January is only four days old and the top ranking in college basketball polls likely will change for the fourth time this season.
Arizona was the fourth team to be ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press college basketball poll and it is likely to be the fourth to drop from that spot. The Wildcats can expect to have a new numeral after losing to New Mexico, 61-59, Saturday night in Albuquerque.
Syracuse was No. 1 until it lost to North Carolina in the Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic. The Tar Heels were on top until they lost to Vanderbilt on Dec. 5 and Kentucky moved up. The Wildcats still are undefeated but slipped because they were nearly upset at home by North Carolina-Charlotte and because Arizona kept beating quality teams. En route to a 12-0 mark, the desert Wildcats beat four top 20 teams: Syracuse, Michigan, Iowa and Duke.
But their run is over, for the moment at least. The Lobos, who were not picked for last year's NCAA tournament despite a 25-10 record, never trailed and were spurred on by an overflow crowd of 18,100 at University Arena, known as The Pit.
"The recognition has been invaluable to Arizona and we got a lot out of it," Arizona Coach Lute Olson told United Press International afterward. "But I'm one who thinks it's good to not be in a position where the pressure of being undefeated can take its toll."
It would seem to follow that second-ranked Kentucky, 9-0 after beating Georgia Saturday, would regain the top spot this week.
Arizona wasn't the only ranked team to have a rough time. The 18th-ranked Georgetown Hoyas narrowly avoided an upset Saturday night in Miami. They escaped with an 82-78 victory over the Miami Hurricanes. Georgetown (9-1) was down by seven with 8:36 left in the game.
"I never worry about losing," said Georgetown's Mark Tillmon. "I figured we'd pull it out because we had done it so many times."
Tillmon led the Hoyas with 24 points and was five of eight on three-pointers, including one in the 14-4 run.
"I laugh at people who talk about our inability to shoot," Georgetown Coach John Thompson said. "They've been saying that for 15 years. We can shoot, but what we try to do is get points off our defense."
The Hurricane who caused Georgetown the most difficulty on defense was sophomore center Tito Horford, who hit 10 of 13 from the field and six of nine from the line for a game-high 26 points.
"Tito started to hurt us late," Thompson said of the 7-foot-1 Horford, who is playing his first full season. "You can see him improving. People look at his size and think he was hatched with a basketball, but he's got to develop. . . ."
American (4-6) had a slightly easier time across town at the Sunblazer Arena, where the Eagles defeated Florida International, 85-77. The Golden Panthers (1-9) cut American's lead to 74-70 with 3:17 left in the game, but the Eagles held on as freshman Brock Wortman hit six of six free throws in the last minute. Wortman finished with 15 points and Mike Sampson led with 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
George Washington (7-3) had the misfortune to catch Georgia Tech and Tommy Hammonds on a hot night. Hammonds had a game-high 27 points and the Yellow Jackets raced to an 86-57 victory in Atlanta.
The Colonials, who were led in scoring by Kenny Barer's 15 points, didn't help themselves with 26 turnovers. The 86 points were the most they have allowed this season.
Virginia continued to have problems close to the basket Saturday night in Philadelphia. The Cavaliers (6-6) got only 22 points from its three front court starters, while guard John Johnson provided 25. Virginia hit just 20 of 62 shots and lost to Villanova, 63-54. The Cavaliers were down only 33-31 with 17 minutes left, but a 15-6 run gave Villanova an 11-point lead.
Maryland is within one of having as many victories as it had all last season. The Terrapins started their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule with a 93-76 victory over Wake Forest at Cole Field House. The Terrapins, 9-17 last season, are 8-2.
The Terrapins had lost all 14 ACC games last season, so the victory over Wake Forest broke that regular season losing streak. The Terrapins had beaten Virginia in the last game of the 1985-86 regular season. They beat North Carolina, 85-75, in the first game of the ACC tournament. Maryland was then eliminated by Georgia Tech. Counting that loss, and the first-round loss in last year's tournament, the Terrapins had dropped 16 straight to league opponents.
"Ending the streak was a big thing," said Dave Dickerson, who had 11 points. "Wake Forest fought and hung in there, but we really wanted to win this. And there's lots more we have to do to keep winning."