The Texas Longhorns are No. 1 in both top 25 men’s basketball polls released Monday. Mark it down. It's the first time the program has achieved the top spot in either poll.
But don't expect the UT tower to glow orange tonight or for Texas coach Rick Barnes to give his guys a day off to bask in the glory. The calendar, Barnes said, reads January and not March.
"I think for the program it is a compliment, I don't think there’s any question about that," Barnes said Monday during the Big 12 media conference call. "You want to be looked upon as one of the best programs in the country, but we've been ranked before here. Not No. 1, but we have been as high as No. 2 in the past and we've been there this year. But it's like I told our guys, I cannot honestly tell you who the No. 1-ranked team was in the country two weeks into January a year ago. I don't know. But I do know who won the national championship."
At 15-0, Texas is one of two remaining undefeated teams. Kentucky (16-0), acing its overhaul under first-year coach John Calipari, moved up to No. 2 in both the Associated Press Top 25 and the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 poll. The Kansas Jayhawks (14-1) vacated the No. 1 spot after Sunday’s 75-68 loss at then-No. 16 Tennessee.
The Longhorns have won by double digits in 14 of 15 games. They've posted solid victories over Iowa, Pittsburgh and USC, plus standout wins against top 10 teams North Carolina and Michigan State. Texas played sluggishly in a 76-70 home win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Jan. 2 and then had to pull off a late run to win at Arkansas, 96-85, on Jan. 5.
They opened Big 12 Conference play Saturday with a 103-86 home win against Colorado.
The schedule takes a twist with a difficult upcoming four-game stretch over the next two weeks. Wearing the No. 1 bulls-eye, Texas plays Wednesday at Iowa State and then gets always pesky rival Texas A&M at home Saturday.
Two road games follow at No. 12 Kansas State (Jan. 18) and then it's a long and cold road trip to Storrs, Conn., for an intriguing nonconference matchup against the No. 15 UConn Huskies (Jan. 23).
"When you’re a ranked team -- whether it's 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 -- I don't know that it really matters when you go on the road and play. It just gives more energy and more emotion to your opponent," Barnes said. "Which I think is a good thing that you have to embrace because it's going to make you have to decide what you're going to do now to get better. You are definitely going to have to get out of your comfort zone if you are in a comfort zone because the emotion, the energy level is going to be even higher."