Wake Forest moves to No. 1 in AP poll

Published 11:01 pm Tuesday, January 20, 2009

By By JIM O’CONNELL, AP Basketball Writer
Dino Gaudio knew his Wake Forest team would probably move to No. 1 after becoming Division I’s only unbeaten team.
Not as far as national ranking goes.
The Demon Deacons (16-0) beat Clemson 78-68 on Saturday, then top-ranked Pittsburgh lost 69-63 at Louisville hours later to set up their jump from No. 2.
Wake Forest received all but four first-place votes from the 72-member national media panel. The Demon Deacons are No. 1 for the first time since a two-week run in November 2004, when they had Chris Paul at point guard.
Duke (16-1), which beat Georgia Tech and Georgia Tech last week, received the other four first-place votes and moved up one place to second. Connecticut (16-1), which beat St. John’s and Seton Hall last week, moved from fourth to third, followed by Pittsburgh.
The Panthers (16-1) had moved to No. 1 for the first time two weeks ago, but they fell to fourth following the loss to Louisville.
North Carolina stayed fifth and was followed by Oklahoma, Michigan State, Syracuse, Louisville and Clemson.
Four teams moved into the rankings this week. Three of them — Memphis, Gonzaga and Florida — were in the Top 25 at some point this season and Illinois is ranked for the first time since the final poll of 2005-06.
Marquette moved up three places to 11th and was followed by Georgetown, UCLA, Texas, Xavier, Butler, Arizona State, Purdue, Notre Dame and Villanova. The last five ranked teams were Minnesota, Memphis, Gonzaga, Florida and Illinois.
Louisville’s wins over Pittsburgh and Notre Dame had the Cardinals with the week’s highest jump, 20th to No. 9. Notre Dame, which also lost to Syracuse last week, had the biggest drop, from 12th to 19th.
Wake Forest had five starters returning and a heralded three-man recruiting class and was ranked 21st in the preseason poll. With sophomore point guard Jeff Teague moving to the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference scoring list, the Demon Deacons moved steadily up the rankings.
All the players on the roster were recruited by Skip Prosser, who died in August 2007. Gaudio was Prosser’s assistant at Wake Forest from 2002 until succeeding him.
The Demon Deacons’ first game as No. 1 will be at home Wednesday against Virginia Tech. Their next game is one week later, at home against Duke in what could be the 39th 1-vs.-2 matchup.
Memphis (14-3) returned to the poll after being out the last four weeks. The Tigers, who were ranked No. 1 for five weeks last season, have won eight straight after losing to Georgetown and Syracuse in a three-game span.
Gonzaga (12-4) has won four straight after losing four of five, a stretch that included losses to Arizona, Connecticut, Portland State and Utah. The Bulldogs were out of the poll the last two weeks after being ranked as high as fourth.
Florida (16-2) was ranked in the preseason poll and for the first three weeks of the regular season before dropping out following a loss to Syracuse. The Gators have won 10 straight, including their first three Southeastern Conference games, since their other loss of the season, at Florida State.
Illinois (15-3) moved in to the poll having lost two of its last four games. The Illini lost at Michigan and Michigan around wins over Indiana and Michigan. Their other loss was to Clemson.
The four new schools replaced Baylor (14-3), which dropped out from 21st, ending a seven-week run in the rankings; California (15-3), which moved in at No. 22 last week only to drop out after a 75-69 loss at Stanford; Tennessee (11-5), which was ranked all season and was as high as No. 8, but fell from 24th after losing 90-72 to Kentucky last week; and Michigan (13-5), which returned last week to No. 25 after a two-week absence but lost to Illinois and Ohio State last week.