Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

College Basketball AP Poll: Villanova returns to No. 1 in reshuffled AP Top 25 poll

1 Comment

Villanova needed just a week to reclaim its lost No. 1 ranking in the AP Top 25. West Virginia waited a lot longer — nearly six decades, in fact — to get back to its position at No. 2.

Villanova returned to the top spot in Monday’s new poll after an upset-filled week that included losses by No. 1 Michigan State and No. 2 Duke. The Wildcats got 52 of 65 first-place votes to move up from third to No. 1, where it spent three weeks in December.

The Mountaineers were next to capitalize on a big win, along with the chaos of a week that saw four top-5 teams lose to unranked opponents and six top-10 teams lose overall.

West Virginia — which beat then-No. 7 Oklahoma last week — earned 12 first-place votes and secured the program’s highest ranking since December 1959 during Jerry West’s senior season. Virginia climbed five spots to No. 3 and got the remaining first-place vote, followed by Michigan State after the Spartans’ loss at Ohio State.

Purdue and Wichita State tied for No. 5. Duke, the preseason No. 1-ranked team, fell five spots to No. 7 after losing at North Carolina State. Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Xavier rounded out the top 10.

Villanova (14-1) lost at Butler on Dec. 30, then had to wait a week before beating Marquette on Saturday.

“We try to learn from our wins and losses,” coach Jay Wright said afterward. “We don’t really judge ourselves on whether we won or lost, we judge ourselves on how well we played Villanova basketball. Sometimes we win and we still didn’t play great Villanova basketball. When you lose, that’s when it’s really obvious. The team just refocuses themselves and recommits themselves.”

MOUNTAINEERS ROLLING

West Virginia (14-1) hasn’t lost since falling to Texas A&M on opening night. That run includes a December home win against Virginia and Saturday’s win against the Sooners and star freshman Trae Young.

“Our entire men’s basketball program is certainly delighted with our highest national ranking since 1959,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said in a statement. “It’s certainly an exciting time for our storied men’s basketball program, the great state of West Virginia and all of Mountaineer Nation. However, our guys know that we play in the toughest basketball conference in the country, and they know what is ahead of them each and every night when we take the court in Big 12 play.”

TOP RISERS

No. 8 Texas Tech (14-1) was the week’s biggest climber. It moved up 10 spots after earning its first win at Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse in 18 tries along with a win against Kansas State for the program’s best ranking since being seventh in March 1996.

Fifth-ranked Purdue (15-2) moved up eight spots for its highest ranking since February 2010 and carries an 11-game winning streak into Tuesday’s trip to Michigan. No. 13 Seton Hall (14-2) also moved up eight spots, matching the biggest one-week AP Top 25 jump in its history.

LONGEST SLIDES

Reigning national champion North Carolina took the biggest fall of any team that remained in the poll, sliding eight spots from No. 12 to No. 20 after road losses to now-No. 23 Florida State and Virginia . Arizona State fell seven spots to No. 11 after its overtime loss to Colorado.

NEWCOMERS

No. 22 Auburn and No. 25 Creighton were new to the poll this week, though the Bluejays have been ranked in four previous polls this season. It’s a different deal for the Tigers (14-1), who are ranked for the first time since January 2003 after wins against ranked Southeastern Conference opponents Arkansas and Tennessee last week.

SLIDING OUT

Arkansas fell out from No. 22 after losses to Mississippi State and Auburn, while Texas A&M went from 11th to unranked after losses to Florida and LSU.

1. Villanova (52 first-place votes)
2. West Virginia (12)
3. Virginia (1)
4. Michigan State
5. Wichita State
5. Purdue
7. Duke
8. Texas Tech
9. Oklahoma
10. Xavier
11. Arizona State
12. Kansas
13. Seton Hall
14. Cincinnati
15. Gonzaga
16. TCU
17. Arizona
18. Miami
19. Clemson
20. North Carolina
21. Kentucky
22. Auburn
23. Florida State
24. Tennessee
25. Creighton

Arizona lands Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arizona landed a key addition for its frontcourt on Wednesday as Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther pledged to the Wildcats.

The 6-foot-9 Luther is expected to receive a hardship waiver that would give him immediate eligibility, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com, as Arizona gets some much-needed help up front.

Playing in 10 games last season before a stress reaction in his right foot ended the season, Luther averaged 12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game for the Panthers. In his final game of the season, Luther went for 13 points and 12 rebounds in a Pitt loss to West Virginia. Luther shot 45 percent from the field and is a noted perimeter threat as he was 38 percent from behind the three-point line.

