Winners & Losers from the AP College Basketball Top 25 Rankings in Week 5
The AP votes are in, and Michigan State is the No. 1 college basketball team in the country for a third week in a row.
It's one of the few things that didn't change.
Preseason tournaments meant losses for Kansas, Oklahoma State, Duke and Gonzaga while catapulting Villanova, San Diego State and Dayton into the national spotlight.
Villanova had one of the biggest jumps in recent memory, debuting in the AP Top 25 at No. 14 after coming in at No. 37 just a week ago.
North Carolina experienced the biggest drop after losing to UAB on Sunday, slipping from No. 16 to No. 29. Gonzaga's fall from grace wasn't quite as steep, but America's favorite Cinderella dropped from No. 11 to No. 19 after its loss to Dayton in Maui.
After sifting through all the shakeups, here are this week's biggest winners and losers in the new AP rankings.
Winner: Anyone Who Didn't Lose a Game
It kind of goes without saying that it's good news not to lose games, but that goes doubly in weeks where everyone else is losing.
With nine of last week's Top 25 losing at least one game, teams that didn't lose automatically look even prettier.
Ohio State won games against Wyoming and North Florida, but the Buckeyes benefited from losses by three of the five teams previously ranked directly ahead of them, moving from No. 7 to No. 5. Massachusetts hasn't even played a game since the last poll, but the Minutemen jumped from No. 24 to No. 21.
In terms of public perception, Michigan State might have been the biggest benefactor of simply not losing. The Spartans merely played one game this week—a 33-point victory over Mount St. Mary's—but with three of the top six teams losing in the past seven days, they appear to be even more firmly entrenched in the top spot.
Loser: Everyone Who Didn't Vote for Dayton
Dayton just barely crept into the Top 25 with 90 votes. Considering there are 65 voters, you might assume that the vast majority of them either put Dayton at No. 24 or No. 25 on their ballot.
You would be wrong.
The weird thing about the bottom of the ballots is that one 18th-place vote ends up looking exactly like eight 25th-place votes. Bless their hearts, a couple of the voters had the stones to put Dayton in the top 20, which inflated their vote count.
However, I went through the individual ballots and found that 38 of the 65 voters did not cast a vote for the Flyers.
That is a travesty.
In their last four games, they traveled to Georgia Tech and comfortably handed the Yellow Jackets their first loss of the season, rallied in the second half for a big win over Gonzaga, came a tip-in away from beating Baylor and destroyed California.
We certainly weren't expecting much from the Flyers this season. ESPN projected them (insider required) to finish in sixth place in the Atlantic 10, and it would appear that many voters are still clinging to those preseason expectations.
We're not asking for Dayton to be ranked in the Top 10, but it certainly deserves to be on more than 50 percent of the ballots.
After spending a few seasons as the laughing stock of the BCS conferences, the Pac-12 is making a serious case for best conference in the nation.
Arizona, Oregon and UCLA each climbed higher in the polls this week, while Colorado continues to hover in "Others receiving votes" limbo.
Of course, aside from Arizona, many will argue that those teams haven't really been tested.
Outside of an opening night, neutral-court game in South Korea against Georgetown, Oregon's biggest challenge has been a home game against Pacific. Over the next three weeks, the Ducks will play at Ole Miss (6-0), vs. Illinois (7-0) and vs. BYU (6-2) to presumably put an end to the mindless "Yeah, but who have they played?" rebuttal.
UCLA also hasn't really been tested since a season-opening victory over Drexel that just keeps looking better by the day. A road game against Missouri, and a "neutral-court" game against Duke in New York over the course of the next 18 days should tell us whether Steve Alford's new team is for real.
And Colorado might not quite be ranked today, but the Buffs certainly would be next week if they can escape this week—at Colorado State and vs. Kansas—with a one-loss record intact.
Loser: Big 12
While the ACC was busy making a mockery of preseason tournaments—Maryland, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Virginia combined to win five of the 18 tournaments—the Big 12 crashed and burned.
Kansas lost to Villanova and nearly suffered losses to Wake Forest and UTEP in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Oklahoma State was outscored by 40 points in the second halves of its three games in the Old Spice Classic, culminating in a loss to Memphis. Baylor arguably should have lost to Dayton before losing to Syracuse in the Maui Invitational.
The conference's best tournament showing was probably Texas' narrow loss to BYU before obliterating DePaul.
It wasn't entirely bad news for the Big 12, though. Iowa State took advantage of not playing in a tournament by scoring a 59-point victory over the UMKC Kangaroos, though it didn't help them hop any higher in the polls, remaining at No. 17 for a second straight week.
Winner: Wichita State
Prior to this week, people were quietly starting to doubt Wichita State.
In the span of four consecutive games against Western Kentucky, William & Mary, Tennessee State and Tulsa—four names you're unlikely to hear on Selection Sunday—the Shockers scored a total of 127 first-half points while allowing the same amount.
Sure, they ended up comfortably winning each of those games, but it was at least curious that a highly ranked team was struggling to get out to a fast start against those teams—particularly Tennessee State, which is currently 0-8 on the season.
The Shockers at least temporarily put those fears to rest this week after picking up a pair of double-digit victories over DePaul and BYU in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, and adding a road win against Saint Louis that very few teams will be able to claim this season.
Coupled with Gonzaga's loss to Dayton, Wichita State now appears to be the mid-major team to beat this season. The Shockers inexplicably moved up only one spot after their dominant week, but they at least got B/R's C.J. Moore wondering if they're even better than the team that went to the Final Four last year.
Loser: Tobacco Road
There are entire seasons in which Duke and North Carolina don't have a week in which they both lose, but it's now happened twice in the span of three weeks.
