While a state of inertia has seemingly taken over the top of the polls, chaos reigned supreme in the Top 25 once again last week.
Three of the nation's five best teams and half of the Top 10 went down, allowing Oklahoma and North Carolina to extend their lead over the pack. The top-ranked Sooners are No. 1 for a third consecutive week following wins over Texas Tech and LSU. The second-ranked Tar Heels had only one game, a walkover against Boston College.
Villanova, Maryland and Iowa round out the Top Five.
Here is how the Top 25 played out, per AP.org:
|Associated Press Top 25|
|Rank||Team (1st-Place Votes)||Record||Points|
|2||North Carolina (20)||19-2||1,578|
Iowa and Kansas each suffered losses any committee would consider understandable. The Hawkeyes went on the road and fought valiantly against Maryland before the Terps pulled away late for a 74-68 win. Rasheed Sulaimon and Robert Carter each had a game-high 17 points, making up for off nights from Jake Layman and Melo Trimble. Adding a road win against Ohio State later in the week, Maryland has re-established itself among the nation's best.
“We think about it. We really wanted to win here today,” coach Mark Turgeon said of beating the Buckeyes, per Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun. “They beat us pretty good here the last two years, and of course, the NCAA tournament, we were here. It’s good to fly home and have a good taste in your mouth one time.”
Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated made a salient point:
Seth Davis @SethDavisHoops
Maryland's inconsistent focus is a lingering concern. Terps have a bad habit of playing to the level of their competition.2016-1-31 19:22:44
Kansas also failed a road test, dropping an 85-72 contest at Iowa State. The Cyclones outscored Kansas 49-29 in the second half and had four of their five starters in double figures. They couldn't keep that momentum going into the weekend, as Texas A&M righted its ship with a 72-62 triumph.
The eighth-ranked Aggies had one of the most inexplicable losses of the last week, falling 74-71 to Arkansas. That upset snapped a 10-game winning streak for Texas A&M and broke a three-game losing streak for the Razorbacks, who are barely hanging above .500. Getting back on track over the weekend was a huge step for the Aggies, flashing a strong veteran mentality and smart defense.
Iowa State coach Steve Prohm discussed Texas A&M with Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune:
They’re a very good defensive team. They really try to keep everybody in front and clog the paint for our dribble penetration. A lot has to do with them and then some of it, there was a couple possessions we had opportunities to score and some possessions we’ve got to do a better job of execution and I’ve got to do a better job of putting guys in position.
Overall, 13 of the Top 25 teams lost at least once over the last week. Duke and Kentucky continued their nightmarish regular seasons, each descending further from the national title picture. The Blue Devils have dropped four of their last five games after an 80-69 loss to Miami and are unranked for the first time in more than eight years, per the Associated Press.
Kentucky's 90-84 road loss to Kansas wasn't so bad in a micro sense, but John Calipari's team has struggled all season against elite competition.
Providence and West Virginia also fell out of the Top 10 after losses to Xavier and Florida, respectively. The Friars were playing their second straight game against a Top 10 opponent in Xavier, which shot 50.8 percent and had five players in double figures. It was a disconcertingly bad performance for Providence, as it was unable to take advantage of 20 Musketeers turnovers, and it shot 31.4 percent from the field.
West Virginia has now dropped two games in as many weeks, playing lackadaisical defense in its 88-71 loss to Florida. The Gators shot 53.1 percent overall and knocked down 12 threes, five of which came from Dorian Finney-Smith.
The upset was more of the same at college basketball's top level, as the 2015-16 campaign remains increasingly defined by parity. North Carolina and Oklahoma are the cream of the crop, but both have shown vulnerability at times. With only a month to go before March Madness, there is no national championship favorite—just a bunch of teams fighting to keep their heads above water.
While that should create an interesting tournament, it may make things a nightmare for anyone trying to suss out seedings and rankings.