College Basketball Rankings 2015-16: Bleacher Report's Week 10 Top 25
It's hard to believe the 2015-16 college basketball season is already into its 10th week, but it shouldn't be too hard to believe Kansas remains the unanimous No. 1 team in the Bleacher Report Top 25.
The Jayhawks outlasted Oklahoma in triple overtime before escaping a trap game against Texas Tech with their 14th win of the season. And if there was ever any doubt, they're now in the driver's seat for a 12th consecutive Big 12 regular-season crown.
The most likely conference runner-up also remains the runner-up in our rankings. Though they suffered a loss, the Sooners were extremely impressive in their defeat to Kansas, bouncing back nicely with a win over Kansas State to stay No. 2 for the second straight week.
Rounding out the Top Five are Michigan State, North Carolina and Maryland, but that's all you're getting for free. You'll have to do some clicking to find out the rest of our Top 25.
Teams Dropped from Week 9 Rankings: Butler (23), Connecticut (24), Dayton (25)
Others Considered: USC, Oregon, Wichita State, Valparaiso
Our experts participate in weekly voting for B/R's Top 25. Once a vote is cast for a specific team, it's assigned a value—25 points for the No. 1 team in the rankings, 24 points for the second spot and so on. The point totals are then added up to create the Top 25.
Nos. 25-21: Gonzaga to Baylor
Previous rank: Not Ranked
Gonzaga's last four games have come against teams outside the KenPom Top 200, and the Zags just barely eked out wins in two of those games. However, they haven't lost in the past four weeks, which is more than most teams can say. I think I speak for all three of our voters in saying I don't really buy Gonzaga as a Top 25 team, but who else has a more deserving resume right now? (Or is "less undeserving" the way to think about it?)
Previous rank: Not Ranked
After scraping out a one-point home win over Wisconsin, Indiana made quite the statement in its 85-60 win over Ohio State on Sunday. If you completely stopped paying attention to the Hoosiers after their embarrassing defensive "effort" against Duke in early December, it might be time to start watching again. They've now opened Big Ten play by holding four consecutive opponents to less than 1.0 point per possession, per KenPom.
Previous Rank: 18
In last week's AP Winners and Losers, I wrote about Purdue losing its "cushion" after falling to Butler and Iowa in a two-week span.
Well, it didn't take long thereafter for the Boilermakers to suffer their first real head-scratching loss of the season. Normally a great defensive team, Purdue had no answer on D for Illinois. Led by Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill, the Illini averaged 1.20 points per possession in shooting better than 52 percent from both inside and outside the arc. Once considered a real candidate to win the Big Ten, Purdue has a lot to prove with its remaining conference schedule.
Previous rank: 12
Twas a less-than-ideal week for the Wildcats, who were swept on their road trip through UCLA and USC before finding out Sunday that Allonzo Trier will miss the next four to six weeks with a broken shooting hand, via ESPN's Andy Katz.
Between losing Ray Smith to a torn ACL before the season even began and treading water for more than a month while Kaleb Tarczewski recovered from a foot injury, this is just the icing on what has been a brutally injury-prone cake for Arizona. At least the Wildcats have already played five of their seven toughest games of the season.
Previous rank: Not Ranked
The Bears showed no ill effects of getting blown out by Kansas last weekend, as they comfortably took care of Oklahoma State before handing Iowa State a rare home loss. Johnathan Motley, Taurean Prince and Lester Medford all recorded double-doubles against the Cyclones in what was easily Baylor's most impressive performance to date.
Nos. 20-16: Louisville to South Carolina
Previous rank: 20
A team with nary a quality win during the season's nonconference portion, Louisville really needed to prove something early in ACC play to earn the respect of Top 25 voters. Instead, the Cardinals lost to Clemson on Sunday, despite a plus-22 advantage on the glass and just 32.6 percent shooting by the Tigers.
