LAWRENCE, Kan.– Kansas could have rested easy after clinching a share of its 13th straight Big 12 title.
Instead, the Jayhawks hit the road to beat Texas on Saturday, clinching the outright championship with two games left in the regular season. And when top-ranked Gonzaga and second-ranked Villanova dropped games last week, it meant the Jayhawks ascended to the top of The Associated Press poll.
So much for taking it easy.
The Jayhawks (26-3) moved up two places to the top spot, receiving 58 first-place votes Monday from the 65-member national media panel . They spent five weeks at No. 1 last season, including the final three polls, but became the sixth No. 1 this season by moving to the top spot for the first time.
“It feels pretty great,” Kansas freshman Josh Jackson said, “but like our coaches told us, we don’t feel like we’ve done anything we weren’t supposed to do.”
Villanova (27-3) remained second and received two first-place votes, despite losing to Butler and beating Creighton last week. The win over the Bluejays allowed the reigning national champions to clinch their fourth straight Big East regular-season championship.
UCLA (26-3) moved up from fifth to third and earned three first-place nods after its win over Arizona on Saturday. It was only the second time in 69 games the Wildcats have lost at the McKale Center.
Gonzaga (29-1) fell to No. 4 after losing its first game of the season, an upset by BYU at home on Saturday. The Zags, who had been No. 1 for the last four polls, still received two first-place votes as they turn their attention to the West Coast Conference Tournament on Saturday.
North Carolina moved from eighth to fifth after clinching a share of the ACC title, while Oregon, Arizona, Louisville, Kentucky and West Virginia rounded out the top 10.
Baylor, which was No. 1 earlier this season, dropped two more spots after losing at Iowa State over the weekend. The Bears were followed by Florida, Butler — up nine spots thanks in part to its victory over Villanova — SMU, Florida State, Purdue, Duke, Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s.
The last five were Wichita State, Wisconsin, Virginia and newcomers Iowa State and Miami.
The Cyclones (19-9), who were ranked for the first six polls of the season, moved back into the Top 25 after their win over the Bears. The Hurricanes (20-8), who were ranked most of last season and reached as high as seventh, moved into the poll after Saturday’s victory over Duke.
Creighton (22-7) dropped out for the first time this season after losses to Providence and Villanova, and Maryland (22-7) tumbled out after losses to Minnesota and Iowa.
Kansas extended the longest current streak in the Top 25, which dates to February 2009, by reaching No. 1 for the 63rd time in school history. That remains the fifth-best mark behind UCLA (134), Duke (129), Kentucky (117) and North Carolina (113).
The Jayhawks’ conference title run matches UCLA’s streak in the Pac-8 in the 1960s and ’70s.
“It has been an unbelievable run,” Kansas coach Bill Self said, “but you can understand why you win 13 (straight titles). There’s been a lot of hard-rocking guys who have played here over that time.”
The other teams to be No. 1 this season were Duke, Kentucky, Villanova, Baylor and Gonzaga. The Jayhawks beat the Blue Devils on a neutral floor in November, topped the Wildcats at Rupp Arena last month and swept the season series from the Bears — a combined 4-0 against former No. 1s.
“Winning never gets old,” Self said. “Losing gets old fast, but winning doesn’t.”
The Jayhawks play Oklahoma in their home finale Monday night, then have a break before visiting Oklahoma State on Saturday to wrap up the regular season. Then, they’ll turn their attention to the Big 12 Tournament and clinching a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament.
There are plenty of high-profile games this week as many conferences wrap up the regular season.
West Virginia visits Baylor and North Carolina heads to Virginia on Monday night, Florida State visits Duke on Tuesday and Iowa State visits the Mountaineers on Friday. The slate on Saturday includes Miami-Florida State, Notre Dame-Louisville and Duke-North Carolina.
There also will be a handful of NCAA Tournament bids handed out as leagues begin to crown their tournament champs. The Ohio Valley title game is Saturday, and the Missouri Valley, Atlantic Sun and Big South will crown their champions Sunday.