Florida reaches No. 2 in AP Poll


Published: Monday, January 9, 2006 at 5:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 9, 2006 at 5:40 p.m.

(AP) - The first full week of conference play jumbled the Top 25 except for Duke.

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Florida's Walter Hodge puts up a shot over Georgia's Mike Mercer (33) during first half college basketball action Saturday, Jan. 7, 2006 in Athens, Ga.

AP Photo/Todd Bennett

The Blue Devils remained No. 1 in The Associated Press college basketball poll Monday, as they have all season, and they were a unanimous choice for the first time.

A week in which 15 members of the Top 25 lost meant the end of the second- and third-longest current poll streaks with Kentucky and Wake Forest out of the rankings. Wisconsin returned after a week out of the poll, and Cincinnati, an unsettled program under an interim coach, cracked the Top 25 for the first time this season.

Duke (14-0), which beat Bucknell and Wake Forest last week, received all 72 first-place votes and 1,800 points from the national media panel to remain No. 1 for the 10th consecutive poll. Illinois was a unanimous No. 1 for six of the last seven polls last season. The last time Duke was a unanimous choice was 2001-02 when the Blue Devils got all the first-place votes for nine weeks.

Florida (14-0) extended the best start in school history with wins over Morgan State and Georgia and moved up three spots to No. 2 with 1,702 points.

The Gators have had two No. 1 rankings in their history, but this climb is so impressive because they weren't ranked in the preseason poll and weren't even considered among the best teams in the Southeastern Conference.

"We have an enormous amount of room to get better," Florida coach Billy Donovan said Monday. "Are we the 75th-ranked team in the country? Are we the second-ranked team in the country? You know what, we're probably somewhere in the middle. Wherever that may be, it's probably fair."

Villanova (10-1) was knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten by West Virginia on Sunday, but the Wildcats held third, the only school besides Duke to have the same place in the Top 25 from last week.

Connecticut (14-1), which lost 94-79 to Marquette and beat LSU 67-66 last week, dropped two places to fourth. The Huskies had seven first-place votes last week and Villanova had two.

Memphis, which lost to Texas last week, dropped from fourth to No. 5 and was followed by Gonzaga, Illinois, Texas, Indiana and Louisville.

UCLA was 11th and followed by Pittsburgh, the only other unbeaten Division I team, Washington, Michigan State, West Virginia, Boston College, George Washington, North Carolina State, Ohio State and North Carolina.

The last five ranked teams were Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Maryland, Arizona and Cincinnati.

Wisconsin (12-2) was back in after a one-week absence following wins over Iowa and Michigan State. The Badgers have won eight of nine, the only loss at Pittsburgh (12-0). Michigan State, which also lost at Illinois, was the only ranked team to lose two games last week.

Cincinnati (13-2) beat DePaul and Marquette last weeks in its first-ever Big East games and the Bearcats have won 10 straight since a loss to Memphis. The run to the rankings has come under interim rookie head coach Andy Kennedy, who was promoted to replace Bob Huggins when he was forced to resign in August.

Huggins led Cincinnati to No. 1 rankings, a Final Four and 14 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances during his 16 seasons at Cincinnati. But there was his arrest and conviction for drunken driving in 2004, and numerous player arrests and violations during his stay in which the school went on NCAA probation.

Kennedy has not had an easy time trying to replace the popular Huggins, and the team has had to make the move from Conference USA to the Big East.

"I'm really happy for our guys," Kennedy said at the shootaround hours before the Bearcats played Connecticut at Hartford. "They have worked really hard and been through a lot and the ranking validates that. But we have a long way to go."

Kentucky's run of 88 consecutive polls started in February 2001, and was second only to Duke's streak, which is at 176. The Wildcats (10-4) beat Central Florida 59-57 last week then lost 73-46 at Kansas, shooting 24 percent from the field in the worst loss in Tubby Smith's nine seasons at Kentucky. The Wildcats were ranked as high No. 7 this season and fell out from 19th.

Wake Forest (11-3) lost 82-64 at home to Duke on Sunday night. The Demon Deacons, who were 23rd, had been ranked for 60 consecutive polls, a run that started Dec. 23, 2002.

Connecticut now has the second-longest current streak _ 49 straight appearances dating to the final poll of 2002-03.

Cincinnati gives the Big East six teams in the Top 25, one off the record set twice each by the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big Ten. The ACC did it last season. The other Big East teams are Villanova, Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh and West Virginia. The ACC and Big Ten both have five schools in the Top 25.

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