Until they went to Nashville, that is, and the Vanderbilt Commodores threw a wrench into the master plan.
The top five has been more or less static all season, with Florida, North Carolina, and UCLA rotating through the number-one spot, and Ohio State briefly topping the USA Today/ESPN poll before Carolina pulled the rug out from under them. Pitt was there early, but has slipped back to number seven.
My take: As the number two team in the country, the Ohio State University would seem poised to jump into the driver's seat—but I think Wisconsin should leapfrog the Buckeyes at the top of the polls.
Wisconsin is also number one in the Big 10, half a game ahead of State. Then there's this: Penn State took the Buckeyes to the wire this past week, in a game that was ultimately decided by two points. Wisconsin, on the other hand, has beaten the Nittany Lions twice in the last two weeks—by a total of 39 points.
The bottom line: Wisconsin deserves to be number one because they're a better team, and their record proves it.
UCLA deserves to be number three because they've played the most games against ranked teams of any school in the top five. The Bruins are 8-1 in their nine top-25 matchups to date, beating #6 Texas A&M and splitting home wins with Oregon. UCLA still has to play Stanford at home—they lost to the Cardinal in Palo Alto—and is scheduled to travel to #11 Washington State after winning their first meeting with the Cougars on December 28th. A late loss could leave the Bruins reeling going into the Pac-10 tournament.
So here's how I see the top five shaking out on Sunday: 1 - Wisconsin; 2 - Ohio State; 3 - UCLA; 4 - Florida; 5 - North Carolina.
Then again, that's just based on my critical analysis of the numbers...and it could all change depending on what happens in the last two weeks before the conference tournaments and March Madness. But one thing is for sure: Either Wisconsin or Ohio State will have at least one more loss before the Big Dance. So if they advance through the tourneys unscathed, look for four of the current top-five's to be regional number-one seeds in the championship bracket.
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