Jim Boeheim has been coaching for 35 years, and one thing he has learned is that players are able to focus on basketball even when there is a whirlwind around them.
The Syracuse program has been in the headlines since former assistant coach Bernie Fine was alleged to have molested two former ball boys. Quietly, the Orange have found a way to the top of The Associated Press' Top 25.
"Young kids constantly have different things going in their lives, school, relationships, how they are playing, a million things go through their minds," Boeheim said Monday. "They have the ability to focus on things they have to do and they get it done. It's a great thing about kids, that older people tend to get caught up or get unfocused, get caught up more in outside influences and can't separate them. Kids aren't like that. They focus on what they control and go forward. It's a good thing about being young."
The Orange (10-0) jumped from third to No. 1 following losses this weekend by Kentucky and Ohio State. They received 51 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel.
It's the fourth time they've topped the poll and the first time since a one-week appearance late in 2009-10. Syracuse was No. 1 in the 1987-88 preseason poll and for six weeks in 1989-90.
It's something that means a lot to a program.
"We're proud to be No. 1 in the country," Boeheim said. "It's an honor but obviously in today's world you could only be there until your next game if you're not careful. There's so much balance out there. I think it's still a big honor for our players to get to that spot and we have played well. We have to play better but that's OK because it's a great challenge and we're looking forward it."
The Orange's big win this season was over then-No. 10 Florida, but they have been impressive in the others, especially on the defensive end behind Boeheim's famous 2-3 zone.
"I think one thing is we have balance offensively and defensively," Boeheim said. "We have really good balance. I think that's important to have a great team. We have the balance individually and as a team and that's what's really good about this team and hopefully we'll get better but I'm sure all coaches think that right now."
Ohio State (8-1), which didn't have star center Jared Sullinger in the loss to Kansas, stayed second, while Kentucky (8-1) dropped from first to third following the buzzer-beating loss to Indiana.
The Hoosiers, one of four newcomers this week, moved in at 18th, their first appearance since 2007-08.
"These players have certainly earned it," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "We have to continue to stay locked in to our own goals and understand we still have an opportunity to get better. We have to continue to prepare with the same mindset and focus that we have shown thus far this season."
Ohio State, which hasn't had Sullinger for two games because of back spasms, received seven first-place votes, three more than Kentucky.
Louisville, which had two No. 1 votes, and North Carolina, which had one, switched places from last week at fourth and fifth.
Baylor, Duke, Xavier, Connecticut and Missouri rounded out the top 10.
Marquette was 11th followed by Kansas, Florida, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Mississippi State, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan.
The last of the ranked teams were Michigan State, Texas A&M, Alabama, Murray State and Creighton and Vanderbilt, who were tied for 25th.
Christian Watford's 3 at the buzzer moved Indiana (9-0) into the poll for the first time since Crean took over as coach following Kelvin Sampson's dismissal after the 2007-08 season.
The other newcomers this week were No. 21 Michigan State (8-2), No. 24 Murray State (10-0) and No. 25 Vanderbilt.
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