College Basketball Rankings 2014-15: Bleacher Report's Week 12 Top 25

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystJanuary 26, 2015

College Basketball Rankings 2014-15: Bleacher Report's Week 12 Top 25

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    Kentucky and Virginia remain the only undefeated men's college basketball teams in the country and respectively stayed at No. 1 and No. 2 in this week's Bleacher Report Top 25.

    For a second consecutive week, things were pretty quiet in Upsetville. Only three of last week's Top 16 teams suffered a loss in the past seven days, and two of those losses came against teams that were either already in or very near our Top 25.

    Iowa State's loss to Texas Tech, though—that was pretty bad.

    Outside of that, impressive wins were what created the most movement this week. Kansas jumped five spots after a convincing road win over Texas, and North Carolina jumped into our Top 10 for finally starting to resemble the team we were expecting to see 12 weeks ago.

    Elsewhere, Georgetown headlines our list of new arrivals, but SMU, Ohio State and Colorado State aren't far behind the Hoyas.

    Teams Dropped from Rankings: Oklahoma (19), Dayton (21), Iowa (22), San Diego State (25)

    Others Considered: Oklahoma, Wyoming, Kansas State, Providence, Miami, Georgia

    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.

Nos. 25-21: Indiana-Baylor

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    25. Indiana

    Record: 15-5, 5-2

    Previous rank: 24

    The Hoosiers steamrolled Maryland in the middle of the week, shooting 15-of-22 from three-point range in a 19-point win. However, they proceeded to lose by 12 to Ohio State while shooting 12-of-25 from downtown.

    The Buckeyes are not a big team by any stretch of the imagination, but they shot 28-of-38 from inside the arc against the undersized Hoosiers. Expect others to follow suit.

    24. Colorado State

    Record: 18-2, 5-2

    Previous rank: Not ranked

    Wyoming got into the AP Top 25, and the Cowboys immediately lost to San Diego State. We put San Diego State in our Top 25 last week, and the Aztecs lost to Colorado State.

    It's now CSU's turn on the bucking bronco that keeps kicking Mountain West teams to the curb. It seems fitting that the Rams play the Boise State Broncos on Tuesday.

    23. Ohio State

    Record: 16-5, 5-3

    Previous rank: Not ranked

    In his last seven games, D'Angelo Russell is averaging 23.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.9 steals while shooting 46.2 percent from three-point range. Jahlil Okafor officially has company in the Freshman of the Year race.

    22. SMU

    Record: 16-4, 7-1

    Previous rank: Not ranked

    When news broke that the Mustangs were under investigation by the NCAA, we worried they might fall apart. Does winning three straight conference games by an average margin of 19.3 points count as falling apart? They should remain hot this week against UCF and South Florida.

    21. Baylor

    Record: 15-4, 3-3

    Previous rank: 23

    The Bears picked up a nice win over suddenly slumping Oklahoma to improve to .500 in conference play. And NAIA school or not, Rico Gathers had an unbelievable 25 points and 28 rebounds against Huston-Tillotson. He has quietly been one of the most unstoppable power forwards in the country.

Nos. 20-16: Georgetown-Maryland

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    20. Georgetown

    Record: 14-5, 6-2

    Previous rank: Not ranked

    The Hoyas didn't officially receive a vote from us last week, but we each had them at either No. 26 or No. 27 on our ballots. Beating Villanova by 20 points is a great way to get over that hump. And how about the 31 minutes, 18 points and 15 rebounds that Joshua Smith had against Marquette? 

    19. Texas

    Record: 14-5, 3-3

    Previous rank: 17

    Epitomizing Big 12 basketball, here are the results of Texas' conference games: road win by nine, home loss by 21, road loss by 11, home win by 27, road win by 18, home loss by 13. The Longhorns are No. 19 in our Top 25 and No. 1 on our list of wildly unpredictable teams.

    18. West Virginia

    Record: 16-3, 4-2

    Previous rank: 18

    There were a lot of crazy endings this weekend, but West Virginia beating TCU takes the cake.

