Indiana’s latest run as No. 1 didn’t last long, abruptly halted by a loss to unranked Illinois. Duke was bumped from the top spot twice in three weeks. Michigan and Louisville went one and done when their turns came.
It’s not lonely at the top, it’s getting crowded.
With the Hoosiers’ expected tumble in the next poll, that’ll be six straight weeks with a new No. 1, the second-longest streak since the first Associated Press poll in 1949.
The way things have gone this season, coaches might start lobbying voters to not put their teams atop the ballot.
“I do think there will be a revolving door or chairs that we will have a new No. 1 or new top fives moving forward because anyone can beat anyone,” Kansas coach Bill Self said Friday. “There is no dominant team, but there are a lot of really good ones.”
Oddly enough, this season of jumbling started with stability at the top.
Indiana was the preseason No. 1 and held there for the first five weeks before a 5-foot-11 walk-on from Butler – named Alex, not David – knocked Goliath from the top spot with a floater in overtime.
Duke got the bump to No. 1 after that and stayed in place for four polls until losing to North Carolina State. Since then, Louisville became No. 1 but lost three in a row; Duke returned to the top Jan. 21 then lost to Miami by 27 points; Michigan took over No. 1 on Jan. 28, won a game, then lost to Indiana last Saturday; and on Thursday, IU allowed an uncontested layup at the buzzer to lose to Illinois.
“That’s a hard question. I’m not sure,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said of No. 1 teams struggling to stay on top. “We played at a high level most of the game.”
The current string of No. 1 swapping is the longest since 1994, when Arkansas, North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA and Duke alternated seven straight weeks – the longest streak since Saint Louis was No. 1 in the initial AP poll.
Top-ranked teams have lost six times this season overall, which isn’t quite as rare; No. 1s lost nine times in 2008-09 and at least six times in a season since 1996-97, according to STATS Inc. The top-ranked team also has lost to an unranked team twice this season, which has happened 10 times in that span.
But it isn’t just the teams at the top that are having trouble. Top 25 teams all over the country are getting knocked off by unranked opponents.
According to STATS, Top 25 teams lost to unranked teams 36 times from Jan. 17 to Feb. 6 this season, most in at least 17 years.
Indiana was firmly in control Thursday night before allowing Illinois, a team that had lost six of its previous seven games, to close with a 13-2 run to pull off the upset.
With the latest jumbling at the top, Michigan (20-2), could be the next team to move to No. 1. Or maybe Duke (19-2) gets another shot. Or maybe someone new like Gonzaga (21-2) or Arizona (19-2) moves to the top.
Whoever gets there, no need to get comfortable. Chances are it won’t last.