Unbeaten Kentucky, Virginia stay 1-2 atop AP Top 25 poll
Kentucky got back to the dominant form it had to start the season, while Virginia stayed with the defensive-minded formula that carried it to last year’s Atlantic Coast Conference championship.
That was good enough to keep both teams unbeaten and comfortably atop the AP Top 25.
For the second straight week, Kentucky was No. 1 in 63 of 65 votes cast Monday, while Virginia stayed at No. 2. The Wildcats (17-0) have been No. 1 in every poll and were the unanimous choice for five straight weeks before two voters switched to the Cavaliers (17-0) last week.
Those defections came after the Wildcats survived two overtime games against unranked Southeastern Conference opponents, but Kentucky beat Missouri and Alabama by a combined 71 points – with coach John Calipari saying the 86-37 win against the Tigers was needed to help his team ”get our swag back a little bit.”
As for Virginia, the Cavaliers controlled the second half for double-digit wins against Clemson and Boston College.
”We had a good stretch last year and I think we realized how together we had to play to be our best,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. ”And I think our guys understand that this year, when they’re really playing together and are sound and tough defensively and putting in the right kind of effort … that’s our way to be successful.”
Gonzaga remained in third, while Villanova swapped places with Duke. The Blue Devils fell from fourth to fifth after a loss to Miami that ended a 41-game home winning streak, followed by a one-sided win at Louisville.
RISING AND FALLING: Notre Dame has its best start in more than three decades. Now, the No. 8 Fighting Irish are back in the top 10 after the week’s biggest climb.
Notre Dame (17-2) jumped four spots from No. 12, earning the program’s first top-10 appearance since January 2011. The Irish are off to their best start since going 17-2 in the 1978-79 season.
No. 7 Arizona, No. 17 Texas and No. 20 Northern Iowa all moved up three spots.
On the other hand, No. 10 Louisville and No. 12 Utah each slipped down four spots for the week’s biggest fall. The Cardinals (15-3) lost at home to Duke, while Utah (14-3) lost to Arizona.
STATE PRIDE: For the first time, the Hawkeye State has a trio of ranked teams.
No. 25 Iowa (13-5) entered the poll for the first time this season, joining No. 9 Iowa State (13-3) and No. 20 Northern Iowa (16-2). Drake is the only other Division I program in Iowa.
”I think it’s great, mostly because we’re one of the three,” Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said Monday.
”When teams are playing at a high level, in this case having teams that are ranked in the top 25, all that does is increase the enthusiasm for the young kids in the state and the high school kids that enjoy playing basketball,” he said.
THE NEWCOMERS: No. 22 Dayton and No. 23 Indiana also entered the poll for the first time this season.
The Flyers (15-2) were ranked No. 25 for a week in December 2013. The Hoosiers (14-4) returned to the rankings for the first time since finishing fourth in the final 2012-13 poll.
FAREWELL FOR NOW: Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Wyoming dropped out of the poll. Both Arkansas and Oklahoma State went 0-2 last week, while Wyoming – which was ranked for the first time since 1988 – lost at home to San Diego State.
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