Belmont earns first AP Top 25 ranking in school history

NEW YORK -- There's a buzz at Belmont -- the Bruins are in the AP Top 25 for the first time in school history.

"It's a huge honor to think of all the teams and players who have come through the program, for this to be the first team that's ranked that's special,'' first-year coach Bart Brooks said Monday. "It's a cool thing to be a part of.''

Brooks is no stranger to the Top 25, having been an assistant coach at DePaul for many years where the Blue Demons were consistently ranked. He inherited a really good team that is 24-3 this season and has won 39 consecutive Ohio Valley Conference games -- the second longest active conference streak behind only No. 1 UConn.

"Coach Cam Newbauer did a really, really good job putting the team together. Most of those guys were back,'' Brooks said of his predecessor who took over at Florida. "We have some new faces and dealt with some injury stuff. It's been an absolute pleasure to coach these guys. Most people don't walk into a situation like this.''

The rookie coach told his team at the end of practice that they were going to be ranked and there was jubilation from the players. The Bruins host Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State this weekend in their first game as a ranked team. Brooks knows his team will be ready for the upcoming contests.

"One thing our team has done this year is stay focused on what our next task is,'' he said. "Whether it's a practice or walkthrough or video session, they stay in the moment. I hope they continue to be as tough and resilient and nearsighted as they can be.''

The Bruins have won 15 consecutive games and their only losses this season have come to Oklahoma, Stanford and Wright State.

While it's Belmont's first appearance in the poll, the top five remained unchanged with UConn leading the way as the unanimous choice from the 32-member national media panel. The Huskies host No. 4 Louisville on Monday night. Mississippi State, Baylor and Notre Dame round out the first five teams in the poll.

The only change in the Top 10 was that No. 7 UCLA changed places with No. 8 South Carolina. The Gamecocks lost last Monday to No. 2 Mississippi State.

South Florida re-entered the poll at No. 22 after beating then-No. 13 Ohio State on Sunday. Arizona State and TCU dropped out of the rankings.