Butler cracks AP Top 25

Butler earned its highest ranking ever when it reached No. 8 late last season on the way to a school-record 30 victories and a win in the NCAA tournament.

Five of the top six players from that team were seniors, so this was expected to be a rebuilding year for the Bulldogs.

Nobody told them.

Butler (10-1), coming off a win at Xavier, moved into The Associated Press’ Top 25 on Monday, replacing Missouri (10-2) at No. 25.

“We had five players coming back, but that went unnoticed because of the seniors who drew so much of the attention had graduated,” second-year coach Brad Stevens said Monday. “But those guys who came back and the new guys never once talked about any goals of being ranked or anything like that. We’re only 11 games into the season, and we have to keep that in perspective that we have the better part of two-thirds of the season to continue to focus on what’s important.”

The 74-65 win over Xavier gave the Bulldogs a 5-1 record on the road this season, the only loss a 54-51 decision at Ohio State.

“It wasn’t just the games against Xavier and Ohio State but the wins at Drake, Bradley and Cleveland State, all tough environments to play in, that get you ready to play in your league,” the 32-year-old Stevens said, adding he didn’t know how being ranked would affect his young team.

“You talk all the time of keeping the proper perspective and the team-first attitude, and that’s what I expect this team to do.”

North Carolina (12-0), which beat Rutgers 97-75 in its only game last week to extend its streak of double-digit victories, was again the unanimous No. 1, receiving all 72 first-place votes from the national media panel.

Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma, Duke and Wake Forest held second through sixth, respectively, while Notre Dame, Texas, Purdue and Michigan State all moved up one place to round out the top 10.

The entire top 10 is from four conferences: North Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest from the Atlantic Coast Conference; Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame from the Big East; Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12; and Purdue and Michigan State from the Big Ten.

Georgetown moved up one spot to No. 11 and was followed by UCLA, Syracuse, Tennessee, Villanova, Gonzaga, Arizona State, Louisville, Baylor and Clemson.

The last five ranked teams were Minnesota, Xavier, Michigan, Ohio State and Butler.

Gonzaga (8-3) was ranked No. 4 three weeks ago but losses to Arizona, Connecticut and Portland State have the Bulldogs at 16th, nine places lower than last week.

Xavier (9-2) matched the highest ranking in school history at No. 7 two weeks ago but losses to Duke and Butler have the Musketeers at 22nd, a drop of eight spots from last week.

Ohio State (9-1) dropped nine spots to 24th following its first loss of the season, 76-48 to West Virginia.

Missouri moved into the rankings last Monday for the first time since 2003. The next day the Tigers lost 75-59 to Illinois, their ninth straight loss in the annual Braggin’ Rights game. Missouri did bounce back with a 107-57 victory over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Saturday.

There are four games between ranked teams this week with Georgetown at Connecticut on Monday, Michigan State at Minnesota on Wednesday, and Pittsburgh at Georgetown and Ohio State at Minnesota on Saturday.

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