Syracuse took quite a route to its first No. 1 ranking in 20 years.
The Orange weren’t in the preseason Top 25, and, just days after it was released with them in “Others Receiving Votes,” they were beaten by Division II LeMoyne in an exhibition game.
But they were back in the poll — at No. 10, in fact — just two weeks into the season after impressive wins over California and North Carolina in the 2K Sports Classic.
The Orange haven’t been out of the top 10 since and Monday moved from fourth into the No. 1 spot, taking advantage of a weekend that saw the top three teams lose.
“It’s a great honor, a great testament for these players, these kids, to be number one,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “We all know it doesn’t matter that much in the big picture, it’s where you are at the end of the year. These kids have worked hard, been unselfish. They deserve it. They really do.”
This is the third time the Hall of Fame coach has had the Orange at No. 1. There was the preseason poll in 1987-88 and a six-week stint in 1989-90.
Syracuse (27-2) received 59 first-place votes from the national media panel.
Syracuse is the sixth team to go from unranked in the opening poll to No. 1. Kansas was the last, reaching No. 1 on Jan. 9, 1990.
Kansas, which had been No. 1 for the last four weeks and 13 polls overall this season, had the other six first-place votes and dropped to second. The Jayhawks (27-2) lost at Oklahoma State on Saturday, the same day Kentucky (27-2) lost at Tennessee.
The Wildcats, who were No. 1 for one week in January, fell one spot to third.
Texas, the fourth team to hold the No. 1 position this season, fell out of the rankings from 21st. The Longhorns became No. 1 for the first time in school history in January, but have dropped seven of 12 after their 17-0 start.
They are the fourth team to hold the No. 1 ranking and drop out of the poll in the same season — Indiana was the last to do it in 1979-80.
Duke and Kansas State each moved up one place each to fourth and fifth, while Ohio State jumped three spots to sixth. Purdue dropped from No. 3 to seventh following Sunday’s 53-44 loss to Michigan State, the Boilermakers’ first game since losing second-leading scorer and rebounder Robbie Hummel to a knee injury.
New Mexico was eighth, followed by Villanova and West Virginia.
UConn, Stanford still 1-2
While UConn has been the unanimous choice as No. 1 over the past two years, Stanford has remained a steadfast running mate.
Connecticut ran its remarkable streak atop the Associated Press women’s basketball poll to 41 weeks Monday, while the Cardinal remained a stalwart No. 2 for the 20th week. They easily surpassed North Carolina’s 15-week run at No. 2 in 2006-07 to set a new standard.
Nebraska, Tennessee and Xavier rounded out the top 5 for the second straight week.
College men’s basketball
South Bend, Ind. — Forward Luke Harangody, Notre Dame’s leading scorer and rebounder, may not return this season from a bone bruise to his right knee.
Wagner fires coach
New York — Wagner has fired men’s basketball coach Mike Deane.
Deane was 95-113 over seven seasons with the Seahawks, including 5-26 overall and 3-15 in the Northeast Conference this season.
League reprimands Alford
Albuquerque, N.M. — The Mountain West Conference reprimanded New Mexico coach Steve Alford on Monday over his heated exchange of words with BYU forward Jonathan Tavernari, despite the coach’s insistence it was just a byproduct of a hard-fought game.
In a video posted on YouTube, Alford can be heard directing a vulgarity at Tavernari while the teams shook hands after New Mexico’s 83-81 victory last weekend in Provo, Utah.
Bears wave OT Pace
Lake Forest, Ill. — The Chicago Bears waived tackle Orlando Pace after one season in which the 34-year-old played little like the All-Pro he once was with St. Louis. The Bears also waived tight end Fontel Mines and guard Tyler Reed on Monday.
Niners tender contracts
Santa Clara, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers have tendered contract offers to linebacker Ahmad Brooks and offensive lineman David Baas. The move Monday gives San Francisco the right to match any offer sheet the restricted free agents sign with another team or receive a second-round draft pick as compensation.
Jets to release RB Jones
New York — The New York Jets will release running back Thomas Jones this week, allowing the leader of the NFL’s top-ranked rushing offense to become a free agent.
Games big hit on TV
According to the Nielsen ratings released by NBC on Monday afternoon, 190 million people watched some part of the Vancouver Olympics on the various networks of NBC, making it the second-most-watched Winter Games.
The Games surpassed the 2002 Salt Lake City Games but trailed the 1994 Lillehammer Games, which were highlighted by the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan controversy. The Lillehammer Olympics had 204 million viewers; the Salt Lake City Olympics had 187 million.
Minors ban maple bats
New York — Many maple bats will be banned in the minor leagues this season, part of Major League Baseball’s push to stop shattered shards of wood from flying dangerously through the air.
New regulations will prohibit bats made from ultra-light maple. The low-density wood often is found in bats with big barrels and thin handles, creating a whip-like action when swung.
Softer red maple and silver maple will be completely eliminated by the 30-plus companies approved to make bats.
A-Rod embroiled in probe
Tampa, Fla. — Yankees star Alex Rodriguez has been contacted by federal investigators regarding a Canadian doctor accused of selling an unapproved drug. Rodriguez said Monday he was “aware” of the investigation and plans on cooperating with government officials who are looking into Dr. Anthony Galea. Rodriguez said a date for an interview has not been set. Galea is facing four charges in his country related to the drug known as Actovegin, which is extracted from calf’s blood and used for healing.