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No. 3 Arizona Jumps 9 Places in AP Top 25 Behind Kansas, Purdue

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By John Marshall

 

(AP) The first Associated Press men’s basketball poll of the regular season is typically a jumble of teams swapping positions as preseason expectations meet the reality of playing actual games.

The first poll of the 2023-24 is no different.

Kansas remained at No. 1 and received 51 first-place votes from a 62-person media panel in the poll released Monday, but the rest of the AP Top 25 was filled with teams moving up and down.

No. 2 Purdue moved up a spot with two easy opening wins and received seven first-place votes. No. 3 Arizona took a giant leap from 12 after beating Duke and had three first-place votes.

No. 4 Marquette moved up a spot as did defending national champion Connecticut, which received a first-place vote to round out the top five. No. 24 James Madison moved into the poll for the first time ever after taking down Michigan State in overtime.

Arizona’s rapid rise stemmed from a successful trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The Wildcats were a bit of an unknown entity in coach Tommy Lloyd’s third season with several new players replacing key losses from a team that lost to Princeton in the first round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

Arizona answered some of the questions with an impressive road performance, knocking off Duke 78-73 after blowing out Morgan State in its opener. The Blue Devils dropped to No. 9 after the loss.

“I said play with poise because you’re the better team,” Lloyd said. “Trust that you’re the better team over the course of 40 minutes. I knew that it would be a small margin but I feel like that. I love this group of guys and feel like we’re going to be as good a ball club as anybody in the country.”

DESERVING DUKES

Mark Byington has gradually strengthened James Madison’s program from 13 wins in his first season in 2020-21 to 22 last year.

The Dukes appear to still be on the rise after pulling off the biggest upset of the early season. Unfazed by playing the nation’s No. 4 team on the road, James Madison went to East Lansing and knocked off Michigan State 79-76 in overtime.

The win earned the Dukes their first AP Top 25 ranking since transitioning to Division I in 1976 and knocked the Spartans down 14 spots to No. 18.

“We’re not scared of names,” T.J. Bickerstaff said after scoring 21 points, including a tying shot with 30 seconds left in regulation. “We go hard.”

STEADY OWLS

Florida Atlantic had its highest ranking at No. 10 in the preseason poll after last year’s surprising run to the Final Four. The Owls returned nearly everyone from that team and got this season off to a solid start with a 75-62 win over Loyola Chicago to remain in the top 10 this week.

“New team, new season, new chapter,” Owls coach Dusty May said.

UP AND DOWN

Michigan State had the biggest drop from the preseason and Duke was next after dropping seven spots. Arizona had the biggest jump, followed by No. 15 Baylor and No. 16 Southern California, which both climbed five places.

IN AND OUT

James Madison was joined by No. 25 Colorado in moving into the AP Top 25 this week. The Buffaloes easily beat Towson and Grambling State to open the season.

San Diego State had a quick fall after finishing as the national runner-up last season. The Aztecs dropped out of the poll from No. 17 following a nine-point loss to BYU. Saint Mary’s fell out from No. 23 after a home loss to Weber State.

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