Words don’t exist to properly describe the ridiculousness that gripped college basketball over the past seven days. Over half of our prior poll lost, many of them twice. Seven of our top ten teams from last week’s poll took an L and a predictable tumble. Among those to lose, shockingly, were Duke and Michigan State, the two teams seen as the top dogs. Kansas got stomped, at home, while UNC couldn’t handle either of their opponents from the most recent edition of the ACC gauntlet. Oh, did I also forget to mention that Oklahoma, Xavier, Arizona, Kentucky, Florida State, Tennessee, and more also lost? It was that kind of week. The best kind. With that being said, let’s look at how this chaos affected our volatile voters:
- Villanova (14-1, LW: 3) def. Marquette, 100-90. After a one week absence, the Wildcats are back on top of our rankings, sweeping the first-place votes. While there may be some defensive questions, this team just has so many weapons on the offensive end it may not matter. Xavier presents a major test on Wednesday, then the Cats will head to St. John’s.
- Wichita State (13-2, LW: 5) def. Houston, 81-63; def. South Florida, 95-57. So far in the AAC, so good for the Shockers. They made Houston, a potential tournament team, look like a JV squad before taking care of business against the lowly Bulls. Wichita State hits the road for both games this week. East Carolina will be up first, then Tulsa over the weekend.
- West Virginia (14-1, LW: 7) def. Kansas State, 77-69; def. Oklahoma, 89-76. West Virginia is next in what seems like a rotating door at the Big 12 summit. They’ve definitely earned it, though. Behind Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles, Jr., the Mountaineers taught freshman Trae Young some lessons. WVU next has Baylor at home, then a monumental road game with Texas Tech Saturday afternoon.
- Michigan State (15-2, LW: 1) def. Maryland, 91-61; lost to Ohio State, 64-80. They looked invulnerable. Until they didn’t. Shooting far below their season average, the Spartans were beaten soundly by the Buckeyes. Rutgers and then rival Michigan are their next opponents. There’s too much talent on this roster for the Spartans to not regroup.
- Duke (13-2, LW: 2) lost to NC State, 85-96. Rivalries are always a crapshoot. Playing on the road is always tricky. Seeing a pattern? The signs were there that Duke could be upset, though no one listened until it actually happened. On the rebound, the Blue Devils have a pair of winnable games against Pittsburgh and Wake Forest.
- Virginia (14-1, LW: 15) def. Virginia Tech, 78-52; def. North Carolina, 61-49. The Cavaliers delivered a pair of slam dunks last week, silencing the few critics they may have had left. Behind Kyle Guy and a balanced attack, they laid siege to Blacksburg, Virginia and the Hokies. Then, their pressure stifled UNC into submission. Home games with Syracuse and NC State await.
- Arizona State (12-2, LW: 6) lost to Colorado, 81-90; def. Utah, 80-77. It was a stressful week for the Sun Devils They took an OT loss, then relied on Shannon Evans and Kodi Justice to carry them over Utah. Arizona State gets to return home for their slate this week, playing Oregon and Oregon State from the friendly confines of Tempe.
- Texas Tech (14-1, LW: 19) def. Kansas, 85-73; def. Kansas State, 74-58. Eleven spot jumps are earned, not given. And Texas Tech sure as heck earned it with a wire-to-wire win over KU in Lawrence. They enjoyed a double-digit lead for two-thirds of the game, too. A week of trials is on the docket, however. First, it’s Oklahoma on the road. Then, West Virginia.
- Oklahoma (12-2, LW: 4) def. Oklahoma State, 109-89; lost to West Virginia, 76-89. Trae Young netted 27 and 10 assists against the Cowboys, and 29 in the loss to WVU. However, the Mountaineers’ pressure also forced him into 8 turnovers. Next up is a pair of home games for the Sooners. Texas Tech and TCU should both make for great opponents.
- Kansas (12-3, LW: 9) lost to Texas Tech, 73-85; def. TCU, 88-84. The fourth Big 12 team in our top ten is Kansas. Despite getting handled at home by the surging Red Raiders, a quality road win over TCU ensured the Jayhawks’ fall was minimal. The sheer talent at the top of the league has KU’s streak in serious jeopardy, though they should pick up a pair of wins against Iowa State and Kansas State this week.
- Xavier (15-2, LW: 8) def. Butler, 86-79; lost to Providence, 72-81. Xavier drops a couple spots after a loss to a middling Friars squad. With a player like Bluiett, however, there’s always confidence in the Musketeers reascending the rankings. They’ll look to do just that by beating Villanova, a herculean feat, on Wednesday. Creighton also pays them a visit on Saturday.
- Miami (FL) (13-2, LW: 11) lost to Georgia Tech, 54-64; def. Florida State, 80-74. Losing to Georgia Tech hurts, but knocking off Florida State on Sunday salvaged the week for the Hurricanes. Bruce Brown and co. will only have to worry about one game this week, but in the loaded ACC, it’s a tough battle at Clemson.
- Purdue (15-2, LW: 12) def. Rutgers, 82-51; def. Nebraska, 74-62. Victims of a hectic week, the Boilermakers dipped a spot despite not losing, or even looking vulnerable, against a pair of lower-quality Big Ten teams. This week will be different. First up is a surging Michigan team on Tuesday, then Minnesota. Both games are also on the road.
