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) three spots dropped 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.
Davidson (23-6) was 25th in the poll, the Wildcats' first appearance since the final poll of the 1969-70 season.
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. "We had a player who went through four years of adversity step up at the point in Quentin Thomas. We've had a nice little run here with defense and toughness. What I'm most proud of is they always did the best they could for 40 minutes, 50 in one case.
"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."
Thomas, a senior who has battled injuries his whole career, took over many of Lawson's minutes, but it was junior forward Tyler Hansbrough, who leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring and rebounding, who remained the key to the Tar Heels returning to No. 1.
"I like it better later in the year," Williams said of the top ranking, "because it shows you have accomplished something."
Kansas, Duke and Xavier all moved up one spot to sixth through eighth. Texas, which had an eight-game winning snapped at Texas Tech on Saturday, dropped four places to ninth. Wisconsin remained No. 10.
Georgetown started a three-team run by the Big East at No. 11 and was followed by Louisville, Connecticut, Butler, Purdue, Vanderbilt, Michigan State, Indiana, Notre Dame and Drake.
The last five ranked teams were Marquette, Gonzaga, Washington State and newcomers Clemson and Davidson.
Clemson (21-7) returned after being out of the poll for six weeks. The Tigers, who have won six of eight including Sunday's last-second win at Maryland, were ranked for nine weeks earlier in the season, reaching as high as 15th.
Davidson (23-6) entered the rankings on a 19-game winning streak and having gone 20-0 in the Southern Conference. The Wildcats' losses included ones to North Carolina, Duke and UCLA, none worse than 12 points and all competitive games.
"People are aware of the challenging early schedule but we also have a sense that we dropped off the face of the Earth and people did not pay too much heed to us as they did in November and December," Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. "But 20-0 in a conference schedule is an extraordinary accomplishment that gets people's attention."
Davidson was last ranked in the final poll in 1969-70, ending a run of two straight season in the Top 25. In those 30 polls, the Wildcats, who were coached by Lefty Driesell and featured forward Mike Maloy, were in the top ten 23 times and the top five 13 times.