ARIZONA BASKETBALL

Arizona basketball stays at No. 4 in newest AP poll

Dec 25, 2023, 11:34 AM

Pelle Larsson, Arizona...

Arizona stood pat at No. 4 in the new AP basketball rankings. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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.

IN AND OUT
No. 25 Providence moved into the poll for the first time since hitting No. 20 last Feb. 27 after beating No. 10 Marquette and Butler last week.

Virginia’s return to the AP Top 25 proved to be short lived. The Cavaliers dropped out this week from No. 22 after the loss to Memphis.

CONFERENCE WATCH
The Big 12 again had the most ranked teams with six and the Big East had four. The ACC, Big Ten and SEC each had three.

The American Athletic Conference had two ranked teams while the Pac-12, West Coast, Mountain West and Sun Belt conferences had one each.

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