UConn 1st unanimous No. 1 in Top 25 this season

NCAA Basketball

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UConn became the first unanimous No. 1 in The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll this season, while Washington State jumped into the rankings Monday at No. 21 to end a 302-week drought stretching back to the 2007-08 season.

The Huskies remained atop the poll for the sixth consecutive week after a blowout of DePaul and an impressive 81-53 win over then-No. 4 Marquette over the weekend. They received all 62 first-place votes from a panel of national media members, scooping up the 16 first-place votes that Purdue lost when the Boilermakers fell to Ohio State on Sunday.

UConn is riding the second-longest streak at No. 1 in school history behind a 10-week stay during the 1998-99 season, when the team coached by Jim Calhoun and led by Richard Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin beat Duke for the national championship.

“All we can control is taking a championship approach to the next game,” said UConn coach Dan Hurley, whose team was the No. 2 overall seed behind Purdue in the first look provided by the NCAA tournament selection committee over the weekend.

UConn has won 14 straight games, the longest streak in men’s Division I basketball.

“We just talk about a championship-level approach, mentality, execution,” said Hurley, whose team is aiming for the first repeat national championship since Florida in 2006-07. “We’re not going to talk about standings. There’s no reason to talk about that.”

Houston rode an easy win against Texas over the weekend into the second spot ahead of Purdue, while Arizona moved up one spot into fourth and Tennessee climbed three spots to round out the top five.

Iowa State ran its winning streak to four straight in the rugged Big 12 with wins over Cincinnati and Texas Tech last week, and that sent the Cyclones up four spots to No. 6. That’s the highest the program has been ranked since Dec. 14, 2015.

Marquette dropped three spots following its loss to the Huskies and was seventh. Duke was eighth, Kansas fell three positions to ninth after a lopsided loss to Texas Tech and a win over Oklahoma, and North Carolina rounded out the top 10.

Baylor was 11th and was followed by Illinois, Alabama, Auburn and Creighton. Dayton stayed put at No. 16, with Kentucky up five spots to No. 17. Saint Mary’s was next after extending its winning streak to 13 games, and San Diego State leapt back into the poll at No. 19. South Carolina fell nine spots to No. 20 after losses to Auburn and LSU.

There were four newcomers or returning teams among the final five on Monday: Washington State at No. 21, followed by Colorado State, Texas Tech and Florida. BYU fell six spots but held down the final position in the Top 25.

The Cougars, who have won seven straight, returned to the poll for the first time since they were No. 21 in the final ranking of the 2007-08 season. That team reached the Sweet 16 before losing to Final Four participant North Carolina.

Their first test as a ranked team will be a trip to No. 4 Arizona on Thursday night.

“It’s the hardest place to play in the country,” Washington State coach Kyle Smith said. “They’re going to have a really good crowd. You’re going to have to handle the onslaught. There’s going to be a lot of juice in the building. That’s the No. 1 challenge — can we handle that environment? But it’s a privilege. Pressure is a privilege.”

IN AND OUT The volatility that has marked the back half of the poll all season continued this week. The Aztecs, Cougars, Rams, Red Raiders and Gators all moved into the ranking at the expense of Virginia, Wisconsin, Florida Atlantic, Indiana State and Oklahoma.

The Badgers have been in free fall since climbing to sixth the final week of January, losing five of their last six. FAU climbed to No. 7 the final week of December before last season’s NCAA tournament darling finally slipped from the poll altogether.

RISING AND FALLING Kentucky made the biggest jump among teams that were ranked last week, using impressive wins over Ole Miss and then-No. 13 Auburn to climb five spots to No. 17. Iowa State jumped four positions to land at sixth.

South Carolina’s wild ride also continued this week. The Gamecocks vaulted from out of the poll to No. 15 two weeks ago, moved up four spots to No. 11 last week, then plummeted nine spots to No. 20 after a pair of losses last week.

CONFERENCE WATCH The SEC moved into a tie with the Big 12 for the most teams in the poll with six apiece. The Big East had three, while the Big Ten, Pac-12, ACC and Mountain West each had two teams in the Top 25.

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