Previous rank: 14
There was already plenty of writing on the wall that this wasn't going to be one of those unstoppable John Calipari teams, but even Kentucky's biggest doubters had to have been shocked by the 18-point loss to LSU on Tuesday. It was the Wildcats' third loss to an unranked team and just the latest example that Skal Labissiere isn't going to figure out this college basketball thing anytime soon.
Previous rank: 21
The Panthers have very quietly strung together 10 consecutive wins in advance of their road game against Louisville on Thursday. A win in that one would really propel Pittsburgh into the discussion for an ACC top-five finish and perhaps a spot on the NCAA tournament's top four seed lines.
Previous rank: 17
Iowa survived the trap game of all trap games (home vs. Nebraska in between road games against Purdue and Michigan State) and now has a shot at a season sweep of the Spartans. Jarrod Uthoff led the way with 25 points, eight boards and four blocks, but he got a lot of help from Mike Gesell's 22 points and 10 assists. No one seems interested in professing it, but that duo is one of the Big Ten's better one-two punches, if not the entire country.
16. South Carolina
Previous rank: 22
Can we start taking the Gamecocks seriously now? The Commodores aren't who we expected them to be, but getting to 15-0 with a win over Vanderbilt puts a capstone on a very impressive two months for South Carolina. All year long, Frank Martin's guys have done an excellent job of protecting the rim and getting the opposition into foul trouble.
15. Iowa State Cyclones
Record: 12-3 (29 points)
Previous rank: 13
Results since last poll: vs. Texas Tech (W 76-69); vs. Baylor (L 89-94)
Games before next poll: at Texas; at Kansas State
Iowa State's offense has been pretty great this season. Excluding the season opener against Colorado, the Cyclones have averaged 86.6 points per game, scoring at least 76 points in each of those 14 games. Even in losing efforts, they're averaging 83.7 points per game.
And therein lies the problem. Scoring and pace of play are up, but when you're averaging 1.13 points per possession in your losses, you're clearly putting in more effort on offense than defense.
Given Iowa State's roster situation, though, it's kind of understandable.
Excluding the blowout win over Coppin State in which they were able to empty their bench, the Cyclones have only gone seven deep in every game since mid-December. Not only do they need to conserve energy on the defensive end, but they also need to conserve fouls.
With that goal in mind, they've succeeded to the tune of the country's best defensive free-throw rate, per KenPom.com. Despite their complete lack of bench options, they've only had two players foul out all season.
But lack of fouls and lack of effort aren't exactly antonyms. Baylor absolutely scored at will in the second half on Saturday. Ditto Oklahoma last weekend. And Northern Iowa shot 13-of-22 from three-point range in upsetting Iowa State. Good effort by the Cyclones in keeping their best scorers on the court for at least 30 minutes per game, but would it kill them to defend the three-point arc once in a while?
14. West Virginia Mountaineers
Record: 14-1 (36 points)
Previous rank: 19
Results since last poll: at TCU (W 95-87); vs. Oklahoma State (W 77-60)
Games before next poll: vs. Kansas; at Oklahoma
Stop us if you've heard this one before, but West Virginia crashed the offensive glass and forced a ton of turnovers in winning two more games this week.
As they have been for the majority of the past one-and-a-half seasons, the Mountaineers are No. 1 in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage and steal percentage. The opposition has to know what's coming, and yet there's nothing it can do about it.
Now for the bad news: West Virginia is committing way too many fouls.
According to NCAA.com, only The Citadel and Washington are committing more fouls per game, but the Bulldogs are also No. 1 in the country in tempo, so they aren't committing as many fouls per possession as WVU. As a result of all that hacking, the Mountaineers have the country's worst defensive free-throw rate by a disturbingly wide margin.
Through three Big 12 games, West Virginia's opponents are averaging 37.7 free-throw attempts per contest. Give that many free points to Kansas and Oklahoma this week and the Mountaineers will likely enter next week's balloting having endured consecutive blowout losses.
13. Virginia Cavaliers
Record: 12-3 (37 points)
Previous rank: 3
Results since last poll: at Virginia Tech (L 68-70); at Georgia Tech (L 64-68)
Games before next poll: vs. Miami; at Florida State
No one expected Virginia to go undefeated in ACC play, but back-to-back losses to the Tech schools were not a good look for what was supposed to be the favorite to win this conference.
