By DAVE SKRETTA
The Associated Press
Move over, Duke and North Carolina. Make way, UCLA and Kansas.
The Top 25 has a decided blue-collar — rather than blueblood — look these days.
When the Bruins and Jayhawks slid out of the poll on Monday, with Kansas ending its record run at 231 consecutive weeks, it marked the first time those four schools, along with Kentucky, had not been ranked since Dec. 18, 1961.
Mike Krzyzewski was a teenager, Roy Williams in grade school and John Calipari barely out of diapers. Kansas coach Bill Self and UCLA counterpart Mick Cronin? Well, those two hadn’t even been born yet.
“In basketball,” Kansas guard Jalen Wilson said before the Jayhawks beat No. 23 Oklahoma State 78-66 on Monday night, “you sometimes have to focus on what’s in front of you and not think about the past.”
The present certainly doesn’t belong to the powerhouses of the past. Of the 15 schools that have won multiple national championships, the only ones that graced the Top 25 this week were the Cowboys and fifth-ranked Villanova. The other 13 schools with their combined 54 national championships include Indiana, UConn and Michigan State.
Four received votes, but the remaining nine received none from the 63-member media panel making up the electorate.
There are plenty of reasons for so many big-name schools taking so many knocks on the chin.
Talent is spread more thinly than ever as elite recruits eschew the name on the front of the jersey for the opportunity to play right away, and transfers have made it even more difficult for top schools to stash talent away. Meanwhile, schools such as Gonzaga and Baylor that are not considered traditional bluebloods have developed into the modern-day version of them, led by popular coaches who have built a recruiting pipeline and are now winning enough to keep it flowing.
That’s all without discussing the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused several schools to regularly halt practices.
“Nobody wants the pauses, everyone wants to play. That was a byproduct of not having the chance to play,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said after a loss to Seton Hall. “When you go pause, it hurts. It’s not an excuse, it’s just a reality.”
The reality these days? Many of college basketball’s brand names will be fighting just to make the NCAA Tournament.
“If we get a chance to get to the tournament,” Bruins coach Mick Cronin said after a loss to rival Southern California, “we have to practice not hanging our head and not looking at the scoreboard and playing every play like it matters.”
No. 1 gets a breather
Gonzaga played BYU on Monday night but then has a break after its game Thursday night at Santa Clara was postponed due to the pandemic. That means the Bulldogs won’t take the floor again until facing San Francisco on Saturday.
Speaking of breathers
Second-ranked Baylor experienced another pause within its program due to COVID-19 and won’t take the floor again until Feb. 20, at the earliest. That deprived college hoops fans of what would have been two of the biggest games involving Top 25 teams this week — the Bears at No. 12 Oklahoma on Thursday and against No. 7 Texas Tech on Saturday.
Baylor has had to postpone or cancel several games this season, beginning in November, when it withdrew from the Empire Classic after coach Scott Drew tested positive for COVID-19. Its game against Gonzaga in December also was canceled.
Off the radar
Loyola Chicago is back in the poll for the first time since 1985 at the expense of Missouri Valley rival Drake, which rattled off 18 straight wins to start the season before losing to Valparaiso to fall from the Top 25. Now, the two are set to square off with back-to-back games in Des Moines, Iowa, for control of the Valley this weekend.