    Simply getting into overtime was bizarre enough, but the final 11 seconds of the extra frame featured a gutsy three-pointer, a dagger two-pointer and a defensive breakdown/heads-up, full-court baseball pass that led to the game-tying and game-winning free throws by a freshman (Jevon Carter) who had attempted just four free throws in the previous seven games.

    17. Northern Iowa

    Record: 18-2, 7-1

    Previous rank: 20

    Speaking of gutsy three-pointers, Northern Iowa was down by two with six seconds remaining when Nate Buss drained a triple to keep the Panthers climbing in the rankings.

    16. Maryland

    Record: 18-3, 6-2

    Previous rank: 10

    After getting blitzed by Indiana, Maryland trailed Northwestern by 11 points at home with 3:30 remaining. The Terrapins went on a 16-4 run, including an acrobatic tip-in by Dez Wells with 1.4 seconds left to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

    Poor Northwestern, though. With four seconds remaining in regulation of their last five games, the Wildcats were tied with Michigan State, down one to Illinois, down two to Michigan, down one to Ohio State and up by one on Maryland (all five resulted in losses).

15. Iowa State

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Record: 14-4, 4-2 (33 points)

    Previous rank: 11

    Results since last poll: vs. Kansas State (W 77-71); at Texas Tech (L 78-73)

    Games this week: vs. Texas; vs. TCU

    In one of the more puzzling outcomes of the weekif not the seasonIowa State became the first Big 12 team to suffer a loss to Texas Tech.

    It's not just that the Cyclones lost, either. They had an uncharacteristic 10 assists on 27 made field goals and shot just 6-of-31 from three-point range. This performance came against a Texas Tech team that had just lost consecutive games by 20 points each to arguably the two worst teams in the conference aside from itself.

    One week ago, Iowa State beat Kansas and was looking like a legitimate candidate to win the Big 12 title.

    Now? We're really starting to question how far this team can go without playing defense. According to KenPom.com, the Cyclones have allowed 501 points on 494 possessions since Christmas.

14. Wichita State

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    Record: 18-2, 8-0 (35 points)

    Previous rank: 16

    Results since last poll: at Missouri State (W 76-53); vs. Drake (W 74-40)

    Games this week: vs. Loyola (IL); at Northern Iowa

    Wichita State struggled a little bit early in Missouri Valley play.

    Since beating Drake and Illinois State by eight points each, though, it's pretty much been statement win after statement win for the Shockers. They have now won four of their last six games by at least 20 points and have held each of those six teams to 55 points or fewer.

    Unfortunately, none of it will matter until next weekend's game against Northern Iowa.

    The 20-point road win over Evansville last weekend was nice, but we've all known for at least a month that Northern Iowa is the only legitimate challenger to Wichita State's throne.

    Trounce the Panthers the way they've been doing everyone else in this league, and the Shockers could start getting comfortable in the Final Four discussion.

13. Virginia Commonwealth

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 16-3, 6-0 (38 points)

    Previous rank: 15

    Results since last poll: at Saint Louis (W 63-61)

    Games this week: vs. George Washington; vs. Richmond

    They needed a last-second layup from Treveon Graham to win against a not-very-good Saint Louis team, but the Rams pushed their winning streak to 11 games this week to remain the undisputed top dogs in the Atlantic 10.

    Lately, though, the defense has once again become a cause for concern.

    When they started this winning streak, they were creating steals left and right. They had 11 steals in a blowout win over Belmont, 18 steals in a convincing win over East Tennessee State and 21 steals in a 17-point victory over Fordham.

    Forget about 21 steals in a game. VCU has 20 total steals over the last three games, each won by six points or fewer.

    That works alright against Duquesne and Saint Louis, but the Rams had better rediscover some of that defensive oppression before games against George Washington and Richmond this week.

12. Louisville

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Record: 16-3, 4-2 (42 points)

    Previous rank: 14

    Results since last poll: at Pittsburgh (W 80-68)

    Games this week: at Boston College; vs. North Carolina

    Remember that Louisville team that couldn't buy a bucket against Duke?

