Indiana coach Tom Crean used an analogy to the state’s second favorite sport after the Hoosiers remained No. 1 in The Associated Press’ Top 25 for a second straight week.
It had been over a month since a team managed to stay on top, and Indiana broke that trend despite losing a game last week, leading Crean to bring up auto racing.
“I had a good friend tell me that in-season rankings are the barometer of representing what lane you’re in and the direction and how far you are moving towards your goals,” Crean said Monday. “We want to stay in the left lane and keep working on our team and pace because we know there are quite a few others in the left lane as well.”
The Hoosiers (21-3) lost to Illinois on a last-second basket Thursday but rebounded with a win at then-No.10 Ohio State on Sunday. In a week when four of the top five teams and six of the top 10 lost, it was enough to keep the No. 1 ranking.
“They were really disappointed on Thursday night. And instead of carrying that disappointment into a ‘woe is me’ mentality, they really did trigger how to get better. And I think it was in the sense of closing games,” Crean said.
“I think there was a different level, a sense of urgency because of the way we didn’t finish it off, combined with the fact that we knew we were playing a team that it is outstanding.”
This ends a stretch of five consecutive weeks with a new No. 1, two weeks short of the longest such stretch in 1993-94. Duke started the run followed by Louisville, Duke again, Michigan and Indiana.
The Hoosiers received 26 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel Monday, while Duke, the only member of the top five not to lose last week, moved up two spots to second after getting 20 first-place votes.
The last time a No. 1 team lost and kept the ranking the next week was the final poll of last season. Kentucky fell to Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference tournament championship game, but Nos. 2-4 also went down that week, so the Wildcats were No. 1 heading into the NCAA tournament.
Miami, which received 17 No. 1 votes, jumped from eighth to No. 3, the Hurricanes’ highest ranking ever.
“I’ve never really thought that Miami could be a top 10 program,” center Reggie Johnson said. “I didn’t think we’d be here in February. It’s surreal. The votes are cool, but we’ve still got work to do.”
The Hurricanes are the last team from a major conference to still be unbeaten in league play.
“It’s what every program strives for,” coach Jim Larranaga said. “Carolina and Duke have this every year. It’s a little different for us. These guys are hungry. They remain very, very humble.”
Michigan dropped one spot to fourth, while Gonzaga, which got the other two first-place votes, moved up one spot to fifth.
Syracuse was sixth, followed by Florida, Michigan State, Arizona and Kansas State.
Along with Indiana and Ohio State, the other top 10 teams to lose last week were No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Michigan, No. 5 Kansas and No. 7 Arizona.
There were four newcomers to the rankings: No. 20 Wisconsin, No. 22 Memphis, No. 24 Colorado State and No. 25 Kentucky.
Wisconsin, Memphis and Kentucky, the defending national champion, were all ranked early in the season, while Colorado State makes it first appearance in the poll since March 9, 1954.
They replace Creighton, Cincinnati, Minnesota and Missouri, the only one of the four not to lose two games last week.
In all, 14 ranked teams lost at least once, with five losing twice.
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