Kentucky drops in new AP Top 25 college basketball rankings

Kentucky's Sahvir Wheeler (2) drives against Gonzaga's Julian Strawther (0) during Sunday night's game in Spokane, Wash.  The loss dropped UK to 3-2 on the season.

Kentucky’s Sahvir Wheeler (2) drives against Gonzaga’s Julian Strawther (0) during Sunday night’s game in Spokane, Wash. The loss dropped UK to 3-2 on the season.

rhermens@herald-leader.com

Kentucky lost twice over the past week. That led to a tumble in the latest Top 25 poll.

The new Associated Press college basketball rankings were released Monday, and the Wildcats fell from No. 4 to No. 15 following losses to Michigan State and Gonzaga.

UK started the season 2-0 with blowout victories over Howard and Duquesne before dropping a double-overtime game to the Spartans in the Champions Classic last Tuesday. The Cats followed that up with a 43-point victory over South Carolina State in their return to Rupp Arena on Thursday, but Kentucky was embarrassed by Gonzaga in the Spokane Arena on Sunday night, losing 88-72 in the first game of a six- year series between the two marquee programs.

North Carolina (4-0) retained the No. 1 spot in the AP Top 25 poll. The Tar Heels received 47 of the available 63 first-place votes in the new poll. (Kentucky had three first-place votes in last week’s rankings).

Gonzaga came into the week as the No. 2 team in the country, but the Zags were run out of the gym in a 93-74 loss at No. 11 Texas a few days before knocking off Kentucky in Spokane. The victory over UK surely preserved some of Gonzaga’s standing, but the Bulldogs still dropped from No. 2 to No. 6 in the new rankings.

Houston moved up one spot to the No. 2 position. Kansas, Texas and Virginia rounded out the top five.

Michigan State started the week as the team with the most points in the “also receiving votes” portion of the AP rankings, effectively making the Spartans the No. 26 team in the country. The victory over UK on Tuesday — along with a two-point win over struggling Villanova on Friday — pushed Michigan State to No. 12 in the updated Top 25.

Kentucky has just one game scheduled for this week — a Wednesday afternoon meeting with North Florida, which came into this week at No. 228 in the KenPom ratings. That’s a contest unlikely to move the needle nationally for the Wildcats, even if they defeat the Ospreys by a wide margin.

Obviously, there’s plenty of time left in this season, and Kentucky will have ample opportunity to stack up quality victories moving forward. UK will play a total of eight additional games against teams ranked in the current Top 25 poll, including six in Southeastern Conference play. The SEC has five teams in the new rankings: No. 9 Arkansas, No. 13 Auburn, No. 18 Alabama and No. 22 Tennessee, along with Kentucky.

The next Top 25 opportunity for the Wildcats will come Dec. 17, when UK faces UCLA in Madison Square Garden for the CBS Sports Classic. The Bruins are No. 19 in the new rankings, though they’ve now lost two straight games — to No. 16 Illinois and No. 7 Baylor.

Kentucky’s next big-name opponent, Michigan, fell out of the Top 25 this week. The Wolverines suffered an 87-62 loss to Arizona State on Thursday night. Michigan then needed overtime Sunday to defeat Ohio (1-3). The Wolverines were No. 20 in the country last week, and they’re now fourth in the also receiving votes section of the rankings.

This story was originally published November 21, 2022 12:03 PM.

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Ben Roberts is the University of Kentucky men’s basketball beat writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader. He has previously specialized in UK basketball recruiting coverage and created and maintained the Next Cats blog. He is a Franklin County native and first joined the Herald-Leader in 2006.
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