N.C. returns to No. 1 spot in AP polls, driving out Tennessee

 

 

By Jim O'Connell

North Carolina was back at No. 1 again Monday, thanks to a memorable few days in the state of Tennessee.

Tennessee started last week at No. 1 in The Associated Press’ college basketball poll after defeating previously top-ranked Memphis, but the Vols then lost to Vanderbilt on Tuesday.

Up stepped North Carolina, which ran its record to 27-2 with a win over Boston College and returned to the top spot it held for the first 10 weeks of the season.

Memphis (28-1), which held the top spot for five weeks, stayed at No. 2. UCLA (26-3) moved up one spot to third while Tennessee (26-3) dropped three spots to No. 4.

North Carolina, which rallied from 18 points down to beat BC 90-80 in its only game last week, received 38 first-place votes and 1,745 points from the 72-member national media panel.

Memphis, which bounced back from its only loss with wins over Tulsa and Southern Mississippi last week, had 21 first-place votes and 1,706 points.

UCLA, which swept Arizona and Arizona State on the road last week, was No. 1 on 12 ballots while Tennessee, which beat Kentucky 63-60 on Sunday, had one first-place vote.

Many teams return to No. 1 in the same season but North Carolina did it for the most part without starting point guard Ty Lawson. The sophomore sprained his left ankle early in a win over Florida State on Feb. 3. He missed six games – including the loss to Duke – and returned against Boston College on Saturday, playing 21 minutes.

“We have gotten better defensively and have had to withstand some adversity,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said Monday. If we can get Ty back completely healthy, our team is stronger because guys who were forced in because of the injuries have stepped up. I’m proud of the toughness of our team.”