Winners and Losers from the AP College Basketball Top 25 Rankings in Week 12
To nobody's surprise, Arizona and Syracuse are No. 1 and No. 2 in the AP college basketball Top 25 rankings for a seventh consecutive week.
More intriguing, however, are the biggest winners and losers.
We have a new Big Ten team ranked No. 3 for the second straight week. Following in Ohio State's footsteps, Wisconsin went from undefeated to two losses in less than a week, becoming one of this week's biggest losers and vacating the No. 3 spot for Michigan State to claim.
On the winning side of the fence, Kansas picked up a pair of wins over Top 10 teams, causing the Jayhawks' vote total to nearly double as they made the leap from No. 15 to No. 8.
And don't look now, but the A-10 is on the prowl. Massachusetts and Saint Louis jumped to No. 13 and No. 19, respectively, giving the A-10 as many teams in the Top 19 as the SEC, the AAC or the ACC. Meanwhile, the Big East and Pac-12 are each represented by just one team in the Top 25.
Here are the rest of this week's biggest winners and losers from the AP Top 25.
Winner: Iowa Hawkeyes
Back in October, ESPN's projection for Iowa (subscription required) was a ninth-place finish in the Big Ten.
Forget about the conference; Iowa is currently the 10th-best team in the entire country.
The Hawkeyes played just one game this week, and with 1:10 left in the first half, they were down by 10 at home against Minnesota. Within three minutes and 20 seconds of game time, they had turned that 10-point deficit into a six-point lead.
When all was said and done, they laid a 21-point smackdown on a team that beat Ohio State and pushed Michigan State to overtime in the previous week.
Iowa is still behind both Michigan and Michigan State in the conference standings, but that might change soon. The Hawkeyes travel to face the Wolverines on Wednesday and host the Spartans next Tuesday.
Loser: Wisconsin Badgers
Roughly seven days ago, we decided it was time to give the Badgers their due. Plenty has been said about Arizona and Syracuse, but Wisconsin's 16-0 record was repeatedly brushed under the rug.
We wrote about what makes Wisconsin so good and why it could very conceivably win it all this year, planning to run the article after the presumed win over Indiana on Tuesday night. After all, Bo Ryan had won 12 consecutive games against the Hoosiers.
When Indiana pulled off the upset, we decided to postpone the article until Saturday night, after Wisconsin presumably got back on track against Michigan.
The article never ran, and it probably never will. After 11 straight weeks without a loss, the Badgers lost twice in a span of 100 hours, dropping to No. 9 in the country.
Winner: Kansas State Wildcats
After finally making it into the AP Top 25 two weeks ago, Kansas State was unceremoniously dismissed from the rankings by its in-state rival.
The Wildcats bounced back nicely from that 26-point loss to the Jayhawks by upsetting Oklahoma and blowing out West Virginia in the past week.
They're now back in the rankings at No. 22, but we have to wonder whether they'll just be disappearing again next week. In the next seven days, Kansas State plays on the road against Texas and Iowa State.
For the time being, though, let's show some respect to a team that has won 12 of its last 13 games, including three wins against ranked opponents. Bruce Weber has done a fine job with this program since taking over a year and a half ago.
Loser: Baylor Bears
Baylor is officially challenging North Carolina for the honor of most frustratingly difficult team to figure out.
Prior to the new year, the Bears had neutral-court wins over Colorado, Dayton and Kentucky and came within seven points of handing Syracuse what would still serve as its only loss of the season.
In the past two weeks, though, they were blown out by Iowa State and Texas Tech (Texas Tech!!) and allowed Oklahoma to score 16 unanswered points against them in a loss on their home court.
In a span of 14 days, they dropped from No. 7 to No. 24. Unless they manage to win at Kansas on Monday night, they will likely drop out of next week's poll altogether.
Winner: Dethroned Members of the Preseason Top 7
Duke, Kansas, Louisville and Michigan fell on some hard times over the first two months of the season, but they each righted the ship this past week.
The Blue Devils trailed for all of 18 seconds in their win over Virginia on Monday night, then proceeded to demolish North Carolina State on Saturday by 35 points. Road games against Pittsburgh and Syracuse in the next two weeks will determine whether they're really back, but these two wins are certainly more promising than losses to Notre Dame and Clemson.
Louisville absolutely obliterated Houston two days before running away with a road win over Connecticut—despite playing both games without Chris Jones. Outside of a home game against Cincinnati on Jan. 30, the Cardinals don't play another game against an RPI Top 150 team in the next month.
Kansas remained undefeated in Big 12 play after recording wins over Iowa State and Oklahoma State. The Jayhawks now own seven wins against the RPI Top 50 and will look to add an eighth on Monday night at home against a struggling Baylor.
But the biggest winner of the preseason Top 7 was Michigan. Clearly, reports of the Wolverines' demise were greatly exaggerated. After a crucial road win over Wisconsin, they moved to 5-0 in Big Ten play and reappeared in the AP Top 25 at No. 21. With games against Iowa and Michigan State in the next seven days, Michigan could conceivably be back in the Top 10 before we know it.
