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College Basketball Rankings 2015-16: Bleacher Report's Week 15 Top 25

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystJanuary 4, 2017

College Basketball Rankings 2015-16: Bleacher Report's Week 15 Top 25

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    Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    Thanks to a pair of marquee wins over West Virginia and Oklahoma, Kansas jumps to No. 1 in Bleacher Report's latest Top 25 for college basketball.

    Somebody change the record, but it was another insane week of college hoops fraught with upsets. In total, 18 teams from last week's Top 25 suffered a combined 23 losses16 of which were to teams outside our Top 25.

    Spinning that a different way, there were only seven ranked teams that didn't suffer at least one loss last week: Kansas, Villanova, North Carolina, Miami, Arizona, Kentucky and Dayton—each of which climbed multiple spots in this week's poll.

    Perhaps the biggest winner, though, was Duke. The Blue Devils beat a pair of ranked teams this week to come flying back into the poll at No. 14. They almost certainly won't be that high in Monday's Associated Press Top 25, but get ready for them to start another potentially years-long streak in that poll.

     

    Teams Dropped from Week 14 Rankings: Texas A&M (16), USC (17), Wichita State (20), South Carolina (24), Valparaiso (25)

    Others Considered: California, Saint Joseph's, Monmouth, Utah, LSU

     

    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: Texas-Indiana

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    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    25. Texas
    Record: 16-9
    Previous rank: 14

    After soaring into our Top 25 last week, the Longhorns were unable to score marquee wins at Oklahoma or Iowa State. Remaining home games against West Virginia, Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas leave plenty of chances on the table for more key victories.

     

    24. Stony Brook
    Record: 22-4
    Previous rank: Not ranked

    Three cheers for the Seawolves, who haven't lost since Dec. 12. Granted, they didn't really play anyone of any value during that stretch, but 18 straight wins in this crazy season is pretty doggone noteworthy. Jameel Warney is the real deal, and hopefully we get to see him in the NCAA tournament this year.

     

    23. Wisconsin
    Record: 16-9
    Previous rank: Not ranked

    Who could have guessed after early home losses to Western Illinois, Milwaukee and Marquette, we would ever even be entertaining the notion of Wisconsin in this season's Top 25 again?

    The Badgers have now won seven straight, including home wins over Michigan State and Indiana and Saturday's eye-opening road win over Maryland. Might be about time to go ahead and lock down Greg Gard for as long as possible.

     

    22. SMU
    Record: 21-3
    Previous rank: 22

    After Wednesday's home loss to Tulsa, it looked like the wheels were coming off for SMU. The Mustangs had lost three of their last five games and still had tests remaining against Gonzaga, Cincinnati and Connecticut (twice).

    With no postseason to play for, it wouldn't have been shocking to see them pack it in, but Nic Moore refused to let that happen. The senior point guard went off for 25 points and 11 assists in knocking off Gonzaga on Saturday. 

     

    21. Indiana
    Record: 20-5
    Previous rank: Not ranked

    Indiana built on its crucial win over Iowa with a very strong first half at Michigan State on Sunday afternoon. The final margin ended up not doing justice to how well the Hoosiers played early, but they really proved something to their doubters this week. O.G. Anunoby continues to be a lot of fun to watch.

Nos. 20-16: Purdue-Oregon

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    Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

    20. Purdue
    Record: 20-6
    Previous rank: 15

    The week began so promising for Purdue, as they opened up an 18-point lead in the first half against Michigan State. However, the Boilermakers needed overtime to escape with that win before blowing a late six-point lead in losing at Michigan. Their inability to hang on to leads is a very disturbing trend to keep in mind when filling out those brackets in a month.

     

    19. Louisville
    Record: 19-6
    Previous rank: 12

    For a team with nothing to play for, the Cardinals played pretty well this week. Unfortunately, it wasn't good enough, as they had to go on the road to face two teams with a lot to prove (Duke and Notre Dame), losing the pair of games by a combined margin of 12 points.

