Kentucky returns to being top 'Cat

Photo by Scott Chancey

Photo by Scott Chancey

Kentucky is back in a familiar place, and so is its coach.

The Wildcats, the last unbeaten team in Division I, were a unanimous No. 1 in The Associated Press' college basketball poll on Monday, their first time on top since the final poll of 2002-03.

Only three schools have been No. 1 more often.

For first-year coach John Calipari, Kentucky is the third school he has taken to No. 1. He led Massachusetts to the top spot in 1994-95 and 1995-96, and Memphis in 2007-08.

Calipari is 40-5 while coaching the No. 1 team. It's a role he's familiar with, even if it's new territory for a roster filled with freshmen and sophomores that has fueled Kentucky's quick turnaround.

"We've gone from a guy that's not very good looking to just a beautiful young man," Calipari said with a laugh.

The Wildcats (19-0) moved up one spot, replacing Texas (17-2), which was No. 1 for two weeks before losing to Kansas State and Connecticut, both on the road. The Longhorns, who were ranked No. 1 for the first time in school history, dropped to sixth.

Kentucky's first game as the nation's No. 1 team will be at South Carolina tonight. Calipari isn't sure what to expect, but doesn't think the Wildcats will get too full of themselves.

"This is a pretty levelheaded group," he said.

Junior forward Patrick Patterson, who went through two underwhelming seasons under former coach Billy Gillispie, said he's not concerned about the Wildcats growing complacent.

"We want the respect of others and we have that now," Patterson said. "When we became No. 1, (Calipari) started talking about it and he wants it to motivate us. He said teams that he's had have kept the No. 1 and just ran with it, and that's just what he wants us to do and that's what we expect to do."

This is Kentucky's 89th week at No. 1, which trails only UCLA (134), Duke (111) and North Carolina (105).

Kansas, the only other No. 1 team this season, Villanova, Syracuse and Michigan State all moved up one place from last week to be second through fifth.

After Texas, Georgetown, Duke, West Virginia and Purdue rounded out the top 10.

North Carolina (12-7), the defending national champion and loser of three straight and four of five, did not receive a vote and dropped out of the poll for the first time since January 2006. The Tar Heels were sixth in the preseason poll.

Clemson, Northern Iowa and Mississippi State also dropped out of the Top 25 while Connecticut, Vanderbilt, New Mexico and UAB, all of whom were ranked earlier this season, moved into the rankings.

Kansas State and BYU led the second 10, with the Cougars' No. 12 ranking their highest since being 11th in February 1988.

Gonzaga was 13th, followed by Tennessee, Temple, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Mississippi, Connecticut and Ohio State. The last five teams were Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, New Mexico, Baylor and UAB.