For the first time in two years, Michigan State is the No. 1 team in college basketball.
The Spartans moved up one place in this week's Associated Press Top 25 to take the top spot for the first time since the first week in January 2016.
“It's huge, just to be the No. 1 team in the country, that's amazing,” sophomore guard Cassius Winston said Sunday. “We just use that as motivation, and we gotta prove that we earned that spot and it wasn't given to us.”
The USA Today Coaches Poll will be released Tuesday, a day late due to the holiday.
MSU (14-1, 2-0 Big Ten) has 1,600 points and 43 first-place votes in the AP rankings. Duke (13-1) is No. 2 at 1,556 points and 21 first-place votes. The Spartans have won 12 straight since their only loss of the season, 88-81 to the Blue Devils in the Champions Classic on Nov. 14 in Chicago.
“Anytime that we can be No. 1 is great because it still speaks more about the program. The program can handle that,” MSU coach Tom Izzo said after Sunday's 108-52 win over Savannah State. “These players, each group is different, but they came here because this program has been ranked No. 1 before. We've played in those big games before. So unless they're in that stage where you watch what you wish for, I think it is a good thing.”
Villanova, which lost on Saturday to Butler, fell to No. 3 but still has one first-place vote and 1,444 points.
Purdue (13-2, 2-0) is the only other Big Ten team ranked this week.
MSU, which is coming off a school record four straight 100-point games, resumes Big Ten play Thursday when it hosts Maryland (8 p.m./Fox Sports 1). The Terrapins (12-3, 1-1) last week lost forwards Justin Jackson (shoulder) and Ivan Bender (knee) to season-ending injuries.
“Who knows, it could last a game – been in that situation before,” Izzo said. “But I think that everybody would agree that there are five or six teams right now that are leading that line of worthy of being (No. 1).”
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