Following weeks of mass fluctuation as conference play led to consistent upsets of elite teams, a state of inertia has fallen over the Associated Press Top 25 heading into Week 15.
Syracuse remains the No. 1 team in the country following a two-win week, scraping by Notre Dame last Monday and topping Clemson to move to 23-0. The Orange are one of two remaining unbeatens, joined by No. 4 Wichita State.
Arizona remains at No. 2, with Florida coming in third and San Diego State fifth to round out the Top Five. Villanova, also undefeated this week, stayed put in sixth, means the top six teams cruised through this past week unmoved in the standings.
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||21-1||1373||5|
The first and biggest blemish among Top 10 teams comes from former No. 7 Cincinnati, which saw its red-hot run end Saturday in a 76-55 trouncing by SMU. Larry Brown's athletic squad held the Bearcats to just 35.4 percent shooting, including a 5-of-18 performance from National Player of the Year contender Sean Kilpatrick.
The Basketball Hall of Famer Brown is in his second season with the Mustangs, quickly building a formidable contender in the new American Athletic Conference. They've won three straight games and eight of their last nine, with three victories over Top 25 opponents thus far. Brown's arrival in Dallas has come with a renewed commitment to the basketball program from SMU, including a renovated facility that opened earlier this season.
Still, it's the work of Brown and these players leading the Mustangs' charge toward the Top 25.
"If we didn't have a good team, all we'd have is a beautiful building," Brown told the AP after the game, via ESPN.com. "I didn't imagine it would be like this this quickly. But I was hopeful that we could get it that people wanted to see our team play and appreciate the fact that we're playing hard and playing the right way."
Cincinnati's loss ended a 15-game winning streak and dropped the Bearcats to No. 10. They still shouldn't have much trouble competing for a conference title, but their progress is worth monitoring. Ken Pomeroy's advanced metrics rank Cincinnati just 26th in the nation, thanks mostly to a struggling offense.
This was a big week in the rankings for the fledgling American Athletic Conference as a whole, as five members found themselves in the Top 25, marking a stark contrast to the struggles in its inaugural football season.
Michigan doesn't have much in common with Cincinnati. The Wolverines rank third in offensive efficiency and are consistently pushing the pace—especially for a Big Ten squad. They do know a bit about being blown out and losing points off their national reputation, however.
Iowa played the spoiler in Michigan's trip to Carver-Hawkeye Arena over the weekend, scoring an 85-67 win that should help lock down a Big Dance berth. The Hawkeyes have been absent from the NCAA Tournament since the 2005-06 season, enduring the frustrating three-season Todd Lickliter era and watching Fran McCaffery slowly rebuild the program.
McCaffery noted his team defense, which held Michigan under 70 points for just the third time in Big Ten play, stepped up when Iowa needed it most.
"To beat Michigan, you have to play the kind of defense we played," McCaffery said at his postgame press conference, per the AP via ESPN.com "They have so many different weapons so it was not only getting stops, it was getting stops and then running and getting offensive opportunities in transition."
The Big Ten has been something of a polar opposite to the American. At one point this season, the Big Ten carried three of the Top Five teams in the nation and was widely considered the best and deepest conference. Now, only No. 9 Michigan State remains in the Top 10. There are some who still consider the Big Ten the nation's best outfit, but the chasm between it and the rest of the nation is slighter than expected.
Still, the rankers continue to give the conference credit as a whole. Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated released his poll on Twitter, ranking Michigan State ahead of undefeated Wichita State. When asked why, he put the reasoning in no uncertain terms:
Big Ten just a wee bit tougher than Valley RT @JDavis2093: How does Mich State go ahead of Wichita State after losing? Doesn't make sense— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) February 10, 2014
From a superficial sense, the Shockers being only fourth continues to raise eyebrows. They are 25-0 on the season and escaped arguably the two toughest tests of their season last week with road victories over Indiana State and Northern Iowa. With contests remaining only against the relative dregs of the Missouri Valley Conference, it's now more likely than not Wichita State ends the regular season undefeated.
Considering the Shockers made a Final Four run last season, it's hard to say they can't compete with the national elite. That said, metrics continue to say the rankings are actually overrating Gregg Marshall's squad. Pomeroy's metrics have the Shockers at No. 11 because of their lack of schedule strength and good, not great, offensive splits.
It was a relatively calm week overall. Creighton's six-spot fall to No. 18 after its loss to St. John's on Sunday night was the biggest drop among Top 25 squads, while Michigan (down five spots) and Texas (four) also had rough weeks after a short leap.
Oklahoma State leads the three teams that dropped out of the Top 25. The Cowboys' drop is at least partially a result of guard Marcus Smart being suspended for three games due to an altercation with a fan, but losing four straight Big 12 contests isn't helping matters either. Oklahoma and Gonzaga are also on the outside looking in.
Replacing those three are No. 21 Wisconsin, No. 22 Ohio State and No. 23 SMU.