After a brief stretch of avoiding the carnage around them, Oklahoma and North Carolina each faltered over the last seven days to break the Associated Press Top 25 wide open.
Villanova moved into the No. 1 spot for the first time in program history in a scattershot rankings which saw six teams receive first-place votes. Maryland is in second place, while Oklahoma, Iowa and Xavier round out the Top Five. The Wildcats are the sixth team to receive the sport's top billing this season, with no school having held the moniker for more than four weeks.
Here is a look at how the Top 25 played out:
|AP College Basketball Poll: Week 13|
Ranked first for the last three weeks, Oklahoma faltered in a road trip to Kansas State on Saturday. Bruce Weber's Wildcats shot 52.9 percent and went to the free-throw line 30 times. Wesley Iwundu scored a game-high 22 points and dished out a game-high seven assists, while Dean Wade added 17 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
"We got beat by a club that out-fought us," Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger told reporters after the game. "They were more energetic to loose balls and more active and I thought all night long they were a little quicker."
If that weren't bad enough, forward Ryan Spangler tweaked his lingering knee injury. Despite that, Spangler managed to play 37 minutes and posted a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds).
“I thought there were a couple possessions there where he was a little hesitant whether to go or not to go,” Kruger said, per Ryan Aber of the Oklahoman.
Dick Vitale of ESPN commented on the Big 12's strength this season:
Dick Vitale @DickieV
Today Kansas St beating Oklahoma is another reason y the Big 12 is the # 1 conf. In hoops this year . @CodyFoster @Leefitting @2016-2-7 01:16:19
Oklahoma's week was nothing compared to North Carolina's, though, as the Tar Heels dropped both of their games to fall back to No. 9. First, Louisville snapped UNC's 12-game winning streak Monday by holding the Heels to 34.5 percent shooting, and then Notre Dame triumphed in an 80-76 victory Saturday. The Irish shot 38 free throws to North Carolina's 21 and pulled down 20 offensive rebounds.
"I’ve got to do a lot better job of getting my club to play with a lot more intensity than they did," Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams said, per Mike Lopresti of NCAA.com. "The earlier wishes for more mental toughness still unfulfilled. I’ve got a wonderful bunch of kids, but we have to decide that we want to compete when it’s tough, not just when it’s easy. The world’s not going to come to an end, but right now, I’m extremely frustrated."
Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com noted what the Tar Heels' and the Sooners' losses mean for March:
Jeff Goodman @GoodmanESPN
Oklahoma loses at Kansas State. UNC loses at Notre Dame. March is gonna be so much fun. Complete uncertainty.2016-2-7 02:19:22
Given the recent instability atop the standings, this was a rather straightforward week. Only three Top 10 teams went down, and less than half of the Top 25 suffered a defeat. Texas A&M and Providence were the two most notable teams outside of the Top Two to lose, as each reached a midseason nadir with a pair of losses.
The Aggies fell apart on both ends of the floor in a 77-60 drubbing against Vanderbilt. Their defense allowed the Commodores to shoot 50.8 percent and knock down 13 shots from three-point range. Meanwhile, forward Jalen Jones was held to a 1-of-13 performance that ranks among the worst of his career. Billy Kennedy's team followed that up with an 81-78 home loss to South Carolina, with the defense again faltering on the perimeter.
"It's up to us to get our motors going and to be ready to play every game," guard Alex Caruso said, per Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle.
Providence has similarly lost three of its last four games. The Friars dropped an almost inexcusable game to DePaul on Feb. 2, giving the Blue Demons their second Big East win in 10 games. They followed it up with a 12-point loss to Villanova on Saturday. After a nonconference run that saw Providence lose only one game to Michigan State, it's one more defeat away from dropping to .500 in conference play.
Elsewhere, SMU dropped its second game of the season against Houston, and Baylor's ascent up the rankings was halted by a two-loss week. The Bears gave Texas head coach Shaka Smart his latest upset win in a 67-59 slugfest and then dropped a road contest to West Virginia.
On a macro level, none of these losses mean all that much. There's no juggernaut atop the sport. The regular elites like Kentucky and Duke are barely keeping their heads above water, while even the season's top performers are vulnerable. All of the craziness should set up one of the most memorable Marches in history.
For now, though, the Top 25 feels like one giant shrug emoji.
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