College Basketball Rankings: B/R Experts' Week 11 Poll
When 2013 ended, it looked like 2014 was going to be a great year for the Pac-12.
Arizona and Oregon were undefeated. Colorado was climbing the rankings and had just beaten Kansas. UCLA wasn't in that group yet, but Steve Alford had his team playing great on the offensive end. Even bottom-dweller Utah had been impressive with an 11-1 start.
Well, the first two weeks of 2014 have not been kind to the perception of the league. This week, only one other Pac-12 team made the B/R Rankings, and that team, Colorado, just barely made it. The Buffs lost on Sunday at Washington and might be without star Spencer Dinwiddie for the rest of the season. If that's the case, who knows if the Buffs will even be able to make the tourney?
Oregon has lost three straight after a 13-0 start. The Ducks can score, but they can't guard.
The same can be said for the Bruins, who could be the second-best team in the league if Dinwiddie is finished. That's a UCLA team that lost at Missouri and got worked by Duke at Madison Square Garden.
Maybe California—3-0 in conference play—is for real and will help the league's image. But outside of Arizona, it's hard to find a team you can trust.
Teams to Watch: Xavier, California, VCU
Dropped Out of Rankings: Missouri, Oregon
All advanced stats, unless otherwise noted, come from KenPom.com (subscription required).
Previous Ranking: 13
Colorado often lives and dies with Askia Booker. That'll be the case now more than ever with star guard Spencer Dinwiddie possibly finished for the season after injuring his left knee in the first half of Sunday's 71-54 loss at Washington.
"I don't have a prognosis right now," coach Tad Boyle said after the game, via the Daily Camera. "It didn't feel good, but we'll find out. Right now, I don't know. I'll have a chance to talk to (trainer Rawley Klingsmith) and then obviously he'll see our doctors when we get back, but right now I'm not sure.
"My gut is not good."
Booker had been playing great since knocking down the buzzer-beating three to beat Kansas. Going into Sunday, the junior guard was averaging 19.3 points in Colorado's first three Pac-12 games and was the conference's player of the week a week ago. But he absolutely didn't show for the Buffs on Sunday.
Booker missed all nine shots, had three turnovers and went scoreless for the first time since his freshman season.
Previous Ranking: Not ranked
If you didn't watch Oklahoma's upset of Iowa State on Saturday, go ahead and clear your calendar on Feb. 1 for the rematch.
The Sooners and Cyclones are two of the most entertaining teams in the country to watch. Not a big surprise considering the coaches.
Lon Kruger has his team playing fast—the Sooners' average possession is 14.7 seconds—and it has one of the best scoring tandems most of the country knows nothing about in Cameron Clark and Buddy Hield. Clark dropped 32 points on both Michigan State and Kansas, and Hield had 22 on Saturday against the Cyclones.
OU has a big week ahead—at K-State on Tuesday and at Baylor on Saturday. If they win both those games, the Sooners will be in great position for a top-four finish in what might be the best league in the country.
Previous Ranking: 16
It might be time to start worrying about the Blue Devils.
Duke has lost two of three, the latest of which was a 13-point loss at Clemson on Saturday. Defenses are beginning to figure out how to guard Jabari Parker, and he's averaged 11.5 points over his last four games.
So far in conference play, Duke ranks ninth in defensive efficiency, giving up nearly 1.1 points per possession. And on Monday, the Blue Devils welcome arguably the hottest team in the league, Virginia, to Cameron Indoor. A 1-3 start in ACC play is not unfathomable.
Previous Ranking: 24
Doug McDermott gets all the love, and no one at Creighton is complaining, but it's time to heap some praise on the guy who might just be the best three-point shooter in college basketball.
Wait, isn't that McDermott?
Nope. It's Ethan Wragge. All he does, almost literally, is drain threes. Wragge has made only two shots inside the arc all season and has 61 threes. He's made a three in every game this year and has made at least four treys in 11 of Creighton's 16 games.