      

    17. (tie) Iowa State
    Record: 18-7
    Previous rank: 18

    The Cyclones fell in overtime to suddenly unstoppable Texas Tech, but bounced back for a quality win over Texas. Getting Jameel McKay back in the lineup against the Longhorns was crucial, as he had eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks.

     

    17. (tie) Notre Dame
    Record: 18-7
    Previous rank: Not ranked

    The Fighting Irish are on one heck of a three-game winning streak that started with last Saturday's home win over North Carolina and continued with victories at Clemson and vs. Louisville this week.

    And believe it or not, the win over Clemson was probably the most impressive of the bunch. The Tigers had not yet allowed an opponent to score more than 76 points in 2016, but the Fighting Irish went into Greenville and dropped 89 on them. Demetrius Jackson and company might cause some serious problems in the Big Dance.

     

    16. Oregon
    Record: 20-6
    Previous rank: 10

    Going on the road in Pac-12 play proved to be an extremely difficult task once again. Oregon got blown out at California before suffering a much less forgivable loss at Stanford two nights later. The Ducks might still be the team to beat from this conference, but they were beaten twice this week.

15. Dayton Flyers

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    Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 21-3

    Previous rank: 23

    Results since last poll: vs. Duquesne (W 76-74); at Rhode Island (W 68-66)

    Games before next poll: at Saint Joseph's; vs. Saint Bonaventure

     

    Not that we ever expect any less from an Archie Miller-coached team, but Dayton showed a tremendous amount of toughness and resolve this week.

    On Tuesday night against Duquesne, the Flyers dug themselves a hole on multiple occasions and trailed by 12 with less than six minutes remaining. But they responded by going on an 18-1 run to remain in sole possession of first place in the A-10.

    Then again on Saturday, they were involved in a very back-and-forth game with the Rams, trailing by two in the final 30 seconds before snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

    They shot just 9-of-27 from beyond the arc while their opponents hit a combined 19-of-42, but they rebounded well and did a good enough job of defending without fouling to escape with wins.

    Sounds like a team that's going to be really tough to beat in the tournament, doesn't it? And if they keep winning, the Flyers just might go dancing as a No. 2 seed. Not too shabby for a "mid-major."

14. Duke Blue Devils

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Record: 19-6

    Previous rank: Not Ranked

    Results since last poll: vs. Louisville (W 72-65); vs. Virginia (W 63-62)

    Games before next poll: at North Carolina; at Louisville

     

    So, about that whole "Duke might not even make the NCAA tournament" conversation...

    Here's the thing: Even when the Blue Devils were dropping games left and right early in ACC play, they never looked particularly bad.

    No doubt they missed (and still do miss) Amile Jefferson, but there's no shame in losing a close game at Clemson this year or struggling to keep pace with Notre Dame's high-powered offense. And if their legs looked tired in the home loss to a Syracuse team that has now won eight of its last nine games, it's probably because their extremely short rotation was playing its third game in six days.

    But rather than trying to make sense of a three-game losing streak that came by a combined margin of 11 points, the nation seized the opportunity to kick the Blue Devils while they were down.

    Hope you got all of your shots in while you could, because they are playing their best basketball of the season right now.

    Well, that's not entirely true. Luke Kennard didn't score a single point in Saturday's win over Virginia, and Grayson Allen had his lowest-scoring game since his "flu game" against Utah in mid-December. The Blue Devils are even better than they displayed while beating one of the top candidates to win the national championship, so...there's that.

13. Arizona Wildcats

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Record: 21-5

    Previous rank: 19

    Results since last poll: vs. UCLA (W 81-75); vs. USC (W 86-78)

    Games before next poll: vs. Arizona State

     

    The Pac-12 has been some kind of rodeo, but Arizona is putting together a nice little eight-second ride aboard this bucking bronco.

    After sweeping their home series against the L.A. schools, the Wildcats have turned a five-game winning streak into a tie for first place with Oregonthough the Ducks do own the head-to-head tiebreaker if it comes to that.