In Virginia's defense, it's kind of messed up that Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech combined to shoot 53.1 percent from three-point range while making just 62.5 percent of free throws and 41.9 percent of shots inside the arc. Moreover, prior to last week, no team had shot better than 40.0 percent from beyond the arc against the Cavaliers, but regression to the mean was unusually cruel as VT and GT shot 52.9 and 53.3 percent, respectively.
In addition to poor three-point luck, Virginia committed 16 turnovers against Virginia Tech and was minus-12 on the glass against Georgia Tech. Throw in Darius Thompson acting like a ghost in both games and Isaiah Wilkins inexplicably barely playing against the Yellow Jackets (explaining the terrible rebounding margin), and it's actually kind of surprising the Cavaliers weren't blown out in either of the losses.
Still, it was a brutal week deserving of some serious penalization in the rankings. Virginia could get back on the right track with convincing wins over Miami and Florida State this week, but it has quite the hill to climb to position itself for a third consecutive ACC regular-season title.
12. Texas A&M Aggies
Record: 13-2 (38 points)
Previous rank: 16
Results since last poll: at Mississippi State (W 61-60); at Tennessee (W 92-88)
Games before next poll: vs. Florida; at Georgia
The Texas A&M Aggies needed some late heroics to survive road games against two of the SEC's bottom-feeders, but, on the plus side, they showed a lot of resiliency for a team that had not previously won a true road game.
One big thing to note: They didn't have their best player against Mississippi State, as Danuel House sat out the game with "personal issues," according to the SEC Network, via KAGS News' Colin Deaver.
With him gone and Jalen Jones and Tyler Davis both struggling to put points on the board, A&M's offense was firing on considerably less than all cylinders. Corralling 20 offensive rebounds was just barely enough to lead the Aggies to victory.
House and Jones combined for 50 against Tennessee but couldn't slow down the Volunteers, who were still riding high from their big win over Florida three days earlier. But when the Vols finally missed a couple of shots, A&M erased a 10-point deficit in a span of less than two minutes to escape with a win.
Neither one was pretty, but those are the types of skin-of-your-teeth victories that give a team confidence for the rest of the season—and precisely the games that A&M kept losing last year. The Aggies didn't much look the part of a team that might be the favorite to win the SEC, but that's the position they find themselves in with big games against bubbly Florida and Georgia on deck.
11. Providence Friars
Record: 14-2 (44 points)
Previous rank: 7
Results since last poll: vs. Marquette (L 64-65)
Games before next poll: at Creighton; vs. Seton Hall
Will the fourth-best Providence Friar please stand up?
Kris Dunn is a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate. Ben Bentil and Rodney Bullock have done an excellent job at the forward positions. The trio combined for 56 points against Marquette last week.
However, some simple subtraction reveals the rest of the team combined to score a grand total of eight points in the losing effort.
The lack of a reliable fourth weapon wasn't a problem against the likes of Hartford, Bryant and Rider. It also wasn't a deal-breaker when Arizona committed 21 turnovers and Butler shot 3-of-17 from three-point range in Providence's two biggest wins of the season.
But at home this week against Marquette—which wasn't any better than Arizona or Butler in committing 19 turnovers and shooting just 2-of-11 from three-point range—only having three noteworthy players became a problem when Bullock struggled to find his shot and Dunn was bitten by the turnover bug.
Providence is still way better than we assumed in the preseason, but the Friars still have some work to do before they can be taken seriously as a threat to make a deep tournament run. A breakout game from Ryan Fazekas or Junior Lomomba would be a big step in the right direction.
10. Duke Blue Devils
Record: 14-2 (51 points)
Previous rank: 15
Results since last poll: at Wake Forest (W 91-75); vs. Virginia Tech (W 82-58)
Games before next poll: at Clemson; vs. Notre Dame
Everyone sold their Duke stock after the one-two punch of the Amile Jefferson injury and subsequent loss to Utah, but has any team been hotter than the Blue Devils in the past two weeks?
