Houston and Kansas remained firmly at the top of The Associated Press’ college basketball poll after a record weekend of top-25 losses, while Florida Atlantic used the chaos to crack the rankings for the first time in school history.
Eleven teams in the top 25 went down on Saturday, setting a record that has stood for almost 12 years, while Connecticut and Marquette also lost on Sunday to give the AP poll one of the biggest shakes in recent history.
The struggling Cougars, who had to face South Florida to avoid their own loss, watched as their lead over the Jayhawks dwindled a bit, earning 34 out of 60 votes for first place from a national media panel. Kansas received 23 votes to stay second, while Purdue picked up the remaining three to stay third.
Alabama stayed in 4th while UCLA jumped up two spots on a 13-game winning streak to round out the top 5.
“We’ve dodged so many bullets this year in terms of injuries. Sometimes you just have to be lucky,” said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson. “I thought we were lucky (against South Florida). We could have lost this game.”
Many other teams weren’t so lucky.
Tennessee fell four spots to No. 9 after losing to Kentucky; UConn fell from sixth to 15th after losing to Marquette and St. John’s, giving the Huskies four losses in their last five games; Arizona fell two to 11th after losing to Oregon and Kansas State fell two to 13th after losing to TCU; Arkansas fell 10 places to 25th after losses to Alabama and Vanderbilt; and Missouri and Wisconsin were eliminated altogether after losing twice each last week.
Kansas had perhaps its most impressive week, beating Oklahoma on Tuesday before squeaking against Iowa State 62-60 on Saturday — though the Cyclones were notable enough in the loss that they actually climbed two spots to No. 12 in the poll.
“We can play better, but it’s been a great week,” said Jayhawks coach Bill Self. “I don’t mean to say that wrong, but people would play Kansas because of the time, and then you add a national championship, I mean, it’s a big game for people. Big games for us too. Sometimes I think we see it this way, “Well, we should do better than that,” which is true in some cases, but sometimes we get some pretty good efforts from other opponents.
“Being able to win those games,” said Self, “is a sign of a pretty decent team, in my opinion.”
Gonzaga climbed to sixth place in Monday’s poll, followed by Texas, Xavier, Tennessee and Virginia. Arizona finished 11th, with the Cyclones ahead of Big 12 rivals Kansas State and TCU. UConn, Auburn, Miami, Charleston, Clemson and Marquette made the top 20. The bottom five were Baylor, Providence, Rutgers, FAU and Arkansas.
FAU, which had only one NCAA tournament appearance in three decades of Division I, continued its rise under Dusty May, a former Bob Knight student manager who also worked for Mike White in Florida.
“This group is very balanced,” May said of his Owls winning straight after an early loss to Ole Miss 15. “Even when there is friction, they stay together and love and support each other. That is a sign of a really good team.”
RISING AND FALLING
Xavier climbed four spots to 8th after extending his winning streak to 11 games, Charleston also moved up four spots to 18th after his 17-game winning streak, while Marquette climbed five spots despite his narrow loss to the Musketeers.
Arkansas fell the most, falling 10 places to 25th, while UConn fell nine to 15th.
IN AND OUT
Clemson debuted at number 19 after coach Brad Brownell picked up his 400th win and the Tigers improved on their best start in ACC play in school history (7-0) with a 72-64 win over Duke on Saturday. Baylor, Rutgers and FAU also participated in the election at the expense of San Diego State, Wisconsin, Missouri and the Blue Devils.
“If you want to be good, you have to have a superpower,” Brownell said. “Maybe it’s defense, shooting, rebounds – you know, hopefully it’s multiple things to be really good. I think our superpower is our camaraderie. The unity, sincere care and love for each other is clearly felt. I think that’s why we win.”
WAITING IN THE WINGS
North Carolina State and Saint Mary’s are the first teams to finish outside the top 25, while North Carolina State nearly made the election after victories over Virginia Tech and Miami from the zero votes a week ago.