Louisville has been ranked in the AP college basketball poll 539, but this is the Cards' first top ranking in the regular season.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville has won two NCAA basketball championships. The Cardinals have won more than 30 games multiple times. They went to four Final Fours in a seven-season stretch during the Eighties. They had a player taken with the first pick in the 1989 NBA Draft.
But until Monday, the Cards had never been voted the Number One team in the Associated Press college basketball poll during the regular season.
Can that possibly be true?
Yes, it is.
Monday's poll marked the 539th time Louisville has been voted into the AP Top 25 since the poll began during the 1948-49 season. Only five programs – North Carolina, Kentucky, Duke, UCLA and Kansas – have spent more time in the poll.
The Cards were ranked first in the 2009 final poll after U of L won the Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden.
What about the 1980 national champions, a team that won 33 of 36 games?
Even with Darrell Griffith, Rodney McCray and Derek Smith that team did not crack the Top 10 until Jan. 8. DePaul, Louisiana State, Kentucky and Indiana were the kingpins for much of that season. The Cards were ranked second twice late in the season.
Louisville won its other NCAA championship in 1986. But that team lost its third and fourth games in New York to Kansas and St. John's. The Cards also lost consecutive games to Cincinnati and Kansas in late January. That's not the path to Number One.
Louisville was ranked as low as 19th on Feb. 11, 1986. That team, which featured Pervis Ellison, Billy Thompson and Milt Wagner, was ranked 11th prior to the Metro Conference Tournament and then seventh at the start of the NCAA Tournament.
It appears the Louisville team that carried the highest ranking over an entire season was the 1966-67 team with Wes Unseld, Butch Beard, Fred Holden and Jerry King.
That team climbed to No. 2 on Dec. 20 – and was voted second nationally eight more times. But they lost their final regular season game to Wichita State – and then the Cards were upset by SMU in their NCAA opener.
Those were the days when John Wooden and Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) reigned at UCLA. There was rarely an opening at the top of the poll.
Now the Cards are ranked first with Indiana second and Duke third.
They'll have to beat Connecticut and Syracuse this week to stay there.