Previewing your college hoops weekend: Will Ohio State lose?

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UPSET SPECIAL

Sat. 2:00 pm: No. 1 Ohio State @ No. 14 Wisconsin: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.

A Wisconsin win on their home court may not even be qualified to be considered an upset, even if the opponent is the undefeated and No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes. But since Wisconsin is ranked 14th and Ohio State is ranked 1st, we are calling it an upset to justify the use of this space to preview what is the marquee game of a pretty good slate of games.

The Badgers don’t score a lot of points, but don’t let that fool you — Wisconsin is the most potent offensive team in the country. The reason for that? They don’t turn the ball over and they make their free throws. Its that simple. They maximize the number of possessions that end in a shot which counteracts the fact that they are just an above average team shooting the ball, and they capitalize on their freebies.

Jon Leuer is the star of this team, but Jordan Taylor is their most important player. He controls their offense and thus the pace of the game, he doesn’t turn the ball over, he scores and he creates shots for his teammates, and the ball is in his hands at the end of a clock. It will be interesting to see who ends up guarding him; Aaron Craft and David Lighty are both terrific defenders.

By now, you surely know the way that Ohio State’s offense runs. They play off of their massive freshman Jared Sullinger, getting the ball into the post and allowing him to essentially be the playmaker. With shooters like Jon Diebler, David Lighty, and Williams Buford around him, Sullinger has plenty of options if an opponent doubles him. Wisconsin will probably have to, has their big men will be at a severe mismatch.

But they create a mismatch for the Buckeyes to deal with. Both Leuer and Nankivil are terrific shooters. Sullinger is going to have to guard one of them on the perimeter, and for everything he does well, the big fella is not built for defending 20 feet from the rim. That matchup is a big reason this game is so interesting. Now consider this — Wisconsin is the best team in the country at knocking down free throws and keeping possession of the ball, but Ohio State is the best in the country at keeping opponents from getting to the foul line and are the tenth best team when it comes to forcing turnovers.

This won’t be a high-scoring game, but if you appreciate quality, fundamental basketball, you’ll love this game.

UPSET ALERT

Sat. 1:00 pm: No. 21 North Carolina @ Clemson: This is not meant as a diss to the Tar Heels. If you read what I wrote off of Wednesday’s Duke-UNC game, you’ll understand that. This is meant more as a complement to the Tigers. Clemson looks like they may have the parts to play their way into that fourth spot in the ACC standings. They also seem to matchup pretty well with UNC. They are a solid defensive team with a couple of veteran guards that will like nothing more than to shut down Kendall Marshall. Clemson wants to play at a more deliberate pace than the Heels, so is Demontez Stitt can control the tempo and Clemson can limit their turnovers, the Tigers have a shot at home.

Sat. 1:00 pm: Temple @ Dayton: I know Dayton has been bad this season, but I still like the talent and athleticism that the Flyers have on their roster. Chris Wright and Chris Johnson are both quality basketball players while Juwan Staten has been one of the better freshman this season. Temple, however, is a terrific defensive team, which is an issue for a team like Dayton that really struggles to score at times. Dayton needs to play like they did against La Salle, when they scored 85 points, and not the way they did down the stretch against Rhode Island, scoring just 26 points in the last 25 minutes.

Sat. 4:00 pm: Baylor @ No. 3 Texas: I know this seems silly, but the Bears look like they are slowly turning into the team we expected in the preseason. They aren’t quite there yet, and may never get there with AJ Walton running the point, but Perry Jones has played so well of late that there is discussion he could be the No. 1 overall pick next season. Quincy Acy, who was moved to the bench, continues to rebound and block shots while Anthony Jones has made some big plays in the past couple of games. And, of course, they still have LaceDarius Dunn, who can explode for 30 points on a given night. I know how good Texas has been of late as well, but Baylor needs this win more than Texas. Hopefully, the Bears come out hard and make this a game.

Sat. 8:00 pm: No. 6 San Diego State @ UNLV: The Rebels have played well below expectations this season, but the Rebels certainly have the talent to be competitive against SDSU. UNLV can get out and defend, in the full court if necessary, and they have a number of players that can hit threes. Combine that with a Thomas & Mack Center that will be packed, and UNLV should have no problem getting fired up for this one.

