Despite the rubble around them, Villanova and Kansas have seemingly brought stability to the top of the Associated Press rankings.
The Wildcats and Jayhawks sit atop the rankings for the second straight week, but once again the ground has shifted beneath them. Virginia moves up four spots to No. 3 amid losses by Oklahoma, North Carolina and Iowa. Oklahoma sits tied at No. 3, and Xavier ascends to No. 5 to round out the Top Five.
Here is a complete look at the full rankings:
|Week 16 AP Rankings|
Villanova's three-week run at No. 1 matches the second-longest reign of this unpredictable 2015-16 season. Jay Wright's team has run off seven straight victories, all of which came by double digits. The Wildcats clinched their third straight Big Five championship with a win over Temple last week.
“You don’t have time during the season to enjoy it because you’re worrying about the next game,” Wright said, per Terry Toohey of the Montgomery News. “It’s the kind of game you appreciate in the summer when you have a chance to look back on it and believe me we’re going to appreciate it because we know the history of the Big 5 and it’s a big deal when you can win the Big 5 championship."
Kansas is likewise on an impressive seven-game run, which has included wins over Kentucky, West Virginia and Oklahoma. Bill Self appears well on his way to a 12th straight season with at least a share of the Big 12 championship. With three of their final four regular-season games coming against ranked opponents, the Jayhawks are in a position to lock up the No. 1 overall seed in March.
Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports properly contextualized the Jayhawks' run:
Jon Rothstein @JonRothstein
Kansas now has a two-game lead in the Big 12 with four games remaining in the regular season. Was there really ever any doubt? #kubball2016-2-21 13:39:18
Beyond the two at the top, though, things remain a mess across the college basketball landscape. Oklahoma dropped a game for the second straight week, falling on the road to Texas Tech. Undefeated in nonconference play, the Sooners have looked vulnerable against the deep Big 12. They're as close to the seventh-place Red Raiders as they are to overtaking Kansas.
Iowa's bid for a conference title also took a major blow when it suffered a 79-75 loss at Penn State. The Hawkeyes are only 4-4 in their last eight road games, including losses in three of their last four.
Maryland and North Carolina also fell over the last seven days, albeit in different contexts. The Tar Heels dropped a last-second thriller to a rebounding Duke team, which came back in the final minutes despite an injury-depleted roster. Mike Krzyzewski was unable to coach his team to four straight wins over ranked opponents later in the week against Louisville, but the Blue Devils are far superior to the outfit that descended from the rankings not long ago.
Maryland's 68-63 loss to Minnesota ranks among the most inexplicable of the season. The Gophers hadn't won a single Big Ten game all season and have a resume that includes a pair of losses to Northwestern by a total of 49 points. The Terrapins bench scored a grand total of two points, and star guard Melo Trimble had twice as many turnovers (six) as made shots (three).
“I just feel like a lot of people are putting too much pressure on him. I feel like … he’s putting too much pressure on himself. He just has to go out there and play,” guard Rasheed Sulaimon said, per Roman Stubbs of the Washington Post. “We’re fine. Everyone has confidence in him, he has confidence in himself.”
Half of the Top 10 went down at least once. West Virginia was the only Top 10 outfit to go down twice and has now lost three of its last four games.
Overall, 15 ranked teams were losers in the last seven days—a story that seemingly repeats itself on a weekly basis. The overarching storyline of the entire season is one of parity. No team, not even Kansas or Villanova, feels unbeatable. The pair is peaking at the right time, but we're still about a month away from the games that really matter.
If the first few months have taught us anything, it's to expect a vastly different outlook come tournament time.
Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter