Winners & Losers from the AP College Basketball Top 25 Rankings in Week 11
Arizona and Syracuse occupy the top two spots in the college basketball AP Top 25 rankings for a sixth consecutive week, but we're only interested in the winners and losers.
For the first time in more than a month, a Top Five team suffered a loss. To really drive the point home, Ohio State lost twice and dropped from No. 3 to No. 11. Joining the Buckeyes in their double dip of rocky road, Oregon, Illinois and North Carolina each lost two games this week.
At the better end of the spectrum, Kansas, Memphis and Oklahoma State each picked up a much-needed pair of wins after suffering disappointing losses last weekend. Those three teams combined to move up 12 spots in this week's rankings.
There are an awful lot of new faces in the latest Top 25, as well. Cincinnati, Creighton, Saint Louis, UCLA, Pittsburgh and Oklahoma each benefited from losses by Oregon, Missouri, Gonzaga, Illinois and Kansas State.
There were plenty to choose from, but these are the week's biggest winners and losers.
Winner: Florida Gators
It seems like a lifetime ago that Florida was struggling with lesser in-state teams like North Florida and Florida State.
Playing without leading scorer Casey Prather and with a hobbled team leader in the form of Scottie Wilbekin, the Gators gutted out one of the more impressive wins of the weekend on the road against Arkansas.
The Razorbacks aren't a great team—they might make the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years if they're lucky—but given the circumstances and the difficulty that so many other teams have had playing on the road in the past two weeks, it was the type of win that merited a jump in the polls for Florida.
Florida moved from No. 10 to No. 7, and as any Gator fan will remind you until blue and orange in the face, this team might be getting even better once Chris Walker starts playing.
Loser: Colorado Buffaloes
Forget about the loss to Washington. With the way the Huskies have been playing the past few weeks, that could happen to anyone.
The real tragedy for Colorado is the loss of Spencer Dinwiddie for the rest of the season, as reported by ESPN's Jeff Goodman.
Maybe the Buffaloes will bounce back and figure out how to win without their leading scorer, but things could be going downhill in a hurry. Over the next 12 days, they host UCLA and play on the road against both Arizona schools.
Hours before Sunday's game began, I had moved Colorado into the Top 10 in my power rankings. Between the loss and the injury to Dinwiddie, the Buffaloes dropped to No. 21 in the AP poll. If there hadn't been so many losses by teams previously ranked in the 20s, they probably would have dropped out of the Top 25 altogether.
Winner: Iowa Hawkeyes
Prior to this weekend, the best thing that one could say about Iowa is that its three losses came against three of the 10 best teams in the country. Losses away from home against Iowa State, Villanova and Wisconsin are nothing to be ashamed of—especially considering the Hawkeyes really could've won each of those games.
However, this is neither horseshoes nor hand grenades. Almost wins don't count for diddly, and Iowa's best win of the season was in comeback fashion against a short-handed Xavier.
It's safe to say that a road win over Ohio State will shut up the "Who have they beaten?" haters. According to my colleague Jason King, junior forward Aaron White said following the victory, "We’ve been a good team all year, but we hadn’t had that signature win yet. We hadn’t made that statement.”
Coupled with a blowout win over Northwestern, Iowa had one of the most impressive weeks of any team in the country, and the AP voters gave notice. After nearly two months of hovering in the 20s and never receiving more than 278 votes in a given week, Iowa exploded for 831 votes and jumped to No. 14.
Loser: State Schools from 4-Letter States
Ohio State dropped from the ranks of the unbeatens with authority.
The Buckeyes certainly made a game out of the overtime loss to Michigan State, but it was subpar play in the first 32 minutes of the game that even necessitated a Twitter-crippling comeback in the first place. They put the shoe on the other foot against Iowa, blowing a nine-point lead midway through the second half en route to a 10-point loss at home.
They became the first Top Five team to lose a game since Michigan State's Dec. 4 loss to North Carolina. Losing twice caused them to drop all the way out of the Top 10.
Iowa State had a bit of a weird week, demolishing the No. 7 team in the country (Baylor) on Tuesday before losing to unranked Oklahoma on Saturday. It ended up being roughly a net wash, as the Cyclones moved from No. 9 to No. 8 and lost just 28 of their 1,076 votes from last week. However, it left us wondering whether they could actually win on the road against quality teams.
Aside from their spot in the polls, though, the Cyclones ended up being a pretty big loser with DeAndre Kane sidelined indefinitely with an ankle injury. If you don't follow Iowa State basketball well enough to know how big of a deal that is, allow me to point out that B/R's C.J. Moore had Kane ranked No. 3 in his Player of the Year rankings on Thursday. Playing without him will make Monday night's home game against Kansas at least three times as challenging.
Completing the trifecta, Utah State lost to Nevada on Saturday, dropping the Aggies to 1-2 in Mountain West play while propelling Nevada to 4-0. Utah State was nowhere near anyone's Top 25 and probably doesn't deserve to be mentioned here, but it fits the description of the slide title and gives us a chance to point out that Nevada is astonishingly undefeated in conference play after losing eight of its first 13 games.
Winner: Cincinnati Bearcats
At long last, Cincinnati makes its debut in the AP Top 25, checking in at No. 19.
The Bearcats didn't do much this week. A narrow road win over Houston and a comfortable win at home over Rutgers aren't exactly eye-popping results, but the body of work finally became too much to ignore.
Cincinnati is working on an eight-game winning streak and hasn't allowed an opponent to score more than 67 points all season. Neither of those figures to be in much jeopardy this week when the Bearcats take on Temple and South Florida.
