Kentucky won its two games last week to push its record to 25-0, matching the best start in school history.
The Wildcats’ run has sparked debate about whether they can become Division I’s first undefeated team since Indiana in 1976.
But before Kentucky closes in on that piece of history, another rare achievement is within sight: Wire-to-wire No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25.
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The Wildcats were the preseason No. 1 ahead of the 2014-15 season and were still there on Monday, when they were the unanimous pick for the third consecutive week, receiving all 65 votes from a media panel.
Should Kentucky remain at the top throughout the next five polls, it will become the eighth team to stay at No. 1 all season and first since UNLV in 1991.
It doesn’t figure to be easy. The Wildcats already have had some close calls, including one last week, and still have six regular-season games and the SEC tournament to get through before the final AP poll on March 16.
“You keep taking everybody’s best,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “We’re in a championship fight every time we walk into a building.”
Kentucky’s run nearly came to an end last Tuesday, when LSU rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit and led by six with less than eight minutes left.
As they have all season, the Wildcats pulled it out, holding off the Tigers 71-69 before closing out the week with a rout against South Carolina to earn the unanimous No. 1 pick for the eighth time this season.
Next up for Kentucky is a road game against Tennessee on Tuesday, then a home game on Saturday against Auburn. The Wildcats close out the regular season with road games against Mississippi State and Georgia, with home games against Arkansas and Florida.
If it manages to get through those, Kentucky still has to play in the SEC tournament before the final poll comes out, so there’s still a chance for the Wildcats to get tripped up — particularly with every team gunning to be the one to take them down.
“Every team they play thinks they’re going to be the one to beat Kentucky,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said.
NORTHERN IOWA RISES: Northern Iowa made a name for itself in the 2010 NCAA tournament when it reached the second weekend after knocking off UNLV and Kansas.
The Panthers are making noise this season with a steady rise up the poll.
Coming off victories against Illinois State and Missouri State last week, Northern Iowa (24-2, 13-1 Missouri Valley Conference) climbed two spots in this week’s poll to No. 11 for its highest ranking in program history.
The Panthers have won 13 in a row after making 12 3-pointers in the 68-57 win against Missouri State.
“They stole our energy and stole our spirit,” Missouri State coach Paul Lusk said. “That’s what good teams do.”
Northern Iowa has three games left before facing a season-finale showdown at No. 13 Wichita State.
RISING AND FALLING: The teams in the Top 25 remained the same from last week, but there was plenty of shuffling, including a couple teams in the top 10.
Utah returned to the top 10 this week, moving up two spots to No. 9 after rolling past Stanford and California.
Louisville dropped three spots to No. 12 after losing to North Carolina State on Saturday.
The bottom three teams — West Virginia, Ohio State and VCU — all remained in the poll despite losses.
Arkansas had the biggest jump, up six spots to No. 18, and VCU the biggest fall, down five spots to No. 25.
This article was written by John Marshall from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.