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Michigan Wolverines leapfrog Baylor into No. 2 in AP men’s basketball poll

Michigan center Hunter Dickinson, right, drives to the basket as he’s defended by Indiana forward Race Thompson on Saturday in Bloomington, Ind. (AP photo)

Michigan finally broke the stranglehold of Gonzaga and Baylor atop The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll on Monday, taking advantage of the Bears’ loss at Kansas to leap into the No. 2 spot behind the Bulldogs.

Gonzaga continued to hold down the top spot in the Top 25, just as it has all season, receiving 59 of 63 first-place votes among national media members. But the Wolverines picked up the other four to climb into second while the Bears, whose unbeaten season was foiled by the Jayhawks on Saturday night, dropped back to third place.

Illinois climbed one spot to fourth and Iowa gave the Big Ten three teams in the top five.

“We look at it like there’s room for improvement,” said Wolverines coach Juwan Howard, whose team pushed its winning streak to seven with an easy win over Indiana on Saturday. “Our guys have that kind of growth mindset, ‘What can we do better?’ I don’t think there’s ever such a thing as playing a perfect game, (but) one possession at a time, competing for 40 minutes, from start to finish, that’s been our mindset going into ballgames.”

Now the question is whether the Wolverines can hold onto its No. 2 spot. They have a showdown with the Illini tonight before wrapping up the regular season with a home-and-home series against Michigan State.

Michigan guard Mike Smith makes a move toward the basket during a game against Indiana on Saturday in Bloomington, Ind. Michigan won 73-57. (AP photo)

“No question, they deserve all of the whatever the word you want to use — accolades, praise. They deserve it all,” Hoosiers coach Archie Miller said. “They have a great spirit about them. That’s one thing you’d probably have to look at Michigan and just look at the way that they vibe and they play, both ends of the floor. They get after you, they play hard for one another, they have a great bounce to them, so you can tell they’re very together. That’s a big part of what they’re doing.”

West Virginia continued its steady climb, up four spots to No. 6 after its third consecutive win. Ohio State fell three spots to seventh after its loss to the Hawkeyes. Alabama, Houston and Villanova rounded out the top 10.

Florida State was next while Arkansas leaped eight spots to No. 12 after running its winning streak to six, including victories over then-No. 10 Missouri and the Crimson Tide. It’s the highest the Razorbacks have been ranked since Feb. 16, 1998.

Also making a big move was No. 13 Kansas, fresh off its win over the Bears; the Jayhawks have won six of seven after their record 12-year streak in the Top 25 came to an end, with the loss coming to then-No. 14 Texas in overtime.

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