War Eagle! For first time ever, Auburn is No. 1 in AP Top 25; plus, my ballot

The Tigers have ripped off 15 straight wins and clearly deserve this ranking, although some nudnik voters (ahem) kept them at No. 2 behind Gonzaga.

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Kentucky v Auburn

Auburn’s Jabari Smith during a win against Kentucky.

Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

How do you take the sting out of a 6-7 football season? By soaring to your first-ever No. 1 ranking in basketball.

That’s what the Auburn Tigers (18-1) have done in the latest AP Top 25 poll, out Monday.

Come to think of it, will the football-obsessed folks on the Plains appreciate all this as much as they ought to?

Sure, they probably will. The Tigers have ripped off 15 straight wins and clearly deserve this ranking, although some nudnik voters like me kept them at No. 2 — a notch below Gonzaga (15-2). Why the Zags? After watching the Chiefs and Bills, I was swayed by the highest-scoring, most efficient offense in college basketball.

Just kidding about that. I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to explain my reasoning to an Auburn supporter’s satisfaction if I tried. I had a hard enough time explaining it to my own satisfaction.

Auburn or Gonzaga? Gonzaga or Arizona? It’ll be water under the bridge when Arizona passes both of them. To the poll:

AP Top 25

1. Auburn, 2. Gonzaga, 3. Arizona, 4. Baylor, 5. Kansas, 6. Purdue, 7. UCLA and Houston (tied), 9. Duke, 10. Michigan State, 11. Wisconsin, 12. Kentucky, 13. Texas Tech, 14. Villanova, 15. USC, 16. Ohio State, 17. Providence, 18. Tennessee, 19. LSU, 20. Connecticut, 21. Xavier, 22. Marquette, 23. Iowa State, 24. Illinois, 25. Davidson.

(Click here to see the poll in more complete list form.)

My ballot

1. Gonzaga, 2. Auburn, 3. Arizona, 4. Baylor, 5. Kansas, 6. Purdue, 7. UCLA, 8. Duke, 9. Houston, 10. Kentucky, 11. Texas Tech, 12. Michigan State, 13. Wisconsin, 14. USC, 15. Villanova, 16. Providence, 17. Ohio State, 18. Florida State, 19. Connecticut, 20. Texas, 21. Xavier, 22. Illinois, 23. Davidson, 24. Tennessee, 25. LSU.

(Click here and then on “all voters” to see each voter’s individual ballot.)

Five things

• How good might Indiana be if Kelvin Sampson hadn’t gotten himself kicked out of Bloomington all those years ago? Because Houston is just terrific and has been a bunch of seasons in a row. You can’t score on the Cougars. It’s not at all difficult to picture them uglying up games all the way to the Final Four again.

• I kept Illinois on my ballot and believe it’s easily justified. One, the Illini were outstanding — with Kofi Cockburn on the bench nearly the entire second half — in a double-overtime loss to Purdue. Two, Cockburn was out with a concussion in the loss at Maryland. He destroyed the Terps earlier in Champaign, and clearly the Illini are nowhere near the same team without him. If he plays Tuesday against Michigan State (6 p.m., ESPN), we’ll know just where this team belongs.

• Arizona at UCLA on Tuesday (10 p.m., ESPN) is the game of the year out West. Until UCLA at Arizona on Feb. 3, that is. Bennedict Mathurin going at it against Johnny Juzang is some kind of March-level theater.

• My ballot crashers: FSU, UConn, Davidson and Tennessee. Booted: Iowa State, Loyola, San Diego State and Indiana. The Ramblers got smoked at home by Isiaih Mosley (40 points!) and Missouri State. It happens.

• Look, if I really were going to pull football into this, I’d have done it last season when Jalen Suggs was running the point for the Zags. What the hell does Suggs have to do with this? Nothing, but I was looking for an excuse to take in the ex-quarterback’s dunk against the Bulls again:

Smell them roses, Moses!

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