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Alabama, Houston top men's final AP Top 25 ahead of March Madness

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The overall No. 1 seed for March Madness is No. 1 in the finalAP Top 25, too.

Alabama, fresh off an SEC Tournament title to go with itsregular-season crown, ascended to the top spot Monday, earning 48of 61 first-place votes to jump Houston, which lost in the AmericanAthletic Conference final without star guard Marcus Sasser. Alabamaalso spent a week at No. 1 last month.

“We set goals over the summer: regular season, (league)tournament, obviously a national championship,” Crimson Tide guardJahvon Quinerly said. “I’m going to make sure our guys are ready togo no matter who we match up with.”

That will be Texas A&M-Corpus Christi or Southeast MissouriState, who meet in a First Four game Tuesday night. The winner willplay the Crimson Tide on Thursday in Birmingham, an hour down theroad from their Tuscaloosa campus.

The top seed in the South Region, Alabama would face WestVirginia or Maryland for a spot in the Sweet 16 with a win.

And how sweet that would be for a team that’s gone through theringer: former teammate Darius Miles and another man have beenindicted on capital murder charges for a January shooting, aninvestigator has testified star freshman Brandon Miller was askedby Miles to bring the gun that night and police have also saidJaden Bradley was at the scene.

“To beat the teams we had to beat to get here was not easy,”Alabama coach Nate Oats said last week. “So proud of the guys,proud of their effort, proud they were able to get really focused.Got a lot of mental toughness.”

Houston still received nine first-place votes and was No. 2after losing to Memphis in the final of the AAC tourney, whereSasser hurt his groin in the semifinal round. He did not play inthe championship and his status will be watched closely leading upto the Cougars’ NCAA opener against Northern Kentucky.

Purdue, seeded first in the East Region, earned threefirst-place votes and was third in the AP poll after theregular-season Big Ten champion won its conference tournament, too.Kansas, which expects to have Bill Self back for the NCAA tourneyafter a medical scare, was fourth after receiving the No. 1 seed inthe West.

Texas routed the Jayhawks in the finals of the Big 12 Tournamentand rounded out the top five.

Marquette remained at No. 6 after its Big East tourney title.UCLA earned one first-place vote and was seventh after losing inthe Pac-12 Tournament final to Arizona, which was No. 8. Gonzagaand UConn rounded out the top 10.

“We have a special team. We’re not going to do what our pastteams have done, which was to maybe get caught up in the wallow oflosing,” said Huskies coach Dan Hurley, whose team fell to theGolden Eagles in the Big East tourney semifinals. “We’re going toget our minds right very quickly and get ready to make a run nextweek.”

RISING AND FALLING

Duke made the biggest jump in the final poll after beatingVirginia for the ACC Tournament title, climbing nine spots to No.12 — the highest the Blue Devils have been since the third week ofthe season. First-year coach Jon Scheyer has them seeded fifth inthe East in the NCAA Tournament.

UCLA, seeded second in the West, fell five spots to No. 7 in thefinal poll.

IN AND OUT

Memphis was hardly receiving votes last week, but rolling to theAAC tourney title put Penny Hardaway’s crew into the poll for thefirst time this season at No. 24. Florida Atlantic, the ConferenceUSA regular-season and tourney champ, returned at No. 25 afterspending the first four weeks in the poll in school history inJanuary and February.

The Tigers and Owls made the AP poll at the expense ofCreighton, which was routed by Xavier in the Big East semifinals,and Kentucky, which fell to Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournamentquarterfinal round.

CONFERENCE WATCH

Widely considered the toughest league in the nation, the Big 12had two teams in the top five and five in the Top 25. The leaguehas seven schools heading to the NCAA Tournament after OklahomaState was left on the bubble.

The SEC, which tied the Big Ten for the most NCAA bids witheight, had four teams in the final Top 25. The Big East and ACC hadthree apiece, though the Big East had two in the top 10 and theleading ACC team was Duke at No. 12.

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