College basketball: Pittsburgh ascends to No. 1

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 6, 2009

By Jim O’Connell
Associated Press
Pittsburgh made it to the top of The Associated Press’ college basketball poll for the first time and it wasn’t even close.
The Panthers (14-0) took advantage of losses by season-long unanimous No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Connecticut to make the jump from third to first Monday, receiving all but two of the first-place votes from the national media panel.
Pitt had been ranked second nine times since 1987-88 but had never reached No. 1 until this week.
“I think it means a lot to our fans and our city and it means a lot to our university, much more so than to me and our players,” Panthers coach Jamie Dixon said.
“But it is part of the reason why we play and work so hard, so I am glad for them.”
The Panthers are one of a record nine Big East teams in the poll thanks to the return of Marquette and the first appearance of the season by West Virginia.
Duke (12-1) jumped from fifth to second to start a run of three straight teams from the ACC.
North Carolina (13-1), which lost 85-78 at home to Boston College on Sunday and received the other first-place votes, was third and Wake Forest (13-0) fourth.
The Tar Heels, who had been a unanimous No. 1 from the preseason poll through the first seven polls of the regular season, won all their games by double figures until running into the Eagles (13-2), who jumped into the poll at No. 17.
“We’ve got to get some things going again, going period,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said.
Boston College, which has won 10 straight games since losses at Saint Louis and Purdue, is ranked for the first time since December 2007.
There are five games between ranked teams this week, and four of those are Big East games: Georgetown at Notre Dame on Monday; Connecticut at West Virginia on Tuesday; and Louisville at Villanova and West Virginia at Marquette on Saturday.
North Carolina is at Wake Forest on Sunday.
Boston College’s Tyrese Rice and Wake Forest’s Al-Farouq Aminu earned weekly honors from the ACC.
Rice was named player of the week after leading the Eagles past North Carolina. He had 25 points and eight assists in that game, one of three wins for BC on the week.
Aminu was named rookie of the week after averaging 16 points, 8.5 rebounds and two blocks in wins against Radford and Brigham Young. He also shot 52 percent from the floor and helped the fourth-ranked Demon Deacons end BYU’s 53-game homecourt winning streak.