As a result, this is the first time that neither team is ranked in the top nine of the AP Poll since February 1, 2010.
Duke's loss to Arizona in the NIT Season Tip-Off championship was neither unexpected nor disastrous. It further exposed some weaknesses we already knew were there—most notably the lack of interior defense, and an over-reliance on three players to do all the scoring—but a six-point loss on a neutral court to one of the best teams in the country isn't the end of the world.
The Tar Heels, on the other hand, maintained their weekly tradition of leaving us completely dumbfounded on Mondays.
On November 11, we were impressed that they were able to put up 58 first-half points in the season opener against Oakland without the suspended P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald. On the 18th, we were still reeling from their home loss to Belmont. Another week went by, and we were amazed that they scored 93 points to knock off Louisville in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament.
And now, less than 24 hours after a loss to UAB, we're left scratching our heads once again.
North Carolina plummeted from No. 16 to "Others receiving votes," but after four weeks, the Tar Heels officially have the widest range of expected outcomes in the country. They could win by a dozen at Michigan State on Wednesday and lose at home to UNC Greensboro on Saturday without it surprising anyone.
Isn't it funny how one shot can completely change our perception of a team?
Ryan Arcidiacono was 0-for-5 from the floor in the first 39:50 against Kansas. Had he dropped to 0-for-6, Villanova plays a relatively meaningless third game in the Battle 4 Atlantis against UTEP and maybe registers a blip on our radar as a 6-1 team that hasn't done anything other than almost beat Kansas.
Instead, he drained the shot, Villanova won the game, and went on to beat Iowa for a second win over a Top 25 team in as many days.
Suddenly, Jay Wright's Wildcats went from 16 votes in last week's poll—good for No. 37 if rankings went that deep—to 785 votes and No. 14 in the country.
They are now clearly the team to big in the New Big East. Butler, Creighton and Marquette each lost twice in the past seven days, while Georgetown's reputation is still reeling from that loss to Northeastern on November 21. Not only is Villanova the only undefeated team in the conference, but it's the only team with fewer than two losses.
A road trip to Syracuse on December 28 should be a good chance for us to figure out whether this team is for real, or if it just had a good weekend in the Bahamas.
Fran McCaffery's Hawkeyes have been so criminally underrated for a second consecutive season that they actually became a little overrated. We can only ask "why isn't anyone talking about Iowa?" so many times before everyone gets sick of us talking about Iowa.
The main argument from Iowa's naysayers has been that the team can't win when it matters. Iowa went 0-7 against ranked teams last season and lost by 20 in the NIT championship game against Baylor.
Early wins against the likes of Nebraska-Omaha and Maryland-Eastern Shore were enough for Iowa to check in at No. 23 in last week's poll, but the first real test of the season was expected to come in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis against Kansas.
Not only did Villanova beat Kansas to deny the Hawkeyes that opportunity, but also went ahead and beat Iowa in the championship game for good measure. Thanks to worse losses by North Carolina, Creighton and Marquette, the Hawkeyes are still ranked No. 23, but they missed out on a chance to jump into the top 20.
Three of Iowa's next four games are at home against Notre Dame in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, on a neutral court against better-than-you-realize Drake and on the road against Iowa State.
The Hawkeyes may have disappointed in the Bahamas, but they'll have plenty of chances in the next two weeks to get back in the voters' good graces.
Winner: San Diego State
Time to welcome the Aztecs back into the national conversation, as they enter the rankings at No. 24 this week.
Creighton looked incredible in the aftermath of a 28-point dismantling of Arizona State on Thanksgiving night, but San Diego State led by as many as 19 points in handing the Bluejays their first loss of the season the following night.
Two days later, the Aztecs completed the Big East sweep, withstanding a late Marquette rally to win the Wooden Legacy and improve to 5-1.
It bears mentioning that the one loss came against No. 2 Arizona, and that San Diego State was within four points of the Wildcats in the final two minutes.
We can't completely overlook Thursday's road trip to San Diego—considering the Toreros nearly won at New Mexico over the weekend—but it might be a month until Steve Fisher's club is really tested again. Three games against Colorado State, Kansas and Boise State in seven days will be one heck of a test, though.
Loser: Utah and Toledo
Tough to decide whether it's way too many or not nearly enough, but we're already down to 21 undefeated teams left in the country.
More than half of those teams are ranked in the Top 25, while most of the remaining teams at least picked up a couple of votes.
However, still no love for 6-0 Utah or Toledo.
Utah's lack of votes isn't particularly surprising, since Grand Canyon (4-3 with wins over San Diego Christian, West New Mexico, Lamar and Savannah State) is the only team with a record above .500 that the Utes have even played this season.
However, Toledo has a neutral-court win over Stony Brook and road wins over Boston College and Detroit. Those aren't eye-popping victories, but the Rockets are certainly more deserving of Gary Williams' 25th-place vote than Xavier, considering the Musketeers went 0-3 in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Winner: Memphis' Senior Guards
Less than two weeks ago, Memphis' four senior guards were downright embarrassed by Oklahoma State. Marcus Smart put together one of the most impressive box scores of the season while they combined to shoot 8-for-34 from the field for 21 points, eight assists, six steals and 10 turnovers.
They got their chance at revenge in the Old Spice Classic championship game on Sunday night, and they took full advantage of it.
Smart took 13 shots, scoring just 12 points and committing two extremely costly turnovers in the final 15 seconds of the game. Better yet, the once-embarrassed guards combined to make 17 of their 36 field goal attempts while scoring 45 points.
The Tigers won the rematch and jumped five spots in the latest poll in the process. Barring an unlikely loss to Northwestern State or Arkansas-Little Rock, the December 17 showdown with Florida in NYC could be a battle between teams ranked in the top 15.
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