    What's interesting about the two wins this week is that they didn't actually do very well on offense and still scored in the 80s in both games. They shot a combined 34.1 percent from three-point range and only recorded an assist on 52.8 percent of their made buckets. But they pounded the glass and did a great job of getting to the free-throw line and salting the games away from the charity stripe.

    Super frosh Allonzo Trier didn't do much last week in his first game back after a four-week recovery from a broken hand, but he had 32 points between the two games this week, tying Gabe York for the team lead in that category. The Wildcats were able to tread water for a while without Trier, but he'll be a huge factor in how far this team can ultimately go.

12. Xavier Musketeers

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Record: 22-3

    Previous rank: 6

    Results since last poll: at Creighton (L 56-70); at Butler (W 74-57)

    Games before next poll: vs. Providence; at Georgetown

     

    There were quite a few ugly losses this week, but scoring 56 points in a 74-possession game against Creightonthe same Creighton team that had just allowed Villanova to score 83 in a 65-possession game—was, well, not a great look for the Musketeers.

    They shot an atrocious 1-of-21 from three-point range, but it was more than just that.

    Mo Watson Jr. absolutely tore that Xavier backcourt to shreds in scoring a career-high 32 points. Creighton also shot poorly from downtown (7-of-30), but the Bluejays shot 62.5 percent from inside the arc—this coming in the first game after a week in which St. John's and Marquette shot 53.5 percent from two-point range against Xavier's porous defense.

    Creighton also hung right with Xavier on the glass, which is almost always true of box scores when the Musketeers struggle.

    Now, they bounced back very nicely with a 17-point win at Butler on Saturday, shooting 50.0 percent from downtown and limiting the Bulldogs to 31.8 percent shooting from two-point range. It was a complete 180 from what happened just four days earlier, but it only begins to erase the damage done.

    Continuing that great play this week against Providence and Georgetown before next Wednesday's showdown with Villanova is pretty much mandatory if Xavier wants to remain anywhere near the conversation for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

11. Miami Hurricanes

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    Joel Auerbach/Associated Press

    Record: 20-4

    Previous rank: 13

    Results since last poll: vs. Pittsburgh (W 65-63); at Florida State (W 67-65)

    Games before next poll: vs. Virginia Tech; at North Carolina

     

    Survive and advance is the unofficial slogan of the NCAA tournament, but it's also what Miami did this week to keep pace in the ACC race.

    An Angel Rodriguez tip-in among the trees proved to be the game-winner against Pittsburgh, and the Hurricanes managed to avoid a pair of bullets at the end of the win over Florida State, as the Seminoles jacked up two air balls that would have likely given them the win.

    As a result, the 'Canes are 9-3 and just a game behind North Carolina for first place in the ACC.

    CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein saw this coming, but not many others did. Hindsight is 20/20, but it's hard to believe we ever doubted Jim Larranaga's ability to put together a title contender with a roster this experienced. The senior trifecta of Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan and Tonye Jekiri might be the most valuable in the country, and Ja'Quan Newton is one heck of a talented guy to have coming in off the bench.

    Whether they can actually win the ACC will almost certainly come down to Saturday. And a win in Chapel Hill wouldn't just put the Hurricanes in a great position for the ACC title. It would be the type of marquee victory that gets everyone discussing just how big of a threat they are to win it all.

10. West Virginia Mountaineers

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Record: 20-5

    Previous rank: 11

    Results since last poll: at Kansas (L 65-75); vs. TCU (W 73-42)

    Games before next poll: at Texas; vs. Oklahoma

     

    The Mountaineers are no longer the favorite to win the Big 12 regular-season title, but losing by a 10-point margin at the Phog is hardly an unforgivable offense.

    The more intriguing WVU outcome of the week came in the home game against TCU.

    Sure, home games against TCU are about as close as it gets to a free win in Big 12 play—the Horned Frogs are now 0-6 on the road in conference with the losses coming by an average margin of 21.2 points—but Jonathan Holton was back in the lineup after a four-game absence and racked up 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists in just 18 minutes.