Sat. 9:00 pm: Tennessee @ No. 19 Florida: The Vols are a perplexing team. They win games they shouldn’t win and they lose games they shouldn’t lose. They are talented, and when they decide to play and decide they are going to give effort, well, just as Pitt and Villanova what happens. The Vols match up well with Florida, especially Chandler Parsons, as both Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson will likely see minutes guarding him. Parsons has been sensational of late and is a huge reason why the Gators have jumped out to a two game lead in the SEC.

Sun. 1:00 pm: No. 12 Purdue @ Illinois: Did a Thursday win at Minnesota turn things around for the Illini? Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale both came off the bench, and while neither played their best game, its a good sign that Illinois was able to pull out a victory on the road despite being dominated in the paint and shooting just 4-16 from deep. It will be interesting to see if Bruce Weber brings his two seniors off the bench again on Sunday.

BEST MATCHUPS

Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 13 Syracuse @ No. 15 Louisville: The battle of the 2-3 zone. Believe it or not, Syracuse has actually won two straight games on the road while losing their last three in the Carrier Dome. Maybe getting down to the KFC Yum! Center is exactly what they need. The Cardinals have now lost two of their last three games, with the win being a way-too-close four point victory against DePaul. Against Georgetown and Villanova, the Orange struggled getting out to shooters, and if they do that against Louisville, they will get blown out, as the Cards have a number of back court players that are streaky shooters, capable of getting 25 on a given night. Right now, Louisville is tied with Villanova for the all-important fourth spot in the Big East standings. Syracuse sits a game behind both of them.

Sat. 1:00 pm: No. 18 Kentucky @ No. 24 Vanderbilt: You’ll see this written 1,000 times before this game on Saturday, but Kentucky needs to prove that they are capable of winning on the road. They are 1-4 in SEC play on the road and have struggled dealing with a lack of leadership in those games. Each of the four losses have been close games that the Wildcats failed to execute down the stretch. Vandy, on the other hand, is coming off of a win over Alabama that allowed Florida to take over the overall lead in the SEC standings. Kentucky, Vandy, Tennessee, and Georgia are all sitting at 5-4 in the SEC, two games behind Florida in the loss column. Who makes themselves stand out in that group?

Sat. 2:00 pm: Old Dominion @ VCU: George Mason has been playing as well as anyone in the country over the past month, climbing into a first place tie with VCU in the CAA standings. In that run, however, the Patriots dominated ODU at home. VCU will be looking to do the same thing this weekend, as the Monarchs head to Richmond in a game that they have to win if they want any chance at winning the regular season title. The contrast of these two teams will make this fun to watch. ODU is a gritty, physical team known for hitting the glass. The Rams spread the floor and look to get up a lot of threes. Of note — Joey Rodriguez reinjured his ankle on Wednesday night.

Sat. 6:00 pm: Utah @ No. 8 BYU
: This was once one of the fiercest rivalries in the country, but with Utah’s fall from grace over the past few seasons, the importance of the game has been diminished. With both schools leaving the Mountain West next season, it will be quite interesting to see if the rivalry continues. If it doesn’t, which I doubt will happen but is certainly a possibility, than this is the last time the two schools will play. Oh yeah, when BYU played at Utah this year, The Jimmer had 47 points.

Sat. 9:00 pm: No. 4 Pitt @ No. 10 Villanova: This is the biggest game of the weekend for the east coasters. The Panthers are getting ready to run away with the Big East. They are two games up on Notre Dame, three games up on Georgetown, Villanova, and Louisville, and four games up on the rest of the pack. And while they will be playing without Ashton Gibbs in this one, the Panthers are a program that is built to withstand the loss of a key player. Ask West Virginia, who lost to the Gibb-less Panthers on Monday. If Villanova stands a chance in this game, they are going to need to get on the defensive glass. Mouph Yarou and Antonio Pena have to rebound the ball.

