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College basketball: No. 1 team in nation has lost in 5 straight weeks

Season of turmoil for top-ranked teams

Caption
(AP)
Miami's Reggie Johnson celebrates with fans after the Hurricanes beat then No. 1 Duke 90-63 on Jan. 23 in Coral Gables, Fla.

Indiana’s latest run as No. 1 didn’t last long, abruptly halted by a loss to unranked Illinois. Duke was bumped from the top spot twice in 3 weeks. Michigan and Louisville went one and done when their turns came.

It’s not lonely at the top, it’s getting crowded.

With the Hoosiers’ expected tumble in the next poll, that’ll be six straight weeks with a new No. 1, the second-longest streak since the first Associated Press poll in 1949.

The way things have gone this season, coaches might start lobbying voters to not put their teams atop the ballot.

“I do think there will be a revolving door or chairs that we will have a new No. 1 or new top fives moving forward because anyone can beat anyone,” Kansas coach Bill Self said Friday. “There is no dominant team, but there are a lot of really good ones.”

Oddly enough, this season of jumbling started with stability at the top.

Indiana was the preseason No. 1 and held there for the first 5 weeks before a 5-foot-11 walk-on from Butler – named Alex, not David – knocked Goliath from the top spot with a floater in overtime.

Duke got the bump to No. 1 after that and stayed in place for four polls until North Carolina State’s fans stormed the court after a Blue Devil dumping in Raleigh on Jan. 12.

Since then, No. 1 teams have perched on a precarious pedestal.

After Duke’s first loss, Louisville moved to No. 1. The Cardinals responded to prosperity with not just one loss, but three in a row, and tumbled out of the top 10 within 2 weeks.

The Blue Devils reclaimed the top spot in the Jan. 21 poll and promptly made Louisville’s lapse forgettable with a 90-63 crushing by Miami, the third-worst loss by a No. 1 ever.

Next up, Michigan. The Wolverines actually managed to win a game as No. 1, beating Northwestern. The downward pull of parity punched Michigan in its next game, a road loss to Indiana that sent the Hoosiers back to the top.

Indiana followed by inexplicably leaving Tyler Griffey open for an uncontested layup at the buzzer that sent hundreds of Illini fans streaming onto the floor and the Hoosiers toward a likely tumble down the poll.

“That’s a hard question. I’m not sure,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said of No. 1 teams struggling to stay on top. “We played at a high level most of the game.”

The current string of No. 1 swapping is the longest since 1994, when Arkansas, North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA and Duke alternated at the top 7 straight weeks.

Top-ranked teams have lost six times this season. No. 1s lost nine times in 2008-09 and at least six times in a season since 1996-97. The top team also lost to an unranked team twice this season, which has happened 10 times in that span.

“What people have underestimated about college basketball this season,” Self said, “is that there is not a great dominant team or more than one great dominant team, but there is a whole bunch of really, really good teams and even really good teams can get upset.”

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