Winners and Losers from the AP College Basketball Top 25 Rankings in Week 15
The top six teams remained the same for a second consecutive week in college basketball's AP Top 25, but there were a ton of winners and losers among the other 19 spots.
Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Gonzaga each dropped out of the Top 25 this week, making room for Wisconsin and Ohio State to reappear in the rankings and for Southern Methodist to make an appearance for the first time in nearly three decades.
Iowa State was the biggest upward mover of the week, jumping five spots to No. 11 for the triple-OT win over Oklahoma State and Melvin Ejim's 48-point game against TCU. The biggest slider was Creighton, which fell six spots to No. 18 after suffering a tough loss at St. John's on Sunday night.
Here are the rest of this week's winners and losers.
Winner: The ACC
Most importantly, Syracuse remained undefeated for another week. Home games against Notre Dame and Clemson weren't particularly expected to be stumbling blocks, but the Orange stayed unanimously at the top of the AP Top 25 for a second consecutive week and are two steps closer to an undefeated season.
Of course, they still have road games left against these next three teams, so there aren't many out there who actually think Syracuse can pull off a regular season without any losses.
This marks the first Monday in 2014 that Duke has found its way back into the Top 10. Not only did Cincinnati, Michigan and Michigan State all lose games to make room for the Blue Devils, but Duke destroyed Wake Forest and Boston College by 20 and 21 points, respectively. If the Blue Devils are still playing this well a month from now, they'll be one of the two or three favorites to win the NCAA tournament.
Virginia also continued its climb up the Top 25 ladder, moving from No. 20 to No. 17 after convincing wins over Boston College and Georgia Tech.
Perhaps the biggest winner of all, though, was Pittsburgh. The Panthers needed overtime to win at Miami (11-12 on the season) and double overtime to win at home against Virginia Tech (8-15 on the season). For narrowly beating two teams who are now a combined 3-17 in 2014, Pittsburgh miraculously stayed in the field at No. 25.
This week will be the true test for Pittsburgh, as it hosts Syracuse on Wednesday before traveling to a surging North Carolina on Saturday. It has probably been a while since you even thought about the Tar Heels, but they have won five straight games by double digits and picked up one vote this week. Should they emerge from home games against Duke and Pittsburgh with a 2-0 record, they'll be flying back up the polls.
Loser: The State of Oklahoma
By now, you've no doubt heard about the Marcus Smart incident and his resulting three-game suspension. But the Cowboys were almost certainly going to lose that game to Texas Tech regardless of who said what with six seconds remaining.
It was the team's fourth consecutive loss in the standings and the third time in just over a month that it lost a key player. Michael Cobbins is out for the season with a torn Achilles, Stevie Clark was dismissed from the team due to a litany of disciplinary issues and it will now be without Smart for a three-game stretch that could effectively end their season.
Oklahoma State was ranked No. 8 just two weeks ago. The Cowboys somehow received 10 votes this week.
Meanwhile, the Sooners lost a second consecutive road game this week (at West Virginia) before rebounding with a convincing home win over Baylor—sending the Bears to 2-8 in Big 12 play. Oklahoma slipped from No. 21 to No. 26 (unranked), but should be able to rebound this week against Texas Tech and a depleted Oklahoma State.
Winner: Southern Methodist Mustangs
Beverly Hills Cop was the No. 1 hit in the box office.
A gallon of gasoline cost $1.20.
Mike Tyson made his professional boxing debut with a first-round TKO of Hector Mercedes.
Heck, Wrestlemania I was still several weeks from becoming a reality the last time Southern Methodist was ranked in the AP Top 25.
The Mustangs went nearly 30 years between appearances in the rankings, but finally broke that streak this week after taking Cincinnati behind the woodshed and making the Bearcats the third consecutive team that they have beaten by at least 15 points. They make a long-awaited debut in the polls at No. 23.
In fact, it might be time to start investigating what makes SMU so deadly at home. The Mustangs are now 13-0 at Moody Coliseum with an average margin of victory of 21 points per game. Connecticut lost by nine points at SMU on Jan. 4, and the Huskies are the only team this season to come within 14 points of knocking off the Mustangs on their home court.
Another streak that will be broken in a little over a month: SMU hasn't competed in the NCAA tournament since 1993.
Loser: The State of Michigan
For the second time in less than a week, the Wolverines were blown out on the road—most recently an 18-point loss to Iowa on Saturday. After winning 10 straight to get to No. 10 in the country, they have now lost two out of three to slip to No. 15.
However, it was the Spartans who were the big losers in the Great Lake State.
It seems they are doomed to a perpetual state of playing without multiple key players. Adreian Payne finally returned this week after a seven-game absence, but was immediately replaced on the bench by Keith Appling. Appling will likely miss a couple of weeks with a right wrist injury, according to Raphielle Johnson of NBC Sports.
Though it lost to Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon, Michigan State stays at No. 9 for a second consecutive week. Had the Spartans dropped, it would have been the first time since Feb. 2, 2009 that the Big Ten failed to have a representative in the AP Top 10. That streak remains alive for now.
Winner: Memphis Tigers
Memphis has gotten into a bizarre pattern of narrowly winning one big game, losing two big games and repeating the series.
