Kentucky still No. 1 in AP Top 25 after big loss
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
In this March 15, 2014, file photo, Kentucky head coach John Calipari and forward Alex Poythress (22) watch play against Georgia during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinal round of the Southeastern Conference men’s tournament in Atlanta. Poythress will miss the rest of the season after tearing a knee ligament during practice the school said Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)
Kentucky took a big loss off the court and responded with another big win on it.
Now the Wildcats (11-0) finally get a bit of a break.
The Wildcats, still the unanimous No. 1 in the AP poll after getting all 65 first-place votes Monday, are the only 11-win team in NCAA Division I basketball. No other team from a major conference has played more games.
Two days after 6-foot-8 junior forward Alex Poythress tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during practice, the Wildcats won 84-70 Saturday over North Carolina, which dropped three spots to 24th in the new poll.
“They were excited about playing the game, but I just think they’re — thank goodness we have time between games now to get ourselves right,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said after the game. “We played a lot of games in a short period of time. So we have a little (time), in two games in two weeks, which gives us some time.”
Kentucky has only two games in two weeks before its SEC opener Jan. 6 against Mississippi. The Wildcats play the next two Saturdays, against UCLA this week and then Dec. 27 at No. 4 Louisville.
LOT OF STABILITY: The top seven spots in this week’s poll are unchanged, and the same teams occupy the top 14 slots.
Duke (8-0), Arizona (10-0), Louisville (9-0), Wisconsin (10-1), Virginia (9-0) and Villanova (10-0) are second through seventh. Gonzaga and Texas swapped spots from a week ago while Kansas stayed 10th.
Wichita State and Ohio State started the second 10 again, while No. 13 Iowa State and No. 14 Utah switched places from last week.
Kentucky is the only team to be ranked the same in every poll, from the preseason poll released on Halloween to now.
The biggest move this week was Butler’s eight-spot drop to 23rd, back to where the Bulldogs debuted in the poll before an eight-spot jump last week, after a 12-point loss at Tennessee.
No. 20 St. John’s and No 21 Notre Dame made the biggest upward moves, each up four spots after poll debuts last week.
STATE OF MICHIGAN: A week after Michigan and Michigan State were both unranked for the first time since the final 2010-11 rankings, the Spartans got back in the poll.
Michigan State was the only new team this week, re-entering at No. 25. Since a one-point overtime loss to Notre Dame, the Spartans (7-3) have lopsided victories over Oakland and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
As for the Wolverines (6-4), things haven’t gotten any better since that stunning 72-70 loss to New Jersey Institute of Technology that knocked them out the poll. They have since lost to Eastern Michigan and then 80-53 at No. 3 Arizona on Saturday.
SECond TO MANY: The Southeastern Conference is on top with Kentucky at No. 1, but is nowhere else to be found in the AP poll.
With one, the SEC has as many ranked teams in the poll as the Mountain West, Missouri Valley and West Coast conferences.
Arkansas and LSU are the only other SEC teams receiving votes. Florida was seventh in the preseason poll, and was ranked two weeks before falling out, while Arkansas spent two week in the poll.
The ACC leads all leagues with six ranked teams, topped by Duke, Louisville and Virginia in the top six. The Big 12 has five teams in the poll.
SHORT STAY: Northern Iowa’s first poll appearance in five seasons lasted only a week. The Panthers (9-1) won 65-55 at Denver after getting ranked, but then lost 93-87 in double overtime at VCU on Saturday.