Gonzaga still No. 1; Baylor leaps to No. 2
NEW YORK — Good luck finding any team in the country that notches a better pair of road wins in the same week than Baylor, which followed up a victory at Texas Tech by invading Allen Fieldhouse and thumping Kansas on its home floor.
As a result? The Bears leapfrogged the Jayhawks and Duke into the second spot in The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll on Monday. They finished with 1,567 points in voting by 65 media members who regularly cover the game, just seven back of top-ranked Gonzaga — even though Baylor had 31 first-place votes and the Bulldogs had 30.
“I think to have a special team you first need to have that work ethic, you need to have that character, but most of all you have to have guys that buy into roles and celebrate each other’s success,” Bears coach Scott Drew explained. “As the year has gone on we’ve done better and better at that. We call it ‘playing with joy.’ If you do that, good things happen.”
Great things, as a matter of fact. Baylor (13-1, 3-0 Big 12) hasn’t lost since playing Washington in Alaska in its second game of the season.
Along the way, the boys from Waco, Texas, have notched nonconference wins over ranked teams Villanova, Arizona and Butler along with league wins over the Red Raiders, the Jayhawks and Texas.
The win over Kansas was the first for Baylor in 18 tries at Allen Fieldhouse and the first over a top-five team on the road.
The Blue Devils fell to third in the AP poll, followed by unbeaten Auburn and Butler. The Jayhawks were next with another unbeaten, San Diego State, staying at No. 7. Oregon, Florida State and Kentucky rounded out the top 10.
The Wildcats climbed four spots by squeezing out tougher-than-expected wins over Georgia and Alabama.
The biggest climb came from Wichita State, which jumped seven spots to No. 16 after soundly beating new No. 22 Memphis and turning back Connecticut in double overtime.
The Shockers’ only loss came against No. 12 West Virginia in the championship game of the Cancun Classic in late November.
The biggest fall by a team that remains in the poll came from Ohio State, which dropped two more games — to Maryland and Indiana — to make it four consecutive losses. The Buckeyes were once in the top five but are now No. 21.
South Carolina new No. 1
NEW YORK — South Carolina moved up three spots to No. 1 in The Associated Press women’s college basketball poll after the top three teams from the previous week all lost.
It was a rough week for ranked teams, with 11 of them losing at least one game, including Nos. 1-3 falling in a four-day span. The last time the top three teams in the AP Top 25 lost within a span of seven days was during the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
It wasn’t just the top teams that lost. Eight of the Top 25 programs were beaten by unranked teams, showing more parity in the sport than before. Only two teams — No. 9 North Carolina State and No. 16 Gonzaga — stayed in the same place.
Baylor jumped up four spots to No. 2 on Monday after beating then-No. 1 UConn. The Lady Bears, who received seven first-place votes from the 30-member national media panel, were followed by Stanford, UConn and Louisville. Oregon, UCLA, Oregon State, N.C. State and Mississippi State rounded out the top 10.
South Carolina, which got 20 first-place votes, was last No. 1 on Feb. 9, 2015 — the end of a 12-week run atop the poll.
“Our ‘Women Up’ theme this season is about approaching each practice and game with a focused, disciplined and trusting mindset. Our players have embraced this process and their commitment to hard work has earned them the No. 1 ranking in the country,” coach Dawn Staley said.
The Gamecocks are the fourth different team to hold the top spot in the poll this season. It’s only the third time since the AP Top 25 became a writer’s poll in the 1994-95 season that there have been four different No. 1 teams in the same year. The other two times occurred in 2003-04 and 2004-05.
There has never been five different No. 1 teams in the same year since it became a writer’s poll.
There is no clear-cut favorite now to win the national championship. A handful of teams look like they could win the NCAA title in New Orleans.