John Carroll men's basketball again ranked No. 1 in the country in D-III

Feb. 6—The John Carroll men's basketball team has again ascended to No. 1 in the country.

On Feb. 5, the Blue Streaks rose to the top spot in the Top 25 poll for the second time this season.

JCU (20-1) made history in early December when it reached No. 1 in the poll for the first time in program history. It stayed there for a few weeks until a loss to Hampden-Sydney, the team that took over the No. 1 spot.

The No. 1 spot changes hands. Check out the full men's basketball Top 25: #d3hoops

— D3hoops/Patrick Coleman (@d3hoops) February 5, 2024

A loss by Hampden-Sydney to Randolph-Macon last week dropped the team from the No. 1 position, and allowed Coach Pete Moran's team to again get to the top spot.

The Blue Streaks — No. 2 in last week's poll — got 12 of 25 first-place votes and 598 points. No. 2 (20-1) Trine had eight first-place votes and 587 points.

Hampden-Sydney (19-2), Randolph-Macon (18-3) and Guilford (20-2) rounded out the top five, respectively.

While being No. 1 in the country certainly puts a target on his team, Moran said a mindset within the team is building — regardless of ranking.

"While this ranking is historic for our program and a direct reflection of the work that's been put in by our players and staff for many, many months, we're going to continue to play like we're unranked and have everything to prove," said Moran. "There's no complacency here, no mercy. We have a lot of goals and we'll do everything in our power to achieve it together."

The timing of JCU again claiming the top spot is interesting because the team faces arguably the most difficult week of OAC competition.

On Feb. 7, the Blue Streaks travel to No. 18-ranked and second-place Mount Union (17-4, 10-4) then host third-place Marietta (14-7) on Feb. 10. The Pioneers are one of four teams tied for third in the OAC with an 8-6 league mark.

The Feb. 7 game at Mount is intriguing, to say the least. The last time these teams met was at JCU's DeCarlo Varsity Center Jan. 10, and it was a blowout. The Blue Streaks led, 58-25, at halftime and never looked back in a 96-61 win for the largest margin of victory in the 101-game history of the series. It's safe to say the Purple Raiders haven't forgotten that game with the rematch set on their home floor.

In terms of NCAA men's tournament hopes, Mount definitely needs this game more than JCU. The Purple Raiders lost their last game Feb. 3 against Capital. The result allowed the Blue Steaks to clinch at least a share of the OAC regular-season title.

Make no mistake, this game is significant for JCU, which is 14-0 in the OAC. A victory Feb. 7 in Alliance would clinch the outright title and No. 1 seed in the upcoming OAC tournament with three games to play. It would also help solidify its NCAA tournament resume and hopes for hosting a first-round quadrant. There's also this: No Blue Streaks men's basketball team has gone undefeated in an OAC regular season.

On the injury front, junior point guard and Mentor graduate Luke Chicone — who tweaked his ankle Feb. 3 late in a win at Wilmington — practiced Feb. 5 and barring any setbacks will play against the Purple Raiders, said Moran.

Also, junior guard Luke Frazier of Lake Catholic is expected to play vs. Mount, according to Moran. He missed the Feb. 3 game due to illness.

Chicone is averaging a team-high 18.8 points and an OAC-best 5.3 assists. Frazier is averaging 18.6 points and a team-best 6.2 rebounds.

Also of note in the Top 25 poll, Case Western Reserve (17-3) — which spent time this season knocking on the door at the top spot at No. 2 — was No. 10.

John Carroll at Mount Union

When: 7 p.m., Feb. 7

Where: Timken gymnasium

Records: JCU 20-1, 14-0 OAC; Mount 17-4, 10-4 OAC

Rankings ( JCU No. 1; Mount Union No. 18