Duke back on top; ACC sits 1-2-3 atop final AP Top 25
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Duke has a No. 1 ranking in the AP Top 25 again to go with its top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Blue Devils are back on top followed by Virginia and North Carolina to give the Atlantic Coast Conference a 1-2-3 showing in the final AP Top 25 poll this season.
The Blue Devils (29-5) jumped from fifth to first Monday after winning last week’s league tournament with the return of freshman star Zion Williamson from a knee sprain that had sidelined him nearly six full games. That made Duke the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA Tournament when the field of 68 teams was unveiled Sunday night.
The Cavaliers (29-3) and Tar Heels (27-6) stayed in their positions in what is believed to be the first time a conference has claimed the top three spots in the final AP poll. Both also earned No. 1 seeds to headline their own NCAA regions.
Duke claimed 58 of 64 first-place votes, while Virginia claimed five and No. 4 Gonzaga got the other vote. That gave Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski his eighth No. 1 ranking in the final AP poll, breaking a tie with late UCLA coach John Wooden for the most all-time.
It’s part of a season in which the Blue Devils were regarded as the title favorite much of the way behind Williamson and fellow high-scoring freshman RJ Barrett, and now again that Williamson is healthy to lead Duke’s charge in to the NCAA Tournament.
“Our guys have talked about winning a national championship together for a long time,” associate head coach Jon Scheyer said after the FSU win. “We know it’s here.”
THE TOP 10
Gonzaga, the fourth NCAA 1-seed, fell from No. 1 in last week’s poll after losing to Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference Tournament championship game for its first loss since December.
Big Ten Tournament champion Michigan State moved up a spot to fifth, followed by Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, Texas Tech and Florida State — which upset Virginia in the ACC semifinals to round out the top 10.
The AP voters largely agreed with the NCAA selection committee at the top.
The top four of the poll matched the committee’s overall tournament seeds. Voters had the same teams ranked fifth through eighth, though in a slightly different order than the committee (Tennessee and Michigan State swapped spots from the AP ranking).
Auburn (26-9) made a big jump after winning the Southeastern Conference Tournament, vaulting eight spots to No. 14 after being unranked to start the month of March.
Duke’s four-spot climb was the next biggest jump, while No. 15 Buffalo rose three spots.
In all, 10 teams moved up in the poll.
Nevada took a big tumble, falling six spots to No. 20 after losing to San Diego State in the Mountain West Tournament. Four teams — Gonzaga, Kentucky, No. 12 LSU and No. 18 Kansas State — fell three spots.
Seven teams fell in the final poll.
Six teams stayed in the same positions. Behind Virginia and UNC, the list included No. 11 Houston, No. 13 Purdue, No. 16 Virginia Tech and No. 17 Kansas.
IN AND OUT
No. 24 Iowa State returned to the poll for a third time after winning the Big 12 Tournament title. The Cyclones had been unranked to start the year, but had spent six weeks in the poll and peaked at No. 17.
And while Nevada stumbled in the Mountain West, Utah State claimed the title and now the No. 25 spot. It’s the program’s first AP poll appearance since the final poll in 2011.
Maryland (No. 21) and Marquette (No. 23) fell out of the poll.
The year started with Kansas at No. 1, but Duke spent a national-best eight of a possible 20 polls on top. Gonzaga spent five weeks at No. 1, while Tennessee spent four weeks and the Jayhawks three.
Buffalo and Wofford (No. 19) both earned their first AP rankings this season and appeared in the final poll, with the Bulls joining in the first regular-season poll and staying the rest of the year.
Meanwhile, Auburn and Marquette might have had the wildest swings of the year. The Tigers peaked at No. 7 in December, but slid out for a six-week stint before their late-season return. The Golden Eagles went from unranked in preseason to spending four weeks at No. 10 before falling out with five losses in six games.