Bulldogs Get First-Place Vote, No. 3 Ranking

March 8, 2004

AP Basketball Writer

Tiny Saint Joseph's and its ever-flapping Hawk have soared to the top of the basketball world. The Philadelphia school with an enrollment of 3,400 and not much recent sports history to brag about was No. 1 in the AP men's college basketball poll Monday for the first time.

"It's a dream come true," Hawks senior guard Jameer Nelson said. "At the same time, we have to take care of business these last few games. We'll still approach each game and practice the same way."

The Hawks (27-0) are the only unbeaten team in Division I, now that previously top-ranked Stanford was upset by Washington.

Saint Joseph's needs three victories in the Atlantic 10 tournament to become the first team since UNLV in 1991 to enter the NCAA tournament without a loss.

"All along, we have discussed the idea of having a great program," Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "Obviously, we have a great team, and now we can talk about a great program, and this can be a springboard."

With help from the Hawk, of course. The mascot never stops flapping its wings during games.

A national basketball power in the 1960s, the Hawks were ranked in the Top 10 consistently. They made their only Final Four appearance in 1961, then reached No. 2 in the rankings twice in December 1965.

"It's a significant feat for the longtime followers of this program," Martelli said. "Schools like ours have been overlooked for years by things like the BCS and the football powers."

The coach doesn't think he has to worry about his team looking past the conference tournament and thinking ahead to a probable No. 1 seeding in the NCAA tournament field.

The A-10 tournament starts Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio.

"We're going there to fight," Martelli said.

The Hawks moved up from No. 2 thanks to the loss by Stanford (26-1) Saturday. That ended the Cardinal's three-week run atop the AP poll.

Saint Joseph's received 67 first-place votes and 1,795 points from the national media panel. Second-ranked Stanford was No. 1 on two ballots and had 1,648 points.

Gonzaga (26-2) moved up one spot to No. 3, the highest ranking in school history, and received one first-place vote for the first time. Mississippi State (25-2) moved up one place to fourth, switching positions with Duke (25-4), which was No. 1 on two ballots after losing to Georgia Tech and beating North Carolina.

Air Force moved into the Top 25 for the first time in school history. The Falcons (22-5), the No. 1 defensive team in the country, won the Mountain West regular season title.

Pittsburgh, Oklahoma State, Kentucky and Connecticut held sixth through ninth from last week, while Wisconsin moved up seven places to No. 10, its highest ranking of the season.

Texas was No. 11, followed by Illinois, Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Kansas, Syracuse and Providence.

The last five ranked teams were Arizona, Utah State, Memphis, Southern Illinois and Air Force.

Louisville (19-8) fell out from 25th after being ranked for the last 12 weeks, reaching No. 4. The Cardinals lost 81-80 at Marquette on Saturday, their seventh loss in 10 games.

Saint Joseph's is the sixth team to reach No. 1 this season, joining Connecticut, Kansas, Florida, Duke and Stanford.

"Being ranked No. 1 is a sign of steady improvement and the hard work we've put in all season," Saint Joseph's junior forward Pat Carroll said. The NCAA "tournament will prove who really is the No. 1 team in the nation, but right now, it's a good feeling to have that ranking in front of us."

By The Associated Press

The top 25 teams in The Associated Press' men's college basketball poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through March 7, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and previous ranking:

                        Record  Pts   Pvs
 1. Saint Joseph's (67)   27-0  1,795   2
 2. Stanford (2)          26-1  1,648   1
 3. Gonzaga (1)           26-2  1,604   4
 4. Mississippi St.       25-2  1,557   5
 5. Duke (2)              25-4  1,519   3
 6. Pittsburgh            27-3  1,451   6
 7. Oklahoma St.          24-3  1,410   8
 8. Kentucky              23-4  1,370   9
 9. Connecticut           24-6  1,158   7
10. Wisconsin             21-6    927  17
11. Texas                 21-6    914  10
12. Illinois              22-5    898  18
13. Cincinnati            21-6    844  13
14. Georgia Tech          22-8    817  19
15. Wake Forest           19-8    672  11
16. North Carolina        18-9    665  14
17. N.C. State            19-8    654  16
18. Kansas                20-7    607  21
19. Syracuse              21-6    593  24
20. Providence            20-7    521  12
21. Arizona               19-8    400  22
22. Utah St.              25-2    322  23
23. Memphis               21-6    310  20
24. S. Illinois           25-4    264  15
25. Air Force             22-5     73   -

Others receiving votes: Michigan St. 70, Charlotte 48, DePaul 42, Louisville 41, Boston College 36, Washington 36, Seton Hall 34, W. Michigan 31, Nevada 20, ETSU 10, Texas Tech 10, Florida 6, Dayton 5, Manhattan 4, South Carolina 3, Boise St. 2, UTEP 2, Alabama 1, BYU 1, Marquette 1, Oklahoma 1, Pacific 1, Princeton 1, Va. Commonwealth 1.



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