Rock Chalk Blog Top 25 Poll for February 29, 2016

Eight of the top 10 teams in last week’s AP poll lost this week. In this crazy season of college basketball, I’m not even sure if it cracks the top three craziest weeks we’ve seen yet.

Ryan Landreth’s ballot for February 29, 2016

1. Kansas (last week: 1)
2. Michigan State (4)
3. Virginia (3)
4. Villanova (2)

I’ve had Kansas as the top team on my ballot for three weeks now, but because of Villanova’s loss, the Jayhawks will likely be the unanimous #1 team in Monday’s AP Top 25. KU has separated itself from the rest of the country at this point in the season. The Jayhawks are clearly the nation’s best team as we enter the month of March.

Michigan State surges to the #2 spot after continuing to make quick work of Big Ten teams. In fact, the Jayhawks and the Spartans are the only two teams ranked in the top 10 that didn’t lose this week. Tom Izzo’s squad has grown into a monster, and I fully expect Michigan State to be a #1 seed two weeks from now in the Selection Show.

Virginia remains at #3 despite losing at Miami earlier in the week, and Villanova slips two spots after a loss at Xavier. As of right now, I think that these four teams are clearly the best four teams in the country, and I think that these are the four #1 seeds that you’ll wind up seeing on your bracket.

5. Miami (10)
6. Indiana (12)
7. North Carolina (6)
8. Xavier (5)

Miami had a fantastic week, clipping both Virginia and Louisville. The pair of wins moves it back into the top five, while the surging Indiana Hoosiers jump all of the way to #6 on my ballot. I’m definitely higher on Indiana than most people, but this is a team that’s 18-3 in its last 21 games while pulling away from the field in the Big Ten race.

I have no idea what to make of North Carolina. Sometimes, I think that the Tar Heels are a top-three team. Then I have moments when I’m not sure if they belong in the top 15. Roy Williams’ team was game, but ultimately came up short against Virginia, so UNC only drops one spot this week. Meanwhile, Xavier laid an enormous egg after beating #1 Villanova earlier in the week; the Musketeers were spanked at Seton Hall, which costs them three pegs in the rankings.

9. Oklahoma (7)
10. Utah (N/R)
11. Oregon (19)
12. West Virginia (14)

Oklahoma is just 4-4 in its last eight games. Buddy Hield is terrific, the Sooners aren’t getting the production out of their other starters that they were the first three months of the season. This is a team that could win it all, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sooners were bounced in the first weekend because of these inconsistencies.

Utah takes the biggest jump on my ballot this week. I was waiting to rank the Utes until they came through with something big, and that’s exactly what they did on Saturday in beating Arizona for the first time in the Larry Krystowiak era. Utah and Oregon, ranked #11, are clearly the Pac 12’s top two teams, while West Virginia has solidified itself as the second best team in the Big 12.

13. Maryland (11)
14. Iowa (8)
15. Texas (N/R)
16. Purdue (20)

If Maryland could just learn how to defend, it’d be one of the three favorites to win the NCAA tournament. However, that’s what we’ve been saying all season, and the same issues that have plagued the Terrapins all year were evident in Saturday’s loss to Purdue, which moves into the #16 spot.

Speaking of struggling Big Ten teams, how about Iowa getting knocked off at home by Wisconsin? This was no upset. The Badgers are simply a better team right now than the Hawkeyes. As far as the #15 spot, I made a mistake eliminating Texas from my top 25 last week. The Longhorns showed that they belong after gritting one out at K-State and using a jaw-dropping run to beat Oklahoma this week. Up next for Shaka Smart’s team? #1 Kansas on Big Monday.

17. Baylor (16)
18. Louisville (17)
19. Kentucky (13)
20. Arizona (9)

Baylor really should have beaten Kansas on Tuesday, but when everybody else is also losing, a narrow loss to a top-five team doesn’t hurt you much in the rankings. The same goes for Louisville, which played well but collapsed down the stretch in Coral Gables on Saturday.

As far as Kentucky, I have no idea what to make of the Wildcats. I think they’re a horrifying four-seed for whichever #1 they’re placed with, but at the same time, the lack of mental toughness in this squad is likely going to screw it in March. Either that or the fact that the Wildcats can’t shoot – at all. Hey, speaking of Wildcats that can’t shoot? How about Arizona, who couldn’t produce enough offense to win either of its games this week!

21. Wisconsin (N/R)
22. California (N/R)
23. Texas A&M (22)
24. Duke (21)
25. Iowa State (18)

I’ve been awfully hard on a lot of the teams on my ballot this week, so I’ll give one of them some love. How about those Wisconsin Badgers? Greg Gard is a contender for National Coach of the Year, in my opinion. He’s turned a nightmare start (the Badgers were 9-9 once upon a time) into a likely tournament bid (18-10).

I also like what I’m seeing from California, which has won six in a row to get itself off of the bubble for the NCAA tournament. Texas A&M continues to rebound from that horrific early-February stretch, while Duke slides to #24 after being boat-raced at Pittsburgh on Sunday. Finally, Iowa State, which has lost at least once in eight of the last nine weeks, remains on the ballot, but just barely.

Dropped out:
Notre Dame (15)
Dayton (23)
Texas Tech (24)
Hawaii (25)

Where did I get it right, and where did I get it wrong? Let me know by commenting below, or by contacting me on Twitter.

Ryan Landreth

I’m a recent graduate of MidAmerica Nazarene University. In addition to writing for Rock Chalk Blog, I host the Inside the Paint podcast that covers KU basketball, and I write for Royals Review in the summer. My grandma has had season tickets to Jayhawk basketball for 30 years, and I have the privilege of going to most games with her.