Syracuse took quite a route to
its first No. 1 ranking in 20 years.

The Orange weren't in the preseason
Top 25 and, just days after it was released with them in "Others
Receiving Votes," they were beaten by Division II LeMoyne in an
exhibition game.

But they were back in the poll — at
No. 10, in fact — just two weeks into the season after impressive wins
over California and North Carolina in the 2K Sports Classic.

The Orange haven't been out of the top
10 since and on Monday moved from fourth into the No. 1 spot, taking
advantage of a weekend that saw the top three teams lose.

"It's a great honor, a great testament
for these players, these kids, to be number one," Syracuse coach Jim
Boeheim
said. "We all know it doesn't matter that much in the big
picture, it's where you are at the end of the year. These kids have
worked hard, been unselfish. They deserve it. They really do."

This is the third time the Hall of
Fame coach has had the Orange at No. 1. There was the preseason poll in
1987-88 and a six-week stint in 1989-90.

"It's been a long time and we're happy
to be there," said Boeheim, who has 826 wins in his 34th season at his
alma mater.

Syracuse (27-2), which received 59
first-place votes from the national media panel, moved to the top off
its 95-77 victory over then-No. 7 Villanova in front of an on-campus
record crowd at the Carrier Dome.

As always, it's Syracuse's 2-3 zone
defense, which it didn't use in the loss to LeMoyne, that is drawing all
the attention in the rise up the polls.

"The biggest thing is that we've been
the biggest we've been inside in a long time and we just cover better.
These guys have worked a little harder at it," Boeheim said. "We're also
still leading the nation in field goal percentage (52.2) so we've also
been a very good offensive team. They really move the ball and pass the
ball extremely well. We've been good on both ends of the court. It's not
one thing really."

Syracuse is the sixth team to go from
unranked in the opening poll to No. 1. Kansas was the last, reaching
No. 1 on Jan. 9, 1990.

"We made an unbelievable move this
year and we have really played pretty consistently all year. Based on
the whole year we deserve it," Boeheim said. "We may not be the best
team in the country but I'm not sure who else is."

Kansas, which had been No. 1 for the
last four weeks and 13 polls overall this season, had the other six
first-place votes and dropped to second. The Jayhawks (27-2) lost at
Oklahoma State on Saturday, the same day Kentucky (27-2) lost at
Tennessee.

The Wildcats, who were No. 1 for one
week in January, fell one spot to third.

Texas, the fourth team to hold the
No. 1 position this season, fell out of the rankings from 21st. The
Longhorns became No. 1 for the first time in school history in January,
but have dropped seven of 12 after their 17-0 start.

They are the fourth team to hold the
No. 1 ranking and drop out of the poll in the same season — Indiana was
the last to do it in 1979-80.

Duke and Kansas State each moved up
one place each to fourth and fifth, while Ohio State jumped three spots
to sixth. Purdue dropped from No. 3 to seventh following Sunday's 53-44
loss to Michigan State, the Boilermakers' first game since losing
second-leading scorer and rebounder Robbie Hummel to a knee injury.

New Mexico was eighth, followed by
Villanova and West Virginia.

Michigan State led the second 10,
followed by Butler, Vanderbilt, BYU, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Pittsburgh,
Gonzaga, Georgetown and Temple. The last five ranked teams were Baylor,
Maryland, Texas A&M, UTEP and Xavier.

Maryland (21-7), which is second to
Duke in the ACC, was ranked for the first two weeks of the regular
season. UTEP (22-5), which has won 12 straight, is ranked for the first
time since February 1992. Xavier (21-7), co-leaders of the Atlantic 10,
moved in for the first time this season, knocking out Richmond (22-7)
with a double overtime win over the Spiders on Sunday.

Northern Iowa (25-4) dropped out from
25th after losing to Evansville, the last-place team in the Missouri
Valley Conference.