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Kentucky ends season on top of AP poll

By Jim O'connell

Associated Press

Published: Monday, March 12 2012 1:15 p.m. MDT

Members of the Kentucky bench react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the championship game of the 2012 Southeastern Conference tournament at the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, Sunday, March 11, 2012. Vanderbilt beat Kentucky 71-64.

Dave Martin, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

Even after a week in which the top four teams lost, The Associated Press' final poll looks a lot like it did for the last two months of the season.

Kentucky and Syracuse, which both lost in their conference tournaments, were Nos. 1 and 2 in the Top 25 for a seventh straight week Monday.

This was the eighth time the Wildcats (32-2) finished on top of the final poll and they went on to win the national championships three times — 1949 (the first season there was a poll), 1951 and 1978. The last team ranked No. 1 in the final poll to win the NCAA tournament was Duke in 2001. Ohio State, last season's final No. 1, lost in the regional semifinals.

The Wildcats, who were ranked No. 1 for a total of 10 weeks this season, received 61 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel. They lost to Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

Syracuse (31-2), which lost to Cincinnati in the Big East semifinals, got one No. 1 vote. The Orange were ranked No. 1 for six weeks.

Missouri, the only one of the top four teams in the poll not to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, moved up two places to third. The Tigers got two first-place vote, one more than North Carolina, which stayed fourth in the poll. The Tar Heels, the only other team to be ranked No. 1 this season, was on top of the preseason poll and for the first two weeks of the season.

Michigan State, the fourth No. 1 seed, was fifth followed by Kansas, Ohio State, Duke, Baylor and Florida State.

Last week's top four teams — Kentucky, Syracuse, Kansas and North Carolina — all lost, just the third time that has happened since 2003.

Four teams that won their conference tournaments — Louisville, Vanderbilt, New Mexico and Saint Mary's — moved into the rankings for the final week. Temple, Notre Dame, Gonzaga and Iowa State dropped out.

Five teams — North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State, Syracuse and Duke — were ranked in the top 10 all season, while six more stayed in the Top 25 from preseason to final poll.

Forty-six schools were ranked during the season, well off the record 53 of 2009-10. Harvard was the only one to enter the rankings for the first time.

There were four one-week wonders this season: UCLA, Saint Louis, Seton Hall and Iowa State. UCLA's lone week in the rankings was the preseason poll when the Bruins were 17th.

The preseason poll had 11 teams that weren't ranked at season's end and two of them — No. 4 Connecticut and No. 10 Pittsburgh — were in the top 10. The Pac-12 had three teams in the preseason Top 25 — Arizona, UCLA and California — and all were out of the rankings by the first week of December.

The Big East had nine teams ranked during the season, one off the record for a conference it set last season. The Big Ten and Big 12 both had six teams ranked, one more than the Southeastern Conference. Thirteen conferences had teams ranked during the season with Conference USA (Memphis), Ivy League (Harvard) and Ohio Valley (Murray State) having just one each.

Duke ends the season with the longest current streak of consecutive appearances in the Top 25. The Blue Devils have been ranked for 96 consecutive polls, a streak that started with the 2007-08 preseason poll.

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