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And Then There Were None
by Larry Ness - 01/15/2013
Four teams entered last week unbeaten, No. 1 Duke, No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Arizona and unranked Wyoming. The Cowboys were the first to fall, losing 63-61 at home to Boise State. then came the ranked teams. Arizona lost 70-66 at Oregon last Thursday, Duke lost Saturday 84-76 at NC State (the Blue Devils were playing their first road game of the season, the last Division I team to do so) and then Michigan, in position to ascend to No. 1 for the first time since November 1992, lost 56-53 in Columbus to Ohio State on Sunday (Buckeyes have now won NINE straight at home over the Wolverines with Thad Matta going 17-3 against OSU’s most hated rival since taking over in 2004-05).
It was the first time three of the top four teams in the nation lost in the same week since November 2003, when the nation’s top four teams, UConn, Duke, Michigan State and Arizona, all were defeated. Murray State opened 23-0 last season, before falling at home as 10 1/2-point favorites to a 15-10 Middle Tennessee St team on Feb 9, 72-68. Most college basketball fans know that the last team to get through a season unscathed was Bob Knight’s 1976-76 Indiana Hoosiers, who finished 32-0. The closest any team has come since is back in 1991, when UNLV (the defending 1989-90 national champs) won its first 34 games of the 1990-91 season (only ONCE failing to win by double digits), before losing in the national semifinals 79-77 to Duke, the team it beat 103-73 to win the 1990 title.
The nation’s new No. 1 team (as of Jan 14) is Louisville and despite the fact that the Cardinals own two national championships under Denny Crum (1980 and 1986), I was surprised to learn that this marks only the second time the school has risen to the top of the AP poll. The only other time was in the final regular season poll of 2008-909, with that year’s team reaching “only” the Elite 8. Louisville’s lone loss of the current season was 76-71 to Duke in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis tourney on Nov 24 (Blue Devils scored the game’s final EIGHT points!). Louisville has not lost since and Monday night at UConn, the Cardinals showed no let down at all, winning 73-58 for their 11th straight win.
Five schools received first-place votes on Monday, led by Louisville’s 36 (out of 65). Indiana (13), the nation’s preseason No. 1 and for five weeks of the regular season, comes in at No. 2. Duke (14) dropped two spots to No. 3, Kansas (1) rose from 6th to No. 4 and Michigan (1) fell from 2nd to No. 5. Arizona, which also lost for the the first time this season last week, fell from 3rd to No. 7. Four teams fell out of the new poll, No. 19 Georgetown, No. 21 Cincinnati, No. 23 Wichita St and No. 24 UNLV. The four new schools are Oregon at No. 21 (1st ranking since 2007-08), VCU at No. 22 (1st ranking since 1984-85), UCLA at No. 24 (Bruins are back in, after opening the season ranked 13th) and Marquette at No. 25 (1st ranking this year).
Some names you don’t see in the latest AP poll are these nine schools, who all began the season in the top-25 (26 teams were ranked with Wisconsin and UConn tied at 23rd). The list starts with Kentucky (3), North Carolina (11), Memphis (17), UNLV (18), Baylor (19), Wisconsin (23), UConn (23), Cincinnati (24) and Florida St (25). That means there are nine schools in the latest top-25 poll which didn’t make the preseason top-25. They are No. 9 Minnesota, No. 13 Butler, No. 16 Kansas St, No. 19 New Mexico, No. 21 Oregon, No. 22 VCU, No. 23 Illinois and No. 25 Marquette.
At the other end of the food chain we find just two schools still winless in the 2012-13 season, Grambling St (0-14) of the SWAC and Maryland-Eastern Shore (0-13) of the MEAC. Both play this coming Saturday with a chance for that first win.