Make some space, Phi Slama Jama. Another Houston team has reached the pinnacle of men’s college basketball.
Nearly four decades after Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon led the Cougars to No. 1, the latter group led by Marcus Sasser and freshman star Jarace Walker was ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25 on Monday. They received 45 of 63 first-place votes from the national media panel, easily beating out second-place Texas and third-place Virginia.
“It’s not like we go online and ask for it and wait for a response. We’ve been working for it,” said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, whose team is coming off a Final Four trip and Elite Eight the last two seasons. “But remember, it’s a rental. You don’t own it. You’re just renting it because someday someone else will be No. 1.”
North Carolina had been No. 1 all season, but the Tar Heels lost to Iowa State and in a four-overtime thriller to Alabama in the Phil Knight Invitational to drop the top spot to Houston, which beat Kent State in their only game last week. .
The last time the Cougars rose to No. 1 was the final poll of the 1982-83 season, when “The Glide” and “The Dream” along with coach Guy Lewis were favorites to win it all . They made it through the NCAA Tournament before falling to Jim Valvano and North Carolina State in an iconic championship game in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“I’ve never been No. 1,” said Sampson, in his 34th season as a college basketball coach. “We were ranked all 12 years in Oklahoma. I’m sure we were ranked in Indiana. Then we’ve been ranked five or six years in a row. We’re used to having a high level of success.”
Texas received eight first-place votes and Virginia two. Arizona climbed from 14th to fourth after rallying from a stacked field to win the Maui Invitational. Purdue jumped from 24th to fifth and earned eight first-place votes after beating West Virginia, Gonzaga and Duke in the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament.
“Our guys are competitive. They’re fun to coach. They’re getting along. They’re playing with a purpose and that’s what you’ve got to have,” said Boilermakers coach Matt Painter, whose team was briefly No. 1 in this age. last season
“Early in the season, very few teams play with purpose collectively,” he said. “I thought our guys played with a purpose.”
Baylor was sixth, Creighton seventh and UConn moved up from 20th to eighth after beating Oregon, Alabama and Iowa State to win the Phil Knight Invitational. Kansas dropped from third to ninth after losing to Tennessee in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game, while Indiana rounded out the top 10.
There was a tie for 11th between SEC rivals Alabama and Arkansas with the Volunteers, another conference foe, right behind them. Gonzaga dropped from sixth to 14th, its first time outside the top 10 since Feb. 5, 2018, and Auburn was 15th.
Illinois was then followed by Duke and North Carolina in a tough week for Tobacco Road. The Blue Devils fell from eighth place after a 75-56 loss to the Boilermakers.
Kentucky and Michigan State joined UCLA, Maryland, Iowa State, San Diego State and Ohio State to round out the poll.
RISING AND FALLING
Purdue made a rare 19-point jump as the poll underwent a major overhaul. UConn moved up 12 spots, Arizona moved up 10, Tennessee moved up nine and Alabama moved up seven. On the other hand, the Tar Heels dropped 17 points, Duke dropped nine, Gonzaga dropped eight and San Diego State dropped seven.
IN AND OUT
Despite all the movement, Iowa State was the lone newcomer this week, checking in at No. 23 after beating Villanova and North Carolina before falling to UConn. The Cyclones replaced Iowa, which left after a one-week layoff following its loss to TCU in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
VIEW OF CONFERENCES
There are six difference conferences represented in the top seven teams in the poll. The Big Ten leads the way with six in the Top 25, while the SEC has five and the Big 12 has four, though three of those are in the top 10.
AP Top 25
First place votes in brackets:
1. Houston (45)
2. Texas (8)
3. Virginia (2)
5. Purdue (8)
18. North Carolina
20. Michigan State
23. Iowa State
24. San Diego State
25. Ohio State
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