Does anyone want to be No. 1?
With Oklahoma and North Carolina losing last week the door was opened for Villanova to take its spot atop the throne, marking the first time in the storied history of the Wildcats program they have earned a No. 1 ranking during the regular season.
Villanova is the sixth team to hold the No. 1 spot this season, just one short of the all-time record. A whopping six different schools received No. 1 votes this week. Here’s how I voted in this week’s poll, with each team’s actual ranking in parenthesis.
1. Villanova (1): The Wildcats have lost only once since the holidays, and their three losses this season occurred against heavyweights Oklahoma, Virginia, and Providence. Villanova avenged the Providence loss with a 12-point win on Saturday.
2. Oklahoma (7): At this juncture, I still have the Sooners ticketed for the Final Four. As we’ve seen though, the college hoops landscape can change quickly this season.
3. Virginia (7): Cavaliers have won six in a row and have held their past three opponents to 50 points or less.
4. Kansas (6): Jayhawks cruised to wins against Kansas State and TCU but get back to the Big 12 grind this week with dates against West Virginia and a rematch against an Oklahoma squad they defeated in an epic three-overtime battle last month.
5. Xavier (5): The only team in the top seven that did not receive a first-place vote.
6. Maryland (3): Terrapins begin the week a half-game behind Iowa in the race for the Big Ten despite an impressive win against Purdue.
7. Iowa (4): Hawkeyes remain in control of their destiny in the Big Ten after defeating Penn State and Illinois. A big test looms Thursday night at Indiana.
8. North Carolina (9): Road woes for the Tar Heels last week with losses at Louisville and Notre Dame.
9. Michigan State (8): Another possible separation week for the Spartans with dates looming at Purdue and at home against Indiana.
10. West Virginia (10): Mountaineers moved up four spots after big wins against Iowa State and Baylor.
11. Miami (Fla.) (12): Hurricanes took care of business against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech.
12. Oregon (11): One week after sweeping through two games in Arizona, the Ducks made it six in a row by dominating Colorado and Utah at home.
13. Louisville (13): Hard not to feel bad for seniors Damion Lee and Trey Lewis after the school announced a self-imposed postseason ban stemming from an alleged sex-for-recruits scandal just after the Cardinals toppled North Carolina.
14. SMU (16): Another school that won’t be in the postseason means the annual NCAA tourney bubble is a little roomier this year. Possibly for a team fitting the Colorado Buffaloes’ profile.
15. Texas A&M (15): Rough week for Aggies included consecutive losses against Vanderbilt and South Carolina.
16. Arizona (23): Road sweeps are hard to come by in the Pac-12, but the Wildcats earned one over the weekend in Washington.
17. Purdue (18): Boildermakers held steady at No. 18 despite a loss against Maryland.
18. Iowa State (14): Though the Cyclones rebounded from a loss against West Virginia by defeating Oklahoma State, ISU coach Steve Prohm announced an indefinite suspension for leading rebounder and third-leading scorer Jameel McKay.
19. Baylor (21): Bears dropped six spots after consecutive losses against Texas and West Virginia.
20. Providence (20): Another year-long regular in the poll that endured a two-loss week. Villanova is one thing, but losing to DePaul stings. Friars have dropped three of four overall.
21. Kentucky (22): Wildcats’ luster continued to face after a setback against Tennessee.
22. Dayton (19): Flyers’ No. 19 ranking is the program’s best since reaching No. 18 early in the 2009-10 season.
23. South Carolina (NR; top of others receiving votes): I was ready to bounce the Gamecocks from my poll before they bounced back from a loss against Georgia by edging Texas A&M.
24. Indiana (NR; second in others receiving votes): Loss to Penn State gives some back-handed help to CU in the RPI, given the Buffs’ win against the Nittany Lions in December.
25. Notre Dame (NR; third in others receiving votes): Despite losing at Miami, I opted to give the nod to the Fighting Irish after their convincing win against North Carolina. ND has won six of eight over the past month, and one of those occurred without dynamic point guard Demetrius Jackson Jr. A meaningless yet true fact: Demetrius Jackson Sr. sacked this particular voter on more than a couple occasions while we competed for rival high school football teams in South Bend.