Cincinnati Reclaims No. 1

Actress Halle Berry waves as she arrives for the screening of the film "X-Men: The Last Stand," at the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, on May 22, 2006. Berry plays weather-controlling mutant Storm in the movie, which is expected to be the last ensemble mutant gathering. Spinoffs for some characters reportedly are in the works. AP Photo/Francois Mori


Twice this season, Cincinnati has moved up to No. 1 in the nation and then lost a big game in town.

The Bearcats know what everyone's thinking now that they've returned to the top spot for a third time: A loss now would seal their reputation.

Cincinnati (28-2) moved back to No. 1 on Monday, getting the overwhelming majority of the first-place votes from the national media panel.

Although their fans celebrated the expected return to the top during a 41-point win over Saint Louis on Saturday, the Bearcats realized it won't mean much if it's followed by another early loss in the NCAA tournament.

"The tournament is what people label us by," forward Pete Mickeal said. "Around the nation, nobody cares what Cincinnati does - if we come up and get beat in the second round again. That's the perception."

Cincinnati received 66 first-place votes from the national media panel. Stanford (25-2), a unanimous choice for No. 1 last week, dropped to second and got two first-place votes after an overtime loss to UCLA on Saturday.

Duke moved up from fourth to third, and Ohio State got the other two first-place votes as it jumped from sixth to fourth. Michigan State, which shared the Big Ten championship with the Buckeyes, moved up two spots to fifth.

The final poll will be released next Monday, the day after the field for the NCAA tournament is announced. Cincinnati would like to remain No. 1 if for no other reason than the novelty.

"It's nice to be able to say your finished your senior year No. 1," forward Ryan Fletcher said. "That's a nice accomplishment."

It also would increase the pressure on Cincinnati. In the 1990s, only two top-ranked teams have won the national title: UCLA in 1995 and Duke in 1992.

Cincinnati has taken a No. 1 ranking into the NCAA tournament twice before and failed to win the title. The Bearcats were No. 1 in 1960, when they finished third in the tournament, and in 1963, when they lost the championship game to Loyola in overtime.

They were ranked second when they won the national title in 1961 and 1962.

Cincinnati was No. 1 for five weeks early this season before losing to crosstown rival Xavier. The Bearcats were out of the top spot for three weeks, then moved back in for six weeks before losing to Temple on their home court.

Temple lost to St. Joseph's last week and dropped from fifth to sixth in the latest poll. Iowa State, the Big 12 champion, moved up from No. 10 to seventh.

Tennessee moved up three spots to eighth, while Arizona from third to ninth after losing at Oregon State and Oregon last week without injured center Loren Woods.

LSU moved from 12th to No. 10, its first appearance in the Top Ten since being ranked ninth on Nov. 25, 1991.

Florida led the Second Ten and was followed by Syracuse, Texas, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Oklahoma State, Indiana, St. John's and Maryland.

Connecticut, Purdue, Miami, Kansas and Illinois completed the Top 25.

Miami, which beat St. John's 74-70 in overtime Sunday to earn a share of the Big East regular-season title with Syracuse, moved back into the rankings for the first time since the Preseason Top 25.

The Hurricanes replaced Auburn, which fell from 19th aftelosing to LSU and Arkansas last week, the Tigers' third and fourth consecutive losses. The last three losses have been without suspended forward Chris Porter.

Auburn was fourth in the preseason poll, got as high as No. 2 this season and had been ranked every week since Dec. 14, 1998.

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