Ponds Named Big East Player Of The Week After Averaging 31.5 Points In Wins Over Marquette, Georgetown

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — St. John’s is back in the AP Top 25 poll for the first time in four seasons.

Not since reaching No. 15 back in 2014-15 have the Red Storm found themselves among the elite programs in the nation. Thanks to a 20-point win over then-No. 16 Marquette and its first win at Georgetown in 15 years, St. John’s (14-1, 2-1 Big East) entered the poll this week at No. 24.

“I think there’s tremendous excitement, optimism, and a good feeling,” head coach Chris Mullin said. “I think it’s great that our fan base has watched us throughout. They watched us struggle, improve, and now watch them have success. It’s a genuine and authentic way to go about it.”

Shamorie Ponds

St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Shamorie Ponds averaged 31.5 points on the strength of 59 percent shooting from 3-point range in the victories and for his efforts was named Big East Player of the Week on Monday. The junior guard is averaging 20.4 points and shooting 50.3 percent from behind the arc this season.

Four other Red Storm players are averaging double digits in scoring, including junior guard Mustapha Heron (15.6) and sophomore swingman L.J. Figueroa (14.3).

“Everyone steps up big for us,” Ponds said. “We definitely have a next-man-up mentality.”

St. John’s will face arguably its biggest test of the season Tuesday when it travels to Villanova, which has won the national championship in two of the last three seasons.

The top four in the poll remained unchanged for the third straight week. The rest of the poll, however, underwent major changes after three top-10 teams lost.

Duke remained at No. 1, receiving 37 of 64 first-place votes. No. 2 Michigan received nine first-place votes, No. 3 Tennessee 13 and No. 4 Virginia five.

Then the jumble begins, thanks to losses by Kansas, Nevada and Florida State.

No. 5 Gonzaga, which is finally back to full health, and No. 6 Michigan State each moved up two spots. No. 7 Kansas dropped two spots after losing to Iowa State , which moved back into the poll at No. 20.

No. 8 Texas Tech and No. 9 Virginia Tech each moved up after Nevada lost on the road to New Mexico and fell four places to No. 10. Florida State dropped four spots to No. 13 after being shut down by Virginia.

In all, every team outside the top four changed positions except No. 23 Oklahoma, which split its games last week.

Got all that?

Kansas took the biggest hit last week, not only falling 77-60 to the Cyclones, but losing big man Udoka Azubuike for the rest of the season to a wrist injury. The Jayhawks already have been playing without sophomore forward Silvio De Souza, whose name surfaced in an FBI probe into shady recruiting practices, and the loss of Azubuike could put a dent in their national title hopes.

Nevada passed every early season test it faced, entering last weekend as one of four undefeated teams left.

After the Wolf Pack lost 85-58 to New Mexico, the number of undefeated teams is down to three: Michigan, Virginia and No. 17 Houston.

“We just had a bad night all around,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “We had a bad night sharing the ball. We had a bad night defensively. Usually they’re zoned in on the scoring report, but we let guys who are shooters take open shots and we didn’t play who we are. Just a terrible game for all of us.”

Florida State entered ACC play on a roll, its only loss coming to defending national champion Villanova in late November. Then the Seminoles ran into Virginia’s defensive buzz saw.

The Cavaliers lead the nation in defensive scoring and shut Florida State down, holding the Seminoles to 15 field goals and 52 points in a 13-point win.

RISING CYCLONES

Iowa State coach Steve Prohm spent the early part of the season biding his team with several players out because of injuries. The Cyclones won two of three games at the Maui Invitational despite being down to eight scholarship players, and their only other loss came at Iowa in early December.

Finally healthy, Iowa State (12-2, 2-0 Big Ten) picked up one of its biggest wins in four seasons under Prohm, blowing out Kansas 77-60 in Ames on Saturday.

“They’re the standard in our league and the team we’re all trying to catch,” Prohm said. “It’s a great win. I loved the way they competed.”

Iowa State moved back into the AP Top 25 this week after reaching No. 18 earlier this season.

UNDEFEATED COUGARS

While Michigan and Virginia get plenty of attention for remaining undefeated while playing in major conferences, Houston continues to keep its record unblemished.

The Cougars had nonconference wins over Oregon, Oklahoma State and LSU, then opened the American Athletic Conference season with victories over Tulsa and Memphis last week. Houston faces Temple and Wichita State this week.

MOVING IN

In addition to St. John’s, TCU, which was No. 20 in the preseason AP Top 25, returned to the poll at No. 25 this week following a home win over Baylor.

MOVING OUT

Wisconsin dropped out of the poll from No. 22 after losing to Minnesota and beating Penn State.

Iowa, No. 25 last week, is out after losing to Purdue and beating Nebraska, which dropped out from No. 24.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)