Utah State ranked for first time in over 30 years


Monday, February 2nd 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


Utah State earned its first spot in The Associated Press men's basketball poll since 1971 on Monday, one of many changes in the national rankings _ except at the top.

For the third straight week, the first three spots remained the same: Duke, Stanford and Saint Joseph's.

Other Top 25 teams didn't fare as well, with 12 of them losing a total of 14 games. All those losses meant a lot of movement from No. 4 on, giving the Aggies an opportunity to break into the rankings at No. 24.

Utah State (17-1) has won 14 straight games, the last nine over Big West opponents, since losing 56-45 at Utah on Dec. 3. The latest win was 84-46 over Long Beach State on Saturday.

The defending Big West tournament champions have won at least 20 games each of the last four seasons and have been to the NCAA tournament three of the last four years.

The last time Utah State was ranked was a 14-week run in 1970-71, Ladell Andersen's last season as coach there. One of his assistants was Dale Brown and future NBA player Marvin Roberts was the star of the team.

``It's been a while and I think any time you're in a mid-major situation it becomes very difficult to get this kind of recognition and makes it more special,'' sixth-year coach Stew Morrill said Monday. ``Certainly I want our guys to feel good about it but not lose their edge. We've been winning but we haven't been dominant.

``Once in a while, when things are going well, you need to give them a pat on the back and I will do that today.''

The national notice could also help Utah State when the NCAA tournament selection committee sits down to seed teams or select an at-large mid-major who may have been upset in the conference tournament.

``You never know but if we can put ourselves in a position where the committee is taking a good look at us this certainly can't hurt,'' Morrill said. ``But we're a long way from that right now.''

Duke (18-1) beat Florida State and Georgia Tech last week to hold the No. 1 spot. The Blue Devils received 44 first-place votes and 1,767 points from the national media panel.

Stanford (18-0) swept its road trip to Oregon State and Oregon last week and was No. 1 on 26 ballots, receiving 1,749 points.

Saint Joseph's (18-0) won at Temple in its only game last week and the Hawks received two first-place votes and 1,660 points.

Then came the changes.

Pittsburgh jumped up three spots to No. 4, while Connecticut moved up one to fifth.

Louisville, which had its 15-game winning streak snapped by Marquette on Saturday, fell two places to sixth, while Mississippi State moved up four places to seventh.

Gonzaga moved from 10th to No. 8, its highest ranking of the season. Kentucky, which lost at Vanderbilt, dropped from fifth to No. 9. Cincinnati, which lost to Charlotte, fell two places to round out the Top Ten.

Texas jumped five spots to No. 11 and was followed by Arizona, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, North Carolina, Syracuse, Texas Tech and Kansas.

The last five ranked teams were Florida, Oklahoma, Providence, Utah State and South Carolina.

Texas Tech dropped from 13th to No. 19 after losses to Texas and Oklahoma State by a total of five points.

The other ranked team to lose two games last week was Purdue (14-6), and the losses to Indiana and Ohio State sent the Boilermakers out of the rankings from 21st. Purdue had been ranked eight of the last nine weeks, reaching as high as No. 16.