Villanova had to make an adjustment last season after being ranked No. 1 for the first time. Even before losing to Xavier, the Wildcats had trouble with the louder fans, teams playing them harder and higher expectations.
Back at No. 1 this week, the reigning national champions have much better understanding of what to expect.
Villanova moved up a spot from last week in the AP Top 25 men’s college basketball poll today, earning 57 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel.
“It’s always got to be one game at a time but it’s even more so because everybody’s on another level when they compete against you,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “We talked about that last year. I don’t know if any of us really realized what that was like. Hopefully, when we talk about it now, the players have a good understanding.”
UCLA (9-0), which beat No. 1 Kentucky 97-92 on Saturday, jumped from 11th to second with two first-place votes. Kentucky, which dropped to sixth, had been No. 1 for the past two weeks. Duke is the other team to be No. 1 this season, for two weeks.
Villanova (8-0), which was No. 1 for three weeks last season, was playing Saturday afternoon when the Kentucky game ended. During the latter stages of their 82-57 victory over Saint Joseph’s, the Villanova students started chanting “No. 1! No. 1!” They have their wish.
“We know it’s just another challenge in front of us,” Wright said. “It’s great for everybody else, the fans. It’s a great honor. It’s not going to do us any good. Understanding the challenge is what’s going to help us.”
Kansas moved from fourth to third and Baylor (8-0) jumped from ninth to No. 4 and received the other six first-place votes.
Duke held fifth and was followed by Kentucky, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Indiana and Creighton.
Louisville is 11th, followed by Saint Mary’s, Xavier, Virginia and West Virginia, which made the jump from 25th to 15th after winning at Virginia, dropping the Cavaliers from sixth to No. 14.
Butler is 16th followed by Wisconsin, Purdue, South Carolina and Arizona. The last five ranked teams are Florida, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Oregon and Iowa State.
Cincinnati (7-1), which won at Iowa State last week, moved back into the Top 25 after being out for three weeks. Notre Dame (8-0) is the week’s other newcomer. The Fighting Irish come in having scored at least 91 points in their last three games.
Rhode Island dropped out from 21st after losing to Valparaiso and Providence last week. Syracuse, which was 22nd, fell out after losing to Wisconsin in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
AP Sports Writers John Marshall in Phoenix and Dan Gelston in Philadelphia contributed to this report.