Outside of a few highly entertaining games on Saturday, it was one heck of an uneventful week in the world of college basketball. A grand total of four ranked teams suffered losses, and only one of those four (South Carolina, by a one-possession margin at Seton Hall) lost to an unranked foe.
In that myriad of unsurprising results, we did get the best game of the season, as Kentucky outlasted North Carolina in a 103-100 thriller in Las Vegas. The Wildcats jumped two spots into a tie for No. 3, while the Tar Heels only slipped one spot after letting Malik Monk cook for 47 points.
Both Creighton and USC made things interesting by flirting with what would have been terrible losses, but the end result is that the Bleacher Report Top 25 doesn't look all that different than it did one week ago, save for Butler and Indiana moving a combined 13 spots after Saturday's head-to-head duel.
|B/R's Week 7 Top 25 Poll|
|9. North Carolina||10-2||8||-1|
|10. West Virginia||9-1||11||+1|
|18. Notre Dame||9-2||16||-2|
|20. South Carolina||9-1||14||-6|
|23. Saint Mary's||8-1||21||-2|
|23. Florida State||11-1||24||+1|
|25. Virginia Tech||9-1||25||-|
Moving Up: Butler Bulldogs
Don't look now, Baylor, but Butler is making a spirited run at your title of "Best Nonconference Resume" in the nation. (Also, Bears, you're not doing your RPI and SOS any favors with these December games against the likes of Southern, Jackson State and John Brown.)
The Bulldogs entered this week with home wins over Cincinnati and Northwestern, neutral-court wins over Arizona and Vanderbilt and a true road win over Utah. To that strong hand, they added an ace in the form of a neutral-court victory over Indiana in the Crossroads Classic.
Per usual, the Hoosiers struggled with turnovers in the 83-78 loss, committing 13 while only forcing six. Moreover, the Bulldogs outscored the Hoosiers in points off turnovers by a 17-8 margin, so there's your difference and then some.
But let's not pretend this in-state showdown all boiled down to a few traveling violations. Rather, Kelan Martin was borderline unstoppable for the Bulldogs, efficiently scoring 28 points on 16 shots, including one stretch midway through the second half in which he had 10 points in the span of four consecutive possessions.
The growing-less-secret-by-the-day weapon for Butler remains freshman Kamar Baldwin. In his second game as a starter, Baldwin scored a career-high 14 points. His biggest contributions, though, have come on the other side of the court where his on-ball defense and active hands are second to none. He didn't officially record any steals in this one, but you better believe he was a factor in Indiana shooting a season-worst 28.6 percent from three-point range.
Between Creighton playing easily its worst game of the season (more on that shortly) and Xavier looking a bit shaky thus far in December—the Musketeers barely escaped with a home win over Wake Forest on Saturday to move to 2-2 for the month—Butler appears to be the top challenger to Villanova in the Big East. Even with that eyesore of a loss at Indiana State earlier this month, the Bulldogs jumped seven spots to No. 11 in this week's B/R Top 25.
Moving Down: Creighton Bluejays
It was a week completely devoid of big upsets, but Creighton darn near messed around and suffered the worst loss of the season. Indiana and South Carolina dropped further in the rankings for their losses, but we want to talk about the undefeated team that dropped six spots on KenPom for sleepwalking through its only game this week.
According to KenPom.com, the Bluejays were projected to win their home game against Oral Roberts by a 93-67 margin. They entered the game with one of the most efficient offenses in the nation, averaging 91.6 points per game. Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles were winless against D-I opponents in nine attempts, including losses by margins of more than 20 points against Montana, Oakland and Loyola-Chicago.
This should have been a bloodbath. Instead, Creighton needed a late comeback in a game where both teams combined to score six points in the final six minutes.
The Bluejays escaped with a 66-65 win, but it was the type of game that plants a seed of doubt into what one once believed to be true. All of a sudden, breezing through Washington State, North Carolina State and Ole Miss in the Paradise Jam doesn't look so impressive. And that lonely marquee home win over Wisconsin feels like more of an outlier (for both teams) that an indication of what to expect if they were to meet again.
Given what Creighton has on deck for the rest of the month, it could quickly make us forget about that nail-biter against Oral Roberts. The Bluejays travel to Arizona State on Tuesday before opening Big East play with home games against Seton Hall and Villanova. They'll enter that stretch at No. 12 in the B/R Top 25, down one spot from last week.
