After more than a month of inertia atop the Associated Press college basketball rankings, intraconference play has provided a major shakeup heading into the second full week of 2014.
Arizona and Syracuse remain No. 1 and No. 2 respectively for the sixth straight week, but behind the two monoliths is a landscape in a complete state of flux. Wisconsin continues its surprising early unbeaten streak to move to No. 3, and Michigan State and Wichita State round out the Top Five.
Here is a look at how the rest of the Top 25 played out:
|Week 11 AP Top 25 Poll|
|Rank||Team (First-Place Votes)||Record||Votes||Previous|
|10||San Diego State||14-1||1020||13|
Although the five teams sitting at the top of the standings are mostly familiar—four of those teams were there last week—there are massive fluctuations in the rest of the poll. Starting, of course, with last week's No. 3 team, Ohio State.
Facing their first two elite opponents of this season in Michigan State and Iowa, the Buckeyes' vaunted defense faltered. Although they battled back late to force overtime against the Spartans, Thad Matta's squad was never in control of that contest and fell 72-68. Iowa compounded the bad week for Ohio State by dominating on both ends down the stretch in the Hawkeyes' 84-74 win on Jan. 12, holding the Buckeyes to just three field goals in the final seven minutes.
“We are at our best when we are connected," senior guard Aaron Craft said, via Ohio State. "When we are talking you are able to see that in our offense. In the past two games, we have not been connected and it is very easy to see.”
Even though they came against ranked teams, the two losses were enough to drop the Buckeyes to No. 11. They were one of three Top 10 teams from the Week 10 poll to go down over the past seven days, with Big 12 rivals Iowa State and Baylor each suffering defeats.
The Cyclones got their biggest win of the season on Tuesday by running the Bears out of the gym in an 87-72 victory. But the celebration was short-lived, as their undefeated run ended with a trip to Norman. Iowa State stays at No. 8 in the latest poll after its 1-1 week, but we'll get a good indicator of where this team truly stands on Monday evening when it hosts No. 15 Kansas.
Overall, 11 of the Top 25 teams suffered at least one loss. Oregon has now lost three straight Pac-12 contests after falling to Cal and Stanford in Week 10 and dropped out of the rankings. The same goes for Illinois, which lasted exactly one week in the Top 25 before getting crushed by Wisconsin and putting up just 43 points against Northwestern on the road.
The gamut of losses helped No. 23 Duke stay in the Top 25, but the Blue Devils are barely hanging on. Their 72-59 loss to Clemson dropped them to 1-2 in the ACC for the first time in seven years and raised major questions about the constitution of this roster. Jabari Parker has made just 16 of 48 shots (33.3 percent) over the past four games after a world-beating start to his collegiate career and was even benched down the stretch in a loss to Notre Dame on Jan. 4.
Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports notes the dichotomy in reaction to Parker's struggles compared to how folks react to Kansas' Andrew Wiggins:
Although Mike Krzyzewski knew his team's lack of size could possibly be a detriment—Duke's tallest starter is 6'9" forward Amile Jefferson—the coach seemed willing to take blame for his team's failures after the loss to a middling Tigers team.
"We're not very good right now and that's on me as a coach," Krzyzewski said, via Clemson. "I never bad mouth my team or any guy. We win together, we lose together, but we're not very good right now and we've got to take steps to try to get to be good, because the league is unforgiving."
No matter the conference, league play certainly isn't "forgiving." Even teams that managed to get through the week unscathed found out things aren't going to be as easy as they were in the nonconference.
Arizona had to withstand a UCLA run in the waning moments to pull out a 79-75 victory, at one point even falling behind with less than two minutes remaining. Syracuse only scored 57 points but clamped down on defense to overtake a struggling North Carolina team, which flew even farther out of the Top 25 purview. Wichita State came back from 19 points down and needed overtime to defeat Missouri State.
It's interesting that now, after weeks of calm waters across college basketball, things are finally starting to liven up. Last season's run to the Big Dance was filled with what at times felt like daily upsets. Inherently flawed teams battled one another on a nightly basis, and the result created this air of unpredictability that carried the nation into March.
Things weren't supposed to be that way in 2013-14. Wiggins, Parker and Kentucky's Julius Randle led a freshman class that overshadowed anything from a team perspective. This was the season when college basketball would actually turn into a minor league feeder system for the NBA—instead of that merely being perception.
Instead, the individuals have only been a part of the story. Dominant teams exist, but they're ones that boast a mix of experience and talent—not the ones that throw the former into the wind.
You see that as Duke drops down seven more spots in the rankings, flying backward after being No. 7 two weeks ago. The Blue Devils are tied for the second-biggest drop among teams still ranked, only behind Ohio State's eight-spot tumble. Memphis moving up seven spots and Iowa moving up six were the best marks among those that were ranked in Week 10.
Six teams (No. 19 Cincinnati, No. 20 Creighton, No. 22 Pittsburgh, No. 24 Saint Louis and Nos. 25 Oklahoma and UCLA) moved into the rankings. Missouri, Oregon, Gonzaga, Illinois and Kansas State were ousted.
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