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Winners and Losers from the AP College Basketball Top 25 Rankings in Week 15

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystFebruary 17, 2014

Winners and Losers from the AP College Basketball Top 25 Rankings in Week 15

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    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

    The latest college basketball AP Top 25 has been published, and we've got all your biggest winners and losers right here.

    Syracuse trailed in the final seconds of each of its games in the past week. Though the Orange emerged victorious in both games to remain undefeated, they are no longer the unanimous No. 1 team in the country, as Florida picked up one first-place vote.

    Creighton soared after Sunday's win over Villanova. The Bluejays jumped seven spots to No. 11.

    "They've got the best player in the country (Doug McDermott), and he makes everybody better around him," Villanova coach Jay Wright told reporters after the game. "They're just a tough matchup for us."

    At the other end of the spectrum, Iowa State plummeted after getting blown out by West Virginia. The Cyclones dropped six spots to No. 17.

    "It was pretty much, start to finish, just a poor effort on our end," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters after the game. "Tonight we just didn't have it."

    With less than a month until Selection Sunday, here are the rest of the winners and losers from this week's AP Top 25.

Winner: Connecticut Huskies

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    Jessica Hill/Associated Press

    South Florida has suffered its fair share of blowout losses this season. Prior to this week, the Bulls had already lost five games by 15 or more points.

    Even with that recent history, the 43-point loss to Connecticut was almost criminal.

    The Huskies outscored South Florida 37-9 to start the game. They had a 45-point lead with 12 minutes remaining when they relegated their starters to the bench to keep from winning the game by 70 points.

    Connecticut built on the blowout win with an overtime victory over Memphis on Saturday, completing the season sweep of the Tigers. Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright combined for 55 points in Connecticut's 20th win of the season.

    The Huskies jumped three spots to No. 21their highest ranking since Dec. 30.

Loser: Pittsburgh Panthers

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    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

    Duke is the only team to have beaten Pittsburgh by more than five points this season, but losses to Syracuse and North Carolina this week have pushed the Panthers to an 0-6 record against the RPI Top 45.

    They have now lost four out of their last six. The two wins during that stretch came in overtime against two of the three worst teams in the ACC.

    Not surprisingly, the Panthers lost their grip on the No. 25 spot in the polls.

    Dropping out of the AP Top 25 might be the least of their concerns. Save for the ACC tournament, Pittsburgh has exhausted its list of opportunities to pick up a quality win.

    After climbing as high as a No. 4 seed in many projected brackets, Pittsburgh may very well be one more loss away from falling out of the field altogether.

Winner: Wisconsin Badgers

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    Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

    Just two weeks ago, we were wondering if Wisconsin would ever figure out how to turn its season back around. The Badgers had lost five of six and three in a row at home.

    No need to fear. Frank Kaminsky is back.

    Wisconsin's big man went into hibernation for a little while, but averaged 21 points per game this week in wins over Minnesota and Michigan. Wisconsin had a three-point lead against Michigan with six minutes remaining when Kaminsky took over. He scored 10 of Wisconsin's next 13 points, putting the game out of reach and giving Wisconsin one of its best wins of the season.

    The Badgers have been good at avoiding turnovers all season, but they basically kept the ball in a safe deposit box this week. They committed seven turnovers against Minnesota and only two on Sunday against Michigan.

    They jumped five spots to No. 16 this week, and could climb even higher next week with a road win over Iowa.

Loser: Southern Methodist Mustangs

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    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    Last week, SMU broke a streak of nearly 30 years without appearing in the AP Top 25.

    This week, the Mustangs are back on the outside looking in.

    They struggled a bit with Rutgers on Friday before suffering a horrendous loss to Temple on Sunday. It was Temple's first RPI Top 180 victory in more than two months.

    This team hasn't lost a single home game all season, but has had some difficulty playing on the road. The Mustangs scored a pair of huge home wins over Memphis and Cincinnati in the beginning of February, but have now sandwiched those wins with bad road losses to South Florida and Temple.

    Perhaps the most disturbing part of those losses is that nothing in particular stands out as the reason that they lost. SMU won the turnover battle in both games and shot a combined 48.5 percent from the field while their opponents shot 46.1 percent. The Mustangs were simply outplayed by inferior teams.

    A road game against Connecticut on Sunday could be the deciding factor on whether SMU is capable of doing anything in the NCAA tournament.

Winner: Arizona State Sun Devils

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    Ralph Freso/Getty Images

    It took two overtimes and nearly two years, but Jahii Carson and Arizona State finally got their much-needed marquee win.

    The Sun Devils were the bubble team over the latter half of the 2012-13 season, and were hovering on the bubble throughout the month of January 2014.

    After beating their in-state rival on Friday night, that's no longer the case.

    Since getting blown out by UCLA and Arizona in mid-January, Arizona State is 6-1 vs. RPI Top 100 teams. The Sun Devils have climbed into a share for third place in the Pac-12; one game behind UCLA and two games behind Arizona.

