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Kansas, Duke, Tennessee stay 1-2-3 in men’s AP Top 25

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) locks arms with Villanova guard Phil Booth (5) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. Kansas defeated Villanova 74-71. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Kansas didn’t get the chance to hold onto its preseason No. 1 ranking in the AP Top 25 very long, even as an unbeaten team. The Jayhawks are sticking around this time.

The Jayhawks sat atop Monday’s latest men’s college basketball poll for a second straight week. That didn’t happen earlier this season, when Duke jumped Kansas to take No. 1 in the first regular-season poll after a dominating romp against Kentucky despite the fact the Jayhawks had beaten a top-10 Michigan State team.

The Jayhawks (9-0) spent four weeks at No. 2, including one in which Gonzaga hurdled them for No. 1 after beating the Blue Devils in the Maui Invitational championship game. But Kansas reclaimed the top spot last week after Gonzaga’s loss to Tennessee and stayed there after beating reigning national champion Villanova 74-71 at home.

It marked Kansas’ fifth victory by six or fewer points this year, including an overtime win against now-No. 3 Tennessee on Nov. 23.

“I don’t think we’ve played great, by any stretch,” Kansas coach Bill Self said after the Villanova win. “But we played a lot better today than we’ve been practicing. I’m optimistic, very, leaving out of here knowing there is (another) gear we can get to that hasn’t been apparent on a daily basis.”

AT THE TOP

Kansas, Duke and Tennessee were 1-2-3 for the second straight week, with the Jayhawks earning 56 of 65 first-place votes to stay firmly in place. The Blue Devils got five first-place votes to stay at No. 2, while the Volunteers had two.

Michigan and Virginia each claimed one first-place vote, helping them climb into the top five.

Among that quintet, Tennessee is at its highest spot since reaching No. 1 in February 2008 while Michigan has its highest ranking since February 2013.

THE TOP 10

The rest of the top 10 featured Nevada at No. 6, followed by Auburn, Gonzaga, North Carolina and Michigan State.

For Auburn, the Tigers have their highest ranking since the 1999-2000 season, when they spent 13 weeks in the top 10 and peaked at No. 2.

RISERS AND SLIDERS

Gonzaga and North Carolina met over the weekend in a marquee matchup between teams that played for the national championship less than two years ago. A 103-90 win by the homestanding Tar Heels led to some of the week’s biggest poll movement.

The Zags had the biggest fall, sliding from fourth to eighth. The Tar Heels climbed three spots to ninth and were joined by No. 21 Houston and No. 22 Indiana as the week’s biggest risers.

SMALL MOVEMENTS

Outside of Gonzaga and UNC, there wasn’t a huge amount of significant poll movement. Eight teams stayed in the same spots, including No. 13 Virginia Tech, No. 14 Buffalo, No. 15 Ohio State, No. 16 Wisconsin and No. 19 Kentucky.

Among the climbers, No. 18 Arizona State moved up two spots while six others rose only one slot, including No. 17 Mississippi State and No. 20 Marquette.

Five of the week’s ranked sliders fell only one spot, including No. 11 Florida State, No. 12 Texas Tech, No. 23 Iowa and No. 24 Furman.

NEWCOMER

No. 25 Nebraska was the only addition to this week’s poll, though the Cornhuskers were ranked No. 24 earlier this month.

SLIDING OUT

For the second time this season, the reigning champs are out.

Villanova was ranked 17th last week before losing to Penn — snapping a city-record 25-game winning streak against its Philadelphia “Big 5” rivals — and then at Kansas to fall out of the poll again. The Wildcats were ranked eighth in November before losses to Michigan and Furman knocked them out of the poll, though that turned out to be merely a one-week absence.

Kansas State and Syracuse were the other teams to fall out of the poll. They were both tied with Indiana at No. 25 last week — the first three-way tie in the AP Top 25 since three teams shared the No. 13 ranking in 1991.

The Wildcats beat Georgia State in their only game last week and were among the leading vote-getters just outside the rankings. The Orange lost at home to Old Dominion.

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More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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