That McDermott guy isn't bad either. He dropped 35 points against Xavier on Sunday with a bum shoulder.
Previous Ranking: 21
Pittsburgh has been dominant all season and is outscoring ACC opponents by 20 points per 100 possessions.
But even four games into the conference season, the story hasn't changed. The Panthers haven't beaten anybody of note.
That could change on Saturday when Pittsburgh travels to Syracuse. Before you count out the Panthers, here's a record worth considering: Jamie Dixon is 10-4 against Jim Boeheim.
20. Saint Louis
Previous Ranking: 22
Looking for the most underrated team in America?
It's Saint Louis. The defending Atlantic 10 champs are somehow not ranked in either national poll, an injustice you would think ends this Monday.
Don't worry, Billikens, we're here to give you love.
We realize Saint Louis has two losses by a combined 11 points to two teams (Wisconsin and Wichita State) that have yet to lose a game. And the Shockers were lucky to win. They trailed by seven at Saint Louis with less than seven minutes to go.
Saint Louis, San Diego State and Villanova are the only teams in college basketball that have only lost to undefeated teams. That's a pretty good club to belong to.
Previous Ranking: 23
Massachusetts has had to come back in the second half in its first two Atlantic 10 games and trailed by 13 with less than 10 minutes left at home on Saturday against Saint Bonaventure.
Star Chaz Williams went 1-of-7 from the field and scored eight points. The close call and Williams' struggles are both worrisome.
But the good news is that this team continues to show it can win without Williams at his best, something that was not true in the past. Williams has failed to reach double figures twice this season, and UMass has won both times.
Previous Ranking: 15
Louisville got its best win of the season on Sunday by knocking off SMU. Yes, you read that correctly.
That fact is not a good thing for the Cardinals. But here's some good news: Luke Hancock, the Final MOP version, appears to be back.
Hancock has averaged 21.5 points in his last two games, and he's once again playing with confidence. No one outside of Russ Smith has been very consistent for the Cardinals, so if Rick Pitino can get Hancock to keep this up, that at least solves one issue.
Previous Ranking: Not ranked
It's good we can retire the "Josh Pastner can't win against good teams" narrative now that Memphis has beaten two ranked opponents (Oklahoma State and Louisville) this season.
Pastner is finally getting a chance to prove himself now that the Tigers are out of Conference USA. No offense to the C-USA, but it was hard to put much value in whatever Memphis did year in and year out in the league.
The AAC has three teams ranked here this week and will probably send four or five teams to the tourney.
Previous Ranking: 18
Since losing back-to-back games to New Mexico and Xavier, the Bearcats have won eight straight, and the most points they've given up during that stretch is 62 to Chicago State in a 40-point win. Four of those eight opponents had their least efficient games of the season.
It might be too soon to call the Bearcats the favorites in the AAC—they've yet to play Louisville, and they get them twice—but considering they already won at Memphis and have the league's best defense, maybe it's not too soon.
Previous Ranking: 19
Kansas is the only Big 12 team with a perfect conference record, and Bill Self's team looked really good on the offensive end in the last week.
Self has to like what he's seen in Big 12 play thus far too: man defense.
KU has had to go against a zone on only nine possessions in two games—all against OU, according to Synergy Sports Technology. The Jayhawks struggled against zones during nonconference play, and it has been clear they're a lot tougher to stop when manned up—unless you're San Diego State.
Against man-to-man in the half court, KU has an efficiency of 96.8 (points per 100 possessions), but that drops to 88.3 against zone, per Synergy. That could continue on Monday, as Iowa State has played only 13 possessions of zone all season, according to Synergy.
14. Ohio State
Previous Ranking: 4
All season, Ohio State's offense has been inconsistent, but the defense was so good that it didn't matter.
Now that the Buckeyes are playing the best of the Big Ten, it matters.