    The Mountaineers just weren't the same team without him.

    In the loss to Kansas, they were minus-five on the glass and "only" had nine steals. In the prior game against Baylor, they were minus-seven with just four steals. But with Holton back in the mix against TCU, West Virginia was plus-15 on the glass and recorded 15 steals.

    Again, we have to consider the opponent, but it was a good sign for this team with the rematches against Texas and Oklahoma looming large this week.

9. Kentucky Wildcats

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    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    Record: 19-6

    Previous rank: 21

    Results since last poll: vs. Georgia (W 82-48); at South Carolina (W 89-62)

    Games before next poll: vs. Tennessee; at Texas A&M

     

    Save for one bad half at Tennessee two weeks ago, Kentucky has been doing to the SEC what Gonzaga usually does to the West Coast Conference. In their last six wins, the Wildcats have outscored the opposition by an average score of 82.5 to 58.

    The frontcourt is still a bit hit or missparticularly with Alex Poythress out for the past three games—but the backcourt duo of Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis has been absolutely unconscious. In conference play, the duo is averaging 40.7 points, 9.4 assists and 3.0 steals per game.

    Much like Ryan Harrow and R.J. Hunter for Georgia State last season, Ulis and Murray are doing more than the rest of the roster combined. The two guards have scored 489 points in SEC play while the rest of the team has scored 460.

    That might seem a bit selfish or ballhog-ish, but it's clearly Kentucky's best course of action, considering it just won three games against potential tournament teams by a combined margin of 80 points.

    As Rob Dauster of NBC Sports tweeted Sunday morning, "Since the loss to Tennessee, Jamal Murray is averaging 28.3 points and shooting 18-31 (58%) from three. That's pretty good, per sources."

7. (tie) North Carolina Tar Heels

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    Stew Milne/Associated Press

    Record: 21-4

    Previous rank: 9

    Results since last poll: at Boston College (W 68-65); vs. Pittsburgh (W 85-64)

    Games before next poll: vs. Duke; vs. Miami

     

    It looked as though North Carolina was going to really limp into next week's marquee home games against Duke and Miami. The Tar Heels lost back-to-back road games last week and proceeded to nearly suffer an inconceivably awful loss to Boston College on Tuesday.

    They needed to make a statement in Sunday's game against desperate-for-a-resume-building-win Pittsburgh, if only to prove to themselves that they still have what it takes to make a run at the national championship.

    Did they ever.

    UNC shot 59.3 percent from the field and recorded an assist on 26 of its 32 made buckets. Five players scored in double figures, and six had at least three assists. Marcus Paige and Justin Jackson shot a combined 55.6 percent from beyond the arc, while Brice Johnson led all players with 19 points.

    In a nutshell, it was the version of North Carolina that voters were expecting when they put the Tar Heels No. 1 in the preseason AP Top 25.

7. (tie) Virginia Cavaliers

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 20-5

    Previous rank: 8

    Results since last poll: vs. Virginia Tech (W 67-49); at Duke (L 62-63)

    Games before next poll: vs. North Carolina State

     

    Even though Duke freshman Brandon Ingram had one of the best games of his young career, Virginia would have won at Cameron Indoor Stadium for the first time in 21 years if not for an acrobatic buzzer-beating shot from Grayson Allen.

    So, no, we're not going to penalize the Cavaliers for losing a game in which they nearly held Duke to its lowest point total since January 2014—another sign that Virginia's defense has gotten back to its stingy ways.

    Prior to Saturday, the Wahoos had held four straight opponents to 50 points or fewerwinning each of those games by a margin of at least 14 points despite failing to score more than 67 in any of them.

    If you waited until the end of football season to really dive into college basketball, that probably sounds like business as usual for what has been one of the best defenses in the country for the past four years. However, they were allowing 66.1 points per game through their first eight ACC games and had not held a team to fewer than 52 since the first game of the season.

