,” Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said before Monday’s practice. “It’s nice to be there at this point of the season but I always tell my teams `Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.”‘
Taking a team with five freshmen in its rotation to play in a tournament such as the Maui Invitational is a dicey proposition because you could come out with one win or maybe with an 0-3 record.
“I was very worried,” Calhoun said. “In life you have to be bold enough to try. We did and we succeeded. I would have been happy with terrific effort to show we were equal to the task. We could have lost the first two games we played, then we were great against Kentucky. The only way to grow is to face teams early like we’ll see throughout the season.”
The Huskies were ranked for the first 10 weeks last season as well as in one other poll. They dropped out for good on Feb. 1 and didn’t make the NCAA tournament.
“The No. 1 thing for this team now is that tomorrow is one of the biggest games of the season,” Calhoun said of the home game against New Hampshire. “We have to validate what people think of us, it’s quite that simple. I will remind them we were down three at the half to Vermont before we went to Maui. We have to keep getting better and we all have to be tuned in to that.”
UNLV (6-0), which won the 76 Classic, and Notre Dame (7-0), which won the Old Spice Classic, were this week’s other newcomers to the poll at No. 24 and 25. Both were ranked last season.
Temple, Gonzaga and North Carolina dropped out of the rankings.
A lot of movement was expected in the poll after half of the top 10 lost a game last week, while three other ranked teams lost, including Washington and Temple each dropping two games.
Ohio State moved up one spot to second and Pittsburgh and Kansas both moved up two places to third and fourth.
Kansas State, which lost to Duke in the CBE Classic final, dropped one place to fifth, while Michigan State, which lost to Connecticut in the semifinals at Maui, fell four spots to sixth.
Connecticut, Syracuse, Missouri and Kentucky rounded out the top 10.
Baylor moved up one place to 11th and was followed by Villanova, Tennessee, Memphis, Minnesota, Georgetown, San Diego State, Florida, Texas and Illinois.
The last five ranked teams were BYU, Purdue, Washington, UNLV and Notre Dame.
Temple (3-2) fell out from 21st after losing to California and Texas A&M at the Old Spice Classic. Gonzaga (3-2) was 22nd but the Zags lost to Kansas State in the CBE Classic semifinals. North Carolina (4-2), which dropped from No. 8 to 25th in the previous poll after two early losses, fell from the rankings despite beating UNC Asheville and College of Charleston last week.
Tennessee, which won the NIT Season Tip-Off by beating Villanova in the championship game, had the biggest jump in the poll, moving from 24th to No. 13. The biggest drop was Purdue’s fall from 10th to No. 22 following a 65-54 loss to Richmond. Washington, which lost to Kentucky and Michigan State at Maui, dropped 10 places to 23rd.
There are only two matchups between ranked teams this week. Georgetown meets Missouri at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., on Tuesday, and Michigan State is at Duke on Wednesday, a game that would have been a 1-2 matchup until this week.