AP Top 25 men’s basketball poll: Houston, UConn end regular season on top

The major conference tournaments kick off this week across the country ahead of Selection Sunday

It’s time for the last major conference tournaments to kick off, and there are two teams clearly situated ahead of the rest of the country.

Here’s everything you missed in Week 18 of the season, and the latest Associated Press men’s basketball poll.

Houston over Kansas, Big 12

Houston is in just its first season in the Big 12 conference, and it’s already dominating.

The Cougars, who clinched the outright regular season title last week, absolutely dominated Kansas on Saturday to close out the season. They rolled over the Jayhawks 76-46 in Houston, which marked their ninth straight win and their 22nd straight home win.

“It’s gratifying. I’m happy for everybody,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said, via ESPN. “There’s so many people that have an inferior complex about … We’re the University of Houston. This is a damn good school. We live in a damn good city, and we’re a damn good basketball program. We should never, ever, ever take a backseat to anybody.”

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Jamal Shead led the way with 13 points and eight assists, and Damian Dunn added 12 points off the bench. The Cougars held Kansas to just 3-of-21 from behind the arc and forced 18 turnovers en route to the win, and only one Jayhawks player hit double figures.

Naturally, Houston held onto its No. 1 ranking in the country headed into the Big 12 tournament. Kansas, which has now lost three of its last four and has its worst conference record in the Bill Self era, dropped to No. 16.

While Houston dominated the conference this season, the Big 12 tournament won’t be easy by any means. The league, which was easily the best in the country yet again this season, has six teams ranked in the poll this week. Iowa State, which fell to Kansas State and slipped to No. 7, holds the No. 2 seed in the tournament and Baylor has the No. 3 seed. Kansas missed out on the double bye, and will open play on Wednesday night as the No. 6 seed against either Cincinnati or West Virginia.

Houston coach Kelvin Sampson led the Cougars to a Big 12 regular season title in his first season in the league.
Houston coach Kelvin Sampson led the Cougars to a Big 12 regular season title in his first season in the league. (AP/David J. Phillip)

UConn poised for another deep run

Other than a slip at Creighton late last month, UConn seems just as good as it was a year ago when it won the national title.

The Huskies closed out their regular season with a big win over Marquette in Milwaukee on Wednesday night. After a slow start in the opening minutes, the Huskies rallied before halftime and then held on to pick up a 74-67 win behind 23 points from Alex Karaban. Marquette, despite being without star Tyler Kolek, still held its own better than expected after a nearly 30-point blowout loss to UConn earlier in the season. The Golden Eagles fell two spots to No. 10 in the poll this week, but they still seem like the best shot to get UConn in the Big East tournament.

UConn then ended the season with a 14-point win over Providence on Saturday. That kept it at No. 2 in the country with a 28-3 record on the year.

UConn has lost just once in 2024. The Huskies clinched their first regular season solo conference title since 1999, and look like the best bet to be the first school to repeat as national champions since Florida did so in 2006 and 2007. Unless something wild happens at Madison Square Garden this week, the Huskies should earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Games to watch this week

For more information on how to follow the major conference tournaments, click here.

Saturday, March 16

ACC Championship Game | ESPN | 8:30 p.m. ET

Big 12 Championship Game | ESPN | 6 p.m. ET

Big East Championship Game | Fox | 6:30 p.m. ET

Pac-12 Championship Game | Fox | 9 p.m. ET

Sunday, March 17

SEC Championship Game | ESPN | 1 p.m. ET

Big Ten Championship Game | CBS | 3:30 p.m. ET

Selection Sunday | CBS 6 p.m. ET

AP Top 25

The full AP Top 25 poll from March 11, 2024

1. Houston (28-3)

2. UConn (28-3)

3. Purdue (28-3)

4. North Carolina (25-6)

5. Tennessee (24-7)

6. Arizona (24-7)

7. Iowa State (24-7)

8. Creighton (23-8)

9. Kentucky (23-8)

10. Marquette (23-8)

11. Duke (24-7)

12. Auburn (24-7)

13. Illinois (23-8)

14. Baylor (22-9)

15. South Carolina (25-6)

16. Kansas (22-9)

17. Gonzaga (24-6)

18. Utah State (26-5)

19. Alabama (21-10)

20. BYU (22-9)

21. Saint Mary's (24-7)

22. Washington State (23-8)

23. Nevada (26-6)

24. Dayton (24-6)

25. Texas Tech (22-9)

Others Receiving Votes: Boise St. 46, South Florida 27, San Diego St. 21, Drake 16, Texas 14, James Madison 14, FAU 11, Florida 8, Princeton 7, Nebraska 6, New Mexico 4, Colorado 2, McNeese St. 2, Colorado St. 1, Wake Forest 1, Indiana St 1