As we move into February, it’s worth stating that March is now just one month away. It’s the best time of the year for college basketball fans, and after arguably the best weekend of hoops this season, how will the Top 25 look come Monday?
Ryan Landreth’s ballot for February 1, 2016
1. Oklahoma (last week: 2)
2. North Carolina (1)
I swapped the top two teams on my ballot because of what we’ve known all year: Buddy Hield is the best player in the country. Hield averaged 31 points in two games this week, including Saturday’s ridiculous performance (SEVEN threes in the second half alone!) to lead his team back on the road at LSU. North Carolina is really, really good, but Oklahoma looks like the clear-cut best team in the nation right now.
3. Villanova (4)
4. Maryland (6)
5. Xavier (10)
Villanova moves up after continuing to take care of business in the Big East, while Maryland and Xavier move back into the Top 5 after both scoring conference wins against top 10 teams. I think the Terrapins may be the most well-rounded team in the nation, but Xavier’s 1-3-1 defense is stifling and I can’t imagine a more frustrating team to play against in March.
6. Kansas (3)
Once again, I struggled to find exactly where to rank Kansas on this week’s ballot. I could argue the Jayhawks to be as high as #3 considering their schedule (a 17-4 record is good regardless, but three of those losses are to top 15 teams, and they continue to pile up quality wins every week). On the other hand, this is still a team that has lost three of its last six games, so I could see an argument in dropping KU to #9 or so.
I split the difference and placed the Jayhawks at #6. Kansas’ upcoming week (vs. Kansas State, at TCU) gives it a bit of a breather in Big 12 play, so hopefully the Jayhawks win both this week and it’s easier to find where they place in next week’s poll.
7. Iowa (5)
8. Texas A&M (7)
9. Virginia (14)
10. Oregon (24)
Iowa and Texas A&M both take slight drops after losing close conference road games, but Virginia and Oregon move into the Top 10 after each picking up one of the more impressive wins of the week. Virginia just flat-out smashed Louisville on the road behind spectacular defense, while Oregon went on the road to Arizona and ended the nation’s longest home-court winning streaks. Both of these teams play in fairly underwhelming conferences (compared to what we normally see from the ACC and the Pac 12), but both the Cavs and the Ducks are managing to do what so few ranked teams can nowadays – win on the road.
11. Wichita State (17)
12. Providence (9)
13. Indiana (13)
14. Michigan State (18)
15. SMU (12)
Wichita State is, ironically, the anti-Kansas. The Shockers are winning every single game on their schedule, but the quality of their league is horrific. WSU beat Evansville, which is in second place in the Missouri Valley Conference, by double digits on the road today. Just how impressive is that? Nobody actually knows, but I’m a believer in the Shockers, and I think they’re going to be a nasty four-seed that could very well clip a #1 in the Sweet 16 come tournament time.
Providence and Indiana both lost this week, but one was to a top 10 team and the other was a road overtime game, so no harm no foul. Michigan State, in my opinion, is re-grouped and back to being one of the nation’s best teams, while SMU floats along in the Top 15, as the Mustangs have done all day.
16. Iowa State (8)
17. Miami (11)
18. Baylor (20)
19. Kentucky (N/R)
20. Butler (21)
Iowa State and Miami take the biggest falls in this week’s poll. The Cyclones, as we all know, are spectacular at home, but they continue to fall short of expectations on the road. Miami, meanwhile, dropped a weird game to North Carolina State on the road, but as we’ve said before, it’s conference play. That’s also why I opted to keep Butler in my top 20, despite a narrow loss at Marquette.
Baylor rises to #18 after an underrated road win at Oklahoma State, but Kentucky goes from unranked to #19 because of the poise the Wildcats showed in Allen Fieldhouse. However, Kentucky’s offense continues to be massive problem. As impressive as the heart the Wildcats showed on Saturday was, it went to overtime in a game where it went 0/9 in the second half on three-pointers. They also foul way, way too much. Kentucky should have won that game, and it is progressing behind John Calipari’s guidance, but if the Wildcats can’t learn how to make shots fast, things might get ugly in March.
21. Notre Dame (22)
22. West Virginia (15)
23. Arizona (16)
24. St. Mary’s (23)
25. Purdue (25)
Want to know a dark-horse in the national coach of the year race? Mike Brey. Why is nobody talking about him? Brey has done a fantastic job in guiding the Fighting Irish back into a legitimate top-25 team after a disastrous start.
West Virginia takes a nosedive after leaving its defense in Morgantown on Saturday, while Arizona drops seven spots following the home loss to Oregon. Finally, St. Mary’s and Purdue round out the Top 25 for completely different reasons. The Gaels are going to win the WCC, while Purdue will be lucky to finish fourth in the much-more-competitive Big Ten.
Where did I get it right, and where did I get it wrong? Let me know on Twitter.