College Basketball Rankings 2016-17: Bleacher Report's Week 14 Top 25

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystFebruary 5, 2017

Baylor had a tough week against Kansas and Kansas State.
Baylor had a tough week against Kansas and Kansas State.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

So you thought you had a grip on who the best college basketball teams are, did you?

The week started out innocently enough. Through the end of play on Friday, the teams that appeared in last Sunday's B/R Top 25 were a combined 20-4 with each of those losses coming in ranked vs. ranked fashion. The biggest upset to that point in the week was AP No. 22 Creighton winning at No. 16 Butler.

And then Saturday happened.

Five of our former Top Eight and seven of our former Top 16 teams suffered losses in the span of about nine hours. Moreover, most of those losses came against unranked opponents, leaving major question marks about teams that once seemed destined for a top-two seed in the NCAA tournament.

The Big 12 was to blame for most of the carnage, as Baylor, Kansas and West Virginia each lost at home to unranked foes.

Had those three teams held serve, the day wouldn't have seemed that out of the ordinary. Arizona and Kentucky were blown out at Oregon and Florida, respectively, but they were both underdogs on the road, according to OddsShark.com. Maryland's one-point defeat to Purdue wasn't all that surprising, nor was Creighton's loss to Xavier by a bucket. That leaves Virginia's setback to Syracuse as the most shocking non-Big 12 result of the day, and we stopped trying to make sense of games involving Syracuse ages ago.

Nevertheless, Saturday necessitated a ton of shake-up in our Top 25.

Bleacher Report's Week 14 Top 25 Poll
RankTeamRecordLast Week
1Gonzaga24-01
2Villanova22-22
3Kansas20-33
4Oregon21-39
5North Carolina21-46
6Baylor20-34
7Arizona21-35
8Louisville19-410
9Wisconsin20-311
10Cincinnati21-212
11Kentucky18-58
11Virginia17-56
13UCLA21-314
14Florida State20-417
15Saint Mary's21-215
16Purdue19-521
17Duke18-523
18West Virginia18-513
19Florida18-5Not Ranked
20South Carolina19-423
21Maryland20-316
22SMU20-420
23Butler18-518
24Creighton20-425
24Wichita State21-4Not Ranked
Bleacher Report

Others Receiving Votes: USC, Xavier, Oklahoma State

Moving Up: Duke Blue Devils

With Grayson Allen and Amile Jefferson playing well, Duke is back in business.
With Grayson Allen and Amile Jefferson playing well, Duke is back in business.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

We could have gone any number of directions for this spot. There weren't any huge upward movers, but there were several teams that made a noteworthy jump. Florida joins our Top 25 at No. 19 after dominant wins over Missouri and Kentucky. Purdue had one heck of a two-game stretch, crushing 18-4 Northwestern before a road win over 20-2 Maryland. And Oregon made perhaps the biggest statement of the week, shooting 16-of-25 from three-point range in the process of blowing out Arizona.

But given the number of things that were written in the past few weeks about what's gone wrong with Duke, it only seemed fair to use this space to point out things are finally going right for the Blue Devils.

The long and short of it is that Grayson Allen is finally making a positive impact. From Dec. 19 through Jan. 23, Duke went 5-4 and had a few closer-than-they-should-have-been wins over Tennessee State, Elon and Boston College. During that stretch, Allen missed one game due to his third tripping incident and shot a combined 9-of-40 (22.5 percent) from three-point range in the other eight. He averaged 11.8 points per game and 1.38 points per field-goal attempt.

During the current three-game winning streak, however, he has consistently been a significant contributor. He has averaged 20.3 points per game and 1.56 points per field-goal attempt. He's shooting 13-of-29 (44.8 percent) from downtown and is a perfect 14-of-14 from the free-throw lineafter going 35-of-48 (72.9 percent) during his cold spell.

There are other contributing factors to Duke's turnaround. In Saturday's win over Pittsburgh, Amile Jefferson finally looked healthy for the first time since missing two games with a bone bruise. Glimpses of the Harry Giles that was once the top player in this year's recruiting class are starting to shine through brighter and more often. As a whole, the team is sharing the rock better than it had during its four ACC losses.

Allen is the key, though. Luke Kennard is a star, but he can't be the only one. With Allen back to playing like the preseason favorite for National Player of the Year, Duke is once again looking like one of the top candidates to win the national championship.

 

Moving Down: Northwestern Wildcats

Without Scottie Lindsey, Northwestern was trounced by Purdue.
Without Scottie Lindsey, Northwestern was trounced by Purdue.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Northwestern's stay in the Top 25 was short-lived.

Each of our three voters had the Wildcats on his ballot seven days ago, but they dropped out of the poll from No. 21, receiving no votes following their loss at Purdue.

Playing without both leading scorer Scottie Lindsey and reserve wing-forward Nathan Taphorn, the score got a bit ugly. Northwestern trailed by 22 at halftime before the Boilermakers put it on cruise control for an 80-59 win.

But it's not the margin that concerns us as much as the fact that it was just another blown opportunity for Northwestern. Purdue joins Butler, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Minnesota on the list of teams with wins over the Wildcats.

