Following nearly two months of inertia atop the Associated Press college basketball rankings, there is a new team sitting at the top spot.
Gone is Arizona, which lost its No. 1 ranking and school-record 21-game winning streak Saturday night in a 60-58 loss to California. The Wildcats drop back to No. 2, leaving room for Syracuse—one of two remaining unbeatens—to ascend to the top of the college basketball hierarchy as the nation's unanimous No. 1 team.
Wichita State, despite being the other remaining undefeated squad, has not yet received enough credit from the rankers to move up past the No. 4 spot. Rounding out the Top Five behind Syracuse are No. 3 Florida and No. 5 San Diego State, the same as last week.
With a ton of shuffling going on elsewhere, here is a look at how the rest of the Top 25 played out:
|Rank||Team (First-Place Votes)||Record||Votes||Previous|
|5||San Diego State||19-1||1370||5|
The flip-flopping obviously begins with the former No. 1 Wildcats, who held the top spot for each of the last eight weeks. While it was a shock to some to see them go down in Berkeley, those who have been paying attention know Arizona had barely been holding on to the grip of its top spot for the past couple weeks.
Sean Miller's squad has been held below the 70-point mark for four straight contests, games highlighted by Saturday's loss to the Golden Bears and a near-upset in Palo Alto earlier last week. It took an unbelievable step-back jumper from Cal's Justin Cobbs to finally finish off the job, but now Arizona is left to pick up the pieces after a historic start.
While some teams are relieved to escape the pressure of an unbeaten streak, the Wildcats' conference loss also came with a crushing injury. Forward Brandon Ashley suffered a foot injury in the first half of Saturday's game after landing awkwardly on a jump and will miss the rest of the season, Miller said in a statement, per Nicole Auerbach of USA Today:
Brandon Ashley suffered a foot injury that will end his season. While we're all disappointed, we are also aware that Brandon needs our support and positive energy surrounding him. Someone once told me, the hottest heat forges the strongest steel. This adversity will ultimately make Brandon and our team stronger moving forward.
Ashley was third on the team with 11.5 points per game. With Arizona struggling so mightily on offense and so dependent on its length and athleticism defensively, it will be interesting to see what adjustments it makes when Oregon travels to Tucson on Feb. 6.
Just hours before Arizona gifted the No. 1 ranking, Syracuse was staking its claim to an ascent based on merit alone. The Orange defeated then-No. 17 Duke 91-89 in an overtime thriller that not only kicked off their schools' budding rivalry, but also served as the Blue Devils' first-ever visit to the Carrier Dome. A school-record 35,446 fans packed the stands to watch one of the best games of the regular season, as Jerami Grant scored eight points in overtime to help seal the victory.
Jim Boeheim used his postgame press conference to not only thank the fans who stuck around, but also chastise those who missed a great game in search of a big buck, per a school release:
Both teams just went after it. I can’t say enough about the quality of this game. It was the highest quality possible. If you paid $3400 on the market for a courtside seat it was money well spent. You should be happy that you did. And if you sold your tickets to this game you should be ashamed because you made some money and missed an epic.
As noted by Jay Williams of ESPN, this should be merely the beginning of a long, great rivalry:
People, it's just one game. Syracuse still goes to Duke. Looks like this is going to be a big time, big time rivalry.— Jay Williams (@RealJayWilliams) February 2, 2014
All told, you had to feel a lot better walking away from this weekend as a college basketball fan than a follower of the pigskin. Whereas the Seattle Seahawks had all but clinched their Super Bowl XLVIII victory by the 9 p.m. Eastern hour, college basketball turned in unpredictable results all week.
And not just with the first two teams.
No. 9 Michigan State has now lost two of three games after its surprising 64-60 loss to Georgetown at Madison Square Garden over the weekend. The Hoyas locked down a team still struggling without Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson, holding the Spartans below 40 percent from the field. Tom Izzo was encouraged by his team's overtime defeat of Iowa on Jan. 28, but it's clear now the Spartans are barely staying above water with all of their injuries.
The Spartans perhaps would have moved back more in a normal week, but a whole pile of elite teams also fell.
Then-No. 6 Kansas suffered its first loss in Big 12 play in an 81-69 rout by Texas that was much more of a blowout than the final score indicates. Andrew Wiggins fouled out with just seven points, as he and Joel Embiid combined to shoot 5-of-21 from the field. The Jayhawks dropped to No. 8.
The victory was the No. 15 Longhorns' fourth straight against a ranked opponent, and they're quietly establishing themselves as one of the best young teams in the country.
"We are a good team. But it is such a fine line between winning and losing, that if you start drinking the poison and think that you are there, it all gets away," coach Rick Barnes said, via Texas. "This is one game, and I want them to enjoy it because they should, but we have a long way to go."
Where Texas is making the Big 12 slowly build its resume among the nation's best conferences, the Big Ten—the assumed top conference—is starting to show some cracks. Ohio State's overtime loss to Penn State was enough to send the Buckeyes packing, while Wisconsin has now lost five of six games after a 16-0 start.
Both former Big Ten powers are on the outside looking in, joining UMass as the three dropping out of the poll. No. 20 Virginia, No. 22 Connecticut and No. 23 Gonzaga take their place.
Overall, more than half of the Top 25 lost at least one game. Conference play usually sends the rankings into a tailspin and causes widespread reevaluation, but we're starting to get to the point where anything looks possible come March.
Oklahoma State, which dropped 11 spots to No. 19, knows that well, as do No. 18 Kentucky and No. 25 Pittsburgh, both of which moved back seven spots. Texas (10 spots) followed by Creighton (eight) and Duke (six) are the biggest climbers among last week's Top 25.
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