Worth Noting: Big Ten a Convoluted Mess
What do we make of what was supposed to be the second-best conference in the country?
Indiana has incredible wins over Kansas and North Carolina, but it also has that ugly loss to Fort Wayne and now a loss to Butler. It seems like Indiana is just as likely to win the Big Ten as it is to lose at least one of its three games against Penn State and Rutgers. There's not a more puzzling team in the country.
Purdue might be the best team in the conference—it battled valiantly in close losses to Villanova and Louisville—but it wasn't until Saturday's comeback, neutral-court win over Notre Dame that the Boilermakers had anything close to a quality win. And with nothing but home games remaining against Western Illinois and Norfolk State, they're not about to pick up any more good games before conference play. Should the Fighting Irish crash and burn in ACC play, Purdue is going to enter Selection Sunday with nothing but "quality losses" to show for the first seven weeks of the season.
At least Purdue has a win over a team currently ranked. Wisconsin is 10-2 overall, but the Badgers are 0-2 against the Top 25—and neither the loss to Creighton nor North Carolina was particularly close. The sum of wins over Marquette, Georgetown, Syracuse, Oklahoma and Tennessee looks nice, but where are the signature victories?
With question marks surrounding those teams—and significantly more around Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State—the Big Ten doesn't have a team in our Top 13.
On the Radar: Oklahoma State Cowboys
As if Press Virginia wasn't enough for the rest of the Big 12 to deal with, Brad Underwood brought his physical, turnover-forcing style of play from Stephen F. Austin to Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys are third in the nation in steal percentage, sixth in offensive rebound percentage and 348th in defensive free-throw rate. West Virginia has drastically cut down on its fouling this year, but the Mountaineers ranked first, fourth and 351st, respectively, in those categories two seasons ago when they first embraced this scheme.
As was the case for West Virginia in recent years, when it doesn't work, it really doesn't work. The Cowboys lost by 32 to North Carolina a few weeks ago in the Maui Invitational as the Tar Heels scored on seemingly every possession.
But Oklahoma State went into Wichita State on Saturday and emerged with a shocker of its own, winning 93-76. The Cowboys shot 52.5 percent from the floor and got offensive rebounds on 51.5 percent of their misses. Even though the Shockers made 35 free throws, they never had a chance.
Conveniently enough, Oklahoma State will open Big 12 play with a home game against West Virginia on Dec. 30. If the 9-2 ball-hawking apprentices can beat the masters, the Cowboys will be ranked in the first poll of 2017.
What to watch for this week:
—Kentucky at Louisville (Wednesday, 7 p.m. ET on ESPN)
—Northern Iowa at North Carolina (Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2)
—Clemson at South Carolina (Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET on ESPNU)
—Virginia at California (Wednesday, 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2)
With finals week transitioning into winter break, it's another lackluster week of games. Kentucky at Louisville will be a huge one that we'll have plenty more to say about in the next few days, but there's not much else going on for the next seven days.
UNI at UNC only has a bit of intrigue because the Panthers upset the Tar Heels last year, but Northern Iowa already has five losses and just got blown out by Iowa. It probably won't even be worth checking out the second half of that one when the Bluegrass Battle comes to an end.
Clemson gets a chance to make a major statement in a Palmetto State showdown. The Tigers lost two games early against Xavier and Oklahoma in the Tire Pros Invitational, but they played those games without two key transfers, Shelton Mitchell and Elijah Thomas. They have won six in a row since then and are now at full strength, suffocating opponents on the defensive end. If it weren't for Oklahoma State's big win over Wichita State, Clemson would've been this week's "On the Radar" team.
And if you're the type to stay up late watching a race to 50 points, Virginia at California is right up your alley. Two of the best defenses in the country will duke it out in a battle that they both need for their NCAA tournament resumes. Virginia to enhance its chance at a No. 1 or No. 2 seed; California to have any sort of nonconference win worth bragging about on Selection Sunday.
In summation, block off Wednesday night for college hoops and spend the rest of the week doing whatever it is you need to do to be able to watch more games in January, February and March.
Voters in the poll are C.J. Moore, Brian Pedersen and Kerry Miller. 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.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.