Since the dreadful offensive performance against the Utes in which Grayson Allen played with flu-like symptoms and Derryck Thornton couldn't buy a bucket, Duke has averaged 92.4 points per game and won each of its five games by a margin of at least 16 points.
To be fair, the competition was nothing special. Wake Forest is the only opponent in that quintet with any remote hopes of an at-large bid, and the Demon Deacons were within two points of the Blue Devils in the final 10 minutes. But with Allen, Brandon Ingram and Luke Kennard playing like this, there might not be a team in the country who can shut this offense down.
Duke's big X-factor will continue to be Marshall Plumlee's ability to avoid foul trouble. He fouled out in the loss to Utah, but he has played at least 31 minutes in each of the past four games without committing more than three fouls. As long as the refs allow Plumlee to remain on the court, the Blue Devils should be able to remain a top team until Jefferson's triumphant return.
9. Miami Hurricanes
Record: 13-1 (53 points)
Previous rank: 11
Results since last poll: vs. Florida State (W 72-59)
Games before next poll: at Virginia; at Clemson
Is there a more impressive team fewer people are noticing than Miami?
The Hurricanes appeared squarely on the radar early in the season in the process of stomping Mississippi State, Utah and Butler to win the Puerto Rico Tipoff. However, that hot start quickly devolved into a "here they go again" narrative after the home loss to Northeastern and overtime scare against Nebraska in the Big 10/ACC Challenge.
But that two-game cold spell was more than a month ago, and it feels like no one has even realized Miami has now won seven consecutive games by a double-digit margin.
Granted, it's kind of hard to make waves in the process of beating teams that you're supposed to beat, but the Hurricanes have really turned a corner on defense.
Through their first seven games, opponents were shooting a combined 41.4 percent from three-point range, but they've nearly cut that number in half to 22.7 percent over the last seven. As a result, they haven't allowed an opponent to average better than 1.00 point per possession in a game since November.
If they can keep it going this week against Virginia, perhaps the Hurricanes will finally be taken seriously as a threat to win the ACC.
8. Xavier Musketeers
Record: 14-1 (54 points)
Previous rank: 10
Results since last poll: at St. John's (W 74-66)
Games before next poll: vs. DePaul; at Marquette
With Edmond Sumner still recovering from the scary injury suffered in the loss to Villanova, the Xavier Musketeers struggled on offense against St. John's to the tune of 17 turnovers and 1.00 point per possession. But they hunkered down on defense with 10 steals and what seemed to be contested shots on every possession to improve to 14-1.
At this point, we've seen this team win in just about every way, shape and form. Sometimes, it's hot from three-point range. It often beats the opposition into submission on the glass. It usually plays stagnating defense. And it almost always ends up attempting at least 25 free throws.
Xavier is one of the country's most physical and aggressive teams. We often joked about Matt Stainbrook's "old man game" last season, but the entire roster seems to be playing with that "intense fundamentals" style this year—particularly Jalen Reynolds and James Farr.
As far as KenPom.com is concerned, Xavier should win every remaining game on its schedule. There are a few significant challenges left on the calendar, but this week's games shouldn't be much of a struggle on the Musketeers' quest to get back into the discussion for a No. 1 seed.
7. Villanova Wildcats
Record: 14-2 (55 points)
Previous rank: 8
Results since last poll: vs. Seton Hall (W 72-63); at Butler (W 60-55)
Games before next poll: vs. Marquette; at Georgetown
The Villanova Wildcats didn't exactly rewrite the book on offensive efficiency in shooting a combined 8-of-37 (21.6 percent) from three-point range in their wins over Seton Hall and Butler this week, but, hey, the Wildcats won a pair of games in which they shot miserably from beyond the arc.
After the blowout loss to Oklahoma in early December, the team's prevailing sentiment was it has no chance of winning if it isn't sinking three-pointers, and that couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, Villanova relies heavily on the long ball, but Jay Wright's club has been very solid on defense against teams not named Oklahoma or Virginia.