Luther hasn’t logged heavy minutes as a contributor through a full season. Mostly a role player at Pitt until last season, Luther was the team’s most productive player when he was on the floor. But that production also didn’t come during ACC play and through the course of a full season.

Thankfully at a program like Arizona, Luther should have a bit more help around him. He could be a nice addition to the Wildcats, particularly if he rebounds and spaces the floor in the frontcourt as he did at Pitt. Arizona needed someone like Luther to provide more stability after losing players like Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic.

In the last few weeks, Arizona has rebounded nicely to land three commitments for next season — including freshmen Devonaire Doutrive and Omar Thielemans. The group isn’t as heralded as some past Arizona recruiting efforts. Given where the Wildcats were in recruiting a few weeks ago, however, this isn’t a bad turnaround.

TCU extends Jamie Dixon’s contract by two more years

Getty Images
Leave a comment

TCU has given head coach Jamie Dixon a two-year contract extension through the 2023-24 season, according to a release from the school.

Dixon took the Horned Frogs to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years this season as he’s done a great job of turning around his alma mater. The release also notes that TCU had the highest average attendance in program history this season. Fans are also taking notice of a revitalized team.

With back-to-back 20-win seasons and postseason appearances, Dixon and TCU have a lot of positive momentum going on right now. The two-year extension for Dixon should help a bit in recruiting when it comes to overall stability, as well, as he’s been able to attract some quality talent so far.

Report: Kevin Ollie claims UConn violated rights with firing

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Fired former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie is claiming that the school violated his constitutional rights during his departure.

Ollie sent a letter to UConn school president Susan Herbst which was obtained by ESPN’s Myron Medcalf in a report released on Wednesday. Ollie’s lawyers are claiming the school proceeded with his firing before giving Ollie a proper chance to contest his termination — which was guaranteed in his contract and also the collective bargaining agreement with the University of Connecticut’s branch of the American Association of University Professors. Ollie was fired, with cause, in late March as the school mentioned an NCAA inquiry as the reason why. According to Medcalf’s report, the NCAA has not sent a notice of allegations to the school.

Ollie’s union membership includes thousands of faculty members around the country as the collective bargaining agreement demands a hearing process before any employee can be terminated for allegations of serious misconduct. Ollie claims he didn’t receive a letter he was supposed to get to begin the termination process.

“From our review of the facts and circumstances relating to Coach Ollie’s employment status, it is apparent that the University of Connecticut has already violated [Coach Ollie’s] rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by subverting Coach Ollie’s opportunity to respond to charges and evidence in a meaningful way in advance of the decision to terminate his employment,” said the letter dated April 3.

“The public record, action taken, and authorized communications by representatives of the University of Connecticut, demonstrate that the decision to terminate Coach Ollie has already been made and therefore the University of Connecticut has effectively negated Coach Ollie’s property right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

This letter to UConn likely begins a long legal battle to try to get an eight-figure payout back as Ollie is going to do everything he can to clear his name.

South Carolina’s Brian Bowen, still ineligible, to declare for draft

David Banks/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Former Louisville forward and current South Carolina Gamecock Brian Bowen will declare for the NBA draft without signing with an agent as a safety measure in case the NCAA does not clear him to play in the 2018-19 season.

Bowen is the former top 25 prospect that was forced to leave the Louisville program after the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college hoops turned up evidence that his family had accepted the first payment of what was supposed to be a $100,000 fee to get him to be a Cardinal.

That investigation was ultimately what got Rick Pitino fired.

“I just felt that it was the right decision,” Bowen told ESPN. “My goal is still to play college basketball, but I felt as though it makes sense to cover my bases.”

Bowen is in a tough spot right now.

On the one hand, he has already missed an entire season of college basketball and there is no guarantee that he will be cleared to play next season, if at all.

On the other hand, the fact that he has not played in a year and that he has not played against any collegiate level competition is one of the reasons that NBA front offices are going to be hesitant to draft him, and that’s not a good thing for a player that was considered a second round pick before he spent a year on the sidelines.

North Carolina’s Cam Johnson undergoes hip surgery

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Leave a comment

For the second time in the last six months, North Carolina wing Cam Johnson has undergone the knife.

On Wednesday, North Carolina announced that Johnson underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his hip on Monday, and that he is expected to make a full recovery and return to school in time for the start of the 2018-19 season.

The 6-foot-9 Johnson was UNC’s third-leading scorer a season ago, averaging 12.4 points while shooting 34.1 percent from three. He only played 26 games, however, after missing time due to a surgery to fix a torn meniscus.