Florida Atlantic has highest ranking ever in AP Top 25. Purdue remains No. 1

Florida Atlantic guard Jalen Gaffney (12) celebrates after scoring against Arizona in overtime Saturday in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Lucas Peltier)

Florida Atlantic’s run to the Final Four last season was viewed as a nice story, a small program making a surprise run before sliding back into anonymity.

The Owls are showing this season that that was no fluke.


Coming off a double-overtime win over No. 4 Arizona, FAU moved up seven places to No. 7 in The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll released Monday. It’s the Owls’ highest ranking as a program after being No. 10 in the preseason poll.

“We wanted to play it in the worst way for a lot of reasons,” FAU coach Dusty May said before the 96-95 win over Arizona on Saturday. “National television. Our guys wanted to be challenged. They love the challenge. And we felt our program was at a point where we needed these games to elevate even more than a Final Four run.”

Purdue maintained its top ranking for the second straight week, receiving 46 first-place votes from a 60-person media panel after blowing out Jacksonville. No. 2 Kansas had five first-place votes and No. 3 Houston received nine. Arizona and UConn rounded out the top five.

Florida Atlantic made massive waves last season, earning the program’s first ranking in the AP Top 25 during the regular season before making a magical run in the NCAA Tournament. The Owls just missed a shot at the national championship game when San Diego State’s Lamont Butler beat them with a buzzer-beating jumper.

Florida Atlantic (10-2) returned nearly everyone from that team and has shown another deep run could be coming.

The Owls suffered an unexpected slipup with an early home loss to Bryant and lost to then-No. 20 Illinois by seven at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 5. FAU won the ESPN Events Invitational by knocking off then-No. 12 Texas A&M in the semifinals and Virginia Tech in the title game.

The Owls showed plenty of grit in Las Vegas on Saturday, going toe to toe with Arizona in one of the best games of the season so far.

Johnell Davis scored 35 points and FAU dodged Caleb Love’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer to win its fifth game over a ranked opponent over the past two seasons. The Owls had been 1-19 against AP Top 25 teams before last season.

Rising and falling

FAU had the biggest jump of the week within the poll and No. 16 Duke climbed five places after beating No. 17 Baylor 78-70. No. 19 Memphis moved up four places following wins over Virginia and Vanderbilt.

No. 22 Creighton had the biggest drop of the week, falling 10 places after losing to Villanova in overtime. No. 12 Oklahoma fell five places after losing by 12 to No. 9 North Carolina.

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