Associated Press12:25 PM ET3 Minute Read
The Houston Cougars returned Monday for the third time this season at No. 1 in the AP Men’s College Basketball Poll, while Northwestern and Texas A&M climbed the rankings after two impressive wins each last week.
The Cougars, on a seven-game winning streak, leapfrogged across Alabama and back to the top, where they spent two weeks in November and December and played another two weeks last month. They received 48 first-place votes from the 62-member national media commission to claim No. 1 with just two weeks left in the regular season.
“This is my fourth year coaching these guys. We’ve developed a really good program here,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said, referring to his veteran leaders who made it to a Final Four two years ago and the Elite Eight last season. “But the emphasis is on ‘we have’. A person doesn’t do it. I’m proud of our program. I’m proud of everyone in it.”
The Crimson Tide dropped just one spot after losing to Tennessee and leading Georgia in their lonely No. 1 week. They held seven first-place votes, while Kansas also earned seven to climb two spots to No. 3 in this week’s poll.
UCLA stayed at No. 4 while Purdue slipped two places to round out the top five.
“From a tactical standpoint, we’re not quite as good a basketball team as last year’s basketball team,” said Jayhawks coach Bill Self, whose team is trying to become the first consecutive national champion since Florida in ’07. “From a competitive standpoint, this team is equal or equal to this team.”
That was evident Saturday as the Jayhawks rallied down from No. 17 to beat No. 9 Baylor 87-71 at Allen Fieldhouse.
Virginia was 6th after beating Louisville and Notre Dame last week. Arizona finished seventh while Texas fell two places to eighth after losing to Texas Tech and taking overtime to beat Oklahoma. Baylor maintained his spot while Marquette moved into the top 10 for the first time since February 25, 2019.
The Volunteers dropped to 11th place after losing to Kentucky after beating Alabama. Gonzaga, Miami and Kansas State were next, with Saint Mary’s giving the West Coast Conference two teams in the top 15.
The Gaels (24-5, 13-1) and Bulldogs (23-5, 12-2) both play during the week leading up to their Saturday showdown.
Xavier stayed in 16th while Indiana, UConn, Creighton and Providence rounded out the top 20.
Northwestern entered the poll at No. 21 for the first time in more than two years, after following the surprise of Purdue two weeks ago with victories over the Hoosiers and Iowa. San Diego State, Iowa State and TCU were next, with Texas A&M making the poll again after spending a week at No. 24 in November.
“We didn’t push ourselves,” said Wildcats coach Chris Collins. “We had big ambitions about who we could be and not many people believed it. I’m sure a lot of people laughed at that. But we had them and they were real. And these guys followed it up. But we’re still in the moment, for me it’s no time to think.
“We want more,” Collins said. “We can look back at the end of the year when everything is ready in a month. And we can look back on the ups and downs. But we’re just trying our best to stay in the moment.”
IN AND OUT
The Wildcats, winners of five straight years, and the Aggies participated in the poll at the expense of NC State and Florida Atlantic. The Wolfpack lost to Syracuse on Tuesday and the Owls to Middle Tennessee on Thursday.
RISING AND FALLING
There was very little movement in this week’s poll. Providence made the biggest climb by just four places at No. 20 after victories over Creighton and Villanova. Iowa State also recorded the biggest drop in four sports at No. 23 after beating TCU followed by losing to Kansas State on Saturday.
The Big 12 continue to lead with six teams in the AP Top 25 and Oklahoma State receiving a vote. The Big East has five teams in the poll — and all in the top 20 — while the SEC and Big Ten have three teams each.