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A long time coming: Houston No. 1

by DAVE SKRETTA AP Basketball Writer | November 29, 2022 at 3:41 a.m.
Houston guard Terrance Arceneaux (23) celebrates his 3-point shot against Oregon with forward J'Wan Roberts (13) and Houston guard Jamal Shead (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Andy Nelson)

Make some room, Phi Slama Jama. Another Houston team has reached the top of men's college basketball.

Nearly four decades after Clyde Drexler and Akeem Olajuwon took the Cougars to No. 1, the latest bunch led by Marcus Sasser and star freshman Jarace Walker took over the top spot in The Associated Press Top 25 on Monday. They received 45 of 63 first-place votes from the national media panel, easily outdistancing second-place Texas and third-place Virginia.

"It's not like we went online and applied for it and waited for a response back. We've been working for this," said Houston Coach Kelvin Sampson, whose team is coming off a Final Four and Elite Eight trip the past two seasons. "But remember, it's a rental. You don't own it. You're just renting it because someday somebody else is going to be No. 1."

North Carolina had been No. 1 all season, but the Tar Heels lost to Iowa State and in a four-overtime thriller to Alabama at the Phil Knight Invitational to cede the top spot to Houston, which beat Kent State in its only game last week.

The last time the Cougars ascended to No. 1 was the final poll of the 1982-83 season, when "The Glide" and "The Dream" along with Coach Guy Lewis were the favorites to win it all. They rolled through the NCAA Tournament before falling to Jim Valvano and North Carolina State in an iconic championship game in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

"I've never been ranked No. 1," said Sampson, now in his 34th season as a college basketball coach. "We were ranked all 12 years at Oklahoma. I'm sure we were ranked at Indiana. Then we've been ranked five or six straight years. We're used to having a high level of success."

Texas received eight first-place votes and Virginia received two. Arizona climbed from 14th to fourth after emerging from a stacked field to win the Maui Invitational. Purdue jumped from 24th all the way to fifth and scooped up eight first-place votes after beating West Virginia, Gonzaga and Duke at the Phil Knight Legacy tourney.

"Our guys are competitive. They're fun to coach. They get along. They're out there playing with purpose and that's what you have to have," said Boilermakers coach Matt Painter, whose team was briefly No. 1 about this time last season.

"Early in the season, very few teams play with the purpose collectively," he said. "I thought our guys played with a purpose."

Baylor was sixth, Creighton seventh and U Conn climbed from 20th to eighth after beating Oregon, Alabama and Iowa State to win the Phil Knight Invitational. Kansas fell from third to ninth after losing to Tennessee in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, while Indiana rounded out the top 10.

There was a tie for 11th between SEC rivals Alabama and Arkansas with the Volunteers, another conference foe, right behind them. Gonzaga dropped from sixth to 14th, its first time outside the top 10 since Feb. 5, 2018, and Auburn was 15th.

Illinois was next followed by Duke and North Carolina in a tough week for Tobacco Road. The Blue Devils fell from eighth after their 75-56 loss to the Boilermakers.

Kentucky and Michigan State joined UCLA, Maryland, Iowa State, San Diego State and Ohio State in rounding out the poll.

Purdue made a rare 19-spot jump as the poll underwent a massive shakeup. UConn climbed 12 spots, Arizona moved up 10, Tennessee climbed nine and Alabama seven. On the flip side, the Tar Heels tumbled 17 spots, Duke dropped nine, Gonzaga fell eight and San Diego State fell seven.

  photo  Houston forward Jarace Walker (25) drives the lane as he is defended by Oregon center Kel'el Ware (10) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Andy Nelson)
 
 
  photo  Oregon centers N'Faly Dante (1) and Nate Bittle (32) pressure Houston guard Tramon Mark, center, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Andy Nelson)
 
 
  photo  Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson watches during an NCAA college basketball game against Kent State, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Kevin M. Cox)
 
 
  photo  Texas head coach Chris Beard directs his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Rio Grande Valley, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
 
 
  photo  Virginia players celebrate after defeating Illinois in an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
 
 
  photo  Virginia's Jayden Gardner (1) dunks against Illinois during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
 
 
  photo  Arizona guard Cedric Henderson Jr. (45) tries for a three pointer over Creighton forward Arthur Kaluma (24) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
 
 
  photo  Purdue guard Fletcher Loyer, right, and center Zach Edey celebrate the team's win over Duke in an NCAA college basketball game in the Phil Knight Legacy Championship in Portland, Ore., Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)
 
 
  photo  Kent State guard Sincere Carry (3) is blocked by Houston forward Jarace Walker (25) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Kevin M. Cox)
 
 

Print Headline: A long time coming: Houston No. 1

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