- Seton Hall (14-2, LW: 20) def. Butler, 90-87. The Pirates may have only played once, but they picked up a great win over Butler at a building that Villanova couldn’t win in. Their experienced, talented core wasn’t fazed by the road environment, and they shouldn’t be when they visit Marquette on Tuesday. Georgetown on Saturday rounds out their upcoming slate.
- Cincinnati (14-2, LW: 18) def. Temple, 55-53; def. SMU, 76-56. Defense has long been a calling card for the Bearcats and they showed why last week. Coach Cronin has his team rated as number two in the nation for scoring defense, though a fair margin behind Virginia. Cincy heads to the Sunshine State for conference games this week, challenging USF and UCF.
- Florida State (12-3, LW: 23) def. North Carolina, 81-80; lost to Miami, 74-80. Our voters are giving Florida State a lot of slack despite their loss to Miami. If anyone deserves it, though, it’s a team in the ACC, especially one that also topped UNC earlier in the week. The Seminoles have Louisville and Syracuse at home for this set of games.
- Arizona (12-4, LW: 14) def. Utah, 94-82; lost to Colorado, 77-80. Just like their in-state rivals, the Wildcats faltered against Colorado, despite 26 points from Deandre Ayton. Perhaps more alarming were the comments from Coach Miller after the game that called into question his team’s dedication. Arizona has Oregon and Oregon State up next.
- Tennessee (10-4, LW: 24) lost to Auburn, 84-94; def. Kentucky, 76-65. No conference is more improved than the SEC. Tennessee represents a good example, as Coach Rick Barnes has had this team ranked for a good portion of the season after an extended down period for the program. Vanderbilt and Texas A&M will meet the Vols this week.
- Clemson (14-1, LW: 25) def. Boston College, 74-70; def. Louisville, 74-69. Clemson is on top of the ACC standings and the world hasn’t exploded. Why? Because this is the best Tigers team since 2010. They’ll look to further prove themselves against NC State and Miami during the next stretch of games.
- TCU (13-2, LW: 10) def. Baylor, 81-78; lost to Kansas, 84-88. Mostly due to attrition because of movement from other schools, TCU fell hard despite knocking off Baylor in an overtime thriller and only barely losing to KU at home. Don’t sleep on this team at all; they should rebound, though road games with Texas and Oklahoma will make it tough.
- Gonzaga (14-3, LW: 21) def. Pepperdine, 89-59; def. Loyola Marymount, 85-66. Given how competitive the Big 12, ACC, SEC, and Big East are, it may be tough for Gonzaga to jump too high in the rankings as long as those leagues continue to rise to the top. All the Zags can do is continue to win, which they did last week and they should do against Portland and San Francisco this week.
- Auburn (14-1, LW: NR) def. Tennessee, 94-84; def. Arkansas, 88-77. Low key, Auburn had one of the best weeks in the country. They convincingly knocked off two AP-ranked teams, including one (Tennessee) on the road. As a result, they’re ranked for the first time this year! Ole Miss and Mississippi State are next on the docket.
- Ohio State (13-4, LW: NR) def. Iowa, 92-81; def. Michigan State, 80-64. The trick to getting ranked? Beat the teams you’re supposed to beat. Then blow out the top team in the country. The second part’s a little facetious to say, but that’s exactly what the Buckeyes did last week. They don’t have a bad loss on the year and next meet Maryland and Rutgers.
- Butler (12-5, LW: NR) lost to Xavier, 86-79; lost to Seton Hall, 90-87. Has Butler already earned enough respect from our voters after blowing out ‘Nova some ten days ago? Apparently, because though they looked competitive against the upper tier of the league, they lost twice last week. They’ll look to avoid the same fate as they battle Creighton and Marquette over the next round off games.
- Kentucky (12-3, LW: 16) def. LSU, 74-71; lost to Tennessee, 76-65. The weird truth this year is that UK appears to have taken a step back, which was predictable due to the sheer magnitude of the class, and that they were mostly top-25 recruits instead of top-10. They’ll try to put it together this week against Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.
Out from Last Week: (13) Texas A&M, (17) North Carolina, (22) Notre Dame
Just Missed the Cut: Arkansas, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Creighton, Baylor
In a season like this, many pundits are apt to deem it one with “no great teams.” We must not allow this misnomer of a description to pass. What they really mean is that the traditional powers, or “Blue Bloods”, aren’t at the top of the heap. Look at our top three for this week. Instead of Duke, Kentucky, and Kansas, it’s Villanova (yes, a top-rank program, but not a ‘Blue Blood’), Wichita State, and West Virginia. These are some of the top teams this season. So are Arizona State, Texas Tech, Seton Hall, and others. And yes, so are teams like Duke, Michigan State, and (maybe?) Kansas. But that doesn’t mean that these teams are any less skilled or this season any less incredible. It just shows the depth of the modern game, the number of quality coaches. There may not be one or two teams on top of the pile, but instead a dozen, or more, capable of leading the pack to the finish line. And the ride will be wild. So, enjoy it.