It's not typically a turnover-forcing defense, but in Villanova's 14 wins, its opponents have shot a combined 35.7 percent from the field and 28.0 percent from three-point range. Oklahoma might have made it look easy, but ask any of Villanova's opponents in the past three weeks if anything comes easily against this defense.
They've got a long way to go to catch up to Kansas' reign over the Big 12, but for the third straight year, it's pretty clear the Big East runs through the Wildcats.
6. SMU Mustangs
Record: 15-0 (58 points)
Previous rank: 9
Results since last poll: vs. Cincinnati (W 59-57); vs. UCF (W 88-73)
Games before next poll: at East Carolina; at Tulane
For the first time in a long time, SMU struggled to put points on the board this past week against a revitalized Cincinnati defense, but everything was back to normal for the Mustangs in the dominant win over UCF on Sunday.
If any team in the country could use off-the-court distractions as an excuse for poor play, it's this one. SMU has played the first two months of the season under the shadow of a postseason ban and was dealt another blow this week when Keith Frazier—the player at the center of the academic fraud that led to the postseason ban—decided to leave the team for personal reasons.
Despite all that, SMU is one of the nation's two remaining undefeated teams and almost unarguably one of the country's 10 best teams. And it will likely be more than a month until the Mustangs are really challenged again. The biggest test between now and the home game against Gonzaga on Feb. 13 is a road game against Houston—and though the jury is still out on the Cougars, that's probably not saying much.
So, what is the glass ceiling for a team that's ineligible for postseason play?
Associated Press voter Terry Toohey has refused to vote for SMU all season long and the vast majority of voters seem to be quite hesitant to put the Mustangs in their top 10. Maybe they're just waiting to see SMU play a team better than Michigan or Tulsa, but if Larry Brown's bunch is still undefeated a month from now, would it be enough for some first-place votes?
5. Maryland Terrapins
Record: 15-1 (64 points)
Previous rank: 6
Results since last poll: vs. Rutgers (W 88-63); at Wisconsin (W 63-60)
Games before next poll: at Michigan; vs. Ohio State
A lot of good teams have one player who has proved on multiple occasions to be more than capable of single-handedly taking over a game. But the best teams have at least two such players, and there might not be a pair of individual threats as dangerous as Melo Trimble and Diamond Stone.
Two weeks ago against Penn State, it was the Stone Show. He has now scored at least 10 points in nine straight games, but it was the 39 points and 12 rebounds against the Nittany Lions that got us particularly excited about watching this big man play basketball for the next 15 or so years. He had another big game this week against a shorthanded Rutgers team, going for 15 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in just 21 minutes.
Against Wisconsin, though, it was Trimble's time to shine. Save for a pair of Robert Carter free throws late in the game, Trimble either scored or assisted on every single Maryland Terrapin point in the final 12 minutes of the game, including the dagger three-pointer to break the tie with less than two seconds remaining.
It was his fifth time scoring at least 21 points this season, including all four games against what KenPom.com evaluates as "Tier A" opponents. Trimble saves his best for when Maryland needs him the most, so expect big things as the season progresses and the Terps get into the heart of Big Ten play.
4. North Carolina Tar Heels
Record: 15-2 (65 points)
Previous rank: 5
Results since last poll: at Florida State (W 106-90); at Syracuse (W 84-73)
Games before next poll: vs. North Carolina State
They didn't move up much, but the North Carolina Tar Heels had perhaps the most impressive week of any ranked team.
While Virginia and Arizona each lost a pair of road games and Kentucky got blown out at LSU, North Carolina merely went on the road and won two games by double-digit margins against mid-tier ACC teams.
Brice Johnson was phenomenal in both contests, recording a career-high 39 points and 23 rebounds against Florida State before obliterating Syracuse's 2-3 zone with a career-high eight assists from the high post. Joel Berry and Isaiah Hicks showed up in a big way in both games, as well.
