For the third time in six weeks, there's a new No. 1 team in the Associated Press' college basketball poll, as the Arizona Wildcats (9-0) leapfrogged the Michigan State Spartans and moved into the top spot for the first time this season.
Led by freshman forward Aaron Gordon, Arizona joins Kentucky and Michigan State as the teams to hold the top spot in the AP poll. As noted by the team's Twitter feed, this is the first time any Pac-12 team has held the top AP spot since 2006:
#APlayersProgram is the first AP No. 1 team from the Pac-12 since 2006. 30th week in its history that UA has been the AP No. 1— Arizona Basketball (@APlayersProgram) December 9, 2013
The Wildcats are joined in the Top Three by No. 2 Syracuse and No. 3 Ohio State, as the entire Top 10 was fundamentally altered after a wild week in college basketball.
Here is how the full Top 25 looks:
|Rank||Team (First-Place Votes)||Record||Points||Previous|
|25||San Diego State||7-1||159||24|
Michigan State, which had held the top spot each of the past three weeks after beating Kentucky on Nov. 12, falls back to No. 5 this week after a frustrating home loss to North Carolina. Losers of two games against unranked opponents, the Tar Heels throttled Tom Izzo's squad in the second half en route to a 79-65 victory.
"We uncharacteristically looked soft," Izzo said, via an MSU press release. "We just did not play with the tenacity. The loose balls, they got them all early. The crowd tried to bring us back and we didn’t even let that happen. We have no one to blame but ourselves."
John Calipari also had reason to feel frustrated with his team's effort, as Kentucky fell to 0-2 against ranked opponents this season with a 67-62 loss to Baylor. The Bears used a zone-heavy scheme to flummox the upstart Wildcats, who started the 2013-14 season ranked first in the country but have now looked shaky in all but one of their trips away from Lexington.
The other Top 10 team to see a drop this week is Kansas, which falls from No. 6 to No. 13. Andrew Wiggins and Co. were unseated on Saturday by Colorado when guard Askia Booker hit a game-winning three-pointer as time expired. It was the Buffaloes' first win over Kansas in 20 tries.
Baylor, North Carolina and Colorado all parlayed their upsets into nods from the Associated Press. The No. 14 ranking for the Bears represents their highest spot of the season, while this is the first time in the Top 25 for the Buffaloes this year. The No. 18 Tar Heels, who also have a win against Louisville on their resume, are back in the mix after briefly being on the outside looking in.
When asked whether he's ever had such an inconsistent team before, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams seemed a little worn out by his squad, via the MSU release.
"I have no idea," Williams said. "I’m old; this is 26 years as a head coach. I’d have to go back and see. I have no idea. I know we’ve gotten killed a lot of times and we’ve beaten the crap out of a lot of people. I’d hate to think it’s been worse than this."
Among the other winners in the Week 6 shakeout are Kevin Ollie's Connecticut Huskies, who have parlayed a thrilling 9-0 start to come in at No. 9. In his second season after taking over for Jim Calhoun, Ollie has already led the Huskies to four one-possession victories, including last week's 65-64 victory over Florida.
Still, no one has to feel better about these rankings than Sean Miller. The Arizona head coach came into the season with a well-rounded, talented team but saw the Wildcats get pushed out of the national spotlight by the flashy freshmen in Lexington, Durham and Lawrence. Gordon, Miller's highly touted freshman who has drawn Blake Griffin comparisons, was viewed to be on the second rung of talent behind Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle.
The Wildcats have responded by starting 9-0, including a victory over Parker and the Blue Devils. Outside of Gordon, Arizona is led by top scorer Nick Johnson (16.6 PPG), sophomore Brandon Ashley (12.0 PPG) and pass-first point guard T.J. McConnell (6.8 APG).
The way I look at is, we’re really trying to embrace it. It’s a great compliment. It’s a compliment to our current team, and also to our program. Being ranked No. 1, certainly in December, that’s not the end goal. But I think we all feel very good about having that as part of our track record, both with this year’s team and in the bigger picture over the last five years.
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Jim Boeheim's 38th season at the helm in Syracuse is also off to a good start. The Orange moved to 9-0 with a win over Binghamton, and they won their two games last week by a combined 45 points. No. 3 Ohio State hasn't always been the prettiest team to watch this year—the Buckeyes rank No. 51 in Ken Pomeroy's offensive efficiency rating—but the grind-it-out roster has gotten the job done.
The Buckeyes may be in a position to creep into the top spot next week should things fall their way. Arizona has a road test coming up against Michigan on Saturday, while Syracuse travels to Madison Square Garden to take on St. John's a day later.
The Week 6 rankings weren't as kind to UCLA (18), Michigan (22) and Dayton (25), however, as they each fell out fell out of the Top 25. No. 24 Missouri joins North Carolina and Colorado as the teams to replace them.
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