By Jim O’Connell
Breaking down this week’s Associated Press college basketball poll:
KENTUCKY OUT: Kentucky fell out of the Top 25 this week, making the Wildcats the fourth preseason No. 1 to drop from the poll in the same season.
The Wildcats (22-9) faded from 25th after losing to No. 1 Florida 84-65 on Saturday, their third loss in four games.
Kentucky, which was coming off a 21-12 season that finished with a first-round NIT loss at Robert Morris, edged out Michigan State for the top spot in the preseason poll. The Wildcats, who again had a stellar recruiting class, received 27 first-place votes and 1,546 points, three more than the Spartans, who were No. 1 on 22 ballots.
Kentucky held the top spot for one week before losing to Michigan State in the early season 1 vs. 2 matchup. The Wildcats were out of the Top Ten three weeks later and the totally dropped out this week in the next-to-last poll of the season.
The other preseason No. 1s to fall out of the rankings were Loyola of Chicago in 1963-64, UCLA in 1965-66 and Indiana in 1979-80. Loyola of Chicago and UCLA were in polls that only had 10 teams and Indiana was part of a Top 20. All three returned to the rankings at some point in those seasons.
Five other teams were ranked No. 1 during a season and fell out of the poll: St. John’s in 1951-52, Wichita State in 1964-65, Duke in 1979-80, Alabama in 2002-03 and Florida in 2003-04.
ALSO GONE: Iowa (20-11) was the other team to fall out of the rankings this week. The Hawkeyes, who were ranked 24th, have lost four of five, including games to Michigan State and Illinois last week. Iowa was ranked as high as 10th this season. The Hawkeyes were in the Top 25 this season for the first time since the final poll of 2005-06.
BACK AGAIN: VCU (24-7) returned to the Top 25 for the first time since the second poll of the regular season. The Rams, ranked 23rd, were No. 14 in the preseason poll but they dropped out after starting the season 3-3. They come back in on a four-game winning streak.
Ohio State (23-8) is back at No. 24 after being out of the poll for two of the last five weeks. The Buckeyes were No. 11 in the preseason poll and got as high as No. 3 when they opened the season with 15 straight wins. They beat Michigan State on Sunday to snap a two-game road losing streak.
HIGH NOVA: Villanova, which won the outright Big East regular season title for the first time since 1981-82, moved from sixth to No. 3 this week, the Wildcats’ highest ranking since they were No. 2 in January 2009.
GAINING GATORS: This is Florida’s 13th week overall as No. 1 in the AP poll, tying the Gators with North Carolina State on the all-time list. The Wolfpack had all those top rankings from 1958-59 to 1974-75.
UCLA has the all-time lead with 134 weeks at No. 1 from 1963-64 to 2006-07.
TOURNEY WAIT: Five conferences won’t end their tournaments until Selection Sunday. The Atlantic Coast Conference, the Atlantic 10, the Big Ten, the Southeastern Conference and the Sun Belt won’t decide their automatic bid winners until hours before the field of 68 is revealed.