Dec 1, 2014 1:59 PM

Kentucky still firm No 1; defending champs out

The Associated Press

Those young Kentucky Wildcats still have a firm grasp on the No. 1 spot in the AP Top 25 poll. And the team Kentucky lost to in April's national championship game in North Texas no longer is ranked.

Kentucky (7-0), outscoring opponents by an NCAA-best 36.8 points a game, again got 62 of the 65 first-place votes in the new rankings Monday following another pair of lopsided victories. No. 2 Wisconsin (7-0) was on top of the remaining ballots after winning the Battle 4 Atlantis championship in the Bahamas last week.

While the top of the poll steady, Nos. 21-25 are all teams that were unranked last week. Among the five falling out was defending national champion Connecticut (3-2), which lost its second straight game against a Big 12 team.

After falling to West Virginia in Puerto Rico, the Huskies returned home and lost 55-54 Sunday when Texas forward Jonathan Holmes made an open 3-pointer.

"Watching the ball go through the air, I didn't even feel my ankle. It was like numb," said UConn's Ryan Boatright, who rolled his ankle while trying to get in position to contest the shot. "As soon as I saw the ball go through the basket ... the pain just went crazy."

Those same Longhorns (6-0) play at Kentucky on Friday night as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The Wildcats already have faced Big 12 favorite Kansas this season, beating that leagues perennial champion 72-40 in Indianapolis.

The Wildcats are coming off wins of 92-44 over Texas-Arlington and 58-38 over Providence last week.

Matching its wide margins on the court, Kentucky has a comfortable lead in the poll voting: a 111-point edge over Wisconsin.

Arizona and Duke remained third and fourth in the new poll.

With North Carolina losing its first game this season and dropping seven spots to 12th, Louisville, Texas, Virginia, Wichita State and Gonzaga all moved up one spot. Villanova rose by two to 10th.

REBOUND FOR KNOCKOUTS: North Carolina helped one team get ranked and contributed to two others being knocked out of the poll.

The Tar Heels (5-1), who slipped seven spots to 12th, started last week with a 74-66 loss to Butler (5-1). The Bulldogs, who not so long ago reached consecutive national title games, moved into the new poll at No. 23.

Butler returned to the AP poll for the first time since Feb. 23, 2013.

After the loss to Butler, North Carolina rebounded with wins over then-No. 22 UCLA and then-No. 18 Florida. But the Bruins and Gators, who both beat UAB in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, also lost other games last week and are now unranked.

The Gators fell out after 68 consecutive polls, which was the third-longest active streak behind Duke (140) and Kansas (108). Syracuse dropped out last week after being ranked in 80 consecutives polls.

Along with the loss to North Carolina, Florida also dropped an overtime decision against Georgetown, and UCLA lost to Oklahoma, which is 22nd.

FIVE IN, FIVE OUT: The bottom five in the poll has a completely different look.

The highest-ranked newcomer is No. 21 Maryland (7-0), followed by Oklahoma (4-2), Butler, Illinois (6-0) and Utah (5-1).

VCU (4-2) dropped out of the poll from 14th after a 77-53 loss to Villanova, and then lost to Old Dominion after a win over Oregon.

Creighton (6-1) was 23rd before a loss to Mississippi and wins over Eastern Illinois and Middle Tennessee last week. Others dropping out were Florida, UCLA and UConn.

UP WITH A LOSS: Michigan State (5-2) moved from 20th to 19th, even after a loss.

The Spartans already had wins over Santa Clara, Rider and Marquette before a 61-56 defeat to No. 11 Kansas that ended the week.


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