Better yet for North Carolina, Kennedy Meeks finally returned to the court this weekend after a hiatus of nearly four weeks while recovering from a knee injury. His reinsertion in the starting lineup could be enough to propel the Tar Heels back to their preseason ranking as the country's No. 1 team.
3. Michigan State Spartans
Record: 16-1 (68 points)
Previous rank: 4
Results since last poll: vs. Illinois (W 79-54); at Penn State (W 92-65)
Games before next poll: vs. Iowa; at Wisconsin
Denzel Valentine returned to the court on Sunday afternoon, but the Spartans barely even needed their leader to beat up on Penn State. Bryn Forbes had all 20 of his points before intermission in helping Michigan State jump out to an insurmountable lead.
However, it was good to see Valentine out there for 23 minutes to shake off the cobwebs after four games spent on the sideline. Quite unlike Forbes, Valentine was scoreless at halftime, but he finished the game with 10 points and looked much more comfortable and dangerous in the second half.
Even though they won a pair of games this week by a combined margin of 52 points, chances are, the Spartans will need more from Valentine this week in the rematch with Iowa.
Playing at home and at full strength, Michigan State will be out for blood to avenge its only loss and to stay in the hunt for the Big Ten crown. If they can get a pair of statement wins over the Hawkeyes and Badgers with Valentine back in the mix, the Spartans just might reclaim a few first-place AP votes, regardless of what Kansas and Oklahoma do.
2. Oklahoma Sooners
Record: 13-1 (72 points)
Previous rank: 2
Results since last poll: at Kansas (L 106-109 3OT); vs. Kansas State (W 86-76)
Games before next poll: at Oklahoma State; vs. West Virginia
It's not often that the No. 2 team loses a game and gets to stay at No. 2, but it's even less often that the No. 2 team goes on the road against the No. 1 team and pushes it to three overtimes.
If anything, we were more impressed with Oklahoma as a result of that unforgettable clash with Kansas.
According to B/R's Jason King, Kansas coach Bill Self said after the game, "It was an epic game—probably the best game I've ever been a part of during the regular season. We just beat a team that can win a national championship."
Buddy Hield had 46 points in that one and went on to score 31 against Kansas State on Saturday. Over his last eight games, Hield is averaging 31.0 points per game and shooting 53.7 percent from three-point range. If you're under the impression anyone else is more deserving of the Wooden Award right now, you're completely wrong.
The only question for Oklahoma is whether Hield will get enough support going forward. Khadeem Lattin came on strong with back-to-back double-doubles for a total of 24 rebounds, 20 points and 12 blocks this past week. However, Isaiah Cousins' shot has been off for more than two weeks, as he had just 10 points on 22 field-goal attempts against the Kansas schools.
When the whole starting five is clicking, though, this is the country's most potent offensive unit.
1. Kansas Jayhawks
Record: 14-1 (75 points)
Previous rank: 1
Results since last poll: vs. Oklahoma (W 109-106 3OT); at Texas Tech (W 69-59)
Games before next poll: at West Virginia; vs. TCU
Kansas was already our undisputed No. 1 team last Sunday, so no changes there as a result of the two-win week.
We don't give out Player of the Week awards, but if we did, it would be pretty irresponsible to award it to anyone other than Frank Mason. His defense for the final 35 minutes against Buddy Hield was outstanding, and he followed it up with 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in the win over Texas Tech.
Based on the tireless effort he put forth against the Sooners, it would have been understandable if he looked fatigued against the Red Raiders, but Mason was seemingly the only Jayhawk who wasn't playing with an Oklahoma hangover on Saturday night.
Really, without Mason, there's no way Kansas wins either of those games.
The Jayhawks are going to need another big game out of him on Tuesday night against West Virginia's ball-hawking defense. Win that one and the Jayhawks not only take sole possession of first place in the Big 12 (in possession of a win against each conference foe with only one loss), but it would also become almost impossible to argue for any other team as the projected overall No. 1 seed with just two months remaining until Selection Sunday.
Statistics are courtesy of KenPom.com, unless noted otherwise.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.