Nine of the nation's 11 best teams went down last week, and yet, for the fourth straight week, Kansas escaped unscathed.
The Jayhawks returned to the No. 1 spot in the latest Associated Press poll, earning 63 of a possible 65 first-place votes. Villanova moved back to No. 3 after a three-week run at the top, while No. 2 Michigan State, No. 4 Virginia and No. 5 Xavier round out the Top Five.
Kansas previously held the No. 1 spot for two weeks earlier this season. Its current nine-game winning streak is the longest in the nation, and the Jayhawks appear well on their way to earning the No. 1 overall seed in March.
“I feel like we deserve it,” forward Jamari Traylor said of the ranking, per Jesse Newell of the Kansas City Star. “I feel like we’ve worked pretty hard. But it’s not the most important thing. We’ve still got a couple more games left in Big 12 play. We want to win those.”
Here is a look at how the remainder of the Top 25 played out, per AP.org:
Kansas' move to No. 1 came after Villanova came up short in its trip to Xavier. The Musketeers shot 50 percent and had six players in double figures for their first win over Villanova since joining the Big East. It was seemingly a crowning achievement that set up Xavier for a potential ascent to No. 1 if things bounced right.
Then, as has been the case so many times this season, an upset changed the Musketeers' course. Seton Hall's 90-81 victory over Xavier on Sunday likely locked an NCAA tournament berth for the Pirates and slowed their rivals' ascent. It speaks to the surprising depth of the realigned Big East that one minute Xavier is taking down the top team in the country and then is giving up a pair of 45-point halves to an unranked team the next.
"The reality is, Xavier is still a very good team that played a really lousy game against an extremely desperate opponent," wrote ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil.
Of course, Xavier was far from the only elite team to go down. Oklahoma and Virginia took road losses to Texas and Miami, respectively, to move back from their shared No. 3 spot a week ago. The Cavaliers bounced back with a triumph over North Carolina to close their week, though, so head coach Tony Bennett will take the good with the bad, per Matt Wurzburger of the Cavalier Daily: “When you lose and you struggle, then you learn. We realized how fine of a line it is with this year having lost and struggled in some tough conference games as of late...it makes you understand how on point you have to be in all of those areas that are important to us.”
Oklahoma has now lost games in consecutive weeks and will need a solid finish to the season to keep itself in the No. 1 seed race.
Also bouncing backward are Iowa and Arizona, which each dropped both of its games last week. The Hawkeyes have lost three straight overall and enter their final two games in real danger of making it five. They host No. 12 Indiana on Tuesday before making a trip to Ann Arbor for a game against Michigan on Saturday.
Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated is done with the Hawkeyes:
Seth Davis @SethDavisHoops
Almost famous: Iowa, Notre Dame, Texas Tech, Pitt, SMU, Temple, Cincy, Cal, St Joes, St. Mary's, Dayton, St.Bon, LIttle Rock, VCU, Monmouth2/29/2016, 3:06:56 AM
Seth Davis @SethDavisHoops
Iowa gave itself the boot https://t.co/wLeHdHwi182/29/2016, 3:07:27 AM
Arizona, meanwhile, should be able to right itself with a pair of home games against Cal and Stanford. Taking down Cal would go a long way toward improving the Wildcats' seeding in the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments.
On the opposite side, Miami moves all the way up to No. 7 after a pair of home wins against Virginia and Louisville. The Hurricanes went undefeated at home in ACC play and may slide into contention for a No. 1 seed if they can continue their ascent. Road wins over Notre Dame and Virginia Tech would clinch at least a share of the regular-season conference crown.
This run would be unexpected if it weren't coming as part of the strangest college basketball season in recent memory. No team has fewer than four losses. Kansas' nine-game winning streak feels almost as impressive in this season as Kentucky's near-undefeated run a year ago—and that's only being slightly facetious.
Head coach Bill Self has done an admirable job of righting the ship after a slow start to conference play, but the title still feels completely up for grabs heading into the stretch run.
Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.
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