By AARON BEARD
AP Basketball Writer
Houston is back at No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25 men’s college basketball poll for the second time this season, while Kansas State continued its unexpectedly strong start by leaping from unranked to the verge of the top 10.
The Cougars received 34 of 60 first-place votes in Monday’s poll to return to the top after a two-week stay there earlier this season. Kansas was second and had 22 first-place votes, while Purdue fell from No. 1 to No. 3 and got the other four first-place votes after suffering its first loss at Rutgers last week.
Before this season, the Cougars (16-1) hadn’t been No. 1 since the high-flying “Phi Slama Jama” days of the 1980s.
“Every team, you just have to bring them along because they’re all different,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said after Sunday’s win at Cincinnati. “Our DNA remains the same, but the faces change. … As the season goes on, guys get better and better.”
Kansas State jumped to No. 11 after an impressive week with two road wins against ranked opponents under first-year coach Jerome Tang. Picked to finish last in the 10-team Big 12, the Wildcats scored 116 points at Texas then edged Baylor 97-95 in overtime.
That helped Kansas State (14-1) match its best start since the 1958-59 season, while bringing the Wildcats back into the AP Top 25 for the first time since the end of the 2018-19 season.
“We’re not trying to prove doubters (wrong),” Tang said after the Baylor win. “We’re trying to just continue to believe in ourselves … That’s a great accomplishment for these young men. But none of that matters if we lay an egg the next game, right?”
THE TOP TIER
Alabama and Tennessee gave the Southeastern Conference a pair of top-five teams, with the Crimson Tide returning to No. 4 for the first time since spending a week there in December and the Volunteers hitting their season high at fifth.
Connecticut, UCLA, Gonzaga, Arizona and Texas rounded out the top 10, with the Longhorns falling four spots after a tumultuous week that included the firing of coach Chris Beard as he faces a felony domestic family violence charge.
No. 14 Iowa State climbed nine spots after road wins against Oklahoma and No. 17 TCU. No. 12 Xavier rose six spots after pushing its winning streak to nine games. In all, 10 teams climbed from last week’s poll.
No. 24 Duke took the week’s biggest tumble, falling eight spots after a blowout loss at North Carolina State followed by a narrow win at Boston College. No. 16 Miami and No. 18 Wisconsin joined Arizona and Texas in falling four spots. In all, nine teams fell from last week’s rankings.
TCU and No. 20 Missouri were the only teams to hold their position from last week.
While Kansas State grabbed the spotlight for the week’s new additions, the Big East added two teams with No. 19 Providence and No. 25 Marquette joining the poll. It marked the first appearance this year for the Friars and second for the Golden Eagles.
No. 23 San Diego State also returned for a second stint in the poll this year.
FAREWELL (FOR NOW)
Indiana (No. 15), Baylor (No. 19), New Mexico (No. 21) and Ohio State (No. 24) fell out of the poll, with Scott Drew’s Bears now unranked for the first time since the 2018-19 season.
The Big 12 and SEC each had five ranked teams to lead the country, followed by the Big East with four teams. The Atlantic Coast Conference had three, while the Big Ten and Pac-12 each had two.
The American Athletic, West Coast and Mountain West conferences along with the Colonial Athletic Association each had one ranked team.
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