Some will cite a weak schedule as justification for keeping Cincinnati out of the rankings until now. Nuts to that; they have five wins against the RPI Top 75. Last Monday, Baylor had just three such wins while Oklahoma State and San Diego State had only two each, and all three of those teams received at least 800 votes in the last poll.
They may not score many points, but the Bearcats and their defense are the real deal. Glad to see the AP finally recognizing that.
Loser: Oregon Ducks
Early in the season, the Oregon bandwagon began filling up quickly. The Ducks started the year 13-0, but only four of those wins came against teams ranked in the RPI Top 70.
After three straight losses in which the Ducks gave up 92.7 points per game, it seems the AP voters are finally seeing this team for what it is.
Just eight days ago, Oregon was considered the 10th-best team in the country. After having its horrible defense exposed, it is no longer ranked in the Top 25.
How far will the Ducks fall? Last season, they were 18-2 in mid-January before losing six of their final 11 games and needing to win the Pac-12 tournament just to make the NCAA tournament as a No. 12 seed. (Outrage over that seed notwithstanding.)
With five road games between now and Feb. 8, we probably haven't seen the last of Oregon's losing skid.
Winner: Creighton Bluejays
When news broke about Grant Gibbs' dislocated kneecap, there was reason to worry about how Creighton would respond. Better teams have lost lesser players and entered into a downward spiral.
But not Creighton.
Playing on Sunday without their starting point guard against a very good Xavier team, the Bluejays scored 95 points, registering an assist on 23 of their 30 made field goals. Avery Dingman and Devin Brooks were far from perfect in their newly expanded roles (a combined eight assists and six turnovers), but having Doug McDermott (35 points on Sunday) on the team can cover up a multitude of flaws.
We'll see how well they do on the road against Providence and Villanova in the next eight days, but the Bluejays are back in the AP Top 25 at No. 20 after a six-week hiatus.
Loser: North Carolina Tar Heels
It's going to be a while before we get to talk about North Carolina in this space again, so let's make it count.
After picking up their fifth and sixth losses in the past week, the Tar Heels have dropped completely out of the rankings conversation. They were a No. 5 seed in my projected NCAA tournament bracket less than two weeks ago. When we update the bracket this Thursday, they might be lucky to even make the tournament field.
That might seem harsh for a team with three huge wins, but they are the only winless team in the ACC. That's right: Boston College won a conference game before North Carolina. Aside from perhaps Dayton—which has played just one A-10 game so far—there isn't another team in the country without a conference victory that is even remotely in play for the NCAA tournament.
And other than the Syracuse game, it's not as if the Tar Heels struggled against the cream of the ACC crop. They lost to Miami and Wake Forest, who are a combined 0-4 in the ACC when they aren't playing North Carolina.
It has been 17 years since the Tar Heels opened ACC play with three consecutive losses. Then again, they went on to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament that year, advancing to the Final Four before losing to eventual champion, Arizona. So, who knows what this means for their future?
At present, though, this team is a mess. It should be a forgiving week for the Heels, as their only game in the next seven days is at home against Boston College. On behalf of Powder Blue Nation, I hope they spend the entirety of that down time working on free throws and three-pointers.
5 Other Winners
Memphis Tigers: No matter how much Louisville is struggling this season, beating the Cardinals at the KFC Yum! Center is quite impressive. Winning a pair of road games this week was exactly what the doctor ordered for a team that was throttled at home by Cincinnati last weekend.
Saint Louis Billikens: Just like Memphis, Saint Louis won two road games this week and finally made its way into the AP Top 25. Emphasis on AP there, because we had the Billikens ranked three weeks ago.
Villanova Wildcats: In the last two weeks, Villanova has three road wins and a blowout win at home over Providence. The Wildcats climbed two spots this week by default of losses by Baylor and Ohio State, but this is a very strong team that has rebounded nicely from that loss to Syracuse a few weeks ago.
Wichita State Shockers: After a day full of watching power conference games, the final 12 minutes between Wichita State and Missouri State were painful to watch. However, the Shockers came back from an 18-point halftime deficit to remain one of the four undefeated teams in the country.
Michigan Wolverines: Don't look now, but John Beilein's squad is 3-0 in conference play and gradually making its way back toward the Top 25. After a home game against Penn State on Wednesday, though, the Wolverines play at Wisconsin, vs. Iowa and at Michigan State in a span of seven days. Time to sink or swim.
5 Other Losers
Duke Blue Devils: They were possibly the biggest loser this week, but instead of giving them one slide in this recap of the latest rankings, we gave them an entire article over the weekend.
Gonzaga Bulldogs: Portland? Seriously? Over the last two seasons, Gonzaga was 4-0 against Portland with an average margin of 25.5 points per game. Unless they win at Memphis on Feb. 8, we may have seen the last of the Zags in the Top 25 this year.
Illinois Fighting Illini: Nothing says overrated like breaking into the Top 25 and immediately losing by 25 at Wisconsin and playing arguably the ugliest game of the year at Northwestern. Yes, playing on the road in the Big Ten might be the biggest challenge in the country, but goodness gracious.
Kansas State Wildcats: To be fair, their win at Kansas on Jan. 14, 2006 was the last time they even came within 13 points of winning at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Still, that 26-point drubbing on Saturday afternoon was tough to watch.
Pittsburgh's Doubters: There were eight voters who did not include Pittsburgh on their ballots, per PollSpeak.com. I don't care that the Panthers don't have a single win over a team in the RPI Top 50. There are not 25 teams better than them.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.