All season long, people were pointing at last week as the most important on St. John's schedule -- Syracuse, Connecticut and Duke.
Now that it's over, people are pointing at St. John's as one of the best teams in the country.
The Red Storm (20-6) swept the three games against ranked teams, the last an 83-82 victory at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium, and moved into the AP Top 25 Monday at No. 18.
''You certainly had to hope and pray for the best that week,'' St. John's coach Mike Jarvis said Monday night. ''I haven't quite digested it yet. You want a week like that as your last week of the season. The one thing is that the kids should be very proud of it and remember it for the rest of their lives.''
While St. John's and No. 25 Illinois were the newcomers to this week's rankings, Stanford remained No. 1, this time as a unanimous choice.
The Cardinal (24-1), who won their games against Washington and Washington State last week by an average of 31 points, received all 70 first-place votes and 1,750 points from the national media panel. They are the first unanimous No. 1 since North Carolina on Dec. 22, 1997.
Cincinnati and Arizona, the only team to beat Stanford this season, each moved up one spot to second and third in the poll. The Stanford-Arizona rematch is March 9 in Tucson.
Duke, which had been second, dropped to fourth following the loss to St. John's.
Temple, which extended its winning streak to 13 games with victories over St. Bonaventure and Massachusetts last week, moved from eighth to fifth, matching the Owls' highest ranking since the second poll of the regular season.
Ohio State held sixth and was followed by Michigan State, Florida, Syracuse and Iowa State, which jumped from 17th to No. 10 with wins over Texas and Oklahoma State.
The Top Ten ranking is the first for Iowa State since the Cyclones were seventh in the poll on Feb. 17, 1997.
Tennessee dropped four spots to 11th and was followed in the Second Ten by LSU, Oklahoma State, Indiana, Tulsa, Texas, Maryland, St. John's, Auburn and Purdue.
The last five teams in the rankings were Oklahoma, Kentucky, Kansas, Connecticut and Illinois.
St. John's has won seven straight games, the last three over the first-place team in the Big East and the teams that met in last season's national championship game.
The Red Storm were ranked for two two-week periods earlier in the season, reaching as high as 15th.
''I think at this time of year, being ranked starts to matter,'' Jarvis said. ''Up until the last week or two of the season, most of the time, it's a detriment. At this stage, it's very important because a lot of teams, players and coaches look at it and respect it because it's what you have accomplished over the whole year. Still, the one that counts the most is that one after the final game of the whole season.''
The jump into the poll at No. 18 for an unranked team matches what Wake Forest did earlier this season, although the Demon Deacons remained in the Top 25 for three weeks before falling out and have not returned.
Illinois (18-8) beat Indiana 87-63 and lost 64-51 at Ohio State last week. The Fighting Illini were ranked for the first 10 polls of the season and fell out for six weeks until returning at No. 25.
Vanderbilt (17-8) returned to the rankings last week at No. 24 after a one-week absence, but lost to Arkansas and Mississippi last week and dropped out again.
Utah (20-6) fell out from 25th after a 60-49 loss at Colorado State.
The week's biggest drop was Auburn's fall from 11th to No. 19. The Tigers (21-6) lost road games to Alabama and Florida last week, the latter without preseason All-American Chris Porter, who was suspended by the NCAA pending a possible violation regarding an agent.
The ranking is the Tigers' lowest since entering the Top 25 last season at No. 19. That was their first appearance in the poll since the 1995-96 season.
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