After winning the rematch against Oklahoma State on Dec. 1, the Tigers proceeded to lose to Florida and Cincinnati before shocking Louisville. They "built" on that huge win with losses to Connecticut and Southern Methodist by double digits.
This weekend, they fulfilled the pattern with a close—but very important—home win over Gonzaga.
We'll see if they can break the cycle with a road win over Connecticut on Saturday.
For stomping Rutgers by 32 points and beating the (overrated) Bulldogs in the past week, Memphis jumped four spots to No. 20 and remained on the verge of contention for the American regular-season championship.
Loser: Gonzaga Bulldogs
America's favorite Cinderella team played an uncharacteristically weak nonconference schedule this year.
Entering this weekend, the Zags' only nonconference game against the RPI Top 50 was a 10-point neutral-court loss to Kansas State. Saturday's road trip to Memphis was perhaps the team's last chance to prove itself to us, but the Bulldogs came up short in a 60-54 loss.
It was the third time in their last six games that they failed to reach 60 points on offense after averaging 89.4 points per game through the first 10 games of the season.
The loss came on the heels of a home game against Portland in which they were outscored by a 43-17 margin during a 20-minute stretch of what eventually amounted to a five-point win for Gonzaga.
Last Monday was Gonzaga's first appearance in the AP Top 25 after a three-week hiatus from the polls. Just like that, the Bulldogs are back on the outside looking in.
Winner: Previously Woebegone Big Ten Teams
Between Jan. 7 and Feb. 1, Ohio State and Wisconsin had a combined record of 4-10. Home games against Illinois—which just ended an eight-game losing streak this weekend—accounted for 50 percent of those wins.
Evidently, the head-to-head game between the Buckeyes and Badgers last weekend caused something to snap, because they combined to go 4-0 this past week, including wins over Iowa and Michigan State.
Both Ohio State and Wisconsin were ranked for the first 13 weeks of the season and were both in the AP Top Five as recently as Jan. 6, but had both fallen out of the rankings last week. They only spent seven days out of the polls, though, as the Badgers and Buckeyes reappeared this week No. 21 and No. 22, respectively.
Loser: Creighton Bluejays
Other than the epic beatdown of Villanova that had the entire world buzzing, what have you done for me lately, Creighton?
Sunday night's loss to St. John's was the Bluejays' first L in more than three weeks, but they have become way too much of a one-man show recently.
Over their last three games, Doug McDermott is averaging 32 points per game and shooting 52.3 percent from the field.
Good stuff, right?
Well, the rest of the team is averaging 36.7 points per game and shooting 40.4 percent from the field.
Ethan Wragge drained nine out of 14 three-pointers in the win over Villanova, but has made just five out of 12 attempted triples in Creighton's last three games. Jahenns Manigat is the team's third-leading scorer over the course of the season, but he has scored a grand total of 10 points in the last three games.
Incredible as McDermott is, Creighton will eventually need to figure out who it can rely upon to play second and third fiddle on a regular basis.
St. John's guard Sir'Dominic Porter told reporters after Sunday night's game, "McDermott beat us last time. Let someone else try and beat us this time."
As a result of the latest loss, Creighton dropped from No. 12 to No. 18, suffering the biggest tumble of any team still in the AP Top 25.
Winner: Kentucky Wildcats
With Selection Sunday nearly a month away, let's play a blind resume game. You tell me which of these three teams is Kentucky.
Team A: 19-5, RPI: 16, SOS: 9, 1-1 vs. RPI Top 25, 3-3 vs. RPI Top 50
Team B: 18-5, RPI: 12, SOS: 6, 0-1 vs. RPI Top 25, 3-2 vs. RPI Top 50
Team C: 19-5, RPI: 11, SOS: 3, 4-2 vs. RPI Top 25, 5-3 vs. RPI Top 50
Team C is unquestionably the best, right? And Team A arguably has the upper hand on Team B because of that one win against the RPI Top 25.
So why is it that Kentucky (Team B) is ranked so far ahead of Ohio State (Team A) and Wisconsin (Team C)? Sure, the Big Ten teams have suffered all of their losses in the past five weeks, but what exactly has Kentucky done to earn a spot in the AP Top 15?
Since the conclusion of the Champions' Classic game against Michigan State on Nov. 12, Kentucky has played as many games against the RPI Top 30 as I have.
The Wildcats have struggled on the road in SEC play, losing twice and winning their other three games by 10 points or less—despite not yet playing on the road against Florida or Ole Miss.
Yet they managed to move up four spots in the past seven days, becoming one of the biggest winners of the week.
Loser: Texas Longhorns
Texas fully burst onto the national scene last weekend with a convincing win over Kansas, but followed it up by getting blown out by Kansas State on Saturday.
In the 74-57 loss, Texas had as many turnovers as it did made field goals, with 18 of each. On defense, the Longhorns were responsible for Marcus Foster's career-high 34 points. He had just eight points against Texas on Jan. 21, so who could have seen that one coming?
They dropped four spots to No. 19, and will get a pair of "warmup" games at home against Oklahoma State and West Virginia before traveling to Iowa State and Kansas the following week.