Sat. 9:00 pm: New Mexico @ Colorado State: Believe it or not, this has become one of the more important games in the MWC schedule this season. Right now, it appears as if the league will be getting two bids, not the four that we all expected coming into the season. These two teams, however, are right their on the bubble. Its almost to the point that, for both of these teams, every game is a must-win. To top it off, Colorado State’s terrific front line of Travis Franklin and Andy Ogide will be going against Drew Gordon, Philip McDonald, and company.

Sun. 1:00 pm: Marquette @ No. 11 Georgetown: This should be a very entertaining game. Both of these teams are (very) guard heavy, utilize bigger small forwards to play four, sometimes five, perimeter players at the same time, and both have no problem pushing the ball in transition. Darius Johnson-Odom and Austin Freeman are two of my favorite players to watch in the conference. The x-factor in this game will be Jae Crowder. He’s not putting up the numbers that Lazar Hayward did, but he has more than filled Hayward’s role.

Sun. 2:00 pm: Xavier @ Duquesne: The biggest game of the year to date in the Atlantic 10. The Dukes and the Muskies are both tied for first place in the standings, a game in front of Temple and Richmond. But not only are they fighting for a regular season title and seeding in the A-10 tournament, they are both still fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Xavier took a big step in that direction by winning at Georgia, but they would probably feel more comfortable about their chances if they took over first in the league. Of note — Duquesne beat Temple soundly in Pittsburgh back in January.

BEST STORYLINES

Friday

  • 7:00 pm: Yale @ Harvard: Harvard is a game behind Princeton in the Ivy standings, but Yale is sitting in third at 4-2 in the league.
  • 7:00 pm: Jacksonville @ East Tennessee State: Belmont has a comfortable lead in first place of the Atlantic Sun standings, but these two teams will be scrapping it out for second.

Saturday

  • 12:00 pm: No. 7 Notre Dame @ South Florida: South Florida nearly knocked off Marquette on Wednesday, and Notre Dame has struggled at times on the road.
  • 12:00 pm: St. Louis @ Richmond: The Spiders still have a chance to win the A-10, but they need to win games like this.
  • 12:00 pm: IPFW @ Oakland: The Grizzlies are no longer undefeated in the Summit League, but they are still the overwhelming favorite to win the league.
  • 1:00 pm: Maryland @ Boston College: All kinds of bubble implications in this one. Right now, these two teams are probably competing for fourth in the ACC.
  • 1:30 pm: Oklahoma @ No. 20 Missouri: Missouri needs a bounce back win as bad as anyone in the country. After that, they can work on winning on the road.
  • 1:30 pm: No. 22 Texas A&M @ Texas Tech: The Aggies have been trending the wrong way of late, especially on the road. They aren’t in danger of losing a bid to the tournament, but they are hurting their seeding.
  • 2:00 pm: Hofstra @ Delaware: Charles Jenkins is the one of the best guards in the country, but Jawan Carter of Delaware is pretty good himself.
  • 3:00 pm: Florida State @ Virginia: The Seminoles looked impressive early against Georgia Tech, but they had trouble closing out the game. Typical FSU, right?
  • 4:00 pm: Iowa State @ No. 2 Kansas: The Jayhawks have been absolutely running over their opponents since Thomas Robinson rejoined the team.
  • 4:00 pm: Ole Miss @ Alabama: After losing to Vanderbilt, the Crimson Tide cannot afford a loss here.
  • 4:00 pm: Georgia @ South Carolina: The Bulldogs need to start padding their resume if they why to feel comfortable about their at-large chances. Road wins in the SEC East are a good way to start.
  • 5:00 pm: James Madison @ George Mason: The Dukes are as talented as any team in the CAA, but GMU is currently in first place in the conference and playing as well as any team in the country right now.
  • 6:00 pm: Southern Miss @ Memphis: This is an incredibly important game at the top of Conference USA. The Tigers beat the Golden Eagles in their first meeting this season.
  • 6:30 pm: Texas Southern @ Jackson State: First place in the SWAC is on the line.
  • 7:00 pm: Rutgers @ Seton Hall: The battle of the Dirty Jerz.
  • 8:00 pm: Detroit @ Butler: Ignoring the implications in the Horizon League standings, the matchup between Ray McCallum and Shelvin Mack should be a fun one to watch.
  • 8:05 pm: Wright State @ Valpo: We can talk about the Horizon League implications in this game — first place is on the line.
  • 9:00 pm: Fresno State @ No. 17 Utah State: The Aggies cannot afford another loss before the conference tournament if they want a shot at earning an at-large bid.
  • 9:00 pm: Kansas State @ Colorado: Its tough to say whether which side either of these teams are still on the bubble, but a win in this game will help start getting them onto right side.
  • 9:00 pm: Northern Colorado @ Montana: First place in the Big Sky is on the line.
  • 10:00 pm: Wichita State @ Northern Iowa: This matchup would have been a lot more intriguing had these two teams not lost the past three games they played.
  • 10:30 pm: No. 23 St. Mary’s @ San Francisco: The Dons are always tough at home. Road games in conference are always tough.

