Gonzaga and UCLA continued their hold on the top two spots in the Associated Press Top 25 men’s college basketball poll Monday, setting the stage for their highly anticipated showdown this week, while Purdue and Duke barged their way into the top five.
The Bulldogs (4-0) had an easy week with wins over Alcorn State and Bellarmine and received 55 first-place votes from the 61-person media panel that regularly covers college basketball. The Bruins (4-0) received five first-place votes after blowing out Long Beach State and North Florida last week to head to Las Vegas with some momentum.
Gonzaga plays Central Michigan and UCLA faces Bellarmine on Monday night in the Good Sam Empire Classic. The nation’s top two teams will square off Tuesday night in a Final Four rematch of a game won by the Bulldogs in overtime.
“It’s important for everybody if you want to make the NCAA tournament,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “If you want to accrue a high seed, you have to play really, really good teams. I think it’s important for college basketball.”
Purdue received the only other first-place vote and leapfrogged Kansas into third in the Top 25 following the Boilermakers’ win over then-No. 5 Villanova in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament. The Jayhawks were fourth and the Blue Devils were fifth.
Defending national champion Baylor jumped to sixth after running roughshod over Central Arkansas and Stanford, while Villanova dropped only to seventh thanks to beating then-No. 12 Tennessee before losing to Purdue. Texas and Memphis were next, with Kentucky and Alabama in a tie for 10th in the second regular-season poll of the season.
Kentucky and Alabama were followed by Houston, Arkansas, Illinois and Tennessee at No. 15.
St. Bonaventure solidified its status as this season’s early mid-major darling by jumping six spots to No. 16 following wins over Clemson and Marquette. Arizona made the biggest leap into the poll at No. 17 after beating Wichita State and romping past then-No. 4 Michigan in the Roman Main Event, followed by another newcomer to the poll in BYU.
“We’ve got good players,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “I know we’ve been out of the limelight; maybe a little bit of that’s my fault because I haven’t been looking for it. But you know what? We’re here now. And we belong.”
Auburn and Michigan rounded out the top 20, with Seton Hall, UConn, Florida, USC and Xavier completing the poll.
“This is where we are as a program,” said Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard, whose Pirates beat the Wolverines last week for their first win over a top-five nonconference team on the road. “We can play with anybody in the country and we have done that in the last seven years.”
SEC — 6 (Nos. 10, 10 tie, 13, 15, 19, 23)
Big East — 4 (Nos. 7, 21, 22, 25)
Big Ten — 3 (Nos. 3, 14, 20)
Big 12 — 3 (Nos. 4, 6, 8)
Pac-12 — 3 (Nos. 2, 17, 24)
American — 2 (Nos. 9, 12)
West Coast — 2 (Nos. 1, 18)
ACC — 1 (No. 5)
Atlantic 10 — 1 (No. 16)
UP AND DOWN
Purdue and Baylor moved up three spots within the top 10, and Alabama move up four spots to forge a tie with SEC rival Kentucky. The biggest drop came with Michigan, which was fourth before a pair of losses sent coach Juwan Howard’s crew tumbling all the way to No. 20.
“We’re going to get better, and I trust we will,” said Howard, whose team has another tough test with North Carolina on Dec. 1. “It’s part of the game: adversity. Adversity hits, it defines the man, or how he responds the next time.”
IN AND OUT
Arizona would have been No. 31 last week and debuted in the poll at No. 17 this week, while BYU would have been 29th a week ago and entered the poll at No. 18. Seton Hall would have been 38th a week ago and came in at No. 21, while Xavier gave the poll four newcomers this week.
Oregon went from No. 12 to the first team out. Ohio State, North Carolina and Maryland also fell out.