College Basketball: North Carolina back at No. 1 in poll

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 8, 2007

By Jim O’Connell

Associated Press

North Carolina is No. 1 in The Associated Press’ college basketball poll for the first time in almost six years. The wait has been quite a bit longer for Washington State, which is ranked for the first time in almost 24 years.

The Tar Heels (14-1) moved into the top spot Monday after three weeks at No. 2 following UCLA’s loss at Oregon last weekend.

It is North Carolina’s first time at No. 1 since a two-week run in February 2001, and it’s the first time the Tar Heels are there in the three-plus seasons, including the 2005 national championship, under coach Roy Williams.

“I feel good where we are, but it’s so, so early,” Williams said Monday. “We have 15 more battles to go in the conference, so we’ll see what happens.”

Williams is no stranger to having a top-ranked team. In seven of 15 seasons at Kansas, the Jayhawks reached No. 1, including a 15-week stretch in 1996-97.

“I’ve been No. 1 before, and if you don’t finish that way at the end of the year, it means you had a good little stretch,” he said.

North Carolina received 64 first-place votes and 1,788 points from the 72-member national media panel to easily outdistance No. 2 Florida (14-2), which had three No. 1 votes and 1,682 points in moving up one spot from last week. The Gators were No. 1 in the preseason poll and for the first two weeks of the regular season.

Duke, which dropped six spots after its home loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday, was 11th and was followed by Butler, LSU, Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee, Clemson, Air Force, Nevada and Memphis.

West Virginia was 21st with Notre Dame and Washington State tied for No. 22, while Connecticut and Texas rounded out the Top 25.

This is North Carolina’s 82nd poll with a No. 1 ranking, fourth on the all-time list behind UCLA (134), Duke (110) and Kentucky (98).