The Florida Gators are taking their turn as the newest No. 1 in what coach Billy Donovan calls a revolving door atop the AP college basketball poll, their first time on top of the rankings since they repeated as national champions in 2007.
The Gators (25-2) moved up one place Monday, replacing Syracuse (25-2), which lost twice last week and dropped to fourth.
Wichita State (29-0) and Arizona (25-2) both moved up one place to second and third. Florida, the fifth school to hold the No. 1 spot this season, received 47 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel. The Gators were ranked No. 1 for eight weeks in 2007. Wichita State was No. 1 on 14 ballots with Arizona receiving the other four first-place votes.
Donovan called the rankings a revolving door before his Gators took over the top spot, and he said being No. 1 is an honor and compliment.
“But let’s be honest right now: The only reason we have garnered No. 1 and we would have never, ever been No. 1 if it had not been for the teams in front of us losing,” Donovan said.
To Donovan, a lot of teams could be considered the nation’s best right now with undefeated Wichita State having a strong argument. Donovan also said he’s impressed by Syracuse winning 25 straight games along with what Arizona did before Brandon Ashley’s foot injury.
“It’s not like all of a sudden Florida is No. 1 or you get a ranking and we’re the best team in the country,” Donovan said. “We’ve been given a number, and that’s about the extent of it.”
These Gators have won a school record 19 straight games coming off a 75-71 win at Mississippi where they shut down Marshall Henderson in the second half. They can clinch at least a share of the Southeastern Conference title on Tuesday night with a win at Vanderbilt before having a chance to wrap up the championship against LSU on Saturday.
Playing at Memorial Gym means dealing with the unique layout with the benches on the end lines. Even though Vanderbilt is playing short-handed with only seven scholarship players and even used a couple walk-ons, the Gators with their new ranking will be tested quickly.
Florida senior forward Will Yeguete thinks the Gators will handle the challenge well.
“Our lives aren’t really changing,” Yeguete said. “We’re No. 1. That’s a really good accomplishment, especially for us being No. 1. But I think Coach D will use that to motivate us. We’ve been No. 2 before. We know what it is to be ranked really high. We know you just take one game at a time.”
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall told The Associated Press that being ranked No. 2 means the Shockers are being recognized for an outstanding season so far, and they plan to keep pushing to see how high they can go.
“Florida is an outstanding team,” Marshall said. “I’ve watched them, I really think they’re good, there’s a lot of good teams out there. But I just think this continues to be a carrot for our team. It continues to be a goal and it’s a very lofty goal, and it’s something to strive for.”
Kansas jumped three places to fifth and was followed by Duke, Louisville, Villanova, Creighton and Saint Louis.
Syracuse, which was No. 1 the past three weeks, lost to Boston College and Duke last week, the Orange’s first losses of the season.
North Carolina, SMU and New Mexico all returned to the Top 25 this week replacing Connecticut, UCLA and Gonzaga.