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One and done: 13 programs have been ranked in the AP Top 25 and never returned

By JOHN MARSHALL
AP Basketball Writer

The first memory that comes to mind with Jim Valvano is typically the aftermath of the 1983 national championship game, the North Carolina State coach frantically running around the court trying to find someone to hug.

The next usually is the speech Valvano delivered 10 years later at the ESPY Awards, moving millions to tears as cancer left him barely able to stand.

At Iona, another memory comes to mind: a young coach leading a downtrodden program into the national spotlight.

“He changed the perception of the program,” said Mike Palma, an Iona forward from 1978-80. “He literally put it on the map.”

The former coach at Bucknell, Valvano rebuilt Iona’s program within four years, leading the Gaels to the NCAA Tournament in 1979 for the first time in its 27 years as a program. The next season, Iona stunned No. 2 (and eventual national champion) Louisville at Madison Square Garden and went back to the tournament.

The marquee win and a 29-win season earned Iona its first ranking in the AP Top 25 at No. 19 in the final poll of the 1979-80 season.

It also turned out to be the Gaels’ last ranking, putting them in a select club as one of 13 programs to go one and done in the 75-year history of the AP Top 25.

“Did it mean something to us? Oh, yeah — it had never been done before,” Palma said. “Being 19th in the final poll was great, but we actually thought we were better than that.”

Old Dominion was the most recent team to enter the poll and drop right out.

The Monarchs opened the 2014-15 season 13-1 under coach Jeff Jones and, riding a nine-game winning streak, debuted at No. 25 in the Jan. 5 poll that year. Old Dominion beat Marshall in its next game, but lost to Western Kentucky, dropped out of the AP Top 25 and has yet to return.

Cleveland State made a Cinderella run to the Sweet 16 in 1986, earning a preseason ranking of No. 20 the following year that ended with a season-opening loss to Memphis.

Lamar had wins over Arizona and in Oklahoma in 1980-81, entering the poll for the first time at No. 19 on Feb. 16. The Cardinals did not enjoy the prosperity for long — they lost to Louisiana Tech that night and were out of the poll the following week.

Like Iona, Northeastern made its AP Top 25 mark with the help of a coach who would go on to win national championships at a bigger school.

Jim Calhoun spent eight years trying to build the program before breaking through with the Huskies’ first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1981. It took four more trips to the NCAA Tournament in five years before they were ranked.

Led by future NBA All-Star Reggie Lewis, Northeastern broke in at No. 19 in the first regular-season poll of the 1986-87 season under first-year coach Karl Fogel. The Huskies dropped out the next week after losing to Syracuse by 20 while Calhoun had moved on to Connecticut, where he would lead another group of Huskies to three national titles during his tenure.

Kent State debuted at No. 23 in 2008, Bucknell hit No. 24 in 2006 and Maryland-Eastern Shore reached No. 20 in 1974. All three dropped out after losses.

Pepperdine, led by future NBA star Dennis Johnson, was No. 20 in the final poll of a 1975-76 season that culminated with a trip to the Sweet 16. Texas State was No. 20 in the final poll of 1952. Wayne State reached No. 20 in 1952-53 and Missouri State closed that season with the same ranking.

Bob Knight spent six seasons as Army’s coach, leading the Black Knights to 22 wins in 1969-70. That run and two season-opening wins earned Army a No. 14 ranking in the first regular-season poll of 1970-71. The Black Knights dropped out the following week after a loss to West Virginia and were never ranked again.

Knight, who died at 83 last year, went on to win three national championships at Indiana, including Division I’s last undefeated season in 1976.

“Clearly, he was one of a kind,” former Army point guard and retired Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski said after Knight’s death. “Coach Knight recruited me, mentored me, and had a profound impact on my career and in my life.”

Valvano had the same impact at Iona.

The program has been to the NCAA Tournament 14 times since Valvano left for NC State and has been led by coaches like Rick Pitino, Tim Cluess and Kevin Willard.

The 1979-80 remains the only team to crack the AP Top 25.

“V got us all to go there under the premise that it had never been done before,” Palma said. “We did it and it might not ever be done again.”

___ AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball

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