Sunday

  • 12:00 pm: St. John’s @ Cincinnati: Like so many games this weekend, all kinds of bubble implications in this one.
  • 6:00 pm: No. 25 Minnesota @ Iowa: The Gophers have had a disastrous finish to their season after a terrific start.
  • 6:45 pm: No. 5 Duke @ Miami: How will the Blue Devils respond after knocking off UNC?
  • 7:00 pm: Providence @ No. 9 UConn: UConn has been in a tailspin of late. Last year, they were in a tailspin and Providence sent them crashing to the ground. Can UConn bounce back against the Friars?
  • 9:00 pm: No. 16 Arizona @ Arizona State: Rivalry games on the road are always tough to win. That said, the Sun Devils are 1-10 in a bad Pac-10.

No. 9 Kansas blows lead, then holds off No. 5 Texas, 88-80

Evert Nelson/The Capital-Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Dajuan Harris Jr. was willing to acknowledge that Kansas was facing something rare when fifth-ranked and Big 12-leading Texas arrived at Allen Fieldhouse.

The defending national champs played like it.

Gradey Dick scored 21 points, Harris had 17 points, six rebounds and five assists, and the ninth-ranked Jayhawks held on after blowing a 14-point first-half lead to beat the Longhorns 88-80 and tighten the league race.

Kevin McCullar Jr. added 16 points, Joseph Yesufu scored 14 off the bench and KJ Adams finished with 10, helping the Jayhawks (19-5, 7-4) overcome an off night from Jalen Wilson. The league’s leading scorer at 21.5 points per game battled foul trouble and was held to just two, ending his streak of 25 straight double-figure games.

“We knew we had to come in here and get a win,” said Dick, who had the Jayhawks’ only two 3-pointers. “The big thing, just in preparation for the week, was coming out with energy. When we do that, we’re a scary team.”

The Jayhawks needed everyone’s help holding off the Longhorns’ Marcus Carr.

The Minnesota transfer, who had a game-high 29 points, kept answering Kansas baskets down the stretch. His 3-pointer got the Longhorns within 77-68 with 2:25 left, three free throws made it 78-71 with 1:31 to go, and his three-point play got the Longhorns (19-5, 8-3) within 86-80 with 23.5 seconds remaining.

Texas quickly fouled Dick at the other end, and his free throw with 18 seconds left helped to put the game away.

“It was as close to a must-win as you could have this early in the season to win the league,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “You go down three games with seven left, you’d have to win out and get a lot of help from others. Now, we still have as hard a schedule as everybody, but we can kind of control our own destiny where if we play well, we have a shot.”

Timmy Allen finished with 18 points for the Longhorns. Sir’Jabari Rice had 12 before fouling out.

“It was their night tonight in terms of what they got done,” Texas interim coach Rodney Terry said.

The Longhorns have made a habit of overcoming double-digit deficits: 18 down to beat TCU, 12 down to beat Texas Tech and 14 down to beat No. 12 Kansas State last Saturday in a game played just down the road.

So it wasn’t that surprising when Texas dug another 14-point hole Monday night.

