Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie smiles prior to an NCAA college basketball game against Notre Dame, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
Joe Raymond
February 17, 2015

Karl Smesko has had a goal to get his team in the Top 25 ever since Florida Gulf Coast moved up to Division I. Now the only coach the school has ever had can cross that off his list.

The Eagles entered The Associated Press poll for the first time in school history on Monday, coming in at No. 22.

''We talk about it at points in different years - our goal is to get in the Top 25,'' Smesko said. ''The last couple weeks we've reiterated that goal that we want to get in the Top 25. Now the next logical talk is what you have to do to stay in the Top 25. We'll be having that talk the next time we get together.''

Florida Gulf Coast, which moved up to Division I eight years ago, has a few days to let the ranking sink in before it plays at Kennesaw State on Thursday.

The next goal for the Eagles is to win the Atlantic Sun Conference again and make it back to the NCAA tournament - and win a game.

''This is a good step,'' Smesko said. ''We've been so close the times we've been in the NCAA tournament, with two overtime losses. Obviously our next goal is to get back to the NCAA tournament and win some games.''

The Eagles weren't the only mid-major program to enter the poll this week. James Madison was ranked for the first time since Dec. 28, 2009, coming in at No. 23. There are five non-power five conference teams in the poll for the first time since March 7, 2011. The Eagles and Dukes joined No. 16 Princeton, No. 20 Chattanooga and No. 24 George Washington.

It was an incredible weekend for James Madison coach Kenny Brooks.

He became the school's all-time winningest women's basketball coach Sunday when the Dukes beat Delaware for his 303rd victory, which moved him past Sheila Moorman. He then got to see his youngest daughter win her first AAU championship. Now Brooks has the Dukes ranked for the first time in five years after James Madison entered The Associated Press Top 25 at No. 23 on Monday.

''It's been surreal,'' Brooks said. ''What we have here is very special, and James Madison is a very special place. To play in front of 4,000 fans yesterday and to be recognized was wonderful. It's a great run that I'm proud to be associated with.''

The Dukes' only two losses this season came against No. 5 Maryland and Vanderbilt.

''It's an honor to be recognized on the national level and it brings credibility to our program,'' he said. ''It's a major accomplishment. Last year we could argue that we had the best team I ever had - we were dominant in so many different areas. We lost the player of the year and defensive player of the year to graduation, so there was a little bit of doubt surrounding this team. Right from the start we were motivated to do well.''

The new teams at the bottom of the poll accompanied a change at the top, with UConn ascending back to No. 1 after its 25-point victory over then-top-ranked South Carolina last Monday.

The Huskies spent two weeks at No. 1 to start the season before their loss to Stanford in November. The Gamecocks fell to No. 2 after spending the last 12 weeks atop the poll. They are followed by Baylor, Notre Dame and Maryland.

Tennessee, Oregon State, Louisville and Florida State round out the first 10 teams.

Here are some other nuggets from the poll:

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UNBEATEN: Princeton continued its march toward an unbeaten season with victories over Brown and Yale last weekend. The Tigers (23-0) had to rally past Yale for a six-point win. It was their closest conference game of the season. Princeton hosts Dartmouth and Harvard this weekend.

UPCOMING MATCHUPS: No. 4 Notre Dame beat 10th-ranked Duke 63-50 on Monday night. The only other game between two ranked teams this week is Thursday when 11th-ranked Kentucky hosts No. 15 Texas A&M.

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