Kentucky is the unanimous No. 1 in The Associated Press’ Top 25 for the second consecutive week.
No shock there. The Wildcats are the only undefeated Division I team left in college basketball.
The surprise, at least maybe to outsiders, comes in the rest of the top 10. It contains the same 10 teams from a week ago despite four of them losing, including two to unranked opponents.
“To me, at least to this point, there are about 12-13 teams that are worthy of a top 10 ranking,” said poll voter Doug Haller, of the Arizona Republic. “So for the most part, I try not to overreact to their losses.”
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Kentucky (23-0) received all 65 first-place votes from a media panel on Monday, continuing its season-long run at the top.
Virginia leapfrogged Gonzaga back into the No. 2 slot after beating No. 12 North Carolina and No. 9 Louisville. Duke remained at No. 4 and Wisconsin held steady at No. 5, followed by Villanova, which moved up one place.
Those teams all won, so the only surprise would have been if they had dropped spots.
The next four teams all lost, yet gave up little ground in the poll, if any.
Arizona lost on Saturday to unranked Arizona State, a team that will likely have to make a strong late-season push to earn an NCAA tournament berth.
The Wildcats already had one surprising Pac-12 loss, to Oregon State last month, but it didn’t hurt them much in the poll.
Arizona (20-3) fell one spot to No. 7 after the loss to the Sun Devils, with a high ranking of fifth on one ballot and a low of 13th.
Kansas (19-4) also kept its position at No. 8 despite losing to unranked Oklahoma State, with a high of seventh and low of 11th on one ballot.
The common theme was that both teams lost on the road.
Arizona rolled Arizona State earlier this season, but rivalry games on the road are always tough and the Wildcats lost by just three.
Oklahoma State was unranked when it faced Kansas, but the Cowboys were in the poll earlier this season and moved back in at No. 21 after the 67-62 win in Stillwater.
“I don’t penalize teams for losing road games in conference play, unless it is just a terrible, terrible loss,” said poll voter Ron Morris, of The State in Columbia, South Carolina. “I kept my top 13 intact because I believe those are the top 13 teams, and nothing that happened last week changed my mind.”
Louisville (19-4) remained at No. 9 despite losing to Virginia, but the Cardinals kept it close in a hard-fought game against the nation’s No. 3 team (at the time).
Notre Dame (21-4) also lost to a top-five team, though was never in it, routed from the start of a 30-point loss to Duke. But that loss also was on the road and came less than two weeks after the Irish beat the Blue Devils at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame, which also beat Boston College last week, had a high ranking of No. 7 on ballot with a low of 18th.
“Yes, Notre Dame may have lost by 30 at Duke, but the Irish just beat Duke 10 days ago,” Haller said. “Did they get worse over that stretch or did they simply have a bad day at one of the toughest venues in college basketball?”
Unless some of the top teams start losing more games, the upper part of the poll isn’t likely to change much.
Teams such as Utah — in the top 10 earlier this season — Northern Iowa or Wichita State could make a late push, but with a month left in the season, the body of work is thick enough that voters know where teams stand.
“I think there is a clear divide between the top teams and the next set of teams,” said voter B.J. Rains, of the Idaho Statesman.
“Those top teams are losing to other good teams for the most part, which is why the rankings haven’t changed much. When so many teams lose — and especially when they are to other quality teams — it’s hard to move teams ranked 15th up to fifth or something like that.”
RISING AND FALLING
The biggest climbs of the week were by Oklahoma and Butler, each jumping four spots.
The Sooners beat West Virginia and TCU to reach No. 17, while the Bulldogs were up to No. 18 after rolling past St. John’s and DePaul.
West Virginia had the biggest tumble in the poll — at least among teams still in it — falling six places to No. 21 following losses to Oklahoma and No. 16 Baylor
IN AND OUT
Oklahoma State was back in the poll at No. 21 following wins against Kansas and Texas, which were both ranked at the time. Arkansas returned to the poll at No. 24 after dropping out three weeks ago.
Georgetown fell out of the poll from No. 24 following losses to Providence and Villanova.
Texas dropped out from No. 25 after losing to Oklahoma State and beating Kansas State.
This article was written by John Marshall from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.