A few prominent CBB folks have gone as far as guaranteeing that this will be the year Northwestern makes the NCAA tournament, but it had better figure out how to beat at least one quality opponent if that's going to happen. The bubble may be weak, but losses in remaining games against Wisconsin, Maryland and Purdue would be a problem.

 

Worth Noting: Kentucky is kind of a mess

John Calipari's Wildcats have lost three out of their last four.
John Calipari's Wildcats have lost three out of their last four.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Wildcats only dropped three spots to No. 11, but remember three or four weeks ago when it felt like no one in the SEC was even going to challenge them?

Where has that team gone?

After an 88-66 loss to Florida, Kentucky has now dropped three of its last four gamesand it needed a late Malik Monk jumper to force overtime in a win over Georgia just to keep this from being a four-game losing skid.

Part of the problem is that the "Monk or Bust" approach to half-court offense has been erratic. Over the past 14 games, Kentucky's shooting guard has made at least four three-pointers seven times. In those games, Kentucky is 7-0 and wins by an average margin of 19.4 points. When he fails to make at least four triples, though, the Wildcats are 3-4 with an average scoring margin of plus-0.9 points per game. 

The bigger problem is that Kentucky isn't getting it done on defense. In November, Kentucky allowed just 455 points on 550 possessions, according to KenPom.com. That's 82.7 points per 100 possessions. But in each of the past four games, the Wildcats have allowed their opponents to score at least 101 points per 100 possessions.

It's one thing to have trouble stifling Kansas' offensive attack. Even struggling with Florida on the road is understandable. Surrounding those games with poor efforts against Georgia and Tennessee, however, is a sign Kentucky has a lot of work to do before March.

 

On the Radar: Oklahoma State Cowboys

After a rough start to conference play, Jawun Evans has the Cowboys back in fringe Top 25 position.
After a rough start to conference play, Jawun Evans has the Cowboys back in fringe Top 25 position.Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Earlier, you read about Duke righting the ship thanks to Grayson Allen's return to form.

The same goes for Oklahoma State and Jawun Evans.

After getting out to a hot start in November, the star point guard of the Cowboys had a rough five-week stretch. He showed up in a big way for the road win over Wichita State in mid-December, but he wasn't his usual self while Oklahoma State started 0-6 in Big 12 play.

As of late, though, he has been sensational. Evans has earned KenPom MVP honors in four consecutive games, including road wins over Oklahoma and West Virginia this past week. He has been more aggressive on both ends of the floor, forcing turnovers and getting to the free-throw line with regularity.

Where the Cowboys most missed Evans' top-notch play was on defense. During the six-game losing streak, they allowed an average of 85.7 points. In the five-game winning streak, that number is down to 70.4.

Oklahoma State is still a stone's throw from the Top 25, but home games against Baylor and Texas this week could be just the ticketprovided the Cowboys do a better job of protecting home court than their Big 12 brethren did Saturday.

 

What to Watch for This Week

Round Two between Gonzaga and Saint Mary's is next weekend.
Round Two between Gonzaga and Saint Mary's is next weekend.William Mancebo/Getty Images

—No. 8 Louisville at No. 11 Virginia (7 p.m. ET Monday on ESPN)

—No. 5 North Carolina at No. 17 Duke (8 p.m. ET Thursday on ESPN)

—No. 4 Oregon at No. 13 UCLA (10 p.m. ET Thursday on ESPN)

—No. 1 Gonzaga at No. 15 Saint Mary's (8:15 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN)

—No. 10 Cincinnati at No. 22 SMU (4 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN)

Per usual, there's no shortage of battles between ranked teams.

The big one that will have the whole college basketball world buzzing is North Carolina and Duke on Thursday night. You may have heard those schools don't much care for one another. In addition to being a great rivalry, it's a huge game for each team. The home team is seeking to erase all doubts we had about it throughout January, while the road team needs this one to remain in contention for a No. 1 seed.

As far as KenPom is concerned, though, that's not even the most intriguing ACC game of the week. That honor belongs to KenPom No. 2 Louisville and No. 3 Virginia on Monday night. Both the Cardinals and Cavaliers have flown a bit below the radar after each lost two of their first three conference games, but the winner of this one will become the favorite to win the ACCgiven the treacherous schedule the Tar Heels need to traverse over the next four weeks.

Two great games in the Atlantic Coast are matched by two heavyweight bouts on the West Coast. Round No. 1 of Oregon vs. UCLA was one of the best games of the season to date, and the rematch should be equally entertaining. And Gonzagaprovided it beats Loyola Marymount on Thursdaywill take its undefeated record into Moraga, California, for its final major challenge of the regular season. Will two-loss Saint Mary's make a statement that it belongs in the conversation for a No. 4 seed or better in the NCAA tournament?

In case that's not enough, the week ends with a battle between the only AAC teams that matter this season. 21-2 (10-0 in AAC) Cincinnati hits the road for a rematch with 20-4 (10-1 in AAC) SMU. Much like Oregon and UCLA, the first game went down to the wire with the home team winning by a deuce. The Mustangs are hoping to return the favor.

 

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. 

Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of KenPom.com and Sports-Reference.com

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