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Baylor strengthens hold on No. 1 in AP Top 25 poll

Baylor has strengthened its hold on No. 1 in The Associated Press men's college basketball poll.

The Bears received 49 first-place votes from the 65-member media panel in Monday’s poll to stay comfortably ahead of Gonzaga and Kansas. That was up from 44 first-place votes from the previous week, with the Bears securing a third straight week atop the rankings.

Nos. 1-4 remained unchanged a week after the top seven teams held their rankings from the previous week, continuing a stretch of stability there in what has been an unpredictable season with a record-tying seven different teams reaching No. 1.

The Zags – who earned 15 first-place votes after having 19 a week earlier – spent four weeks atop the poll and went 7-0 during their stint at No. 1 before the Bears leapfrogged them. Baylor (20-1) has won five games since reaching No. 1 and beat Kansas State on Monday night, extending their program-record winning streak to 19 games.

Before that, Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke, Louisville and Kansas had all appeared at No. 1. None lasted more than two weeks or won more than twice before suffering a loss that would knock them out of the top spot.

The Jayhawks earned the other first-place vote to remain ahead of fourth-ranked San Diego State, the last unbeaten team in Division I.

THE TOP TIER

Atlantic Coast Conference leader Louisville climbed a spot to No. 5, followed by Dayton, Duke, Florida State and Maryland – which jumped six spots to No. 9 after beating Iowa last week for its fourth straight win.

Villanova rounded out the top 10.

RISING

No. 11 Auburn joined the Terrapins as the week’s biggest riser, jumping six spots after beating Kentucky over the weekend for the Tigers’ fourth consecutive victory.

No. 18 LSU also had a significant bump, rising four spots after pushing its winning streak to 10 games.

In all, eight teams moved up in Monday’s poll.

SLIDING

No. 24 Colorado and No. 25 Houston were the week’s biggest sliders, each falling four spots after league losses. Florida State, No. 14 Oregon and No. 19 Butler each fell three spots, which continued a big slide for the Bulldogs after they were ranked as high as No. 5 in mid-January but have lost four of six.

Eleven teams fell in Monday’s poll.

STATUS QUO

The top four teams were the only ones to hold their positions from last week.

WELCOME (BACK)

No. 21 Creighton and No. 23 Arizona were this week’s new additions to the poll, though both had been ranked previously.

The Bluejays, who were ranked 25th for a week last month, moved back into the poll after beating Villanova in the Big East. The Wildcats have twice fallen out after appearing in each of the first 10 polls.

FAREWELL FOR NOW

Wichita State (No. 23) and Rutgers (No. 25) fell out of the poll. The Shockers lost at Tulsa over the weekend, while the Scarlet Knights fell to Michigan in Madison Square Garden — a loss that ended the program's two-week stint that stood as its first AP Top 25 appearance since the end of the 1978-79 season.

CONFERENCE WATCH

The Big Ten had a national-best five teams in the poll, including No. 16 Michigan State, No. 17 Iowa, No. 20 Illinois and No. 22 Penn State. The Big East was next with four, while the Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences all had three each.

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More AP college basketball: http://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap