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Pacific makes AP Top 25 for first time

Posted: Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Pacific moved into The Associated Press men's college basketball Top 25 for the first time in school history Monday thanks to a perfect start in the Big West.

While Illinois was No. 1 in the poll for the 10th straight week, and a unanimous choice for the second time in a row, Pacific joined the rankings at No. 24.

The Tigers (18-2), who have won 14 straight games, are 12-0 in the Big West and off to their best start. Their only losses this season were at Kansas and to San Francisco, and they have a school-record 25-game winning streak in conference play.

''It's great for our town and our school and our players,'' coach Bob Thomason said Monday. ''They worked hard the last two years. I think they were a little disappointed they didn't get in last Monday. Now we have to go to Idaho and Utah State. As soon as we get ranked, we have to go play our hardest game of the year, but that's a good challenge for us.''

Pacific has made six appearances in the NCAA tournament, with a loss to UCLA in a regional final in 1967 its best run. The Tigers were a No. 12 seed last season and upset Providence 66-58 in the first round. Thomason, the 17th-year coach who played in the 1971 NCAA tournament for Pacific, also led the Tigers to the NCAAs in 1997 with current Minnesota Timberwolves center Michael Olowokandi.

Illinois (23-0), which beat Michigan State and Indiana last week, matched the longest streak at the top since Kansas' 15-week run in 1996-97. Connecticut was No. 1 for 10 straight weeks in 1998-99.

North Carolina (19-2) and Kansas (18-1) remained second and third, while Boston College, the only other unbeaten team in Division I, moved up one spot to a school-record fourth. The Eagles beat West Virginia and Seton Hall to become the first team in Big East history to start a season 20-0.

Kentucky and Wake Forest each moved up one spot to fifth and sixth, while Duke fell from fourth to No. 7 after losing to Wake Forest and beating Georgia Tech.

Syracuse, Louisville and Oklahoma State were eighth through 10th for a second straight week.

Washington was No. 11, followed by Arizona, Michigan State, Gonzaga, Utah, Oklahoma, Alabama, Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Wisconsin.

The last five ranked teams were Cincinnati, Villanova, Texas, Pacific and Texas Tech.

Thomason isn't sure how the ranking will affect his players.

''When you get ranked, are you going to go out and play better? I don't know,'' Thomason said. ''We have more things than this to accomplish. We need to win our conference to get a No. 1 seed, then win our tournament so we get to the NCAAs. We won our first-round game last year, and we'd like to get in a situation where that can happen again — and maybe even win two games.''

Coach Bob Knight's Red Raiders' appearance at No. 25 was their first time in the rankings this season. Texas Tech (14-5) has won six of seven, the only loss in that span coming at Texas. The Red Raiders, who were ranked for seven weeks last season, won at Oklahoma on Saturday.

Maryland (22nd last week) and Georgia Tech (25th) fell out of the poll. That leaves the Atlantic Coast Conference with three ranked teams; it had a record-tying seven teams in the poll for five weeks earlier in the season.

The ACC's remaining teams — North Carolina, Wake Forest and Duke — are in the top seven. The other teams from the league to be ranked this season were North Carolina State and Virginia.

Maryland (13-7), which returned to the Top 25 last week after a three-week absence, lost to Clemson and Miami last week.

Georgia Tech (13-7) lost to Duke on Saturday. That was the Yellow Jackets' fifth loss in seven games, all without guard B.J. Elder, who has missed nine games with a hamstring injury. In that stretch the Yellow Jackets have steadily fallen from No. 8 to out of the rankings.

The Big East and Big 12 both have five teams in the Top 25, while the Big Ten matched the ACC with three.

Eleven ranked teams lost a total of 13 games last week. Maryland and Cincinnati, which dropped from 18th to 21st, both lost twice.

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AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this story.



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