Rick Pitino is guessing his Louisville Cardinals won’t be the last team to be No. 1 this season.
The Cardinals took advantage of losses by Duke and Michigan to move up two spots to No. 1 on Monday in The Associated Press’ Top 25 poll. This is just the second time in school history they’re on top. The other time was the final poll of 2008-09, a season in which they reached the final eight of the NCAA tournament.
UNLV, which dropped its conference opener to New Mexico and rebounded to beat Air Force in overtime, dropped out of the Top 25. The Rebels (14-3) had entered the week at No. 24 in the poll.
Louisville (15-1) was one of five teams to receive a first-place vote this week, and that backs Pitino’s point.
“I think the top teams will play musical chairs for No. 1 for the next two months and it will be really significant at the end of the year,” Pitino said Monday, hours before the Cardinals took their No. 1 ranking into a game at Connecticut. “We played a tough nonconference schedule and I’m really happy the way our guys have battled through injuries. We’ll try to hold the musical top as long as we can.”
The Cardinals, who have won 10 straight since losing to Duke in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, received 36 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel. That’s 23 more than Indiana, which moved up from fifth.
Indiana was No. 1 in the preseason poll and for the first five weeks of the regular season. Duke, which was No. 1 for the last four weeks, was third with 14 No. 1 votes. The Blue Devils were followed by Kansas and Michigan, which drew one first-place vote each.
Four teams entered the week unbeaten: Duke, Michigan, then-No. 4 Arizona and unranked Wyoming and they all took their first loss.
It was the first time three of the top four teams lost in the same week since November 2003, when the top four teams – Connecticut, Duke, Michigan State and Arizona – all were defeated.
Syracuse, Arizona, Gonzaga, Minnesota and Florida rounded out this week’s top 10.
There were four newcomers to the poll this week: No. 21 Oregon, No. 22 Virginia Commonwealth, No. 24 UCLA and No. 25 Marquette.
It is VCU’s first ranking since the 1984-85 season. Oregon is back in for the first time since 2007-08. Marquette was ranked last season and UCLA, which was No. 13 in the preseason poll, is back after being out for the last seven weeks.
They replaced Georgetown, Cincinnati, Wichita State and UNLV, who all lost once last week.