Another week, another 15 teams in the AP poll that have bitten the dust. Face it: nobody has any idea what’s going to happen in March, or, for that matter, in this edition of the Rock Chalk Blog Top 25:
Ryan Landreth’s ballot for February 22, 2016
1. Kansas (last week: 1)
2. Villanova (2)
3. Virginia (3)
4. Michigan State (4)
The top four spots remain the same. I think that Kansas is the best team in the country, while Villanova is about to get the test that its doubters have been waiting for – the Wildcats visit Xavier on Wednesday for a top-10 showdown.
Virginia and Michigan State also had perfect weeks to stay in the top four. Both teams are well-coached, and it’s very plausible to envision either winning the national title this year.
5. Xavier (12)
6. North Carolina (5)
7. Oklahoma (6)
8. Iowa (9)
Xavier jumps seven spots into the top five because basically everybody in front of it lost this week. As for North Carolina, I’m choosing to give Roy Williams’ team a pass for the collapse of the Duke game. I think the Tar Heels are one of the three best teams in the country, and what happened down the stretch of that game was so bizarre that I’m not sure anybody truly knows how it transpired. For the record, I think they win the rematch in Durham on March 5.
The Sooners have lost in each of the last three weeks, but Saturday’s win over West Virginia showed major strides, at least in my eyes. Oklahoma didn’t bury its opponent to death with three-pointers like it had done all season. Instead, the Sooners out-gutted a physical, tough team in West Virginia to pull out an impressive road win. As for Iowa, if you’re going to lose to a 13-13 team, I guess that this week was the time to do it.
9. Arizona (16)
10. Miami (8)
11. Maryland (7)
12. Indiana (20)
The Wildcats have moved back into a tie atop the Pac 12, but they’ll be tested in the coming week with matchups at Colorado and vs. Utah. As for the Hurricanes of Miami, they couldn’t have picked a worse time to play North Carolina, and I still think they’re worthy of a top-10 ranking.
Maryland can score with anybody in the country, but the Terrapins’ defensive woes were apparent in Thursday’s stunning loss to Minnesota. This is probably the biggest upset we’ve seen in conference play since TCU knocked off Kansas in 2013. The Gophers were 0-13 in Big Ten play before the upset. Maryland just couldn’t get stops down the stretch of the game. This must change, or the Terrapins will be as vulnerable as anybody come March.
Indiana climbs back into the top 12 after keeping pace in the Big Ten with a nice home win over Purdue.
13. Kentucky (14)
14. West Virginia (10)
15. Notre Dame (13)
16. Baylor (N/R)
Kentucky isn’t punished after losing to Texas A&M in one of the strangest basketball games I’ve ever watched, while Notre Dame slides just two spots after a one-point loss. My voting strategy is usually pretty consistent. I go easy on teams after just one loss, but I also punish teams more than most if one bad performance becomes a trend. Both the Wildcats and Fighting Irish have played extremely well recently, so I won’t overreact to a narrow road loss in conference play.
Big 12 foes West Virginia and Baylor, checking in at #14 and #16, had completely opposite weeks in conference play. The Mountaineers went from Big 12 leader to two games back of Kansas in just five days, while the Bears can move back into a game of first with a win Tuesday night after beating Iowa State and Texas.
17. Louisville (N/R)
18. Iowa State (17)
19. Oregon (18)
20. Purdue (19)
In a year full of crazy twists and turns, Louisville just may be the weirdest team out there. The Cardinals showed a lot of guts in their comeback win over Duke on Saturday, which helps them re-enter the Rock Chalk Blog top 25. As for Iowa State, a team that has eight losses yet remains in the top 20, this is what happens when you consistently go up against quality competition.
Oregon and Purdue each slide one spot after going 1-1 this week. For completely different reasons, I think both of them are sneaky Elite Eight-caliber teams when you’re filling out a bracket.
21. Duke (21)
22. Texas A&M (N/R)
23. Dayton (11)
24. Texas Tech (N/R)
25. Hawaii (24)
I haven’t been impressed with Duke at any point this season. The Blue Devils’ biggest win was simply because their opponent gagged the game away in historic fashion. They had the chance to prove their legitimacy on Saturday, and they respond by scoring 10 points in the last 10 minutes of that Louisville game. Duke’s lack of consistent point guard play and depth will prevent it from making a deep tournament run.
Texas A&M re-enters the polls after halting a lengthly February losing streak, while Dayton slides all the way to #23 after one of the worst weeks by a team this year. I ranked Texas Tech at one point earlier in the year, but now I firmly believe that Tubby Smith’s team is not only going to make the NCAA tournament, but also make a surprising run to the Sweet 16. This is an experienced, dangerous team that’s well coached and defends very well. That’s an awesome recipe to have in March.
I feel bad for Monmouth, who doesn’t deserve to be knocked out, but I had to find a spot for the Fighting Tubbies.