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Monday, January 21, 2008

Memphis takes over top spot in men's hoops poll

Memphis takes over top spot in men's hoops poll

By Craig Bennett, USA TODAY

The state of college men's basketball in the state of Tennessee is definitely on the rise.
After a weekend of upsets throughout the Top 10, Memphis supplanted North Carolina atop the USA TODAY/ESPN coaches' poll released Monday. And the University of Tennessee is in the top five for the first time in seven seasons.

The Tigers (17-0) rose to the No. 1 spot for the first time since USA TODAY began administering the coaches' poll in the 1991-92 season. They had 21 of the 31 first-place votes and were second on the other 10 ballots.

Kansas, at 18-0 the only other unbeaten men's team in Division I, grabbed the other 10 first-place votes. The No. 2 Jayhawks are followed by Duke, North Carolina and Tennessee.

UNC, which was atop the rankings for the last seven weeks, suffered its first loss of the season Saturday 82-80 at home to Maryland.

For the Vols (16-1), the No. 5 ranking is their best since they were fifth during the same week of the 2001 season. Tennessee was as high as No. 4 earlier that season. Propelling the Vols' rise was an 80-60 win last week against another in-state rival, then-No. 14 Vanderbilt.

Should Memphis and UT maintain their rankings, it would set up a huge showdown Feb. 23 in Memphis.

UCLA, Georgetown and Texas A&M were the other Top 10 teams to drop this week after losses. UCLA dropped three spots to seventh, Georgetown three spots to ninth and A&M — which lost twice — seven spots to 16th.

New to the rankings this week: No. 21 Stanford, No. 23 Drake and No. 24 Saint Mary's.

Drake (16-1), on a 15-game winning streak and alone atop the Missouri Valley Conference under first-year coach Keno Davis, has the school's first ranking since the end of the 1974-75 season. The Bulldogs had gone without a winning season for 22 years until finishing 2006-07 at 17-15.

Stanford and Saint Mary's had appearances in the Top 25 earlier this season. The Cardinal (15-3) is coming off a 67-52 win against then-No. 25 Arizona State that knocked the Sun Devils from the rankings.

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