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Following Ohio State's first loss, who should be the new No. 1?

Ryan Greene
The Dagger

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Yes, in the end, the debate over who should be college basketball's new No. 1 team in the land come Monday is pointless.

But it's impossible not to join in the argument.

Ohio State will likely lose top billing when the new polls come out following a 71-67 loss at No. 13 Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon. At 24-1, the Buckeyes still deserve to be in the conversation.

Unfortunately for them, the polls don't work that way.

It's a three-horse race for the top slot, and here are your choices ...

No. 2 Kansas (24-1 overall, 9-1 Big 12, RPI: 1)

Since losing at home to Texas on Jan. 22, Kansas has won six straight by an average margin of 18.3 points per game.

The catch? Those wins have come against less-than-stellar opposition. The only NCAA tournament-bound team in the bunch was Missouri, who has been awful on the road all season.

Still, since the Jayhawks are the current No. 2, it only makes sense that they'll get the nod. You really can't help but be in love with their talent, depth and experience right now.

It's also interesting to see that KU's players were openly campaigning for the spot following an 89-66 thrashing of Iowa State on Saturday.

"Hopefully we'll be No. 1 by Monday," junior forward Marcus Morris said. "There's a lot of talk they might put Texas at No. 1, but I don't see how.

"I want to be No. 1. I want to get everybody's best shot because I think we can take it."

Big words.

No. 3 Texas (22-3 overall, 10-0 Big 12, RPI: 7)

The fact that Texas is actually still ranked behind Kansas is a complete mystery.

And if Marcus Morris wants to know why Texas is a legitimate candidate to leap-frog the Jayhawks and grab the top spot, all he has to do is remember Jan. 22.

Not only did the Longhorns beat the Jayhawks in Lawrence on that day, snapping KU's 69-game win streak at Allen Fieldhouse, but, frankly, no one in the Big 12 has really even come close to beating them.

Texas has won 10 league games by an average of 17.2 points, with Baylor on Sunday becoming the first league foe to play Texas to within single digits.

It lost in Austin by nine.

Texas is college basketball's hottest team, and right now looks like a legitimate threat to run the table in the Big 12. At the very least, the Horns should be No. 2.

It's too bad that Texas' players didn't take the same brash approach as Morris, though, with Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton both saying afterwards that they don't want the burden.

No. 4 Pitt (23-2 overall, 11-1 Big East, RPI: 6)

Pitt kept itself alive in this discussion by grinding out the day's most impressive road win, prevailing 57-54 at No. 9 Villanova. It snapped Nova's 46-game win streak at The Pavilion that dated back to Jan. 17, 2007.

Of the three teams waiting in the wings, Pitt is the least likely to win a beauty contest, but the Panthers just keep getting it done. While Kansas and Texas are feasting on league foes in a down year for the Big 12, Pitt has an 11-1 record in America's deepest conference, which is just ridiculous.

What makes it even more impressive is that, this week, Pitt won road games at West Virginia and at Villanova without arguably its best player — junior guard Ashton Gibbs.

And don't forget the Panthers also own a 68-66 neutral-court win over Texas in the title game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic way back on Nov. 18.

But is that enough to push them past two teams?

If you're going by the "What have you done for me lately?" method, Pitt should be the new No. 1. If you take the "Look at the entire body of work" approach, Kansas gets the nod.

I prefer the former, but won't be surprised at all when the Jayhawks are unveiled as the new top-ranked club on Monday.

It's still up for debate.

Ryan Greene covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for the Las Vegas Sun. Read his Rebels coverage and follow him on Twitter.

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