It wasn’t quite trading places, but it was close.
Kansas State, on the strength of a four-game winning streak, moved up to No. 10 in the latest Associated Press top 25 poll, while Kansas continued its tumble to No. 14 after two more losses.
The Wildcats were ranked No. 13 last week, while the Jayhawks were No. 5 — just a week after they were ranked No. 2. The poll movement sets up a pivotal Sunflower Showdown tonight at Allen Fieldhouse, where Kansas State, 19-4 overall and first in the Big 12 at 8-2, will play Kansas as the higher-ranked team for the first time since the 1988 NCAA Midwest Regional final.
If the Wildcats can win in Lawrence for only the second time since 1994, they’ll move one step closer to the program’s first conference championship since 1977.
“It’s why you have conferences, to win conference championships,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said Monday on the Big 12 coaches’ teleconference.
Kansas State spent three weeks ranked higher than the Jayhawks in November 2010. Until today, that was the only time the Wildcats were ranked higher than KU in their Big 12 history.
“They’re scoring the ball better,” KU coach Bill Self said Monday. “They’re having even better balance. Even though (senior Rodney) McGruder is obviously their guy, they got different guys stepping up.”
Meanwhile, Kansas, 19-4 overall and 7-3 in the Big 12, will try to stem the tide after its first three-game losing streak since February 2005.
“We have labored big-time the last week,” Self said. “But we still got a good team, and we’re playing a team that’s the hottest team in our league, I guess right now. They’ve had a terrific year, and I’m sure they’re playing with as much confidence as possible.”
In 1988, the Wildcats were ranked 20th and Kansas was unranked when they met in Pontiac, Mich., in the championship game of the Midwest Regional. The Danny Manning-led Jayhawks won 71-58 on their way to the NCAA title. In the regular season, K-State hasn’t been ranked higher than KU heading into a game against each other since 1982.
After a topsy-turvy week in college basketball, the rest of the poll had plenty of shake-ups and movers. Indiana remained No. 1 despite suffering a last-second loss to Illinois, while Duke, Michigan, Miami and Gonzaga rounded out the top five.
Oklahoma State moved up from No. 22 to No. 17, while Missouri, previously ranked 21st, fell out of the top 25 for the first time this season. The Tigers split a pair of games last week, falling at Texas A&M on Thursday and defeating Mississippi on Saturday.
Four other teams — No. 20 Wisconsin, No. 22 Memphis, No. 24 Colorado State and No. 25 Kentucky — entered the poll after not being ranked last week.