Villanova is the number one team in the country in men’s basketball for the first time in school history, according to ESPN’s release of the latest AP poll. The Wildcats jumped to the top spot by virtue of their big win at then-ranked No. 11 Providence on Saturday. Villanova was also thrust to number one thanks to losses by Oklahoma and North Carolina, No.’s 1 and 2 respectively in last week’s poll. This past Saturday, the Sooners fell to Kansas State and The Tar Heels lost to Notre Dame, marking the first time since 2006 that the top two teams in the poll lost to unranked teams on the same day.
Villanova jumped from No. 3 to No. 1 after a 25-point win over Creighton last Wednesday and Saturday’s 12-point victory over the Friars, in which Darryl Reynolds led the way with 19 points and 10 rebounds as the Wildcats avenged their only conference defeat of the season. Villanova head coach Jay Wright released this statement through the team’s official website on the monumental achievement.
“We’re honored and humbled to have been voted No.1 by the writers in the Associated Press poll and the coaches in the USA Today Coaches poll. There’s still a lot of basketball left to be played and handling this will be another challenge for our team. We look forward to it.”
College basketball has been defined by parity and unpredictability this season, as Villanova becomes the sixth school to hold the No. 1 spot in the polls. The record for a single season is seven. Barring a major upset, the Wildcats should maintain their hold on the top spot, as their two games this week come against DePaul and St. John’s, the worst two teams in the Big East. Nova earned nearly half of the 65 votes en route to their ascension, while Maryland received 13 first-place votes.
Villanova is 20-3 overall and 10-1 in the Big East, a game better than Xavier, who ascended to No. 5 in this week’s poll. The two teams will square off on February 24 in Ohio, with the Musketeers looking to make up for a 31-point loss in the previous meeting on New Year’s Eve. As mentioned, Villanova fell to Providence two weeks ago. Their only other two losses came in December, both to ranked opponents. The Wildcats dropped two of three at the hands of Oklahoma and Virginia, sandwiched around a win over Big 5-rival LaSalle.
Despite skipping over it this year, Villanova has a penchant for the No. 2 spot in the poll. This is the first time in program history they’ve vaulted to No. 1, but they found themselves in the two-spot seven times previously. Only four other schools have been ranked second more without ever reaching No. 1 status: Maryland, Purdue, Dayton, and Saint Bonaventure. The Terps will certainly have a shot in 2016, as they currently occupy the No. 2 spot. The Boilermakers would have a lot of work to do if they want to reach the top. Purdue currently sits at No. 18 in the AP poll, though they have been as high as No. 9. Maryland defeated Purdue by 11 points on Saturday.
Villanova’s toughest challenge remaining on their schedule will be that February 24 battle with Xavier. But next week’s match-ups with Temple and Butler won’t be a walk-in-the-park either. The Wildcats will close out their regular-season schedule against Georgetown on March 5.
Rounding out the Top 10 behind Villanova and Maryland are Oklahoma, Iowa, Xavier, Kansas, Virginia, Michigan State, North Carolina, and West Virginia. USC and Texas are new to the poll this week at No. 23 and No. 24, respectively. The Sooners and Longhorns tip off Monday night, while Tuesday night features two top-25 match-ups to watch in Michigan State-Purdue and West Virginia-Kansas.
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