    Now that they've fully adjusted to the rule changes and have really dug their heels into their bread and butter, the Cavaliers will be a team that absolutely no one wants to deal with in the tournament.

6. Maryland Terrapins

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Record: 22-4

    Previous rank: 1

    Results since last poll: vs. Bowie State (W 93-62); vs. Wisconsin (L 57-70)

    Games before next poll: at Minnesota; vs. Michigan

     

    How does Diamond Stone play 29 minutes against Wisconsin and only grab one rebound? (Better question: How was he even allowed to play 29 minutes after trying to give Vitto Brown a concussion in the first half?)

    How does Melo Trimble shoot 1-of-12 from inside the arc while finishing the game with five times as many turnovers as made field goals?

    How does Maryland block nine shots and finish just minus-one in the turnover battle against the Badgers and still lose by 13 points at home?

    Why did the Terrapins play a game against Bowie State in mid-February?

    So many questions and so few answers for what was our No. 1 team one week ago.

    To be fair, this was their first hiccup of the season. It was just really strange to see them drop a home game against a bubble team shortly after defending that home court against Iowa and Purdue.

    With three tough games remaining (vs. Michigan, at Purdue, at Indiana), they'll need to play substantially better than they did Saturday if they want to have any chance of claiming the Big Ten regular-season title.

5. Iowa Hawkeyes

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Record: 20-5

    Previous rank: 2

    Results since last poll: at Indiana (L 78-85); vs. Minnesota (W 75-71)

    Games before next poll: at Penn State

     

    Iowa's success continues to be one of the biggest surprises of the 2015-16 college basketball season, but this was not a banner week for the Hawkeyes. After giving Indiana by far its best win of the year, they darn near lost a home game against Minnesota that would have been the Golden Gophers' first Big Ten win of the year.

    The disturbing news is they seemed to play pretty well in both games.

    In the loss to the Hoosiers, the Hawkeyes grabbed 19 offensive rebounds and committed just nine turnovers while all five starters scored at least a dozen points. But they shot 56.5 percent from the free-throw line while Indiana shot 18-of-21.

    Against Minnesota, Peter Jok had 27 points, Jarrod Uthoff went for 24 and 15 with six blocks and Mike Gesell had a dozen assists. Minnesota shot below 40 percent from the field and below 30 percent from beyond the arc but still had Iowa on the ropes until the bitter end.

    Neither result makes much sense. The Hawkeyes should have destroyed Minnesota, and they played plenty well enough to beat Indiana. Is the magic carriage turning back into a pumpkin, or was it just a lackluster week for a team that had won its previous three games by a combined margin of 50 points?

4. Michigan State Spartans

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Record: 21-5

    Previous rank: 5

    Results since last poll: at Purdue (L 81-82); vs. Indiana (W 88-69)

    Games before next poll: vs. Wisconsin

     

    If we take out the first half of Tuesday's loss at Purdue, there's not a team in the country playing better basketball over the past three weeks than Michigan State.

    It wasn't long ago that we were beyond ready to just hand Oklahoma's Buddy Hield the Wooden Award. On Feb. 4, ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan wrote, "The Wooden Award race is already over. That's right: Done. Terminado. Fertig. Finito. Ov-er. Buddy Hield is winning the 2016 Wooden Award. No one else is even close."

    But even with Hield continuing to play extremely well, Denzel Valentine is certainly making things interesting again.

    Over his last eight games, Valentine has averaged 22.9 points, 7.9 assists and 7.8 rebounds. This week alone, he averaged 28.5 points, 11.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds. He brought Michigan State back from an 18-point deficit to force overtime against Purdue, and then he poetically destroyed Indiana on Valentine's Day.

    At 8-5, there's almost no chance the Spartans will win the Big Ten regular-season crown. And with a lackluster nonconference strength of schedule, they'll need to win the conference tournament just to get into the conversation for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. But if they keep playing like this, the Spartans will be the favorites to win it all, no matter their seed.

