Gonzaga drops to No. 6, Virginia enters top 5 in AP hoops poll
Virginia had the difficult task of playing two ranked teams while grieving a tragedy that shook the Cavaliers and the rest of their campus.
Playing a week after three football players were shot to death on a bus, Virginia won the Continental Tire Main Event in Las Vegas over No. 16 Illinois after taking down No. 7 Baylor. The wins vaulted the Cavaliers from No. 16 to fifth in The Associated Press Top 25 released Monday.
“It feels great in the moment, but more so now, we know what truly matters,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “When you have a momentary celebration like this, it enables you to enjoy it and it seems to matter, but in the big picture, it doesn’t.”
A slate of marquee games in the second full week of the college basketball season led to tumult in the AP Top 25.
Gonzaga dropped from No. 2 to No. 6 after falling last Tuesday 93-74 at Texas. The Longhorns, meanwhile, jumped seven spots from 11 to four. Gonzaga didn’t fall too far thanks to its rebound Sunday in Spokane, beating Kentucky 88-72.
Kentucky had a big fall from No. 4 to No. 15.
North Carolina remained atop the poll, receiving 47 first-place votes from a 63-person media panel. Houston moved up a spot to No. 2 and had nine first-place votes. No. 3 Kansas had one first-place vote, No. 4 Texas received five and Virginia one.
The Cavaliers (4-0) had the week’s biggest jump, climbing to its highest ranking since reaching No. 4 in 2020-21.
Virginia opted to cancel its game against Northern Iowa last week after Lavel Davis Jr., Devin Chandler and D’Sean Perry were fatally shot after a field trip to Washington.
The Cavaliers wore sweatshirts honoring the victims during warmups before playing Baylor and pulled away in the second half for an 86-79 win. The Cavaliers used another second-half run to beat Illinois 70-61, claiming a therapeutic title to take back with them to Charlottesville.
“Just for the community, I felt like they needed that,” Virginia guard and tournament MVP Reece Beekman said.
Michigan State was unranked in the AP preseason poll in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1996-97 after losing its top three scorers from a year ago.
With a brutal early schedule, the Spartans figured to need some time to gain their footing. Tom Izzo has them moving at an accelerated pace. Michigan State lost by one to Gonzaga on an aircraft carrier, knocked off Kentucky in double overtime and survived a late comeback bid to beat Villanova.
The solid showing in a difficult stretch moved Michigan State into this week’s poll at No. 12.
“It’s everything that we thought it would be,” Michigan State guard A.J. Hoggard said. “This is what we signed up for, this is what we wanted.”
Houston opened the season at No. 3, its highest preseason ranking since 1983. The Cougars hit another high mark since the Phi Slama Jama era, moving up a spot to No. 2 this week.
Houston opened the season with four straight blowouts and made a statement in its first big test of the season, winning 66-56 at Oregon on Sunday night.
The Cougars are holding teams to 46 points per game and have four players averaging double-figures scoring, led by preseason All-American Marcus Sasser’s 16.8 points per game.
Virginia had the week’s biggest jump within the poll, followed by No. 4 Texas’ seven-spot climb after manhandling Gonzaga.
No. 15 Kentucky and No. 19 UCLA had the biggest drops, losing 11 places. The Wildcats lost to Michigan State and followed a win over South Carolina State with a 16-point loss to Gonzaga. The Bruins lost to Illinois and Baylor in Las Vegas.
IN AND OUT
No. 23 Maryland is ranked for the first time this season after picking up three wins last week, including 88-70 over Miami to win the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off.
Purdue makes its AP Top 25 debut this season at No. 24 following a 75-70 win over Marquette.
No. 25 Iowa also is ranked for the first time in 2022-23 on the heels of its 16-point win over Seton Hall.
SeattleSports.com staff contributed to this report.