SportsPulse: Move over Zion, Virginia’s title run was the story of March Madness and will go down as one of the greatest redemption stories in sports history.
The Virginia Cavaliers earn one last accolade as they ride off with their first national championship. Unsurprisingly, they are the unanimous choice for the No. 1 spot in the final USA TODAY Sports men’s basketball coaches poll.
Virginia entered the NCAA tournament with the No. 2 ranking despite losing in the semifinals of the ACC tournament to Florida State. But Virginia was the only one of the three top regional seeds from its conference to reach the Final Four, and their title run with so many narrow escapes won’t soon be forgotten in Charlottesville.
Runner-up Texas Tech finishes the season with the No. 2 ranking. The Red Raiders were voted second on all but one of the ballots of the 32 coaches on the panel. Michigan State finishes No. 3 after taking down top-ranked Duke to reach the Final Four. The Blue Devils, meanwhile, finish fourth ahead of semifinalist Auburn.
Duke held the top spot heading into the tournament, and can also claim a pair of regular-season victories against eventual champion Virginia. Auburn, which came within an eyelash of playing for the title itself, will settle for the No. 5 spot heading into the offseason.
LOOKING AHEAD: College basketball’s way-too-early preseason top 25
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Gonzaga, Kentucky, Purdue, North Carolina and Tennessee round out the top 10.
In all, the ACC concludes the campaign with five ranked teams, all in the top 14. The Big Ten also has five squads in the Top 25, and the Big 12 and SEC finish with four apiece.
Seven other conferences are represented in the poll by single teams, headed by Gonzaga of the West Coast Conference and No. 12 Houston from the American.
Buffalo and Wofford were at No. 17 and No. 18, respectively, for their highest-ever placing in the final poll.