Just like the Longhorns did in Manhattan, though, they began to rally. Texas shook off 10 first-half turnovers to get within 42-35 by the break, then kept coming in the second half. Hunter hit a 3-pointer, Carr added a couple of buckets and it was 43-all when Self called a timeout to slow Texas’ momentum.

Unlike the Horned Frogs, Red Raiders and Wildcats, the Jayhawks rose to the challenge.

McCullar’s three-point play while they were clinging to a 49-48 lead gave them a boost, and Dick added a couple of free throws. But it was back-to-back buckets by Harris, who is known more as a distributor than as a scorer, that pushed the lead to 58-50 with about 12 minutes to go.

Texas closed within 66-60 but, after the Jayhawks pulled down two offensive boards, Dick hit another 3-pointer. And when Yesufu bookended a couple of free throws by Harris, the lead had stretched to 75-62 with 3 minutes to go.

The Jayhawks were able to fend off Carr and the Longhorns from there.

“Give those guys credit. They came in and played at a very high level,” Terry said, “and we knew that would be the case.”

BANGED-UP BIRDS

The Jayhawks were missing several backups. Zack Clemence has a hurt knee, Bobby Pettiford Jr. is dealing with a hamstring injury and Zuby Ejiofor a foot injury. Kyle Cuffe Jr. (knee) and Cam Martin (shoulder) also were out.

“I thought the bench was great. As good as they’ve been all year,” Self said. “We had nine guys we could put in the game.”

BIG PICTURE

Texas has struggled to get off to good starts this season, and it seemed the energy the Longhorns expended climbing back into Monday night’s game was missing by the end. Carr tried to carry them but he needed more help.

Kansas got the production it needed from the bench. Yesufu provided the scoring pop but big man Ernest Udeh Jr. and guard MJ Rice, both seldom-used freshmen, also provided important minutes for the Jayhawks.

UP NEXT

Texas heads home after its Sunflower State swing to play West Virginia.

Kansas has a two-game trip next with Oklahoma on Saturday and Oklahoma State.

No. 19 Miami rolls past Duke 81-59, moves to 13-0 at home

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
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CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Miami guard Isaiah Wong pointed to the crowd, waving his arms, asking for noise, asking for the celebration to start.

The lead, at that point, was 3-0.

Didn’t matter. From start to finish, the Hurricanes were in total control — and got a rare rout over Duke.

Norchad Omier had 17 points and 10 rebounds, Jordan Miller added 16 points and No. 19 Miami never trailed on the way to a 81-59 win over Duke on Monday night.

Wooga Poplar scored 14 and Wong scored 11 for Miami (19-5, 10-4 Atlantic Coast Conference). The Hurricanes led by as many as 26 and improved to 13-0 at home.

“That was a great performance, from start to finish,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “There was a lot of energy. And all I can tell you is, everybody who came tonight’s game is invited back – because that’s the kind of environment that we’d love to have every night.”

Ryan Young and Dereck Lively II each scored 11 points for Duke (17-7, 8-5), which saw its three-game winning streak snapped. Jeremy Roach added 10 points for the Blue Devils, who were outrebounded 38-31 and committed 21 turnovers.

It was the second game this season where Duke never led, and the 22-point loss was its second-worst this season. The Blue Devils lost to N.C. State by 24 on Jan. 4.

“Congratulations to Miami. There’s a reason they haven’t lost here at home,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said. “They’re really good. They obviously had it clicking on all cylinders right away.”

It was the second-biggest Miami victory margin in the series between the schools, topped only by the Hurricanes’ 90-63 win over then-No. 1 Duke on Jan. 23, 2013. Miami also enjoyed huge edges in points off turnovers (23-9), second-chance points (24-9) and fast-break points (17-7).

And Miami got payback for a 68-66 loss at Duke earlier this season.

“We had something to prove,” Miller said. “They beat us last time. We were revved up for this game and we got it done.”

Duke fans started leaving with 4:24 left and Miami up by 26, the Hurricanes’ student section serenading them as they departed.