All in all, the four teams combined to climb 23 spots in this week's poll.
Loser: Iowa State Cyclones
We try to mix things up and not give any team the same label in back-to-back weeks, but Iowa State pretty much mandated it.
After opening the season 14-0, the Cyclones have lost three consecutive games and taken quite the tumble to No. 16 in the latest poll.
Even though it was at home, the loss to Kansas was at least understandable. The other losses to Oklahoma and Texas are inexcusable for what was supposedly one of the 10 best teams in the country.
The Cyclones certainly won't get to relax anytime soon, either. Iowa State's next four games come against both schools from Kansas and Oklahoma.
If they're not careful—and if Oregon doesn't beat them to the punch—the Cyclones might set the record for most consecutive losses after opening the season with at least 12 straight wins. I have no earthly idea what the current record is, but I'm sure we'll find out if they don't win again soon.
Winner: San Diego State Aztecs
Coming from someone who always has brackets on the brain, San Diego State is officially becoming...interesting.
The Aztecs have one loss this season, and it came by single digits to the No. 1-ranked team (Arizona). They also have a road win over Kansas, which—at least from an RPI standpoint—is quite literally as good as it gets.
They currently have the 15th-best RPI in the country, and it wouldn't be completely outlandish to suggest that they might run the table in the Mountain West Conference.
Is it possible that both San Diego State and Wichita State will be in the running for a No. 1 seed in March? It's still way too early to make that call, but the Aztecs jumped another three spots in this week's poll, joining the AP's version of the Elite Eight.
Loser: The Big East
At this point in the season, it's pretty difficult for an entire conference to qualify as a winner or a loser. It's a dog eat dog world now, and if someone in the conference is going up, it means someone else is going down. Just look at the Big Ten. For as good as Iowa and Michigan ended up looking this week, Ohio State and Wisconsin look equally poor.
And yet, the Big East managed to pull off a considerable net loss for the week.
Despite beating an RPI Top 100 opponent by a score of 88-60 for the second time this season, Creighton dropped from No. 20 to No. 26 (unranked) because of a 13-point loss to Providence. Unless you're viewing the Friars through the same lens as the past eight or so seasons, there's nothing particularly disheartening about losing to them on their home floor.
However, it appears the AP voters are still looking at Providence as a perennial bottom-feeder in the Big East, because that signature win over Creighton wasn't enough to earn the Friars a single vote in this week's poll.
Elsewhere, Xavier picked up its seventh RPI Top 100 victory of the season, turning a 15-point deficit into a 13-point win against Georgetown. But it wasn't enough to get the voters' attention, as Xavier's vote count merely moved from three to four.
On the bright side, at least Villanova was able to leapfrog Wichita State to take over the No. 4 spot in this week's poll. The Wildcats were 11 votes behind Wichita State last week and sit nine votes ahead of the Shockers this week.
Winner: Pittsburgh Panthers
It's not often that a team can lose a game and move up two spots in the poll, but that's exactly what Pittsburgh did this week.
The AP voters almost begrudgingly put Pittsburgh in their cumulative Top 25 last week, debuting the Panthers at No. 22 with 299 votes. After a seven-point win over Georgia Tech and a five-point loss to Syracuse, they're now at No. 20 with 419 votes.
Sure, a good chunk of that inflation is due to the simple fact that Baylor, Colorado, Creighton and Memphis each tumbled in the standings and somebody was mathematically required to pick up the slack. However, it should also be taken as a vote of confidence in Pittsburgh.
The AP voters were clearly hesitant to rank the Panthers because of their weak schedule. They were 15-1 last Monday, but that one loss was their only game against a team in the RPI Top 50. After punching Syracuse in the mouth and nearly emerging from the Carrier Dome with a victory, more people are starting to believe in Pittsburgh.
Loser: Memphis Tigers
It's a tough call as to which Memphis result was more embarrassing this week: the 10-point loss at home to Connecticut or the 19 offensive rebounds the Tigers ceded to LeMoyne-Owen.
Granted, Memphis was playing its reserves for the majority of the second half, but why in the world is that game even on the schedule? It's bad enough to play D-II schools in November, but to play one in mid-January?
Maybe that sort of thing wasn't a big deal in Conference USA, but you're playing with the big boys now, Memphis. At least the Tigers will look to counterbalance that joke with a non-conference game against Gonzaga on February 8.
Getting back to the actual loss, though, Memphis had no answer for DeAndre Daniels (23 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks). In their loss to Florida earlier this season, the Tigers couldn't stop Casey Prather (22 points on 13 shots), and they struggled mightily with Cincinnati's Justin Jackson (13 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks).
Perhaps there is something deeper to those offensive rebounds that LeMoyne-Owen grabbed against them, because they're clearly having issues containing opposing big men. We'll see how they deal with Houston's TaShawn Thomas and South Florida's Victor Rudd this week.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.
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