College Basketball: Winners and Losers from the AP Top 25 Rankings in Week 15
The college basketball landscape is as messy as it's ever been, and the just-released AP Top 25 expresses that messiness in full.
You have to track back two years to find a poll where the top-ranked team earned less first-place votes than the 26 re-minted No. 1 Indiana earned this week. And I can't find a single AP poll in the last 11 seasons where the Week 15 No.1 had as many losses as Indiana's three.
It's a headache for pollsters and a joy for those of us who relish a good debate.
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Last Week: 1st
This Week: 1st
Record: 21-3, 9-2 (Big Ten)
An embarrassing late-game collapse against unranked Illinois wasn't enough to knock Indiana down a peg. It seemed the voters' confidence in the Big Ten was enough to forgive the Hoosiers, especially after they notched a bounce-back road win at Ohio State.
As the pollsters try to navigate this season's chaos, it appears their fallback principle is something along the lines of: "Always trust the Big Ten team."
And they have every week.
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Last Week: 6th
This Week: 5th
Record: 23-2, 10-0 (West Coast Conference)
The winningest team in Division I hasn't lost since January 19. And yet with all the Top 10 chaos swirling around Mark Few's Bulldogs, Gonzaga jumped just one spot from last week.
Apparently, attrition doesn't apply to mid-majors.
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Last Week: NR (31st)
This Week: 20th
Record: 17-7, 8-3 (Big Ten)
Wisconsin didn't have a single marquee non-conference win, losing games to Florida, Creighton, Virginia and Marquette. But in this year's Big Ten, all is forgiven, and the Badgers jumped 11 spots on the strength of a miracle home win over Michigan.
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Last Week: 16th
This Week: NR (30th)
Record: 20-5, 9-4 (Missouri Valley Conference)
I figured Doug McDermott's Bluejays were in for a dip after back-to-back conference losses, but the 14-spot drop surprised me.
Creighton is still tied for first place in its league, and those 20 wins aren't an accident—non-conference romps over Wisconsin, Arizona State and California should still be worth something to the pollsters.
And yet the Bluejays—with their fifth-ranked offense in adjusted efficiency (per KenPom.com)—hover behind the likes of St. Mary's, Missouri and Minnesota.
Winner: Notre Dame
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Last Week: 25th
This Week: 21st
Record: 19-5, 7-4 (Big East)
Notre Dame's 5OT win over Louisville on Saturday was memorable alright, but I'm surprised the voters deemed it bump-worthy. This was, after all, a home game against a team with three prior conference defeats. The Irish needed every bounce and carom to survive and were far from being dominant.
At least that's what I saw. The pollsters apparently saw a gritty win that more than made up for a desultory loss earlier that week to Syracuse.
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Last Week: 2nd
This Week: 7th
Record: 19-3, 9-1 (Southeastern Conference)
I thought Florida's early-week hiccup against Arkansas might be viewed more favorably in light of its 35-point win over Mississippi State and the various transgressions of other Top 10 rivals.
But the voters don't think much of this year's SEC, and they sent that message loud and clear by slotting the Gators behind fellow three-loss teams like Syracuse, Michigan and Miami.
Arkansas is a talented team and a tough out at home. But I suppose that and Florida's pile of double-digit wins wasn't enough to plaster over voters' general skepticism toward the Southeastern Conference.
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Last Week: NR (34th)
This Week: 25th
Record: 17-6, 8-2 (Southeastern Conference)
Welcome back to the poll, Coach Cal!
After 10 consecutive weeks in the purgatorial realm known as "others receiving votes," the Kentucky Wildcats, winners of five straight, have reclaimed their God-given place in the Top 25.
What exactly that means for Big Blue moving forward is uncertain, but it at least hints at the notion that this young team is finally tapping into its potential—a scary thought for every team ranked above it. Historians will note that the 2010-11 Final Four team was 17-7 and ranked 22nd overall in their Week 15 poll.
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Last Week: NR (30)
This Week: 22nd
Record: 20-3, 9-0 (Conference USA)
Memphis, winners of 14 straight, holds the following distinctions...
One of 12 teams with 20 wins.
One of 11 teams with three or fewer losses.
One of eight teams without a conference loss.
And yet for all those achievements and all their programmatic pedigree, the Tigers waited 12 weeks to reemerge as a Top 25 team. Note that Memphis' only three losses this year came to VCU, Minnesota and Louisville.
Winner: Ohio State
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Last Week: 10th
This Week: 13th
Record: 17-6, 7-4 (Big Ten)
I know Indiana is a good team, but Ohio State looked pretty damn flat against the Hoosiers on Sunday in a crucial home game.
The Buckeyes' last three games have now been a seven-point win over Nebraska and losses to Michigan and Indiana. For that, Thad Matta's six-loss team still earned a Top 15 ranking.
That's in part because Ohio State's six losses all came against Top 25 competition. But of the Buckeyes' 17 wins, only a close home win over Michigan stands out. Deshaun Thomas and Co. have hung with a lot of top teams this year, but they haven't beaten all that many.
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Last Week: NR (no votes)
This Week: NR (no votes)
Record: 14-9, 6-5 (Pac 12)
For the second week in a row, Mike Montgomery's Bears knocked off a Top 10 foe—this time No. 7 Arizona on the road. And once again, Cal didn't earn a single Top 25 vote.
Voters are probably leery of that ugly-looking "nine" in the loss column, but none of those defeats were to bad teams. UNLV, Wisconsin, Creighton, Harvard, UCLA, Washington, Stanford, Colorado and Arizona State are all in the RPI Top 100.
Arizona, meanwhile, is in the top 50.