RALEIGH, N.C. — Virginia is now the unquestioned No. 1 in the AP Top 25.
The Cavaliers earned all 65 first-place votes in Monday’s poll after finishing four games ahead of the field in the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season race. This was Virginia’s fourth straight week at No. 1, with the Cavaliers acquiring more first-place votes each time until claiming them all this week.
Virginia joined fellow ACC team Duke as teams to be unanimous No. 1 in the AP Top 25 this season. Pretty good for a team that was picked to finish sixth in the ACC during the preseason.
The Cavaliers (28-2, 17-1 ACC) open ACC Tournament play in Thursday’s quarterfinals in Brooklyn with a chance to sweep the league regular-season and tournament titles for the second time in five seasons.
“Now you are in one-and-done tournament play — the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament,” coach Tony Bennett said after Saturday’s win against Notre Dame.
“You continue on, but you understand that it is quality play,” he said. “You do not change who you are, but you know that if you drop one, you are out.”
BIG EAST SHUFFLE
With Michigan State’s stumble in the Big Ten Tournament, it looked like Xavier was set to move up a spot to No. 2 behind Virginia after winning the Big East regular-season race outright.
Instead, Villanova — which beat the Musketeers this season by 24 and 16 points but finished a game back in the Big East standings — hopped over Xavier from No. 4 while Xavier remained third.
Michigan State fell to fourth, followed by Duke, Gonzaga and Michigan — which jumped eight spots to No. 7 after beating the Spartans and Purdue to win a second straight Big Ten Tournament title .
The Wolverines have won nine straight games and own their highest AP Top 25 ranking since hitting No. 7 in the final poll of the 2013-14 season.
The Wolverines had the biggest climb of the week by far, with most rising teams inching up a spot or two. No. 15 Arizona — which won the Pac-12 regular-season title outright — and No. 21 Houston had the second-biggest climbs with each rising four spots.
The week’s biggest fall belonged to Rhode Island. The Rams fell eight spots to No. 25 after a 30-point home loss to St. Joseph’s followed by a loss at Davidson in which they allowed a 9-0 game-closing run.
No. 17 Ohio State fell four spots after an early loss at the Big Ten Tournament, while No. 9 Kansas and No. 12 North Carolina — which lost on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at home to Miami and then at rival Duke — each fell three spots.
The two newcomers to the poll, Florida and Miami, have been ranked multiple times this season.
The 23rd-ranked Gators were No. 8 in the preseason and hit No. 5 in early December, then fell out two weeks later, re-entered for two weeks in January and then slid back out.
It’s been a similar wild ride for the 24th-ranked Hurricanes. They started the year at No. 13 and peaked at No. 6 in December, though they slid out by January, re-entered for a week in February and then fell out again.
Kentucky and Middle Tennessee fell out of the poll, and that continued the Wildcats’ unusually volatile poll standing this season.
Kentucky, who sat at 23rd last week, was No. 5 in the preseason poll before falling out for the first time in roughly four years in January. But after Saturday’s loss at Florida , the Wildcats fell out for the third time this season.
The Blue Raiders entered the poll for the first time in their history on Feb. 19, but fell out from No. 24 after losing their regular-season finale at home to Marshall on Saturday.