Originally created 03/18/03

Kentucky sets record by moving to No. 1



Kentucky is No. 1 at being No. 1 heading into the NCAA tournament.

The Wildcats moved up one place to lead the season's final AP Top 25 college basketball poll Monday, the record eighth time they have held that position right before the postseason.

The last time Kentucky did it was in 1978, when the school won the fifth of its seven national championships. UCLA is next with seven final No. 1 rankings, while Duke has accomplished it six times, including the previous four in a row.

Kentucky (29-3) traded places with Arizona (25-3), which led the rankings for four straight weeks but dropped to No. 2 after being upset by UCLA in the Pac-10 tournament last week.

Kentucky, meanwhile, extended its nation-leading winning streak to 23 games by beating Mississippi State in Sunday's Southeastern Conference tournament championship game.

Both Kentucky and Arizona were seeded No. 1 for the NCAA tournament, which starts this week, as were Texas and Oklahoma.

"I don't think there's going to be any more pressure by being ranked No. 1. It really doesn't mean much," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said Monday. "We appreciate it. It's a great recognition. Our guys have earned that type of respect. But that's not going to help you win any games. I don't think that's going to change our approach."

Kentucky is the fifth team ranked No. 1 this season, one shy of the record set in 1993-94. The Wildcats received 70 first-place votes and 1,774 points from a 71-member national media panel. Arizona had the other first-place vote and 1,686 points.

Kentucky's players "feel very gratified - I know I am - that we've been able to accomplish what we've been able to accomplish this year," Smith said. They'll realize soon enough that what they've accomplished this year has been amazing."

Oklahoma (24-6) moved from sixth to third in the poll after winning the Big 12 tournament, while Pittsburgh (26-4) moved up one place to fourth after winning the Big East tourney.

Texas (22-6) dropped from No. 3 to No. 5 after losing to Texas Tech in the Big 12 quarterfinals.

Kansas fell two spots to sixth and was followed by Duke, Wake Forest, Marquette and Florida.

Illinois climbed two spots to 11th, with the rest of the top 20 filled out by Xavier, Syracuse, Louisville, Creighton, Dayton, Maryland, Stanford, Memphis and Mississippi State.

The last five ranked teams were Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Connecticut, Missouri and Georgia.

Georgia is the only Top 25 team that won't be in the NCAA tournament - the school said last week it wouldn't participate because an internal investigation found evidence of academic fraud.

Mississippi State, Connecticut and Missouri all returned to the rankings this week, while last week's Nos. 23-25 - Oklahoma State, California and Saint Joseph's - dropped out.

The other teams ranked No. 1 this season were Arizona (13 weeks), Alabama (two weeks), Duke (two weeks) and Florida (one week). Alabama and Florida topped the poll for the first time in school history.

A total of 46 teams were ranked this season, the same as last season and two short of the record set in 1992-93.

Fourteen conferences had at least one team in the Top 25 this season. The SEC led the way with seven representatives, followed by the Big 12 and Big Ten with six apiece, and the Pac-10 and Atlantic Coast Conference with five each.

Ten teams were ranked from start to finish: Kentucky, Arizona, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Texas, Duke, Kansas, Florida, Maryland and Marquette.

Ten teams from the preseason poll weren't in the final poll, including No. 8 Alabama and No. 9 Michigan State. The others who weren't there at the end were Oregon, UCLA, Western Kentucky, Indiana, Gonzaga, Cincinnati, Minnesota and Tulsa.

Two teams made one-week appearances: Virginia at No. 22, and College of Charleston at No. 25.



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