Kentucky stays No. 1 in 1st regular-season AP poll
The first regular-season college basketball poll did not look a whole lot different than The Associated Press preseason Top 25: A few teams swapped places, and the one that lost dropped out.
Pretty standard stuff when nearly every ranked squad goes undefeated through a first weekend typically filled with easy non-conference games.
But within the poll were a few subtle jabs at programs that didn’t quite live up to preseason expectations.
Top-ranked Kentucky (2-0) was one.
The Wildcats entered the season with plenty of hype, their talented roster filled with so many McDonald’s All-Americans that coach John Calipari is using a platoon system to ensure they all get equal playing time.
Kentucky lived up to expectations, at least on paper, by winning its first two games by a combined 59 points. The Wildcats were the runaway pick for No. 1 in the first regular-season poll, earning 49 first-place votes from a 64-member national media panel Monday.
In one of those games, though, Kentucky didn’t look quite as unbeatable as everyone predicted.
After blowing out Grand Canyon in their opener, the Wildcats were out of sorts in the first half of a home game against Buffalo on Sunday, trailing the Bulls by five at halftime.
Kentucky went on to win 71-52, but that so-so first half may have contributed to the Wildcats losing three first-place votes from a preseason poll that had 65 voters.
”It was good for someone to come out and finally hit us in the mouth and show what we were about,” Kentucky guard Tyler Ulis said.
Arizona (2-0) suffered its shaky moment in Friday’s opener.
Playing nervous under the weight of lofty expectations, the Wildcats had a hard time separating from Mount St. Mary’s for most of the first half before turning the game into a rout with a quick-hitting run just before halftime.
Arizona went on to crush Cal State Northridge at home two days later, but the sluggish start against Mount St. Mary’s may have cost the Wildcats a first-place vote.
”We played well for stretches and there were times when we didn’t, which is expected in your first game,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said.
Farther down the rankings, Michigan State lost a spot to Oklahoma, dropping from No. 18 to 19.
It could have been more the way the Spartans (1-0) struggled against Navy.
Despite having a height advantage and supposedly big edge in talent, Michigan State struggled to put away the Midshipmen, blowing nearly all of a 13-point second-half lead before winning 64-59.
The Spartans are dealing with some injury issues, but that’s not quite the start everyone, including them, expected.
”We just weren’t very good as a team, and they were,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
While some teams in the poll had issues. No. 4 Duke (2-0) did what good teams do, blowing out a pair of overmatched opponents.
Showing off their depth and the talent of that heralded freshman class, the Blue Devils stomped Presbyterian 113-44, then did the same thing to Fairfield (109-59) two days later.
Duke had no first-place votes in the preseason poll, but picked up four in the first regular-season Top 25.
Coming off wins in the NCAA tournament two straight years, Harvard was ranked in the AP preseason poll for the first time, the first Ivy League school to get a preseason nod in four decades.
The Crimson’s run didn’t last long.
Unable to handle Holy Cross’ full-court press, Harvard (1-1) had 24 turnovers – nine by point guard Siyani Chambers – to open the season with a disappointing 58-57 loss to the Crusaders.
The Crimson dropped out of the poll from No. 25 and didn’t receive a single vote from the panel.