    The last time we saw the Cardinals, they shot 29.5 percent from the field and 16.0 percent from three-point range. Against a team that had just given up 87 points to North Carolina State and 90 points to Miami, it was one of the most embarrassing offensive outputs of the entire season.

    It was the type of shooting performance that left us seriously wondering if this team could do any damage in the NCAA tournament. Naturally, the Cardinals shot 65.2 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from three-point range Sunday night against Pittsburgh.

    After the win, College Basketball Talk's Raphielle Johnson wrote, "The Cardinals didn't settle as often against Pittsburgh, resulting in a far more productive offense. If Louisville can continue on this path moving forward, they become a tougher team to beat."

    The Cardinals go as far as their backcourt can carry them, and Terry Rozier and Chris Jones decided to do a lot of carrying in Pittsburgh.

11. Utah

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    Record: 16-3, 6-1 (45 points)

    Previous rank: 9

    Results since last poll: vs. Washington State (W 86-64); vs. Washington (W 77-56)

    Games this week: at UCLA; at USC

    It's been more than a month since Utah played a game decided by fewer than 13 points.

    Fortunately, the Utes are 9-1 in those games.

    What's crazy is that they kept the streak alive this week despite playing the Washington State game without Jakob Poeltl and while getting just five points out of Delon Wright against Washington.

    Playing one game without your outstanding freshman and playing another without much production from your Player of the Year candidate? That's supposed to be a recipe for disaster. Instead, they won by a combined 43 points.

    Granted, there's a growing concern that the Pac-12 will be a two-bid league, and Utah's blowout loss came at the hands of the only other team in the conference that looks good (Arizona), but it's hard to deny that the Utes are good when they're destroying teams the way they have been.

    (Utah dropped two spots in our poll but only because we catapulted Kansas and North Carolina into the Top 10.)

10. Villanova

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    Record: 18-2, 5-2 (49 points)

    Previous rank: 6

    Results since last poll: at Georgetown (L 78-58); vs. Creighton (W 71-50)

    Games this week: at DePaul

    There's no shame in losing at Georgetown.

    The Hoyas provided serious tests for both Wisconsin and Kansas earlier this season and have wins over Florida and Indiana on their resume. Had Villanova lost Monday's game by a possession or two, no one would have batted an eye.

    It wasn't a close loss, though. It was a bloodbath.

    Georgetown absolutely smothered the Wildcats on defense in the first half. Daniel Ochefu and JayVaughn Pinkston never even remotely got going in the paint, finishing the night with nearly as many fouls (eight) or turnovers (eight) as points (10).

    It also doesn't look good on the Wildcats that their other loss was to a Seton Hall team that has since dropped four of its last five games (including a home loss to DePaul and a blowout at Butler). But what team outside the Top Five doesn't have warts? This is still a very good Villanova team, and it proved as much Sunday night by destroying Creighton, repaying the Bluejays for last season's losses.

    Losses are going to happen on the road in the Big East. For Villanova's sake, let's just hope the next one is by a slimmer margin.

9. North Carolina

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    Ellen Ozier/Associated Press

    Record: 16-4, 6-1 (49 points)

    Previous rank: 13

    Results since last poll: at Wake Forest (W 87-71); vs. Florida State (W 78-74)

    Games this week: vs. Syracuse; at Louisville

    That game-winning layup against Louisville two weeks ago knocked something loose for Marcus Paige.

    He was playing fairly well prior to that game, but he wasn't the stud we were expecting. In the four games since then, though, he's averaging 15.5 points, 5.8 assists, 2.5 steals and 2.0 turnovers while shooting 52.4 percent from three-point range.

    Meanwhile, Justin Jackson is finally making some McDonald's All-American noise. He has averaged 15.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists over his last three games.

    Throw in Brice Johnson averaging 14.0 points and 9.8 rebounds over his past five games and Kennedy Meeks continuing to dominate in the paint, and the Tar Heels are starting to look the part of a team that could at least win the ACC, if not the national championship.

