Monday, February 23, 2009
Pitt No. 1 for second time this season
One by one, the top three in last week's ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll came tumbling down.
First, top-ranked Connecticut was defeated by Pittsburgh on one of its home floors. Then, No. 3 North Carolina lost at Maryland in overtime. And, in a fitting finale to a wacky week on the hardwood, Oklahoma -- minus an injured Blake Griffin for much of the game -- was dealt its first Big 12 loss by Texas in Austin.
Pittsburgh (25-2) fell one first-place vote shy of being a unanimous No. 1 in this week's ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll. The other vote went to No. 2 UConn, which lost to Pitt at the start of last week.
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So, in the new rankings released Monday, Pitt became the logical choice to bounce from No. 4 to No. 1 -- the second time the Panthers have hit the top of the poll this season with 30 of 31 first-place votes, the other going, surprisingly, to UConn. Pitt also is No. 1 in The Associated Press media poll.
Pitt (25-2) ascended to No. 1 on Jan. 5 for the first time in school history and held the top spot for a second week before a loss to Louisville ended its run. The Panthers' 4-to-1 jump was only the sixth such move during the regular season in the 12 years of ESPN's affiliation with the coaches' poll. The last comparable rise came in November 2003, when Kansas moved from fifth to first, just as that season launched.
Pitt has four regular-season games left, concluding that portion of its schedule with a home date against UConn (25-2) on March 7. The Huskies, second in the new poll, lead the Big East at 13-2, a half game ahead of Pitt, Marquette and Louisville, all 12-2.
UConn fell to No. 2 in the rankings, marking just the second week in the ESPN era of the poll that two Big East teams have held the top two spots. The other instance was on March 6, 2006, when UConn was No. 1 and Villanova was No. 2.
Oklahoma (25-2) settled in at No. 3 and Memphis (24-3 and 12-0 in Conference USA) -- tied for 24th in the poll just five weeks ago -- shot up from sixth to fourth. ACC leader North Carolina (24-3) fell to fifth. The Sooners face No. 15 Kansas (22-5) Monday night in Norman (ESPN, 9 ET) with first place in the Big 12 on the line. Both are 11-1 in the conference.
Louisville (21-5), Duke (22-5), Missouri (23-4), Michigan State (21-5) and Marquette (23-4) made up the remainder of the top 10, with Missouri making a two-spot jump.
Despite a five-game winning streak that includes UCLA and Arizona as its victims, Arizona State (21-5) again was denied top-10 entry. The Sun Devils led off the second 10 in the poll, followed by Villanova (22-5), Clemson (22-4), Wake Forest (20-5), the Jayhawks, Purdue (21-6), Gonzaga (21-5), LSU (23-4), UCLA (20-7) and Illinois (20-6).
The Illini held on to their Top 25 status, falling from 16th, despite scoring 33 points in last week's loss to Penn State.
Washington (20-7), Xavier (22-5), Butler (23-4), Texas (18-8) and Florida State (21-6) round out the rankings, with the Longhorns and Seminoles replacing Utah State and Syracuse.