Wildcats claim No. 1 spot in poll

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Kentucky is No. 1 at being No. 1 heading into the NCAA tournament.

The Wildcats moved up one place to lead the season's final AP Top 25 college basketball poll Monday, the record eighth time they have held that position right before the postseason.

The last time Kentucky did it was in 1978, when the school won the fifth of its seven national championships. UCLA is next with seven final No. 1 rankings, while Duke has accomplished it six times, including the previous four in a row.

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Kentucky (29-3) traded places with Arizona (25-3), which led the rankings for four straight weeks but dropped to No. 2 after being upset by UCLA in the Pac-10 tournament last week.

Kentucky, meanwhile, extended its nation-leading winning streak to 23 games by beating Mississippi State in Sunday's Southeastern Conference tournament championship game.

Both Kentucky and Arizona were seeded No. 1 for the NCAA tournament, which starts this week, as were Texas and Oklahoma.

''I don't think there's going to be any more pressure by being ranked No. 1. It really doesn't mean much,'' Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said Monday. ''We appreciate it. It's a great recognition. Our guys have earned that type of respect. But that's not going to help you win any games."