Auburn keeps winning, Kentucky is rising and that has the Southeastern Conference putting its imprint atop this week’s The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll.
Bruce Pearl’s Tigers earned 49 of 61 first-place votes in Monday’s new poll to extend the program’s first stay at No. 1 for a second straight week, while John Calipari’s Wildcats jumped to No. 5 for the program’s highest ranking in the AP Top 25 in more than two years. The SEC has a pair of top-five teams for the first time in nearly three years.
Auburn (20-1) has won 17 straight games since losing a double-overtime game to Connecticut in November. The Tigers earned a narrow win at Missouri in their first game at No. 1 then followed with Saturday’s home win against Oklahoma, not to mention the school reaching a deal with Pearl for an eight-year contract.
“It’s been a good week,” Pearl said with a chuckle after the Sooners win.
Kentucky (17-4) had the week’s biggest jump, rising seven spots after winning by 18 at Kansas on Saturday. This marks the highest ranking for Kentucky since the 2019-20 season, when the Wildcats spent one week at No. 1 in the first regular-season poll and sat at No. 6 in early March.
“Every time we play like a team … I don’t think anybody can stop us,” Wildcats big man Oscar Tshiebwe said after the Kansas win.
This marks the first time the SEC had two top-five teams since February 2019, when Kentucky was fourth and Tennessee was fifth.
THE TOP TIER
Gonzaga remained at No. 2 and earned the other 12 first-place votes. UCLA climbed to No. 3, followed by Purdue – which claimed its first No. 1 ranking earlier this season. The Bruins opened the year at No. 2 and have now spent 11 weeks inside the top five, the Boilermakers nine.
Houston and Arizona were next after Kentucky, followed by reigning national champion Baylor, which has stumbled after a 15-0 start and a 21-game winning streak that began with last year’s title run.
Baylor spent five weeks at No. 1 but has split its last six games after Saturday’s loss at Alabama. And the Bears’ four-spot slide marked the first time the Big 12 hasn’t had at least one team in the top five since the final poll of the 2018-19 season.
Baylor remains the only team in the country to rank in the top 10 of KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency (118.8 points per 100 possessions) and adjusted defensive efficiency (89.1).
While Kentucky had the biggest jump, No. 18 Illinois also had a notable move by climbing six spots following last week’s win against Michigan State. In all, nine teams rose in Monday’s poll.
Kansas fell five spots to No. 10 after its loss to Kentucky, but it was No. 25 LSU that took the week’s biggest tumble. The Tigers fell six spots after losing at TCU.
No. 19 Southern California and No. 22 Tennessee joined Arizona and Baylor in falling four spots. In all, nine teams fell from last week’s rankings.
Six teams remained locked in place for a second straight week, including No. 9 Duke, No. 11 Wisconsin, No. 16 Ohio State and No. 21 Xavier.
Texas re-joined the poll at No. 23 as the lone new addition following a one-week absence in a season that saw the Longhorns open at No. 5.
FAREWELL (FOR NOW)
Davidson fell out of the poll from No. 25 after earning the program’s first AP Top 25 ranking since March 2015.
The Big 12, Big East and Big Ten tied for the national lead with five ranked teams each in Monday’s poll. The SEC has four, followed by the Pac-12’s three. The Atlantic Coast, West Coast and American Athletic conferences each had one ranked team.