Kentucky holds top spot in NCAA basketball, UNC jumps into top 5

By Taylor C. Snow

After dropping from No. 1 to No. 3 in last week’s Associated Press Top 25 Men’s Basketball poll, Syracuse began to gain ground in the past week, picking up two wins and pushing up to the No. 2 spot.

Despite lacking key defender Fab Melo, due to an “unresolved academic issue,” the Orange (22-1) were able to defeat Cincinnati (15-7) and West Virginia (15-8), though with little room to spare. On Saturday, the Mountaineers nearly gave Syracuse its second loss, however, they missed four potential game-winning shots and a potential tying lay-up in the last minute-and-a-quarter handing the Syracuse a 63-61 win.

Kentucky (21-1) was the near-unanimous No.1 team for a second consecutive week, as they cruised with ease, holding Georgia (10-10) and LSU (12-9) to 44 and 50 points, respectively.

Falling down from its previous No. 2 spot, Missouri (19-2) lost only its second game of the year with a surprising 79-72 loss to Oklahoma State (10-11). Playing with just a seven-man roster, the Cowboys were led by freshman forward Le’Bryan Nash, who picked up a career-high 27 points in the victory, pushing the Tigers down to the No. 4 spot.

With the Missouri loss, Kansas (17-4) remained atop the Big 12 with a 7-1 conference record, despite losing to Iowa State (15-6) and dropping to the No. 8 position. The Jayhawks will visit the Tigers this Saturday for the Big 12 showdown of the year.

Rising one spot to No. 3 was Ohio State (19-3), which finished off the weekend with a convincing 64-49 win over the then-No. 20 Michigan Wolverines (16-6). Due to its low-scoring effort, Michigan fell down in the rankings to No. 23.

With two victories on the week, North Carolina (18-3) moved up to the No. 5 spot, while Duke (18-3) replaced the Tar Heels as the new No. 7 team with two wins of its own.

Baylor (19-2) rebounded last week – after losing to Kansas and Missouri in the previous week – by picking up wins at Oklahoma (13-7) and against Texas (13-9). With the victories, the Bears remained in the No. 6 position.

Rounding out the top 10 were Michigan State (17-4) and Murray State (21-0), respectively. With their sole win last week over Eastern Illinois (9-12), the Racers remained the only unbeaten team in the country.

UNLV (20-3) and Creighton (20-2) stepped up to No. 11 and No. 13, respectively, while Florida (17-4) jumped between them at No. 12. The Gators earned a 69-57 win against then-No. 18 Mississippi State (17-5), causing the Bulldogs to fall to No. 22.

Georgetown (16-4) took a huge hit last week after losing its only game to Pittsburgh (14-9) and plummeting out of the top 10 to the No. 14 spot.

Marquette (18-4) and Virginia (17-3) followed Georgetown at No. 15 and 16, each winning all of its games last week. The Cavaliers turned away a late comeback by North Carolina State (15-7) on Saturday, pulling out a nail-bitter, 61-60.

San Diego State (18-3), took a four-position plunge to No. 17, while Indiana (17-5) also lost ground, falling from No. 16 to No. 20 thanks to a 57-50 loss to Wisconsin (17-5). The win enabled the Badgers to move up to the No. 19 spot.

Saint Mary’s (21-2) and Florida State (14-6) moved up to the No. 18 and 21 spots respectively, by easily defeating all of their opposition last week.

Rounding out the Top 25 were newcomers Gonzaga (17-3) and Vanderbilt (16-5). The Commodores’ Top 25 status will be tested early when it takes on Florida this Saturday in a battle for second place in the SEC.

Taylor Snow can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Snow.