While Gonzaga and Baylor remain firmly atop The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll, Shaka Smart and the fourth-ranked Texas are making a push into the rankings’ top tier, too.
The top-ranked Zags and second-ranked Bears remained 1-2 in Monday’s latest Top 25 as they have all season. But the Longhorns jumped four spots after a lopsided weekend win at Kansas to earn the program’s highest ranking under their sixth-year coach, as well as its first top-5 ranking since February 2011.
“If this is the peak on Jan. 2, that would be really, really disappointing,” Smart said after the 84-59 win against the Jayhawks. “It’s something that we’ll talk a lot about. I asked the guys in the locker room if this was kind of all they wanted. Obviously that’s a rhetorical question: They want more.”
Texas (8-1) started the year at No. 19 and hadn’t cracked the top 10 under Smart before this season. The Longhorns hadn’t cracked the top five since spending three weeks at No. 3 followed by a week at No. 5 in February 2011 under former coach Rick Barnes.
THE TOP TIER
Mark Few’s Bulldogs earned 63 of 64 first-place votes in Monday’s poll, while Scott Drew’s Bears earned the other vote. Gonzaga and Baylor have been 1-2 at the top in all seven polls so far this season.
Villanova climbed one spot to No. 3 on the same day the program announced a pause in team activities due to coronavirus issues.
Iowa, Kansas, Creighton, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Michigan rounded out the top 10, while No. 11 Houston and No. 14 West Virginia slid out from that group from last week.
The Wolverines (9-0) had the week’s biggest jump, rising six spots after wins against Maryland and then-No. 19 Maryland. Michigan has now cracked the top 10 in each of Juwan Howard’s two seasons as coach, including last year’s rapid rise from unranked to No. 4 after winning the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.
Iowa, No. 16 Minnesota and No. 19 Virginia Tech each climbed five spots, while No. 17 Oregon joined Texas and Creighton in rising four spots.
In all, 10 teams climbed from last week’s rankings.
No. 25 Florida State had the week’s biggest tumble, falling seven spots after losing at Clemson and then having its game against No. 21 Duke postponed due to coronavirus issues within the Seminoles program.
Houston and No. 23 Michigan State each fell six spots, while No. 18 Texas Tech joined West Virginia in sliding five spots.
No. 6 Kansas fell three spots after the Texas loss, bringing the total of teams that fell from last week’s rankings to 11.
Gonzaga and Baylor were the only teams to hold their positions from last week.
No. 19 Clemson was back in the poll for the second time this season, tying fellow Atlantic Coast Conference team Virginia Tech. The other new addition was St. Louis, with the Billikens tying Michigan State at No. 23 to make their first AP Top 25 appearance since the 2013-14 season.
FAREWELL (FOR NOW)
Northwestern (No. 19) and Ohio State (No. 25) fell out of the poll to make room for Clemson and St. Louis.
The Big Ten continues to have the biggest haul of ranked teams, though the Big 12 has a strong showing in the poll’s top tier.
The Big Ten has seven ranked teams, including three in the top 10 along with No. 12 Illinois and No. 15 Rutgers. But the Big 12 has three of the top six teams in Baylor, Texas and Kansas, and five teams overall.
The ACC also has five teams, but again it’s a backloaded bunch. The Tigers and Hokies are the highest ranked of that quintet at No. 19, followed by Duke, No. 22 Virginia and No. 25 FSU.
The Big East (Villanova and Creighton) and the Southeastern Conference (Tennessee and No. 13 Missouri) are the only other leagues with multiple ranked teams.