Tennessee takes over at No. 1 in the Associated Press poll

I don’t see every televised college basketball game here at The JB Replay.

But I see my share. And so it’s clear from here that the Tennessee Vols deserve the No. 1 ranking in this week’s Associated Press Top 25.

Riding a 12-game winning streak, Tennessee is 16-1 overall.

The Vols are 1-0 against teams ranked in the top four (with a win over Gonzaga), 1-1 vs. the top eight (with its only loss to Kansas) and 2-1 against the top 23 (including an early-season victory over Louisville).

In addition, they’re 5-0 in the Southeastern Conference, with four of the victories in double figures, including two by double-digit margins at Missouri and Florida.

For awhile last Saturday afternoon, it looked as if Avery Johnson’s Alabama Crimson Tide would steal a victory on Tennessee’s home floor.

It was a one or two-possession game down the stretch before the Rick Barnes-coached Vols pulled it out, 71-68.

Not the best performance of the year from Tennessee. But, like any good team, it found a way, even though it wasn’t a thing of beauty.

With a one-point lead, the Vols forced Alabama’s John Petty into a traveling violation with three seconds left and then hit two free throws to seal it.

Later Saturday night, the Duke Blue Devils made up for a loss earlier in the week and downed Virginia.

It was a victory that some felt might keep Duke at No. 1. But Tennessee got the nod when the new poll came out Monday, while the Blue Devils fell to second.

Meanwhile, Virginia parlayed a victory over Virginia Tech and the solid showing against Duke to move up to No. 3.

Gonzaga, looking very strong lately with the return of two injured players, moved up to No. 4.

This week, Tennessee hosts Vanderbilt (9-8) in SEC play on Wednesday and West Virginia (9-9) in the SEC/Big 12 challenge on Saturday.

AP Top 25

1.Tennessee 16-1 SEC
2. Duke 15-2 ACC
3. Virginia 16-1 ACC
4. Gonzaga 18-2 West Coast
5. Michigan 17-1 Big Ten
6. Michigan State 16-2 Big Ten
7. Nevada 18-1 Mountain West
8. Kentucky 14-3 SEC
9. Kansas 15-3 Big 12
10. Virginia Tech 15-2 ACC
11. North Carolina 14-4 ACC
12. Marquette 16-3 Big East
13. Maryland 16-3 Big Ten
14. Texas Tech 15-3 Big 12
15. Buffalo 17-1 Mid-American
16. Auburn 13-4 SEC
17. Houston 18-1 American
18. Villanova 14-4 Big East
19. Iowa 16-3 Big Ten
20. Ole Miss 14-3 SEC
21. North Carolina State 15-3 ACC
22. Mississippi State 14-3 SEC
23. Louisville 13-5 ACC
24. Iowa State 14-4 Big 12
25. LSU 14-3 SEC

The return of Geno Crandall and Killian Tillie has helped bolster the depth of the fourth-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs.