AP Basketball Writer
Tony Bozzella didn’t want Seton Hall to just be a one-hit wonder.
After one of the most successful seasons in school history last year, Bozzella has the Pirates off to their best start in 26 years, winning their first seven games. Buoyed by that success, the Pirates have found their way back into the Top 25 for the second straight season, entering the poll at No. 22 on Monday.
“It’s really the culmination, I wanted to build a program when we took over at Seton Hall,” Bozzella said. “We won 20 games our first year and did a Sweet 16 of the NIT. We wanted to improve on that and we did.”
The Pirates finished last season 28-6, losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Rutgers. Now they are 7-0 for the first time since 1989-90 and already own victories over the Scarlet Knights and Princeton, giving them New Jersey bragging rights. Seton Hall is coming off two victories at the Cancun Challenge.
“We got a long way to go before we say we’re better than last year,” said Bozzella, who guided his team to the Top 25 last year for three weeks — the school’s first appearance in 20 years.
Seton Hall wasn’t the only Big East team entering the Top 25 this week. DePaul came in at No. 23. The Blue Demons have a tall-task in front of them with No. 1 UConn visiting Wednesday night.
The Huskies remained No. 1 in the poll this week after an easy victory over Nebraska on Saturday. UConn has a busy week with games at Chattanooga on Monday night as well as hosting third-ranked Notre Dame on Saturday. The Huskies have won their three games by an average of
South Carolina stayed second with Baylor and Maryland rounding out the first five. Texas, Oregon State, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Ohio State complete the first 10. George Washington, Iowa and Louisville fell out of the poll.
Here’s some other tidbits from the Top 25:
WELCOME BRUINS: UCLA entered the poll this week for the first time since 2014 after losing to the Irish in overtime in the finals of the Junkanoo Jam. Coach Cori Close’s team has lost just twice this season, falling at home to South Carolina by three points and the Irish.
The Bruins were ranked in the preseason poll last year behind the strength of one of the best freshmen classes in the country. They fell out in the first regular season poll as the team didn’t really hit its stride until UCLA won the postseason WNIT.
RISE OF THE BIG EAST: For only the second time since the conference split apart after the 2013 season, the Big East has two teams in the Top 25 in the same week. St. John’s is receiving votes this week after its upset of South Florida.
“It’s what we want, that’s what we were looking to do a couple years ago,” St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella said. “The programs in our league have hired great people, changed some programs the way they are going, stabilized and exceeded expectations at times.”
The conference has won 15 of its last 16 games and is 20-2 since Nov. 25.
FREE FALLING: South Florida had the biggest fall after losing to St. John’s by four points on Sunday. The Bulls dropped from 18th, the highest ranking in school history, to 24th this week.