Miami ran out to a 13-1 lead and stretched it to 34-17 later in the first half, putting Duke in unfamiliar territory quickly. The Blue Devils had trailed by more than 15 in just two other games – by 29 to N.C. State, and by 19 to Purdue.

“When you have 21 turnovers, you can’t expect yourself to have a good game,” Lively said.

It was 40-26 at the half. When Miami opened the second half on a 9-0 run to build a 23-point lead, the outcome quickly became academic.

“The crowd fueled us to keep it going,” Larranaga said.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: Maybe it’s too difficult to quickly reset after a rivalry game. This is the third consecutive year the Blue Devils have lost the game immediately following their first matchup of the season with North Carolina. “It’s tough. It’s not easy. But it’s what you have to do. … It’s part of playing in the ACC,” Scheyer said.

Miami: The Hurricanes remained one of six teams from major conferences to be unbeaten at home – the others being Alabama, UCLA, Providence, Iowa State and Duke. Across Division I, 20 teams entered Monday with perfect home marks.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Miami has been in the poll for nine straight weeks, the program’s longest such run since being ranked in each of the first 11 polls of the 2017-18 season – and figures to stay there if it tops Louisville on Saturday. Duke has been out of the AP Top 25 for the last four weeks; the Blue Devils were two slots away in the poll released Monday, behind only Florida Atlantic on the “also receiving votes” list.

BARRY HONORED

Basketball Hall of Famer Rick Barry, Miami’s all-time leading scorer, was presented with a customized basketball during a first-half stoppage of play.

UP NEXT

Duke: Visits No. 8 Virginia on Saturday.

Miami: Hosts Louisville on Saturday.

Minnesota-Illinois postponed for COVID-19 in Gophers program

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota’s game at Illinois that was scheduled for Tuesday has been postponed because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols within the Gophers’ program.

The announcement was made Monday by Minnesota, which didn’t specify how many players would have been unable to play.

The Gophers (7-15, 1-11) had only eight available scholarship players for their last game, an 81-46 loss to Maryland on Saturday. Dawson Garcia (ankle) has missed the last four games, and Braeden Carrington (leg) has missed the last six. Parker Fox and Isaiah Ihnen will not play this season while recovering from knee injuries.

The game will be rescheduled by the Big Ten, with input from both schools.

Minnesota is next scheduled to host Iowa on Sunday. Illinois (16-7, 7-5) will host No. 24 Rutgers on Saturday.

Purdue stays No. 1 in AP Top 25; NC State in at No. 22

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
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Purdue’s unquestioned grip on No. 1 in The Associated Press poll is gone after a weekend loss. That didn’t stop the Boilermakers from remaining at the top anyway.

The Boilermakers earned 38 of 62 first-place votes in the poll to remain at No. 1 for a third straight week and seventh time this season. Purdue was the unanimous choice last week, the first for any team this season, before falling at Indiana over the weekend for only its second loss.

The Boilermakers (22-2, 11-2) have a leading candidate for national player of the year in Zach Edey and KenPom’s No. 1-ranked offense (121.1 points scored per 100 possessions) to go with a top-25 defense. But they got down big, committed 16 turnovers and allowed the Hoosiers — up to No. 18 this week — to shoot nearly 53% in a 79-74 loss Saturday.

“When we go to Zach and we make some perimeter shots, the defense gets better sometimes when the offense flows,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said at his postgame news conference. “And you can’t do that. You can always rebound, you can always take care of the ball, you can always make your free throws, those things there.”

The loss meant Houston collected 22 first-place votes as it rose one spot to No. 2, followed by No. 3 Alabama and No. 4 Arizona in each claiming one.

THE TOP TIER

Texas jumped five spots to No. 5, shooting past Tennessee, which fell four spots to No. 6 after losing last week at Florida.

UCLA, Virginia, Kansas and Marquette rounded out the top 10, with Shaka Smart’s Golden Eagles cracking the top 10 for the first time since 2019.

RISING

The Longhorns’ jump marked the biggest of the week, followed by Marquette and Miami each rising four spots. No. 13 Xavier, No. 15 Saint Mary’s and No. 21 UConn joined Indiana in each moving up three positions.

In all, 12 teams rose from last week’s rankings.

