No changes at top of the poll but 3 newcomers at bottom of Top 25

By: By JIM O'CONNELL, AP Basketball Writer
By: By JIM O'CONNELL, AP Basketball Writer

December 17, 2007

Lots of final exams, little change in The Associated Press' Top 25 on Monday.

With North Carolina No. 1 for the seventh consecutive week, the top 15 teams in the poll held their spots from last week. However, there was movement near the bottom of the rankings with three teams moving in, two for the first time this season.

Miami and West Virginia jumped into the poll at Nos. 22 and 24, respectively, while Southern California again returned to the rankings at No. 25, this time after being out of the poll for one week.

The last time Miami (8-0) was in the Top 25 was the 2001-02 season when the Hurricanes were ranked for the last 12 weeks, reaching as high as No. 12.

"It is early, but for where our program is and where we're trying to be, it's a great thing," fourth-year Miami coach Frank Haith said Monday, hours before the Hurricanes were to face in-state rival Stetson. "We're trying to build a program here and the more weeks you can stay ranked it helps build your resume for the end of the year."

North Carolina (9-0) beat Rutgers 93-71 on Sunday night in its only game of the week. The win concluded a stretch of six straight games away from home for the Tar Heels, who received 48 first-place votes and 1,772 points from the 72-member national media panel.

Memphis (10-0), which beat Middle Tennessee 65-41 in its only game, was No. 1 on 19 ballots and had 1,710 points.

Kansas (10-0) and Texas (10-0), which were third and fourth, both received two first-place votes, while No. 5 Georgetown (8-0) had the only other No. 1 nod.

Duke, Washington State, UCLA, Michigan State and Marquette again rounded out the top 10. Pittsburgh was 11th followed by Tennessee, Indiana, Texas A&M and Clemson.

The top 14 teams all played just one game last week and Clemson was off as most schools curtailed their schedules during the traditional week of end of semester tests.

Butler moved up two spots to 16th and was followed by Vanderbilt, Gonzaga, Arizona and Villanova.

The last five ranked teams were BYU, Miami, Oregon, West Virginia and Southern California.

The three teams that fell out after losing once last week were Xavier, Louisville and Saint Mary's, Calif.

Miami, which beat Providence 64-58 in the title game at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off for its big early season win, won 64-58 at Mississippi State last Thursday for a 9-0 start, a far cry from last season's 12-20 record.

"This team has kind of found a way," Haith said. "I would say we haven't had any adversity, but we have. I think this squad has been able to handle it because of what we went through last year."

West Virginia (8-1) is ranked for the first time under first-year coach Bob Huggins. The Mountaineers, whose only loss was by two points to Tennessee in the Legends Classic, were ranked for four weeks last season under John Beilein, who left after the season for Michigan, allowing Huggins to return to his alma mater.

Southern California (6-3) was ranked in the preseason poll, fell out for two weeks, returned for two and the fell out again last week. The Trojans, who did not play last week, lost their last two games to No. 3 Kansas and No. 2 Memphis, both by four points.

Xavier (8-2) fell out from No. 17 after a 77-55 loss at Arizona State.

Louisville (5-3), which was No. 6 in the preseason poll, fell from 22nd after a second straight loss as coach Rick Pitino goes for career win No. 500. The Cardinals have lost center David Padgett for the season to a knee injury and have not had forward Juan Palacios all season because of a knee injury and forward Derek Caracter was suspended last week. They lost to Dayton at home the first time Pitino went for 500 and then lost 67-59 to Purdue last week in the Wooden Tradition in Indianapolis.

Saint Mary's (7-1) cracked the Top 25 last week for the first time since 1989. The Gaels dropped from No. 24 after losing 71-56 at Southern Illinois.

There are three games between teams ranked in the top 11 this week which should guarantee more movement in next week's poll. On Thursday, Duke and Pittsburgh meet in New York at Madison Square Garden. On Saturday, Georgetown is at Memphis and Texas plays Michigan State at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.


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