3. Oklahoma Sooners

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Record: 20-4

    Previous rank: 2

    Results since last poll: vs. Texas (W 63-60); vs. Kansas (L 72-76)

    Games before next poll: at Texas Tech; at West Virginia

     

    With the exception of Buddy Hield, it seems like the Sooners have been struggling in alternating fashion.

    Isaiah Cousins shot 26.3 percent from the floor in the first five games of January. As soon as Cousins got back on track, Khadeem Lattin disappeared and still hasn't really returned. Jordan Woodard entered Saturday's game against Kansas with a grand total of three points in his last two games. And Ryan Spangler (three points and seven rebounds) just had one of his worst games since last February.

    In other words, we haven't really seen the Sooners play a complete game since mid-December, and they're still looking like one of the five best teams in the country.

    As has been the case all season long, the only potential concern here is the intense reliance on the unreliable long ball. Oklahoma is shooting 33.3 percent from downtown in Februaryas opposed to 46.8 percent through its first 20 gamesand has still averaged 27.0 attempts per game despite that relative cold spell.

    Once one of the highest-scoring teams in the country, Oklahoma made just 21 two-point buckets this week while averaging 67.5 points.

    It's something that's definitely worth keeping an eye on for the next few weeks. It's hardly uncommon for teams to hit a bit of a wall in early February before bouncing back, so for Oklahoma's sake, let's hope it's just that and not an issue of legs getting worn out after three months of a ton of minutes and long jumpers.

2. Villanova Wildcats

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Record: 22-3

    Previous rank: 4

    Results since last poll: at DePaul (W 86-59); vs. St. John's (W 73-63)

    Games before next poll: at Temple; vs. Butler

     

    Villanova was on the short list of ranked teams to escape the week without suffering a loss, but the Wildcats also scored a pretty big win with Daniel Ochefu returning to action after a three-game absence due to a concussion.

    Based on his combined line of 36 points, 15 rebounds, five steals, four assists and three blocks against the Blue Demons and Red Storm, it seems safe to assume that he's already back to nearly 100 percent health.

    But his time on the bench may have actually been a blessing for Villanova.

    The Wildcats are certainly at their best with Ochefu manning the post, but other forwards were forced to step out of their comfort zone. Darryl Reynolds' playing time doubled, and he nearly averaged a double-double. And Kris Jenkins had never tallied more than seven rebounds in a game before in his career, but he had two double-doubles with Ochefu out.

    Once regarded as little more than a team that lives and dies by the three, the Wildcats have emerged as a team that can win with defense, rebounding and interior play. Recent tournament history will likely dissuade a lot of people from riding Villanova in their bracket pools, but this is absolutely a team that can win it all.

1. Kansas Jayhawks

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    Record: 21-4

    Previous rank: 7

    Results since last poll: vs. West Virginia (W 75-65); at Oklahoma (W 76-72)

    Games before next poll: vs. Oklahoma State; at Kansas State

     

    In the month of February, Wayne Selden is averaging 6.8 points and shooting 15.8 percent from three-point range.

    In the month of February, Kansas is 4-0.

    Huh?

    For the first half of the season, it felt like the Jayhawks would only go as far as Selden could take them. In leading the team to No. 1 in the nation, he was shooting better than 50 percent from three-point range through his first 14 games.

    But with Selden struggling as of late, they're now winning games thanks to a pair of guys we weren't even expecting to start before the season began.

    Devonte' Graham was the hero Saturday with 27 points and excellent defense on Oklahoma's Buddy Hield, but how about the job Landen Lucas is doing? The junior power forward had 26 rebounds, 16 points and five blocks this week in a pair of wins that put Kansas back in great shape for a 12th straight Big 12 crown.

    That has been the missing link for the Jayhawks all season long. They've tried Jamari Traylor, Cheick Diallo, Hunter Mickelson and Carlton Bragg, but it took more than two months for Lucas to finally break into the starting lineup.

    That's one problem figured out. Once Selden gets back on track, it's going to be very difficult to find and exploit a weakness against Kansas.

     

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

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