SLIDING

Kansas State took the week’s biggest tumble, falling five spots to No. 12 after losing at Kansas and at home to Texas last week. No. 16 Gonzaga joined Tennessee in falling four spots after its overtime loss at Saint Mary’s.

In all, nine teams fell from last week’s rankings.

STATUS QUO

Purdue was the only team to remain in the same position this week.

WELCOME

North Carolina State earned its first AP Top 25 ranking in four years, checking in at No. 22.

The Wolfpack (19-5, 9-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) spent six weeks in the poll during the 2018-19 season. N.C. State already has surpassed the win total for each of the last two seasons and is in contention for the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2018.

Creighton and Rutgers joined N.C. State as this week’s new additions to the poll, though both were ranked earlier this season. The Bluejays were No. 9 in the preseason poll and peaked at No. 7 before falling out by mid-December, while the Scarlet Knights spent a week at No. 23 in mid-January.

FAREWELL (FOR NOW)

Florida Atlantic (No. 19), Clemson (No. 20) and Auburn (No. 25) fell out of this week’s poll.

CONFERENCE WATCH

The Big 12 leads all leagues with six ranked teams, including No. 11 Iowa State, No. 14 Baylor and No. 17 TCU. The Big East is next with five ranked teams, followed by the Big Ten and ACC with three each.

The Pac-12, Southeastern and West Coast conferences each have two ranked teams, while the American Athletic and Mountain West each have one.

Indiana reaches No. 2 in women’s AP Top 25; South Carolina still No. 1

Noe Padilla/Journal & Courier/USA TODAY NETWORK
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South Carolina beat a top opponent to remain No. 1 in the women’s poll and now has a showdown with another one looming this weekend.

The Gamecocks (23-0) topped then- No. 5 UConn 81-77 to remain unbeaten and stay the unanimous choice atop the poll from the 28-member national media panel. After facing Auburn, South Carolina will play No. 3 LSU in a matchup of the last two unbeatens in Division I women’s college basketball.

Dawn Staley’s team has won 29 consecutive games and has been No. 1 in the poll for 33 consecutive weeks. That’s one week short of tying the Huskies for the third-longest streak atop the poll. Only UConn (51 weeks) and Louisiana Tech (36) have had longer runs at No. 1.

While South Carolina has had a stranglehold on No. 1 for more than a year, Indiana is making its first appearance ever at No. 2 after Stanford lost to Washington.

“I’m going to relish this for a minute, knowing where the program was to where it is,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said. “We’ve made a lot of history since we’ve been here in our nine seasons and it’s one of the more historical things we’ve been able to accomplish. Give our players credit, I don’t want to discount what a big achievement this is. We’re more than humbled to be No. 2.”

Indiana has won 10 straight since suffering its lone loss of the season to Michigan State. The Hoosiers have a tough stretch coming up, starting with a home game against No. 5 Iowa. Indiana, which hadn’t been ranked higher than fourth, then plays No. 13 Ohio State and 12th-ranked Michigan.

“That’s why we take it one game at a time, but you understand the magnitude of what’s ahead of us. I tell the kids all the time we’re in control of our own destiny,” Moren said.

LSU remained at No. 3 after close wins over Tennessee, Georgia and Texas A&M. The Tigers have a week to prepare for the Gamecocks.

UConn moved up one spot to fourth after its close loss to the Gamecocks and Iowa was fifth.

The Cardinal fell to sixth with Utah, Maryland, Duke and Notre Dame rounding out the top 10. The Blue Devils beat the Irish to take over sole possession of first in the ACC and vault up six spots in the poll. It’s Duke’s best ranking since the team finished the 2017 season ranked ninth.

FALLING CYCLONES

It was a rough week for Iowa State, which lost to Kansas by one point and Baylor by six. The Cyclones fell nine spots in the poll from 12th to 21st.

RE-ENTRY

Colorado came back into the poll at No. 25 after beating Oregon and Oregon State over the weekend. The Buffaloes were ranked for four weeks before falling out last week. Middle Tennessee dropped out of the poll after losing both its games last week.