KANSAS CITY, Mo. - It's deja vu all over again for the West Liberty University men's basketball team as Coach Jim Crutchfield's high-scoring Hilltoppers have returned to the No. 1 spot in the National Association of Basketball Coaches NCAA Division II Top 25 coaches' poll.
West Liberty (25-1) replaced defending national champion Bellarmine, Ky. (23-2) at the top of the NCAA Division II heap Tuesday when the NABC released the results of its weekly Top 25 balloting. The Kentucky school suffered its second loss of the season last week, dropping a 75-72 verdict to No. 9-ranked Southern Indiana.
It's the first time this season the Hilltoppers have ascended to the top rung of the NCAA Division II ladder but it's familiar territory for the Black and Gold, who spent the final nine weeks of the 2010-11 season firmly entrenched at No. 1.
Crutchfield, who led last season's WLU squad to an Atlantic Region championship and a spot in the Final Four semifinals, was pleased with the recognition for his program and the university but admitted this was something he didn't see coming when practice got under way in October.
''After losing four senior starters and 1,000-point scorers, I never expected to be No. 1 again this season - not in my wildest dreams,'' Crutchfield told reporters after picking up his 200th career victory Saturday.
''After last year's run, I could see us being ranked high at the start of the season based on reputation but you have to play pretty good basketball all year to be No. 1 at the end of the season. We appreciate the respect but this doesn't change anything for us. There's a lot of basketball left to play and we understand that we have to go out and earn that respect all over again every time we take the court.''
Colorado School of Mines (22-2) is No. 3 this week, followed by Alabama-Huntsville (20-3), Midwestern State, Texas (22-2), Shaw, N.C. (22-2), Tarleton State, Texas (22-4), Northern Kentucky (21-4), Southern Indiana (20-5) and Missouri Southern (22-5).
Charleston (21-5) cracked the national rankings for the first time this season, checking in at No. 25.