College Basketball: Winners and Losers from the AP Top 25 Rankings in Week 17

Avi Wolfman-ArentCorrespondent IIFebruary 25, 2013

College Basketball: Winners and Losers from the AP Top 25 Rankings in Week 17

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    With Miami's 80-65 loss to Wake Forest on Saturday, we're sifting through another wave of changes at the top of the AP college basketball poll. It's nothing we haven't come to expect over the course of this turbulent 2012-13 season. Just more pre-March madness and all the debatable goodness therein.

    So, who fell hard?

    Who rose fast?

    Who idled idly?

    Answers to that and more in the slides ahead.

Winner: Indiana

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    Last Week: 1st

    This Week: 1st

    Record: 24-3, 12-2 (Big Ten)

    Not only does Indiana secure its fourth consecutive week at No. 1 (and 10th overall), but the consensus seems to have finally settled on the Hoosiers as America's best team. Now two losses clear of the next best team in the nation's best conference, Indiana picked up 64 of 65 possible first-place votes.

    That's the largest number of first-place votes for any team since Ohio State swept the poll in Week 14 of the 2010-11 season. Funny to think that amid all the analytical hand-wringing over competitive parity, it's been more than two years since the voters were this sold on a No. 1.

    Go ahead, Captain Smirk, you've earned your weekly leer.

Loser: New Mexico

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    Last Week: 16th

    This Week: 14th

    Record: 23-4, 10-2 (Mountain West)

    I really thought this was the week voters would fall in love with New Mexico.

    Steve Alford's team went on the road and beat a Colorado State that hadn't lost at home in 27 consecutive games behind 46 very loud points from junior guard Kendall Williams. Not only that, the Lobos took control of a loaded Mountain West Conference in the process.

    For the season, New Mexico now has wins over Connecticut, Davidson, Indiana State, Valparaiso, UNLV and Colorado State (twice!) to go along with the nation's third-best RPI.

    And for all that?

    A modest two-point climb in the AP poll.

Winner: Louisiana Tech

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    Last Week: NR (28th)

    This Week: 25th

    Record: 24-3, 14-0 (WAC)

    We like to snark about how polls don't matter, but here's a case where a bit of voter recognition can go a long way.

    Thanks to their 24-3 start, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs are back in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 1985.

    The two-digit number next to Tech's name is a big deal down in Ruston for two primary reasons.

    1. It can do wonders on the recruiting trail. Coaches love to point to their team's name on the ESPN bottom line or tweet out stuff about "rising tides" or whatever other kind of hacky promotional activities they like to do.

    2. The Bulldogs have a borderline case for an at-large bid. Working against them is a brutal strength of schedule (225th overall) and a general lack of pedigree. Working for them is a 15-game winning streak against D1 opponents and, if they can beat Denver and New Mexico State on the road, a chance to finish the regular season ranked.

    I know the committee isn't supposed to acknowledge the lowly voters, but you can't tell me the national attention that comes with a Top 25 ranking isn't worth something on Selection Sunday.

Loser: Akron

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    Last Week: NR (32nd)

    This Week: NR (28th)

    Record: 22-4, 12-0 (MAC)

    Just take everything from the Louisiana Tech slide and invert it.

    The Zips have won a nation's best 18 in a row and took care of their BracketBusters business last week by thumping a pretty good North Dakota State team at home. Still, Akron remains a smidge below the golden cutoff point.

    With time running out on the season, the Zips have precious few opportunities to grab that coveted number. And really, the whole thing smacks of voter laziness.

    I'm not saying Akron belongs in the Top 25, but they have just as good a case as Louisiana Tech. Sure, the Bulldogs have lose one less game, but the Zips' strength of schedule is more than 70 slots higher. Again, that's one game versus an entire season of markedly better competition.

    Yet the pollsters thoughtlessly pluck out the mid-major team with a three in its loss column instead of a four.

    Typical.

Winner: St. Louis

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    Last Week: NR (26th)

    This Week: 18th

    Record: 21-5, 10-2 (A-10)

    After snagging a pair of marquee wins over VCU and Butler, respectively, St. Louis received a long overdue first ranking and became the week's biggest mover.

    In a year that began with the death of former coach Rick Majerus, the highest form of tribute would be for this team to prove that the inveterate basketball lifer left behind a thriving program, one worthy of national attention.

    A ranking in the Top 25 is a step in that direction.

Loser: Marquette

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    Last Week: 17th

    This Week: 22nd

    Record: 19-7, 10-4 (Big East)

    Marquette went 1-1 on the road this week in the Big East, with the Golden Eagles' only loss coming to a Villanova team that's beaten Louisville and Syracuse at home this year.

    Given that context, it's a bit puzzling that Buzz Williams' team tied with Michigan State (two losses) and Butler (home loss) as the week's furthest faller.

Winner: Michigan

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    Last Week: 7th

    This Week: 4th

    Record: 23-4, 10-4 (Big Ten)

    The Wolverines took advantage of losses by Miami and Michigan State to jump back in the top five, this despite the fact that their only game of the week was a 71-58 home victory over Illinois that was closer than the score might indicate.

    I'd say you have to track back to January 30 against Northwestern to find the last time Michigan laid a beatdown on anybody. But the Wolverines put their work in during the non-conference schedule, and the voters are rewarding them for it now.

Loser: Syracuse

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    Last Week: 8th

    This Week: 12th

    Record: 22-5, 10-4 (Big East)

    I suppose I'm in the minority here, but I was actually impressed with Syracuse's play last week.

    The Orange hung close against Georgetown in a game where nothing was falling, and very nearly survived Otto Porter Jr.'s one-man assault in the process. Yes, it was a home loss on a big stage, but the opponent was no slouch and that Syracuse defense looked as fierce as ever.

    And let's not discount the fact that the Orange started the week by skunking Providence 84-59. Roll your eyes if you want, but the Friars had been one of the Big East's hottest teams heading into that showdown.

Winner: Gonzaga

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    Last Week: 3rd

    This Week: 2nd

    Record: 27-2, 14-0 (WCC)

    We could stick the Bulldogs with a "loser" label since they somehow managed to lose one of their two first-place votes between this week and last.

    Instead, I will ignore my Scrooge-ier intentions and point out that Gonzaga's No. 2 ranking is the highest in school history. And remember, that history includes 15 NCAA tournament appearances, 155 weeks ranked in the AP Top 25 and a raven-haired Spokanite named John Stockton.

    Now for that first ever Final Four appearance...

Loser: Memphis

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    Last Week: 21st

    This Week: 19th

    Record: 24-3, 13-0 (C-USA)

    Again, I feel compelled to highlight Memphis' slow climb up the AP poll.

    In a week where the Tigers lay a 16-point beatdown on Southern Miss—the clear-cut second-best team in Conference USA and an at-large contender—Josh Pastner's team jumped just two spots.

    Whether or not Memphis deserves to be higher or lower isn't really the issue. What bugs me is that the AP poll tends to favor blue-blood programs with gaudy win totals and long winning streaks. The Tigers check all three boxes, and yet they remain an afterthought.

    If Southern Miss didn't excite the voters, it's hard to see how Memphis can possibly crack the Top 10 before March Madness swings into action.