- College Pride Press Top 25 – Week 15
Note: This article only takes into account games through last Sunday. It was initially set to post Monday morning before our unanticipated maintenance break postponed its release. As you can see, several of our top teams have already taken losses since Monday. This will be reflected in our Week 16 poll releasing next Monday, February 19th.
After a short hiatus for internal reasons, we are back this week with the College Pride Press Top 25! It seems we picked the right time to make our dramatic return, as a whole host of upper-echelon teams suffered defeats over the past seven days. Several of them also took the dreaded home loss, included both teams that occupy our top two spots. However, when looking at the big picture, there are no other strong choices to be at the top of our poll. Those teams, as they have been for much of the season, are Villanova and Virginia. Let’s take a look at the rest of our poll:
- Villanova (23-2) lost to St. John’s, 75-79; def. Butler, 86-75. Woah. Like, seriously. St. John’s? At home? They say every team is entitled to one inexplicable performance, and that was clearly the game for the Wildcats. Even still, the turmoil at the top with other teams meant Villanova held the top spot. They hit the road to meet Providence and Xavier next.
- Virginia (23-2) def. Florida State, 59-55; lost to Virginia Tech, 60-61. Despite a home loss, Virginia was named Sunday the current leader to claim the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. With arguably the best defensive ever, that shouldn’t be a surprise. They play just once this week, at Miami in a big Tuesday night game.
- Michigan State (24-3) def. Iowa, 96-93; def. Purdue, 68-65. Michigan State picked up a pair of good wins, though they faced more trouble with Iowa than initially anticipated. Miles Bridges reasserted himself on the Player of the Year conversation with his dagger triple to beat the Boilermakers. Minnesota and Northwestern are up next. Both are on the road.
- Xavier (23-3) def. Butler, 98-93; def. Creighton, 72-71. The Musketeers may have played a couple of tough games, including needing overtime at Butler, but their positive results ensure they are one of the pack leaders in the race for the top seeds. This week comes the home challenge with Villanova. Seton Hall will also make the trip to the banks of the Ohio River.
- Cincinnati (23-2) def. Central Florida, 77-40; def. SMU, 76-51. Two of the better programs in the AAC were demolished by the Bearcat juggernaut last week. Cincy remains the second-best defensive team in the country behind Virginia. They have a tough week coming up, though should still be favorited at Houston and at home against Wichita State.
- Purdue (23-4) lost to Ohio State, 63-64; lost to Michigan State, 65-68. Undefeated Big 10 record? Gone. Nation’s longest winning streak? Gone. Spot on the one-seed line? Gone. A combined four points saw Purdue have their worst week since November. Their chances to rebound will come at Wisconsin and at home against Penn State.
- Texas Tech (21-4) def. Iowa State, 76-58; def. Kansas State, 66-47. Meet the current Big 12 leaders. The Red Raiders are a game ahead of Kansas after a two-win week, but in the tricky Big 12, each game is a challenge. Tech faces Oklahoma at home then travels to Baylor, where Kansas fell, over the weekend.
- Gonzaga (23-4) def. Pacific, 71-61; def. St. Mary’s, 78-65. What do you know, the surging Bulldogs have won seven consecutive games and reached the top ten for the first time this season. A road blowout against a team like St. Mary’s can do that for a team. They conclude their home slate for the season with visits from Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine.
- Ohio State (22-5) def. Purdue, 64-63; def. Iowa, 82-64. Ohio State is at the Big Ten summit with their hardest game behind them. Oh, and they won it at Purdue. Just four games separate the Buckeyes from an unlikely Big Ten title. The next two will be on the road, however. Keita Bates-Diop will lead his teammates at Penn State and rival Michigan.
- Auburn (22-3) lost to Texas A&M, 80-81; def. Georgia, 78-61. The red-hot Tigers were knocked off at home by the Aggies, but still maintain a two-game advantage in the SEC standings. A tricky home game with Kentucky comes on Wednesday. Auburn treks to South Carolina over the weekend.
- Duke (20-5) lost to North Carolina, 78-82; def. Georgia Tech, 80-69. Tobacco Road delivered once more, though the rivalry battle saw Duke come up short despite a first half lead. The upcoming docket for Marvin Bagley and his teammates includes Virginia Tech at home and a trip to the team right below them in our rankings.
- Clemson (20-4) def. Pittsburgh, 72-48. The Tigers played only once, and it was a home game against lowly Pitt. Despite the injury to key cog Donte Grantham, Clemson has rallied to stay high in the rankings. This week will tell us a lot about the Tigers. First, they play in Tallahassee against FSU. That is followed up with Duke at home on Sunday.
- Arizona (20-6) lost to UCLA, 74-82; def. USC, 81-67. Home losses usually hurt, but the Wildcats still have a two-game lead at the top of the Pac-12. For all the talent on this roster, a regular season crown should be expected. Their only opponent over the next seven days will be rival Arizona State. That game will be in a hostile environment for the Wildcats.
