Kansas’ record Top 25 run over; Michigan jumps to No. 3

Sports

Kansas coach Bill Self meets with players during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against West Virginia, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Kathleen Batten)

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas dropped out of The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll for the first time in 12 years on Monday, ending the Jayhawks’ record streak of 231 consecutive weeks ranked in the Top 25.

Gonzaga and Baylor held down the top two spots, just as they have all season, with the Bulldogs getting 55 of 63 first-place votes and the Bears getting the other eight. Michigan took advantage of Villanova’s loss at St. John’s to jump into the top three, Ohio State climbed three spots to No. 4 and the Wildcats rounded out the top 5.

Illinois gave the Big Ten three teams in the top six after beating Indiana in overtime and pounding No. 21 Wisconsin over the weekend. The Illini were followed by Texas Tech, Houston, Virginia and Missouri, which beat Kentucky and No. 11 Alabama to reach the top 10 for the first time since Dec. 24, 2012.

The real drama came not at the top of the poll, though, but at the bottom of it.

When Kansas and UCLA fell out this week, it left the AP Top 25 without the Jayhawks, Bruins and fellow bluebloods Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina — with their combined 33 national championships — for the first time since Dec. 18, 1961. It also meant none of the 13 winningest Division I programs was ranked; No. 24 Purdue barely squeaked in.

The Jayhawks began their Top 25 streak on Feb. 2, 2009, when freshman guard Bryce Thompson was 6 years old. Their decade-plus of dominance, which began the season after they won the national championship, included 10 consecutive Big 12 regular-season titles, five conference tournament titles, two more Final Four trips and a runner-up finish in 2012.

Their game against No. 23 Oklahoma State on Monday night was to be the Jayhawks’ first unranked in 434 games.

“It’s basketball and we have another game to focus on,” Jayhawks guard Jalen Wilson said after a 91-79 loss at No. 14 West Virginia on Saturday, their sixth defeat in the last 10 games. “In basketball you sometimes have to focus on what’s in front of you and not think about the past and what you couldn’t done. Another day, another game we just have to focus on.”

The Jayhawks started 8-1 and climbed to No. 3 by Dec. 28, with their lone loss to Gonzaga and victories over then-ranked Kentucky, West Virginia, Creighton and Texas Tech on the road. But they have scuffled since the start of Big 12 play, losing Thompson to an injury and failing to get enough production from an otherwise veteran team.

“We have plenty of games to go win and I know this team can do it,” Kansas guard Christian Braun said. “Everyone’s head is in a good spot, but we just have to do it on the court. We have to stop talking about it and actually be about it.”

Kind of like the Bulldogs and Bears have been this season.

Gonzaga trailed Pacific at halftime last week before a 25-8 finishing run to win the game easily, then had its game against Santa Clara canceled over the weekend. The Bulldogs faced a tough test against BYU on Monday night.

“It’s really hard when everybody around them nationally and everything just thinks you’re going to breeze through stuff,” Bulldogs coach Mark Few said after their latest win, “but it’s not reality.”

Baylor beat then-No. 6 Texas on the road last week in the first matchup involving top-10 teams from the state of Texas, only to announce another pause for COVID-19 on Thursday. The Bears aren’t scheduled to play again until Feb. 20.

The Crimson Tide and Sooners were followed at No. 13 by the Longhorns, who fell seven spots after their losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State last week. The Mountaineers were next, with Iowa falling seven spots to No. 15, followed by Tennessee, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Creighton and Southern California.

Rounding out the Top 25 were Wisconsin, Loyola Chicago, Oklahoma State, Purdue and Rutgers.

IN AND OUT

Loyola Chicago entered the rankings for the first time since the final poll of the 1984-85 season. That may surprise those who recall the Ramblers’ dramatic run to the Final Four in 2018, but they never cracked the Top 25 that season.

The Trojans’ win over then-No. 21 UCLA on Saturday night propelled them to their first ranking since December 2017, while Oklahoma State and Rutgers also joined the Top 25. The Cowboys are ranked for the first time since February 2015.

The Bruins dropped out, along with Kansas, Florida and Drake, whose 18-0 start was spoiled in a 74-57 loss to Valparaiso.

KNOCKING ON THE DOOR

Colorado, San Diego State and Xavier were the first three to reside outside the Top 25, while Belmont continued to pick up votes after the Bruins improved to 20-1 with romps over Eastern Illinois and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.

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