Penn State men's basketball team ranked in AP poll for first time in more than two decades

Penn State guard Myles Dread (2) celebrates with fans after the team upset Maryland 76-69 in an NCAA college basketball game in State College, Pa., Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

The Penn State men’s basketball team has earned its first Associated Press poll ranking since 1996.

The Nittany Lions enter this week’s poll at No. 23. The Nittany Lions are off to their best start (9-2) since the 2014-15 season and have received votes from the media since Nov. 18.

Last Tuesday, PSU earned its biggest win of the season with a 76-69 victory over then-No. 4 Maryland.

The Lions are one of five ranked Big Ten teams, including No. 5 Ohio State, No. 7 Maryland, No. 14 Michigan and No. 15 Michigan State. No other conference can match that total.

Penn State was ranked for 10 weeks during the 1995-96 season, entering the poll at the No. 20 spot on Jan. 8, 1996. The earliest Penn State has ever been ranked was on Dec. 6, 1954, when the Nittany Lions were ranked 19th in the first AP poll of the 1954-55 season.

After a week away from competition for finals, Penn State plays host to Central Connecticut State at 6 p.m. Friday in the Bryce Jordan Center.

Kansas now No. 1: Kansas is the new No. 1 in the poll. North Carolina, meanwhile, is out of the poll for the first time in nearly six years.

The Jayhawks (9-1) moved up one spot to become the fifth team to top the poll in an already wild season. The Jayhawks received 47 of 65 first-place votes.

North Carolina (6-4) had been ranked for 106 consecutive weeks dating to February 2014, including starting this year in the top 10 and peaking at No. 5 on Nov. 18.

The Tar Heels failed to crack 50 points in losses to both highly ranked Ohio State and Virginia, then lost Sunday to Wofford in Chapel Hill with star freshman point guard Cole Anthony and fellow starter Leaky Black out with injuries.

Gonzaga (11-1) jumped four spots to No. 2 and earned 15 first-place votes, followed by last week’s No. 1, Louisville, falling to third after losing to Texas Tech. Duke rose three spots to fourth, followed by Ohio State falling two spots to No. 5 after a loss at Minnesota.

Kentucky, Maryland, Oregon, reigning national champion Virginia and Baylor round out the top 10.