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Andy Wittry | | December 27, 2021

8 men's college basketball programs that have surprisingly never been ranked No. 1

SEC and Big East are the top two conferences early on

With Purdue's crowning on Monday, Dec. 6, as the No. 1 men's basketball team in the AP poll for the first time ever, 60 Division I men's college basketball programs have been ranked No. 1 in the AP poll's history. The AP poll having started in the sport in the 1948-49 season. Put in another context, if you tried to fill out a 68-team NCAA tournament bracket with only schools that have been ranked No. 1 in the country at some point, ever, you'd still be eight schools short.

That means some of the strongest programs in the sport, including some schools that have won a national championship, have surprisingly never been ranked No. 1.

Here are the eight men's basketball programs that have spent the most weeks in the AP poll without ever reaching No. 1. The data used in this story comes from College Poll Archive.


Total appearances: 433 weeks
Highest ranking: No. 2

Get this: Maryland has won a men's basketball national title, in 2002, and finished in the top 10 of the AP poll on eight occasions, yet the Terrapins have never been ranked No. 1. Under former coach Lefty Driesell, the Terps reached No. 2 in the AP poll four seasons in a row, from 1973 to 1976, and they also reached the No. 2 ranking in two seasons under Gary Williams and once under Mark Turgeon, but the top spot still eludes them.

In total, that's 26 weeks ranked No. 2 in program history, including eight consecutive weeks during the 1976 season.

Maryland ranks 14th nationally in terms of total appearances in the AP poll — one spot behind Cincinnati and one spot ahead of Ohio State.


Total appearances: 239 weeks
Highest ranking: No. 2

Like Maryland, Utah is among the group of schools that has won a national championship, yet never been ranked No. 1 in the AP poll. The Utes won the 1944 national championship (the men's basketball AP poll didn't start until the 1949 season), they played for another national title in 1998 and they also played in the national semifinals in 1961 and 1966.

Utah's best ranking and best-ever NCAA tournament seed are capped at No. 2, up to this point in program history.

Utah first reached No. 2 in the AP poll in the 1955 season after defeating then-No. 1 La Salle to improve to 5-0 on the season, as the Utes jumped from No. 15 in the AP poll to No. 2. However, Kentucky was voted No. 1 instead of Utah and it was the Wildcats that defeated the Utes in their very next game, 70-65.

The only other time Utah reached No. 2 was during the 1997 season, when it received a No. 2 seed for the first time. The Utes were ranked in the top 10 the entire season but they didn't reach No. 2 until the final poll before the NCAA tournament, after Utah won the WAC tournament to improve to 26-3.

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Total appearances: 236 weeks
Highest ranking: No. 2

Minnesota has only made the NCAA tournament 14 times in program history — about 3.5 times per decade, on average, over the last 40 years — but the Gophers have still had a few very strong teams. They earned a No. 1 seed in 1997, when they made the Final Four, and they received a No. 2 seed in 1982.

Minnesota has had six different seasons in which the Gophers' AP poll ranking peaked in the top five — and those seasons came under five different coaches — but they're still searching for their first-ever No. 1 ranking.

Stephen Lew | USA Today Sports LSU has never been ranked No. 1.


Total appearances: 215 weeks
Highest ranking: No. 2

While LSU is still looking for its first men's basketball national championship, the Tigers have twice earned a No. 1 seed, in back-to-back seasons in 1980 and 1981, and they've played in the national semifinals four times.

But they've never been ranked No. 1.

The Tigers reached No. 2 in the 1981 and 1990 seasons. In the former, they were ranked in the AP poll all season long, starting at No. 12, falling to No. 15, then peaking at No. 2 for one week in the final poll in February.

The only other time LSU was ranked No. 2 was in the 1989-90 preseason poll, so it was a ranking based on expectations, not results. The Tigers lost their second game of the season to Kansas, so while LSU was ranked all season in 1990, they spent most of the season ranked outside of the top 10.


Total appearances: 204 weeks
Highest ranking: No. 2

Vanderbilt hasn't been ranked since the 2016 season and in the last two decades, the Commodores' AP ranking, when they have been ranked, has often peaked in the teens. The one time when they climbed to No. 2 in the AP poll was in the 1966 season under coach Roy Skinner, when they reached No. 2 in the final AP poll of the 1965 calendar year following a 7-0 start to the season, with wins over Tennessee, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Army, Western Kentucky, UC Santa Barbara and Northwestern.

Southern California

Total appearances: 187 weeks
Highest ranking: No. 2

Southern California has often endured AP poll droughts in its men's basketball program's history — from 1956 to 1959, from '64 to '69, from '80 to '91, from '93 to '99 and from 2010 to 2015 — but the Trojans have still played in the national semifinals twice (1940 and 1954) and they peaked in the top 10 of the AP poll five times in a six-season span under former coach Bob Boyd in the 1970s.

Florida State

Total appearances: 184 weeks
Highest ranking: No. 2

Florida State played for a national title in 1972 and the next season, it started at No. 2 in the preseason AP poll, which is the program's best-ever ranking. Florida State held that ranking for the first three polls to start the season, but a 4-3 record caused the team to drop in the poll.

Under coach Leonard Hamilton, Florida State peaked at No. 4 in the AP poll in the 2020 season, when it finished atop the ACC regular-season standings, and it peaked at No. 6 in 2017 and No. 9 in 2019, so the program arguably has as good of a chance of reaching No. 1 under Hamilton as it does under any other coach in school history.


Total appearances: 179 weeks
Highest ranking: No. 3

Xavier earned its first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament in 2018 and the Musketeers have made the Elite Eight three times in school history, but during their rise over the last 40 years, they've never been ranked No. 1.

Xavier's best ranking of No. 3 came during the 2018 season, when it started the season ranked No. 17 in the preseason poll before spending the final three polls of the season at No. 3. The Musketeers entered Selection Sunday with a 28-5 record that season.

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