The biggest issue for the Buckeyes could be what to do in crunch time when they need a bucket. Aaron Craft is good for a strong drive in crucial situations, but he really has no counter to that. His outside shot (28 percent from three this year) is a liability.
Ohio State's best scorer is LaQuinton Ross, but can Thad Matta trust Ross in those situations after Sunday? Ross missed a three and had back-to-back turnovers during the stretch that saw Iowa take the lead for good. He finished with 22 points, but his five turnovers were costly.
13. Oklahoma State
Previous Ranking: 14
Oklahoma State has the best backcourt in the country, and it's not all because of Marcus Smart.
Markel Brown never gets enough love, and it was Brown, not Smart, who hit what was the biggest shot to date for the Cowboys all season on Saturday at West Virginia.
With his team trailing by two and on the verge of dropping to 1-2 in the Big 12, Brown pump-faked and hit a ballsy three for the win. And it wasn't just ballsy because he took a three off a pump-fake; Brown hadn't made a three since Dec. 17 and had missed 13 straight and 22 of his last 24.
Props to Brown. That's the shot of the week.
Previous Ranking: 9
Baylor has one of the most talented and deepest rosters in the country. In a blowout win over TCU on Saturday, Baylor's bench outscored its starters 52-36.
The roster is good enough to win the Big 12, but no one will take the Bears seriously on that front until they knock off Kansas, Iowa State or Oklahoma State. They're 0-1 so far after losing last Tuesday at Iowa State. Their next big opportunity is Jan. 20 at Kansas.
The schedule is brutal in that Baylor has to travel to the Big 12's other best three teams before any of them head to Waco.
11. San Diego State
Previous Ranking: 11
A week ago, San Diego State's defense held Kansas to its worst shooting performance of the season. The Aztecs took away KU's post players with double-teams and kept Andrew Wiggins out of the paint—only three of Wiggins' 14 shots were at the rim, and one of those was a run-out layup.
Steve Fisher can accomplish that because he has a team with great athletes who have experience and understand how to play defense. In the half court, the Aztecs rank No. 1 in the country in defensive efficiency (0.63 points per possession), according to Synergy.
Previous Ranking: 10
Two weeks ago in the second half against Louisville, Kentucky's other freshmen proved they could win without Julius Randle.
In Randle's last two games, he has not been himself—15 points on 6-of-17 shooting—but the other Wildcats continue to pick up the slack.
That's why John Calipari loves the potential of this team. Not many could have their star struggling to score and still win easily. (See Duke.)
Previous Ranking: 20
Iowa made the best defense in college basketball look average on Sunday afternoon.
The Hawkeyes' 84-74 win at Ohio State made a lot of statements. For Fran McCaffery, it was the biggest win of his career, and it was the first time Iowa knocked off a top-five team since Dec. 15, 2001, according to Iowa basketball's Twitter feed.
It was also the first time a team has put up more than 80 points against the Buckeyes since Feb. 10 last season, when Indiana did it in Bloomington. No one had topped 80 at Value City Arena since Feb. 7. 2012, when Purdue scored 84 and lost.
And this wasn't a fluke or just an off day for the Buckeyes. Iowa is the better team and a real contender in the Big Ten race.
Previous Ranking: 12
The last two times Jay Wright's teams got off to this good a start—in both 2009-10 and 2010-11—Villanova struggled down the stretch and had early tourney exits.
The difference with these Wildcats is that they play much better defense than those two teams, and the new Big East isn't what the old Big East was. Wright's team should end up with a shiny record and a high seed thanks to wins over Kansas and Iowa in nonconference play.
7. Iowa State
Previous Ranking: 8
The success rate for Fred Hoiberg's team has been pretty good trying to shoot as many threes as possible, but it may have cost the Cyclones when they lost for the first time at Oklahoma on Saturday.
Iowa State shot 71.8 percent (28-of-39) inside the arc and made only 23.1 percent (6-of-26) of its threes. For the season, the Cyclones are second in the country in two-point percentage (58.9 percent) and shoot only 35.6 percent from deep.
