No. 23 Indiana State ranked for first time since 1979; UConn remains No. 1 in AP Top 25

Indiana State is ranked for the first time since Larry Bird played in Terre Haute
FILE - Indiana State's Julian Larry drives under the basket against Missouri State's Cesare Edwards and Dawson Carper during an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024 in Terre Haute, Ind. Indiana State's balanced scoring, a free-flowing offense and a goggled big man has the program off to one of its best starts in years.(Joseph C. Garza/The Tribune-Star via AP, File, File)

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FILE - Indiana State's Julian Larry drives under the basket against Missouri State's Cesare Edwards and Dawson Carper during an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024 in Terre Haute, Ind. Indiana State's balanced scoring, a free-flowing offense and a goggled big man has the program off to one of its best starts in years.(Joseph C. Garza/The Tribune-Star via AP, File, File)

Indiana State's balanced scoring, free-flowing offense and its goggle-wearing big man have the program off to one of its best starts in years.

Now the Sycamores have something that hasn't happened since Larry Bird played in Terre Haute: a spot in the AP Top 25.

Riding a nine-game winning streak, Indiana State debuted at No. 23 in The Associated Press men's college basketball poll Monday, the Sycamores' first ranking since reaching No. 1 in 1978-79.

“It’s a group that the community can really wrap their arms around and I think they have. That’s just great to see,” Indiana State coach Josh Schertz told reporters recently. “I know Terre Haute. They love basketball. I know there’s a great history and tradition, from Larry Bird to John Wooden to Clarence Walker."

Connecticut and Purdue kept the top two spots in the AP Top 25. The defending national champion Huskies received 45 first-place votes from a 61-person media panel and the Boilermakers had 16.

Schertz took over the Indiana State program during the pandemic, inheriting a depleted roster with no chance to get players to visit campus. Schertz cobbled together a team that won 11 games his first season and the Sycamores improved to 23-13 last season.

Indiana State (22-3) has been on a roll in Schertz's third season, winning all 11 home games while taking a two-game lead over Drake in the Missouri Valley Conference at 11-1.

The Sycamores have five players scoring in double figures, led by dynamic 5-foot-10 guard Isaiah Swope's 17.7 points per game. Big man Robbie Avila has become a fan favorite with his goggles, averaging 16.4 points and 7.4 rebounds.

Indiana State is fifth nationally in scoring at 85.6 points per game, ninth in 3-point percentage (39%) and is No. 1 in adjusted field goal percentage, according to KenPom. The combination has the Sycamores eyeing their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2011.

"Our goal is we want to get to the NCAA Tournament and advance," Schertz said. "You never want to put ceilings on yourself. You want to get to the tournament and win games and go as far as you can. You saw what happened last year with Florida Atlantic and San Diego State playing in the Final Four — there’s nothing outside of your reach.”

AT THE TOP

Losses by No. 6 Kansas and No. 7 North Carolina led to a shakeup in the top 10 behind UConn and Purdue.

Houston moved up two spots to No. 5, Marquette rose three places to No. 4 and No. 8 Arizona climbed three following a sweep of the Pac-12's mountain schools. Tennessee, Duke and Iowa State rounded out the top 10. The Cyclones returned to the top 10 for the first time since the 2021-22 season.

RISING AND FALLING

Iowa State and No. 11 South Carolina had the biggest jumps in this week's poll, each rising four spots.

No. 20 Wisconsin had the biggest drop, falling nine places after losing four straight games.

No. 22 Kentucky dropped five places after losing three straight games at Rupp Arena for the first time it opened in 1976. The Wildcats hadn't lost three in a row at home since the 1966-67 season, when they played at Memorial Coliseum.

IN AND OUT

No. 18 Saint Mary's moved back into the AP Top 25 for the first time since the preseason poll after wins over Pacific and Portland. No. 19 Virginia returned to the poll for the first time since mid-December thanks to an eight-game winning streak.

No. 25 Oklahoma moved back into the poll after dropping out last week following wins over No. 18 BYU and rival Oklahoma State.

Utah State dropped out from No. 22 after losing at home to Nevada and beating Boise State. Texas Tech fell from No. 23 to unranked following a loss to No. 12 Baylor and a win over UCF.

San Diego State also dropped out from No. 24 after an overtime loss to Nevada.

CONFERENCE WATCH

The Big 12 leads the country with six ranked teams, followed by the SEC with five. The Atlantic Coast, Big Ten and Big East conferences were next with three. The Pac-12, Atlantic 10, West Coast, Missouri Valley and American Athletic conferences each had one.

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FILE - Indiana State star Larry Bird makes his way through the crowd of players and fans getting congratulations after his team defeated Arkansas, 73-71, to win the NCAA Midwest Regional tourney crown in Cincinnati, March 17, 1979. Indiana State's balanced scoring, free-flowing offense and its goggle-wearing big man have the program off to one of its best starts in years. Now the Sycamores have something that hasn't happened since Larry Bird played in Terre Haute: a spot in the AP Top 25. (AP Photo/BH, File)

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Connecticut forward Alex Karaban (11) boxes out during a foul shot in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Georgetown, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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Houston forward J'Wan Roberts reacts after a dunk during the second half of an NCAA basketball game against Cincinnati, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Joshua A. Bickel)

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Iowa State forward Robert Jones (12) drives to the basket over TCU guard Avery Anderson III (3) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 71-59. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

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Iowa State guard Curtis Jones, center, fights for a loose ball with TCU center Ernest Udeh Jr., right, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 71-59. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

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