Duke is back on top of The Associated Press’ college basketball poll for the first time in just over a month. St. John’s is back in the Top 25 for the first time in over a decade.
The Blue Devils (25-2) jumped from fifth to No. 1 on Monday after a week that saw the top four teams in the poll all lose. The move to the top is the biggest since Kansas went from sixth to No. 1 in November 2003, the last time the top four all lost in the same week.
Duke, which was No. 1 in the preseason poll and for the first eight weeks of the regular season, received 35 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel.
Five other teams received first-place votes this week, another indication of the parity this season.
The only change near the bottom of the rankings was that St. John’s (17-9), which beat a top 10 team for the fourth time this season with a win against Pittsburgh on Saturday, moved in at No. 23. The Red Storm were last ranked in November 2000.
Ohio State stayed No. 2 with 10 first-place votes, while Kansas dropped from No. 1 to third with five first-place votes.
Pittsburgh, No. 1 on 12 ballots, stayed fourth and Texas, which got one first-place vote, fell two spots to fifth.
San Diego State, BYU, which had two first-place votes, Purdue, Notre Dame and Arizona rounded out the top 10.
Ohio State followed Duke to No. 1 holding the top spot for four weeks before Kansas took over for one week.
Besides St. John’s win against Pittsburgh, Kansas lost to Kansas State, Ohio State lost to Purdue and Texas lost to Nebraska in the week it wasn’t safe to be at the top of the rankings.
In November 2003, No. 1 Connecticut, No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Michigan State and No. 4 Arizona all lost, setting the stage for Kansas’ big jump.
St. John’s replaced Utah State, which dropped out despite winning two games last week.
Steve Lavin left the broadcast booth in April to take over the St. John’s program and he inherited a team with 10 seniors, all of whom had never been in the NCAA tournament or the Top 25.
After the Pittsburgh win, Justin Burrell, one of the seniors, was confident the Red Storm would move into the poll.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “It’s been a long four years without that number. We deserve to see that number.”
Lavin was happy for his veteran team.
“I think it’s a benchmark of achievement for the senior class and naturally it will be helpful in recruiting with the national exposure,” the former UCLA coach said. “It is empirical evidence that their hard work is paying off.”
Lavin said you try not to have “emotional peaks and valleys and you are always concerned and mindful of complacency. But with this group, with an outstanding work ethic, focus and resolve to finish their careers on a high note.”
The Red Storm’s strength of schedule is another sign of what this team has been able to achieve with five wins against ranked teams, four in the Big East and another against Duke.
“I think it’s an interesting thing that they forged through such a challenging schedule,” Lavin said. “We played eight consecutive games against ranked teams, made three trips to the West Coast. It’s takes pressure, heat and time to make a diamond. It shows how together this group is.”
Georgetown was 11th followed by Wisconsin, Florida, Connecticut, Villanova, Louisville, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, North Carolina and Missouri.
The last five ranked teams were Texas A&M, Kentucky, St. John’s, Temple and Xavier.
St. John’s gives the Big East eight ranked teams, four more than Big 12 and five more than the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference.