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Tennessee boasts top 2 teams in No. 1 Memphis and No. 2 Tennessee


Get ready for No. 1 vs. No. 2. Memphis survived its closest game of the season to remain the lone unbeaten and a unanimous No. 1 in The Associated Press' college basketball poll Monday.

Losses by Duke and Kansas last week allowed Tennessee to make the jump from fourth to No. 2, setting up the 38th career matchup of the top two teams in the rankings.

Tennessee (23-2) is at Memphis (25-0) on Saturday, the first 1-2 meeting since No. 2 Ohio State beat No. 1 Wisconsin 49-48 on Feb. 25, 2007. Both have games Wednesday night: Memphis is at Tulane and Tennessee hosts Auburn.

The No. 2 team has won five of the last six meetings with the top-ranked team since 1994. The lone win for No. 1 was Duke's 97-66 victory over Texas on Dec. 12, 2005.

Memphis beat UAB 79-78 on Saturday, erasing a seven-point deficit over the final two minutes and waiting for a final shot by the Blazers to be ruled after the buzzer by officials.

Tennessee also survived a road scare on Saturday, beating Georgia 74-71. But the 1-2 Volunteer State Showdown wasn't decided until Duke lost 86-73 at Wake Forest on Sunday night.

Memphis received all 72 first-place votes and 1,800 points from the national media panel to be No. 1 for a fifth straight week, the last three unanimously. Tennessee had 1,699 points to reach the highest ranking in school history. The Volunteers were third four weeks ago.

North Carolina (24-2), which has managed to go 3-1 without injured point guard Ty Lawson, moved up two spots to third, while Kansas (24-2), which lost at Texas on Monday then cruised past Colorado on Saturday, dropped one place to fourth.

Duke (22-2), which had a 12-game winning streak snapped by the Demon Deacons, dropped from second to fifth and was followed by UCLA, Texas, Butler, Stanford and Xavier.

Butler (24-2) continued its climb to uncharted poll territory, moving up one spot to eighth, its highest ranking ever. Xavier (21-4) jumped from 12th to crack the top 10 for the first time since the next-to-last poll of 2002-03.

Wisconsin moved up four places to 11th and was followed by Georgetown, Connecticut, Purdue, Indiana, Drake, Washington State, Louisville, Michigan State and Vanderbilt.l

The last five teams were Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Saint Mary's, Calif., Kansas State and Marquette.

Marquette moved back into the poll after a one-week absence. The Golden Eagles (18-6), who were ranked as high as 10th this season, fell out after consecutive losses to Louisville and Notre Dame. But an 89-64 victory at Seton Hall and a 72-54 win over Pittsburgh had them back in at No. 25.

Pittsburgh (19-6) dropped out for the first time this season following the loss to Marquette. The Panthers reached No. 6 following an overtime win over Duke in December, and were able to stay ranked until this week despite injuries to starters Mike Cook and Levance Fields.

Purdue (21-5), which beat Michigan State and Northwestern last week to hold first place in the Big Ten, jumped from 19th to No. 14 to match its highest ranking since the Boilermakers were also 14th in the poll of Jan. 26, 1999.

The week's biggest drop was Michigan State's fall from No. 10 to No. 19. The Spartans (20-5), who lost to Purdue and Indiana last week, had been ranked as high as sixth this season. Their previous low was No. 12 in the first poll of the regular season.

A matchup between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country?

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl doesn't want to talk about it.

The state of Tennessee topped The Associated Press poll on Monday with Memphis in the top spot and Tennessee jumping from fourth to No. 2, its highest ranking in history.

If that's not enough, the Tigers (25-0) and the Volunteers (23-2) meet Saturday in Memphis in the first 1-2 meeting since No. 2 Ohio State beat No. 1 Wisconsin 49-48 last Feb. 25.

But Pearl would rather discuss Wednesday's SEC matchup with Auburn.

"We're trying to do something that hasn't been done in 41 years and that's outright win an SEC championship," he said. "What Memphis has done to build this streak is take it one game at a time. We're going to have to do the same thing."

Memphis visits Tulane on Wednesday.

The state of Tennessee also boasts one other ranked team in No. 20 Vanderbilt.

Pearl danced around questions about Memphis during his weekly teleconference and luncheon, saying Auburn (13-10) has just as much chance to upset Tennessee as did LSU and Georgia, the conference's two worst teams who recently lost to the Vols by a combined five points.

Memphis also survived a scare last week in a 79-78 win over UAB on Saturday. The Tigers erased a seven-point deficit over the final 2 minutes.

Pearl has made winning the SEC title an emphasis for his team and said he thinks his players have been receptive to that goal.

He said he was struck by how much his players talked about the importance of beating Alabama on the road after losing 16 of the previous 17 games while visiting the Crimson Tide.

"Forty-one years is more than most of our lifetimes," he said. "I saw what it meant to them when we went to Alabama. I think it does matter to them a lot, and it requires us to understand that each time we get there we get closer to something that is so very, very special."

Pearl still acknowledges that beating the top-ranked team in the nation can be special, too, especially when it comes time for the NCAA tournament brackets to be announced.

"We talk about seedings because seeding has a lot to do with your ability to advance in the NCAA tournament. That's what it's all about. Obviously the higher the seed, the better your chance is of advancing," he said.

Tennessee's highest seeding came in 2006 when the Vols earned a No. 2 seed in Pearl's first year as coach. Last season the Vols earned a No. 5 seed and advanced to the regional semifinals, farther than they've ever gone in the tournament.

But NCAA tournament talk isn't piquing Pearl's interest either.

"I don't think you can compare any of that stuff to 41 years of SEC basketball," he said. "It just doesn't compare, and I don't think it compares with our guys, so we will do everything we can to get ready for Auburn."

Entry #1,301


spy153Comment by spy153 - February 20, 2008, 8:04 am
Yeah, they are seriously playing their cards right this year. Interesting game for tonight too. You watching it?

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