Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Irish debut in Top 10

Creighton ranked for first time since '75

By Jim O'Connell
The Associated Press

Notre Dame's week of upsets landed the Fighting Irish in the Top 10 in The Associated Press college basketball poll Monday.

Wins over Marquette, Maryland and Texas improved Notre Dame's record to 8-1 and transformed the Irish from an unranked team to No. 10 in the weekly media voting.

"These kids did a great job this week, and I told them that and then told them we're in new territory now," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "Now we have to stay consistent and levelheaded. It is December and there is a long way to go."

Creighton, the only team to beat Notre Dame this season, and College of Charleston also moved into the Top 25. Creighton (6-0), which beat the Irish in the championship game of the Guardians Classic, is 23rd - its first ranking since 1974-75, when the Bluejays got as high as 13th.

College of Charleston (6-0), which beat Wyoming, Oklahoma State and Villanova in the Great Alaska Shootout over Thanksgiving weekend, moved in at No. 25, its first appearance in the poll since 1998-99.

Arizona (4-0) beat Saint Louis and San Diego State last week and was No. 1 for the fifth straight poll. Alabama (6-0) moved up one spot to second, the highest ranking in school history.

The Wildcats received 70 first-place votes and 1,774 points from the national media panel, 137 more than the Crimson Tide.

No. 3 Duke (5-0) and No. 4 Pittsburgh (5-0) each moved up one place. The Panthers received the only other first-place vote and the ranking is their best since they were second Jan. 5, 1988.

Oregon moved up two spots to fifth, the highest ranking in school history, while Oklahoma, Indiana, Texas, Connecticut and Notre Dame rounded out the Top 10.

Missouri jumped from 15th to 11th, and was followed by Kentucky, Xavier, Florida, Illinois, Marquette, Tulsa, Maryland, Stanford and Kansas.

The last five ranked teams were Michigan State, North Carolina, Creighton, Mississippi State and College of Charleston.

Notre Dame was ranked for all but two weeks of 2000-01, Brey's first season, reaching No. 10 for one week.

"I'm glad we don't play again until Saturday, because I want to emphasize to the team every day how important it is to remain the same as individuals and players and not to forget the lesson plan," Brey said. "We've always been able to stay level. We've never jumped off the Golden Dome after a tough loss, and we've never had a parade after a big win."

The 92-71 victory over then-No. 13 Marquette was at home, but the wins over then-No. 9 Maryland and then-No. 2 Texas came in the BB&T Classic in Washington, D.C.

Freshman forward Torin Francis played well in all three games for the Irish, capping the run with 21 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks against Texas.

"He has surprised me, but what really surprised me was that he played well in the three straight games, the last two in two days," Brey said. "I don't know if he could have done that if those were his fourth and fifth games in college instead of the eighth and ninth, and that was by design. That's why we played in the Guardians Classic, so he would be able to get that jersey on and get in games."

Minnesota (4-1), 20th last week, dropped out after losing its first road game of the season, 80-60 at Nebraska on Sunday. Virginia (3-2) fell out from 22nd after losing 82-75 at Michigan State in its only game last week, and Wisconsin (5-1) dropped out from No. 25 after losing at home to Wake Forest and then beating UNLV.

North Carolina (5-2), which moved into the Top 25 last week at No. 12, had the week's biggest drop, falling to 22nd after losing to then-No. 25 Illinois and then-No. 18 Kentucky.

Illinois (5-0), which also beat Arkansas last week, had the biggest jump, moving to 15th.

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