- North Carolina (19-7) def. Duke, 82-78; def. NC State, 96-89. The upperclassmen led the Tar Heels over their rivals. Joel Berry and Kenny Williams combined for 41 against Duke, then Luke Maye put in a mammoth 33 point, 17 rebound effort against the Wolfpack. The result is a UNC team with hope for a repeat. Notre Dame and Louisville are the next obstacles.
- Kansas (19-6) def. TCU, 71-64; lost to Baylor, 64-80. Kansas is feeling the heat in a deep Big 12. There was a bit of surprise when they were named a two-seed in the NCAA projected field on Sunday, though they do have the most “Quadrant 1” wins. They will look to right the ship with a tough trip to Ames, then a home game with West Virginia.
- Rhode Island (20-3) def. Davidson, 72-59. The Atlantic Ten has an alpha this season, and it’s URI, who at 12-0 coming into this week can clinch the regular season title with a pair of wins. The toughest clash will be on the road against second-place St. Bonaventure. Richmond is their other opponent on the schedule.
- Tennessee (18-6) def. Kentucky, 61-59; lost to Alabama, 50-78. After picking up a gigantic win in Rupp Arena, the Vols were smoked by the Crimson Tide in their second-straight road game. That just goes to show that this is the best the SEC has been in years. The return home to play South Carolina, then travel to Georgia over the weekend.
- Wichita State (19-5) def. Memphis, 85-65; def. Connecticut, 95-74. Against UConn, Wichita State hit 14-28 from deep and scored 55 first half points. As a whole, however, the American has proven an apt challenge for the Shockers. That continues over the next slate of games, which includes meeting Cincinnati on the road.
- West Virginia (18-7) def. Oklahoma, 75-73; lost to Oklahoma State, 85-88. No team had a more confusing week than the Mountaineers. They took care of Trae Young and the Sooners at Oklahoma, but then inexplicably lost at home to Oklahoma State. The conference gauntlet continues with TCU at home and a chance for revenge in Lawrence against the Jayhawks.
- St. Mary’s (24-3) def. Loyola Marymount, 83-62; lost to Gonzaga, 65-78. Just like that, the Gaels have seen the end of their nineteen-game winning streak. Fear not, though, St. Mary’s. It’s still been a great season and should result in a good tournament seed. Road games with San Francisco and Portland are up next.
- Michigan (20-7) lost to Northwestern, 52-61; def. Wisconsin, 83-72. The Wolverines may have lost last week, but it’s still been a great season for one of the more pleasant surprises in the Big Ten. Their deep rotation stays home for their next docket of games, in which Iowa and Ohio State are the opponents, with the Buckeyes presenting a great chance for a big win.
- Oklahoma (16-8) lost to West Virginia, 73-75; lost to Iowa State, 80-88. In what was Trae Young’s worst week of the season, the Sooners took a pair of losses. Is the wear and tear of the season finally catching up to the gifted freshman? The schedule does Oklahoma no favors as their next games are at Texas Tech. They’ll also host Texas.
- Texas A&M (17-8) def. Auburn, 81-80; def. Kentucky 85-74. Texas A&M seems to have finally righted the ship and won four straight. The last two of those came last week, when they beat a top-ten Auburn team on their own floor and used a 35-9 second half spurt to blow out struggling Kentucky. Tough road tests in Missouri and Arkansas await.
- Arizona State (19-6) def. USC, 80-78; def. UCLA, 88-79. Los Angeles schools could not capture their dreams in Tempe, as the Sun Devils won a pair of good contests on their home court. The Curtain of Distraction better be in full effect for Arizona State’s only game this week, because that opponent will be Arizona.
- Virginia Tech (18-7) def. NC State, 85-75; def. Virginia, 61-60. For the first time since the early season, the Hokies are in the CPP rankings! Their road win over Virginia, which took OT, was arguably the most impressive result of the last week. The final stretch of schedule is tough, however; it includes Duke twice, the first of which is this Wednesday on the road.
Just Missed the Cut: Nevada, Houston, Florida, Miami, Baylor
One of our writers this past week gave St. John’s a vote at the number twenty-five spot. And why the heck not? College basketball polling is really about asking the question of “what have you done for me lately?” No team over the past two weeks has a pair of wins as impressive as St. John’s. They showed that maybe, just maybe, their win over Duke wasn’t a complete fluke when they went to Philadelphia and knocked off Villanova. If they win out and win a couple in the Big East Tournament, why not consider St. John’s for an at-large berth? This exemplary performance from the Red Storm is just further confirmation that 2017-18 is the year of parity. The college game has never seen such a deep number of competent players. Anyone can beat anyone. And that’s going to make this next week wild, the final weeks of the regular season, and of course, March Madness.