Northwestern among 4 newcomers to AP Top 25
AP Basketball Writer
It usually isn’t big news when a team from the Big Ten moves into The Associated Press’ college basketball poll. It is when that team is Northwestern.
The Wildcats moved into the poll on Monday at No. 25, their first appearance in the rankings since January 1969, when it was still just a Top 20.
With Kansas again a runaway No. 1, as it has been since the preseason poll, the top eight teams remained the same for the third straight week.
The Jayhawks (11-0), who beat California 84-69 in their only game last week, received 52 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel.
Texas (11-0), which beat Michigan State 79-68 last week for its second straight win over a top 10 team, was No. 1 on 11 ballots and remained second, while Kentucky (13-0) had one first-place vote and was third.
Purdue (11-0) was fourth, followed by Syracuse (12-0) – which had the other first-place vote – West Virginia (10-0), Duke and Villanova.
North Carolina and Connecticut both moved up a spot to round out the top 10.
Northwestern (10-1) has won nine straight games since a loss to Butler. The Wildcats, the only team from a BCS conference to never play in the NCAA tournament, were ranked for three weeks during the 1968-69 season. They made the poll only two other times: for one week in 1954-55; and seven weeks in 1958-59.
The Wildcats are off to a strong start despite losing two key seniors, Kevin Coble and Jeff Ryan, for the season due to injuries.
“It just shows that our team is very mature. Everyone stepped up, we came together,” said Michael Thompson, a 5-foot-10 junior guard who had a career-high 31 points last month against Tennessee State. “We’re just working hard and having fun doing it.”
Coach Bill Carmody downplayed the ranking as did senior guard Jeremy Nash. Both were more concerned with this week’s Big Ten opener at Illinois.
“I never doubted us, but you never let the talking get to your head,” Nash said. “You don’t think about if we’re going to be ranked or not, you just go out and try to win the next game.”
Three other teams moved into the rankings this week. No. 22 Florida State (11-2) and No. 23 Wisconsin (10-2) were both ranked for one week earlier this season. UAB (11-1) moved in at No. 24, the Blazers’ first ranking since the final poll of 2005-06.
Butler, which lost to UAB last week, dropped out from No. 20. The Bulldogs (8-4) were 11th in the preseason poll and were ranked in the six previous regular-season polls. The other teams to fall out were all ranked for the last four weeks: No. 18 Florida (8-3), No. 19 Texas A&M (9-3) and No. 25 Gonzaga (8-3) all moved into the Top 25 four weeks ago.
Michigan State fell two spots to 11th and was followed by Kansas State, Georgetown, Tennessee, Ohio State, Mississippi, Washington, Temple, New Mexico and Texas Tech.
The bottom five ranked teams were Clemson, Florida State, Wisconsin, UAB and Northwestern.
New Mexico (12-1) had the week’s biggest fall, dropping six places to 19th after a 75-66 loss at Oral Roberts.
The addition of Wisconsin and Northwestern gives the Big Ten five ranked teams, tying the Big East for most in the Top 25. The Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conference both have four.
There are six games between ranked teams this week with the headliner Friday’s matchup between Purdue and West Virginia, two of the six remaining unbeaten teams in Division I.