The gains have come quickly for Kansas State under new coach Jerome Tang.
The 11th-ranked Wildcats haven’t lost in more than a month and turned two road wins against ranked Big 12 teams last week into Monday’s headline-grabbing debut in the national rankings. They play Tuesday against Oklahoma State and then visit No. 17 TCU on Saturday as part of the national AP Top 25 schedule with their first ranking since the 2018-19 season.
“I am very happy for our fans and for our players and for our staff,” Tang said at a news conference Monday. “Our goal wasn’t to be a ranked team, but it is pretty cool that long the journey it happened.”
Tang had spent 19 seasons at Baylor before taking over at Kansas State, a program picked to finish last in the 10-team Big 12. But the Wildcats (14-1) dropped 116 points in a win at now-No. 10 Texas and claimed a high-scoring overtime win at Baylor last week, matching the program’s best start since the 1958-59 season.
While teams have gone from unranked to the top 10 before, NCAA director of media coordination and statistics David Worlock said Kansas State is the first to go from unranked to as high as No. 11 after the turn of a new year.
Keyontae Johnson averages a team-high 18.8 points, while No. 2 scorer Markquis Nowell posted two huge performances (36 points against Texas, 32 against Baylor) in last week’s wins. Kansas State enters the week with eight straight wins and its first 3-0 start in Big 12 play since the 2012-13 season, and has already matched last season’s win total in Bruce Weber’s final year.
The Big 12 is tied with the Southeastern Conference for the most ranked teams with five each, and Kansas State isn’t the only one of those meeting Top 25 opponents. The Longhorns host TCU on Wednesday, while No. 2 Kansas hosts No. 14 Iowa State on Saturday.
Fourth-ranked Alabama has moved to the top of the SEC’s ranked teams, just ahead of Tennessee in the Volunteers’ first appearance this season inside the top 5. The Crimson Tide visit No. 15 Arkansas on Wednesday for the week’s top matchup, though the Volunteers have a noteworthy Saturday visit from unranked Kentucky.
No. 25 Marquette joined No. 19 Providence as the Big East’s two additions to Monday’s latest poll. The Golden Eagles won’t have an easy week back in the AP Top 25 schedule with Wednesday’s visit from sixth-ranked Connecticut and Sunday’s trip to No. 12 Xavier.
AT THE TOP
Houston, which is back at No. 1 for the second time this season, has a light week. The Cougars host South Florida on Wednesday, then don’t play again until visiting Tulane on Jan. 17.
Clemson is the unexpected leader of the Atlantic Coast Conference and sitting just outside the AP Top 25. The Tigers (13-3, 5-0 ACC) host two-win Louisville on Wednesday before getting a marquee matchup with No. 24 Duke on Saturday, and a win against the Blue Devils could be enough to push the Tigers into the poll for the first time in two years.
There’s also Florida Atlantic (14-1, 4-0 Conference USA), which enters the week with the nation’s second-longest winning streak at 13 games. Dusty May’s Owls visit Florida International on Wednesday then host North Texas on Saturday as they chase the program’s first-ever appearance in the AP Top 25 poll.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap
AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25