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.

Top-ranked Duke hosts Syracuse and No. 4 Virginia this week

There hasn’t been much change at the top of the Associated Press Top 25 poll recently, but the rankings among the elite could be in for a shakeup as marquee games loom in the coming days.

The top-ranked Duke Blue Devils, for instance, will host unranked Syracuse tonight and then will brace for a visit from undefeated and No. 4 Virginia on Saturday.

Virginia hosts ninth-ranked Virginia Tech on Tuesday before making the trek to Durham to face Duke this weekend.

For the fourth straight week, the top four in the rankings remained the same — Duke, Michigan, Tennessee, Virginia — as the new poll came out Monday.

For the second week in a row, the top 10 stayed in the same order.

AP Top 25

1. Duke 14-1 ACC
2. Michigan 17-0 Big Ten
3. Tennessee 14-1 SEC
4. Virginia 15-0 ACC
5. Gonzaga 16-2 West Coast
6. Michigan State 15-2 Big Ten
7. Kansas 14-2 Big 12
8. Texas Tech 15-1 Big 12
9. Virginia Tech 14-1 ACC
10. Nevada 16-1 Mountain West
11. Florida State 13-3 ACC
12. Kentucky 12-3 SEC
13. North Carolina 12-4 ACC
14. Auburn 12-3 SEC
15. Marquette 14-3 Big East
16. Buffalo 15-1 Mid-American
17. North Carolina State 14-2 ACC
18. Ole Miss 13-2 SEC
19. Maryland 14-3 Big Ten
20. Oklahoma 13-3 Big 12
21. Houston 16-1 American
22. Villanova 13-4 Big East
23. Iowa 14-3 Big Ten
24. Mississippi State 12-3 SEC
25. Indiana 12-4 Big Ten

Tennessee upsets top-ranked Gonzaga, 76-73

Admiral Schofield hit two 3-point shots in the final 80 seconds Sunday night to lift the seventh-ranked Tennessee Volunteers to a 76-73 victory over No. 1 Gonzaga.

Playing in the Air Force Reserve Jerry Colangelo Classic, at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Schofield made six 3s in all during the game and scored a career-high 30 points.

His 3-point bucket with 1:20 remaining gave Tennessee a 73-71 lead. Gonzaga came back to tie it, 73-73, on two Rui Hachimura free throws.

But the Vols answered with another Schofield trey with 24 seconds left for the final points.

Brandon Clarke had 21 points and 9 rebounds for the Bulldogs, who had wins over Arizona, Duke and Washington.

Hachimura had 21 points and 8 boards.

Notable

Former Texas coach Rick Barnes coaches the Vols. He worked in Austin for 17 years through 2015. Barnes is in his fourth season at Tennessee. Last year, the Vols won the Southeastern Conference title and reached the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32. The coach received in September a contract extension through 2023-24, according to the school’s website.

Records

Gonzaga 9-1
Tennessee 7-1

Tennessee sweeps Kentucky for first time since 1999

Coach Rick Barnes on Tuesday took another major step toward leading the Tennessee Volunteers back to the upper echelon in the Southeastern Conference.

No. 15 Tennessee beat 24th-ranked Kentucky 61-59 on the road at famed Rupp Arena, completing the program’s first regular-season sweep of the Wildcats since 1999.

Sophomore Lamonte Turner scored 16 points and hit a decisive three-pointer with 28 seconds left for the Volunteers, now 18-5 and 8-3 in the SEC.

For the Wildcats, who fell to 17-7 and 6-5, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander hit a shot over Kyle Alexander that gave Kentucky the lead in the last minute.

But Turner responded with a three and a 59-58 Tennessee advantage.

A steal and a dunk by Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield salted the game away.

“I tell coach all the time, put (Turner) in late in the game because I think he is the most clutch guy I’ve been around,” Schofield told the Tennessean newspaper. “He is a big-time shooter in my book.

“He puts the work in. … I’m proud of him. I’m happy for him. He deserves everything he’s got.

“But the biggest thing is Tennessee beat Kentucky in Rupp tonight. That was our goal coming in here. We got it done.”

Barnes finished 15-19 and 16-16 in his first two years in Knoxville.

But in his third season, the former longtime coach of the Texas Longhorns has sparked the Vols’ roll into the upper tier of the conference.

Tennessee trails only Auburn (21-2, 9-1) in the SEC standings.

If the Vols keep winning, they would become the fourth program that Barnes has led into the NCAA tournament.

He’s done it previously at Providence, Clemson and Texas.

Barnes did the best work of his career in Austin, where he led the Longhorns to 16 NCAA tournaments in 17 years, including the 2003 Final Four.