    They aren't quite in the AP Top 25 just yet, but they're pretty close to joining the polls for the first time since the end of the 2008-09 season. With 45 votes, Arizona State ranks 27th in the nation.

Loser: Michigan State Spartans

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    Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

    By now, you've no doubt heard someone say something along the lines of "When the Spartans get healthy, they'll be the best team in the country."

    Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the game, and it's time to accept the Spartans for what they are.

    Keith Appling came back this weekend against Nebraska, but it wasn't enough to keep Michigan State from losing for the fourth time in seven games.

    Gary Harris struggled once again on Sunday. The superstar shooting guard has made just 29.7 percent of his 64 field-goal attempts over the last four games.

    At long last, the AP voters have had enough. For the first time all season, the Spartans dropped out of the AP Top 10, plummeting to No. 13.

Winner: Creighton Bluejays

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    If only Creighton could play all of its games against Villanova, the Bluejays might be the No. 1 team in the country.

    For the second time this season, Doug McDermott and company made a complete mockery of Villanova's abstract interpretation of defense, shooting 64.2 percent from the field as a team on Sunday evening.

    Creighton took quite the tumble last week. A loss to St. John's caused the Bluejays to drop from No. 12 to No. 18. But they bounced all the way back to No. 11 this week after the blowout win over Villanova and a road win over Butler earlier in the week.

    It will be interesting to see whether they can keep it going this week, or if they will suffer a loss away from home against a surging team for the fifth time this season.

    At the time when they occurred, each of Creighton's previous losses (San Diego State, George Washington, Providence and St. John's) seemed at least a little unforgivable. But each of those four teams is now either safely in the tournament field or seriously contending for a spot.

    The Bluejays play at Marquette on Wednesday, and the Golden Eagles just might be one marquee victory away from getting into the bubble conversation.

Loser: Villanova Wildcats

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    Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports

    What if Ryan Arcidiacono had missed that three-pointer against Kansas way back on Nov. 29?

    Instead of playing Iowa in the championship game, Villanova would have played UTEP in the consolation bracket of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Suddenly, the Wildcats' two best wins of the season would no longer exist, and they would be 0-4 against the RPI Top 40.

    They have obliterated inferior competition for much of the season, but the three losses that they actually do have are by an average of 21.7 points per game.

    Are we all that sure that Villanova is any better than Pittsburgh?

    The Wildcats are definitely a loser this week for dropping from No. 6 to No. 9, but perhaps they should be thankful that the voters still regard them that highly.

Winner: Duke Blue Devils

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    Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

    Thanks to the snow along the East Coast, Duke played just one game this week.

    The Blue Devils won. At home. By two points. Against a team with an RPI of 76.

    Yet, they jumped from No. 8 to No. 5 because of losses by San Diego State, Villanova, Kansas and Michigan State.

    Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.

    With the way they have been playing over the past month, not many would argue against the Blue Devils being one of the five best teams in the country right now. But this rise in the polls is almost 100 percent due to the carnage suffered by the teams around them.

    If they go 3-0 this week against Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Syracuse, they will likely be battling Florida for the No. 1 spot in next Monday's AP Top 25.

    A lot has changed in the past five weeks.

Loser: Iowa State Cyclones

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    David Purdy/Getty Images

    West Virginia has been a surging threat in the Big 12 for a few weeks, but Iowa State's 102-77 loss to the Mountaineers last Monday was pretty embarrassing.

    Melvin Ejim entered the game as the leading scorer in the Big 12, but he tallied just six points while shooting 1-of-9 from the field. It was the first time all season that he was held to 10 or fewer points.

    DeAndre Kane had more turnovers (five) than assists (two) for just the third time all season. Iowa State is now 0-3 when that happens.

    But one game snowballing out of control is nothing much to worry about, right?

    Well, the Cyclones didn't look much better at home against Texas Tech this weekend. They won the game by six points, but didn't have anything resembling "Hilton Magic" when they were trailing in the final four minutes to a team that entered the game 1-7 away from home against the RPI Top 150.

    For their troubles, the Cyclones dropped from No. 11 all the way to No. 17.

Winner: Florida Gators

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    With Arizona losing and Syracuse struggling, there was a lot of support for Florida to make the leap to No. 1.

    Our very own Jason King championed Florida's cause shortly after Saturday night's big road win over Kentucky. ESPN's Myron Medcalf came to the same conclusion.

    The Gators weren't deserving of dethroning Syracuse in everyone's eyes, but they did pick up one first-place vote to end Syracuse's two-week reign as the unanimous No. 1 team in the country.

    Last Monday, Florida trailed Syracuse by 148 votes. Now the gap is just 81 votes. And Florida's most difficult games of the season are in the rear-view mirror.

    It should just be a matter of time before the Gators finish the climb to No. 1.

     

    Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.

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