Duke takes over top spot

Published 12:13 am Tuesday, January 27, 2009

By By JIM O’CONNELL, AP Basketball Writer
Duke returned to the top of The Associated Press’ college basketball poll Monday, a place the Blue Devils have been very familiar with in recent years.
The Blue Devils (18-1) moved up one spot to No. 1, their first appearance there since the final poll of 2005-06. They were ranked on top for at least one week in every season from 1997-98 to 2003-04 and only UCLA’s 134 weeks at No. 1 beats Duke’s 111 in the 59-year history of the poll.
Duke received 62 first-place votes and 1,789 points from the 72-member national media panel to easily outdistance Connecticut (18-1), which was No. 1 on six ballots and had 1,694 points, 47 more than Pittsburgh (18-1), which had three first-place votes.
Pitt moved into the No. 1 spot three weeks ago for the first time in school history and the Panthers were replaced at the top last week by Wake Forest, which had spent a total of two weeks at the top before that.
The Demon Deacons lost to Virginia Tech on Wednesday and dropped to No. 6. Duke beat North Carolina State and Maryland last week.
Three teams — Saint Mary’s, Washington and Kentucky — moved into the rankings for the first time this season, replacing Minnesota, Notre Dame and Florida.
Oklahoma (19-1), which received one first-place vote, moved from sixth to fourth, jumping North Carolina, which was a unanimous No. 1 in the preseason poll and for the first seven weeks of the season.
With Duke, Wake Forest and North Carolina all being from the Atlantic Coast Conference, it is the fourth time one league has three teams reach No. 1 in the same season. The Southeastern Conference did it in 2002-03 (Alabama, Florida, Kentucky), while the Big Eight did it in 1989-90 (Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma) and the ACC in 1985-86 (Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Duke).
All but 18 of the weeks Duke has spent at No. 1 have been since Krzyzewski took over the program in 1980.
North Carolina is third on the No. 1 list with 104 weeks.
Louisville, which won at Syracuse on Sunday, moved up two spots to seventh and was followed by Marquette, Michigan State and Xavier.
Texas was 11th and was followed by Clemson, Butler, Arizona State, Syracuse, Purdue, UCLA, Memphis, Illinois and Gonzaga.
The last five ranked teams were Villanova, Saint Mary’s, Washington, Kentucky and Georgetown.
Saint Mary’s (18-1) moved into the rankings on a 15-game winning streak since a loss to Texas-El Paso. The Gaels were ranked for six weeks last season.
Washington (15-4) beat UCLA this weekend to take over first place in the Pac-10. The Huskies, who were last ranked in January 2007, have won four straight and 13 of 14 with the lone loss to California in triple overtime.
Kentucky (16-4) has won five straight and 11 of 12 with the lone loss on a 25-foot buzzer beater at Louisville. The Wildcats, who started the season with losses to VMI and North Carolina, were last ranked in the preseason poll of 2007-08.
Notre Dame (12-6) dropped out from 19th following its third straight loss, a 69-61 defeat to Connecticut which ended the Fighting Irish’s 45-game home winning streak. They were ranked every week this season, reaching as high as seventh.
Minnesota (17-3) lost to Purdue last week before beating Indiana 67-63. The Gophers, who fell out from 21st, had been ranked for the past five weeks.
Florida (17-3) followed a 70-69 last-second loss to South Carolina with a 84-69 victory over Vanderbilt but that couldn’t keep the Gators from falling out from 24th.
Georgetown, which lost to West Virginia and Seton Hall last week to extend its losing streak to three games, had the week’s biggest drop, falling from No. 12 to 25th.