Baylor and Kansas just keep winning, setting up a monumental showdown Saturday between the top-ranked Bears and No. 3 Jayhawks that could help decide not only the Big 12 title but the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA Tournament.
The two teams were separated once again by Gonzaga in the latest college basketball poll from The Associated Press on Monday. The Bears (23-1) had 48 first-place votes from the 63-member media panel, while the Bulldogs (26-1) had 14 first-place nods and the Jayhawks (22-3) had the only remaining first-place vote.
“The best we could be right now is being the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament. We’re No. 2,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, whose team beat West Virginia and Oklahoma last week. “The reason we’re not No. 1 is Baylor beat us on our home floor. They deserve it. I’m not looking at it like we haven’t done as well as our record because we’re in second place. I’m looking at it like we played pretty good that day and got beat by a better team, and now we have a chance to get them back.”
The Bears and Jayhawks both have business to handle before they collide on Saturday, though. Kansas got a visit from Iowa State to Allen Fieldhouse on Monday night while Baylor will be visiting Oklahoma on Tuesday night.
If both win, it would set up one of the biggest games in the history of the Ferrell Center.
“I think it’s a tribute to the players, their belief,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “We’ve been operating under joy … (and) focusing one game at a time and we’ll keep doing that.”
San Diego State (26-0) remained the nation’s last unbeaten team and was No. 4 in the latest poll, while Dayton (23-2) climbed one spot to fifth after wins over Rhode Island and Massachusetts and a rough week for then-No. 5 Louisville.
“I told our team, ‘Let’s get greedy. Let’s play for perfection,’” Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said. “If we’re this close, we might as well play for a perfect regular season. … Let’s do something special.”
That’s exactly what the Flyers are trying to do, too.
“We’re trying to win a national championship,” Dayton guard Jalen Crutcher said. “We feel like that there’s no team in the country we can’t beat. We feel like we can go and win a national championship, and we talk about that a lot.”
The Cardinals lost to Georgia Tech and Clemson to plummet all the way to No. 11, but they weren’t the only ranked team to lose to an unranked foe on Saturday. Auburn fell at Missouri, Seton Hall lost to Providence, Butler lost at Georgetown, Illinois lost at Rutgers, Houston fell at SMU, Texas Tech fell at Oklahoma State and LSU was beaten on the road by Alabama.
Throw in then-No. 14 West Virginia’s loss to Baylor and nine ranked teams were beaten. Eight lost to unranked opponents, the most in a single day this season.
“This week wasn’t a good week for us,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said. “The teams we’re playing are too together and we’re not right now. It’s unfortunate, but it happens sometimes and my job is to keep our team on course and get better.”
IN AND OUT
BYU climbed into the poll at No. 23 after wins over Loyola Marymount and San Diego, and now faces Santa Clara on Thursday night before a showdown with the second-ranked Zags. The Cougars were followed by Arizona at No. 24 and Ohio State at No. 25, two teams that were in the poll earlier this season before dropping out.
Illinois plummeted out of the poll after losing to Michigan State and Rutgers. Texas Tech also dropped out along with LSU, which lost at Alabama during a brutal Saturday for the nation’s Top 25 teams.
CLIMBING AND FALLING
Creighton made the biggest leap this week, rising from No. 23 to 15th after beating then-No. 10 Seton Hall and DePaul. Penn State moved up four spots to crack the top 10 at No. 9, while Oregon climbed from No. 17 to 14 and Kentucky moved up two spots to round out the top 10.
Louisville’s weak week culminated in a drop of six places to No. 11, while Seton Hall also absorbed a pair of losses and fell to No. 16. West Virginia lost to Baylor and Kansas but was only penalized three places and remained No. 17.
There are some intriguing mid-major programs poised to enter the Top 25 if there’s another week of upsets. Stephen F. Austin quietly improved to 22-3 and is one of the first teams out, while Northern Iowa (22-4), Utah State (21-7) and Rhode Island (19-6) are getting plenty of love from voters as March begins to bear down on the college basketball season.
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