Of course, the threat of a three is what makes it so much easier inside the arc for the Cyclones, who still put up 82 points in Norman.
It is something to at least keep an eye on going forward. For the Cyclones to win the league—which actually seems possible, especially if they knock off KU on Monday—they'll need to start shooting better from the perimeter or attacking inside the line more often.
Previous Ranking: 7
Florida has rarely been at full strength this season—when that happens, the Gators are Top Five good—but Billy Donovan's team was shorthanded on Saturday at Arkansas.
The Gators were able to win in overtime with Casey Prather out with a bruised bone in his right knee, according to Harry Fodder of GatorZone.com, and with both Scottie Wilbekin (ankle sprain) and Patric Young (tendinitis) coming off the bench. Senior forward Will Yeguete is the only Gator to start every game this season.
Florida's top seven players in the rotation have missed a combined 12 games because of injuries or suspensions, and Florida is still waiting on McDonald's All-American Chris Walker to get cleared by the NCAA.
5. Wichita State
Previous Ranking: 6
Team of destiny?
The Shockers have some sort of special mojo going. They trailed by 19 with less than 12 minutes left on the road on Saturday at Missouri State and somehow rallied to win. That's the fifth time this season Wichita State has trailed by double digits.
The schedule suggests that an undefeated regular season is a real possibility—the Shockers will be favorites the rest of the way—but the targets on their chests have never been bigger than they are now.
4. Michigan State
Previous Ranking: 3
When Michigan State has struggled from the three-point line this year in competitive games, Tom Izzo has been able to go to one simple fix: Put the ball in Keith Appling's hands and let him attack.
Against Oklahoma, the Spartans went 6-of-19 from deep. Appling scored 14 of his 27 points in the paint and made 10 of 14 free throws.
In an overtime win over Minnesota on Saturday that came without Adreian Payne, the Spartans went 7-of-21 from three. Appling scored 24 points, mostly by getting to the line, where he made a career-high 15 free throws.
Previous Ranking: 5
Bo Ryan's teams typically keep turnover numbers low and shoot a lot of spot-up threes. It's no coincidence that this is shaping up to be his best team.
The Badgers are turning the ball over on 12.7 percent of their possessions, which would be the lowest mark in Ryan's tenure, and they're making 39.8 percent of their threes, which would be the best of Ryan's 13 teams at Wisconsin.
In last Wednesday's impressive 95-70 win over Illinois, the Badgers turned it over only four times in a 71-possession game and made eight of 19 threes. Hard not to feel for the Illini. No team in America would have a chance against that kind of performance.
Previous Ranking: 2
Syracuse has had to win ugly in two of its first three ACC games. Jim Boeheim's team is able to do that because of the zone, of course, but the Orange had been looking pretty salty on the offensive end heading into ACC play.
The offense hasn't looked as great lately because of the shooting struggles of Trevor Cooney. Cooney has made only nine of his last 37 threes (24.3 percent). For the season, he's still at 42.4 percent.
When Cooney is shooting the ball well, Syracuse is elite on both ends. When he's not, the Orange usually have to win ugly.
Previous Ranking: 1
Arizona just keeps looking better and better as the season progresses, and I've been so impressed that I started to consider something Bill Walton said last Thursday during the win against UCLA: Is this the best team Arizona has ever had?
Yeah, I know. Mike Bibby, Miles Simon and Michael Dickerson played on the same team with Jason Terry coming off the bench, and that team won a national title. Let's pump the brakes, right?
Well, that team also lost seven games in the Pac-10 and got drilled by 25 by Utah in the Elite Eight the next season.
Lute Olson had other great teams too. The 2000-01 and 2002-03 teams had a lot of pros, but Olson's teams never played the kind of defense Sean Miller has this team playing. And Miller has five—maybe even six—future NBA players on this roster.
I'll give it a few months, but I'm ready to at least start the conversation.
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