Auburn keeps finding ways to win — even sometimes in tougher-than-expected games — to maintain its hold on No. 1 in the The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll.
Bruce Pearl's Tigers haven't lost since November and are firmly locked into the top spot after earning 48 of 61 first-place votes in Monday's poll. That came after a narrow road win against a six-win Georgia team over the weekend, which came less than two weeks after a one-point escape against a nine-win Missouri team.
Still, Auburn (22-1) has won 19 straight games since losing in double overtime to Connecticut in November, including all 10 of its Southeastern Conference games.
“We're 22-1 for a reason,” said Wendell Green Jr., who had a tiebreaking layup late to beat Georgia. “We've got winners. We believe we can win against any team in the country. We've got big-time players that's going to make big-time plays.”
Auburn is part of a select group of teams that rank highly on both ends of the court in KenPom's national statistics. The Tigers rank 13th in adjusted offensive efficiency (116.5 points per 100 possessions) and 14th in defensive efficiency (90.1), joining No. 2 Gonzaga, No. 4 Arizona, No. 5 Kentucky, No. 6 Houston and No. 7 Duke as the only teams ranked in the top 15 of both categories entering the week.
“I believe we're becoming a great team,” guard K.D. Johnson said, "and we're comfortable with any situation."
THE TOP TIER
Mark Few's Bulldogs earned the other 13 first-place votes and have sat at No. 2 throughout Auburn's three-week stay at the top. Gonzaga has won 12 straight since falling to Alabama in early December.
Purdue climbed a spot to No. 3, followed by Arizona in the Wildcats’ second stint inside the top five this season. Kentucky and Houston were next.
Duke rose two spots to No. 7 after a lopsided win at rival North Carolina in retiring Hall of Famer Mike Krzyzewski’s final visit to Chapel Hill, followed by Kansas, Texas Tech and reigning national champion Baylor to round out the top 10.
The Red Raiders made their first appearance inside the top 10 under first-year coach Mark Adams, who took over when Chris Beard left for Texas. Texas Tech jumped five spots after beating the Longhorns and West Virginia last week.
Providence rose four spots to No. 11, its highest perch since the 2015-16 season when the Friars spent 12 weeks in the AP Top 25, peaking at No. 8 in January. Ed Cooley's program has won seven straight games for its first 20-2 start since the 1972-73 season and its first-ever 10-1 start in Big East play.
Marquette had the biggest jump, rising six spots to No. 18 under first-year coach Shaka Smart after beating Villanova. No. 13 Illinois matched Texas Tech's climb by rising five spots after beating Wisconsin.
In all, 10 teams moved up from last week's rankings.
No. 12 UCLA had the week's big tumble, falling nine spots after losses to Arizona and a seven-win Arizona State team — the latter coming in triple overtime. This is the first time the Bruins, a Final Four team from last year and the preseason No. 2 selection, has fallen outside the top 10.
In all, eight teams fell from last week.
Five teams held their position from last week, with No. 16 Ohio State joining Auburn, Gonzaga, Kentucky and Houston.
No. 22 Saint Mary’s and No. 23 Murray State were the week’s new additions. The Gaels' poll appearance is their first since early in the 2019-20 season, while the Racers are in the poll for the first time since spending a week at No. 25 in March 2015.
FAREWELL (FOR NOW)
Iowa State (No. 20) and LSU (No. 25) fell out from last week’s rankings.
The Big Ten and Big East lead the country with five ranked teams each. The Big 12 was next with four teams, though it marked the second straight week the league didn't have at least one team in the fop five. That had last happened in the final poll of the 2018-19 season.
The SEC and Pac-12 were next with three teams apiece, followed by the West Coast Conference with two. The Atlantic Coast, American Athletic and Ohio Valley conferences each had one.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aaronbeardap
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25