Winners & Losers from the AP College Basketball Top 25 Rankings in Week 4
It was just another typical week in college basketball.
A team that lost to Belmont beat the defending champs, a team that had won one game was roughly a second away from winning at Duke and a top-10 team (VCU) lost for the second time in four days on Sunday.
Good luck making sense of all that. The voters tried in the current AP ranking of college basketball's Top 25. Michigan State and Kansas are both still at the top and the rest, as expected, got mixed around a bit.
Let's take a look at the winners and losers in this week's poll.
The Minutemen are in the rankings for the first time since their coach Derek Kellogg was a player.
This stay should be longer, although UMass has tough non-conference games on neutral courts coming up against BYU (Dec. 7) and Florida State (Dec. 21).
The Minutemen do look legit. Of their six wins, four are against major-conference schools and they also knocked off previously-ranked New Mexico on their way to winning the Charleston Classic on Sunday.
Loser: Teams That Were in Front of UMass
The way the polls typically work is that if you don't lose, you move up. It's not the most sound logic, but that's how it goes.
So there are 13 teams out there with a gripe this week. UMass had received only two votes last week, yet Derek Kellogg's team leaped into the Top 25 and passed the following teams who had been receiving more votes and also had perfect records the past week: Virginia, Boise State, Belmont, Arizona State, Villanova, Xavier, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Colorado, Missouri, Minnesota, Saint Louis and Cincinnati.
Winner: North Carolina
Welcome back, Heels.
Not that they went anywhere—they were still ranked 24th last week—but at least now they can feel good about their ranking (16th).
Because let's be honest, nearly any other team coming off a loss at home to Belmont probably would have gotten the boot from the polls.
Now the Heels have a win over a team that was getting first-place votes, and no one can say they don't deserve to be ranked. Well, no one except maybe Belmont.
Loser: The ACC
This wasn't the worst week for the league because of North Carolina returning to relevancy with the Louisville win, but that whole "this is the greatest league ever" talk is on the back burner for now.
The Big Ten now has five teams in the rankings—at 1, 7, 10, 22 and 23--and the ACC is stuck at three—at 6, 8 and 16. Plus, Duke fell out of the top five.
If you take a broader look, however, it's not as bad. Both Virginia and Florida State are in the top 30 and could work their way into the top 25 in the weeks ahead. Still, that's just not as good as the Big Ten, which has the bragging rights now.
That "hehe" you hear is coming from Lexington.
Sunday was a great day for Big Blue Nation because they got to watch Louisville play awful and lose to North Carolina.
Not only did the Wildcats benefit by moving up to the spot (third) that had been occupied by the Cardinals, they'll also take pleasure in the defending champs falling to ninth in the poll.
And all they had to do last week to get there was beat UT-Arlington.
Loser: New Mexico and the Moutain West
The Mountain West got five teams in the NCAA tournament last year and New Mexico got a No. 3 seed, in part, thanks to some clever scheduling that had the MWC as the top-rated league and the Lobos as a top-five team according to the RPI.
Then New Mexico lost to Harvard in its opening game of the tournament. It was a bad look.
The Lobos did enough good last year, however, that they were still a preseason Top 25 team. Well, with the loss on Friday to UMass, the lone Mountain West representative is out of the Top 25.
The current poll will not matter come March, but it's not great for the league's reputation.
It wasn't a good week for the Orange, almost losing at home to St. Francis Brooklyn. Props to the Terriers—that's St. Francis Brooklyn's mascot, in case you were wondering—but they're far from a top 25 team and they led Syracuse at the Carrier Dome in the final minutes.
The voters, apparently, were not paying attention, because Syracuse went up a spot in the rankings.
Now, I get the "don't punish a team for losing" philosophy, but Syracuse has not looked good in one game this season and Duke dropped a spot—from fifth to sixth—for essentially the same thing, winning a closer-than-expected game against a small school.
Loser: The American Athletic Conference
The AAC had what was thought to be three really strong teams (Louisville, Memphis and Connecticut).
The hope was that the league would get taken seriously because of those three teams, because it certainly lacks brand recognition. I still have to think for a minute "Now what's the name of that league again?" every time I'm referencing it.
The good news is those three teams are still ranked and UConn might even be better than expected because Shabazz Napier is playing like an All-American.
The bad news is Louisville and Memphis had two of the worst performances seen on national TV this past week—Memphis at Oklahoma State and Louisville against North Carolina. Because of those losses, Louisville dropped six spots and Memphis dropped 10.
The struggles of those two are bad for the middle tier of the league because any wins against them may not mean as much. Both teams will need to redeem themselves in the coming weeks or the national perception of the AAC will take a hit.
Winner: Marcus Smart
No one is criticizing Marcus Smart for coming back to school after the week he had.
Smart dropped 39 points in a nationally-televised smacking around of Memphis and his Cowboys are now a top-five team and even received a first-place vote this week.
Oklahoma State looks like a legitimate Final Four candidate and Smart took the first step of proving to scouts that he can make outside shots. He was 5-of-10 from deep against the Tigers. If he shoots like that, the Cowboys will spend a lot of time in the top five this year.
It's not easy to stay in the national spotlight when you're at a school like VCU. Shaka Smart has turned himself into enough of a celebrity in college basketball that the Rams will most likely be part of the conversation all year.
But right now the conversation is this: What's wrong with the Rams and are they not nearly as good as we thought?
VCU had climbed to 10th last week and is now out of the Top 25 after a blowout loss to Florida State and a close loss to Georgetown, who had lost to Northeastern.
It will be tough for the Rams to get back in the Top 25, as they don't play an opponent ranked in the current Top 25 until Feb. 21 at UMass.