Anyone hoping a sense of calm would overtake the college basketball landscape after weeks of uncertainty was sorely disappointed over the last seven days.
No. 1 Oklahoma's loss at Iowa State set the stage for another wild week, as 15 of the nation's 25 best teams dropped at least one game, including seven of the Top Eight. The lone exception, North Carolina, now finds itself on the precipice of returning to the No. 1 spot.
The Tar Heels are only six points behind Oklahoma, which surprisingly held onto its top ranking. No. 3 Iowa, No. 4 Kansas and No. 5 Texas A&M round out the Top Five.
Here is how the entire poll played out:
Most expected this to be the third straight week a different team sat atop the rankings. The Tar Heels began the season at No. 1 and are one of five teams to hold the top spot already this season. None have been on top longer than a four-week stretch (Michigan State).
Oklahoma's first brush with the sport's pinnacle since 1990 is now at two weeks. Within hours of officially ascending to the No. 1 spot, the Sooners were on the losing end of an 82-77 battle with Iowa State. Georges Niang, Abdel Nader and Monte Norris each scored 20-plus points to give the Cyclones just their second win over a No. 1 team in school history.
Buddy Hield and Isaiah Cousins combined for 53 points in a game in which few of Oklahoma's role players performed up to task. Dante Buford poured in 14 points off the bench, but the remaining six players who received minutes combined for 10 points.
“We’re a veteran team. We’ve got to do a better job,” Hield said, per Ryan Aber of NewsOK.com. “We’ve got to come ready to play. Coach (Lon Kruger) has the plays. Me, Isaiah (Cousins) and Ryan (Spangler) got to do a better job of getting everybody fighting and getting after it."
Luckily for Oklahoma, the remainder of the Top 10 was a mess. Kansas, Villanova, Xavier, West Virginia, Maryland and SMU each went down with losses ranging from totally understandable to baffling. The Jayhawks lost for the second straight week in embarrassing fashion, as Oklahoma State shot 50 percent in an 86-67 walloping. Oklahoma State had lost its previous four games and followed up its home upset with a 16-point loss at Kansas State.
“I don’t have that feeling with this team,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said, per Jesse Newell of the Topeka Capital-Journal. “I don’t know yet.”
West Virginia handed Shaka Smart his second huge win in conference play, as Texas held the Mountaineers to 31.1 percent shooting in a 56-49 slugfest. The loss marked two straight for Bob Huggins' team, which needed a second-half rally to right the ship against Texas Tech on Saturday.
Xavier and SMU also suffered semi-confusing defeats at the hands of Georgetown and Temple, respectively. While neither the Hoyas nor the Owls are the dregs of their respective conferences, Xavier and SMU were uncharacteristically sloppy on defense. Georgetown knocked down 51 percent of its shots in an 81-72 triumph, while Temple hit 14 threes to hand SMU its first loss.
The Mustangs were the nation's lone remaining unbeaten team. Ineligible for the postseason due to NCAA violations, their ranking and undefeated record were arguably all they had to be playing for.
“Devastated? Nah," guard Nic Moore said, per Dana O'Neil of ESPN.com. “We were the last undefeated team in the country. We still have only one loss on our record. I mean, you win some, you lose some. Now we get to see what we’re made of."
Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com was thankful the situation was over:
And thankfully, the SMU undefeated talk is over.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) January 24, 2016
More understandable were the losses suffered by Maryland and Villanova. The Terps allowed former No. 1 Michigan State to right the ship after a three-game losing streak, perhaps putting the Spartans back in the Big Ten title race. Villanova suffered a home defeat at the hands of 10th-ranked Providence, thanks in large part to a 31-point night from Ben Bentil.
Given the overwhelming number of losses suffered across the nation, it's hard to pass much judgment on any of these teams. There are few times in the history of college basketball when the top and bottom of the sport have been separated by such a small margin. It's clear at this point there are no truly elite teams this season. There are about a dozen or so good teams, each of which could win a championship if things break right in March. Then, there is a massive phalanx of teams in the middle, each of which are capable of knocking off the nation's best at any given moment.
Suffice it to say, it's going to be an interesting couple of months.