    We'll have to see what type of long-term effect the injuries to Joel Berry and Theo Pinson have on this team, but so far, so good.

8. Notre Dame

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    Record: 19-2, 7-1 (54 points)

    Previous rank: 8

    Results since last poll: at Virginia Tech (W 85-60); at North Carolina State (W 81-78)

    Games this week: vs. Duke; at Pittsburgh

    Notre Dame just keeps finding ways to win, but the Irish sure do seem to enjoy digging themselves holes to climb out of on a regular basis.

    Last week, they trailed both Georgia Tech and Miami by a dozen points before eking out a pair of wins.

    This weekafter comfortably taking care of Virginia Tech on Thursdaythey cranked the comeback meter up another couple of notches Sunday night, trailing North Carolina State by 18 in the first half before putting together an overtime win.

    Oh, the joys and sorrows of having one of the most efficient offenses and one of the most average defenses.

    Wins are wins, though, and the Irish have 19 overall and seven in ACC play. In both categories, that's already better than last year's 15-17 (6-12) season. But keep overlooking Jerian Grant in the Player of the Year race. He's only worth about a dozen wins to this team.

7. Kansas

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    Record: 16-3, 5-1 (58 points)

    Previous rank: 12

    Results since last poll: vs. Oklahoma (W 85-78); at Texas (W 75-62)

    Games this week: at TCU; vs. Kansas State

    Well, it was fun while it lasted.

    For a solid two months, we all deluded ourselves into the notion that some team other than Kansas might be able to win the Big 12 this year.

    "Iowa State looks really good with those new transfers," we thought.

    "Oklahoma could be scary if TaShawn Thomas is ruled eligible," we hypothesized.

    "Texas could be one of the best teams in the country after adding Myles Turner and losing nothing," we reasoned.

    Puh-lease.

    In the end, it might be West Virginia that gives Kansas the best run for its money, and that's something nobody argued before the season.

    Kelly Oubre has been hot for Kansas for a while, and Cliff Alexander is finally playing like the beast we all expected. He had 28 points and 22 rebounds in this week's pair of games.

    We're still eternally waiting for Wayne Selden to reach his full potential, but as long as those freshmen (and Frank Mason) keep performing this well, the Jayhawks shouldn't have much trouble pushing their streak of Big 12 championships to 11.

6. Arizona

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Record: 18-2, 6-1 (59 points)

    Previous rank: 5

    Results since last poll: at Stanford (W 89-82); at California (W 73-50)

    Games this week: vs. Oregon; vs. Oregon State

    It was only one game, but what if Saturday night's beating of California was the start of something bright for Dusan Ristic?

    Stanley Johnson and T.J. McConnell have been outstanding this season, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson hasn't been a slouch by any stretch of the imagination. But Arizona needs more production and more consistency out of its big men.

    Kaleb Tarczewski has been undeniably less valuable than he was last season. How a man of his size can play 26.6 minutes per game and only average 4.9 rebounds is a mystery and then some.

    Thus, it was encouraging to see Ristic score 12 points against the Golden Bearsand even more encouraging to see him commit just one foul in 19 minutes. He is a better rebounder and shot-blocker than Tarczewski, but Ristic has as many fouls as made field goals this season. Case in point: He fouled out in just 11 minutes in Thursday's game against Stanford.

    Purdue has two big men. A.J. Hammons plays 22.0 minutes per game, and Isaac Haas averages 16.6. If Arizona can get to a point where its 7-footers have that type of a timeshare going on, the Wildcats could be even more dangerous than they already are.

5. Duke

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    Record: 17-2, 4-2 (64 points)

    Previous rank: 4

    Results since last poll: vs. Pittsburgh (W 79-65); at St. John's (W 77-68)

    Games this week: at Notre Dame; at Virginia

    Even more than usual, the entire college basketball world has been talking about Duke for the past few weeks. Not because of anything this year's crop of guys did, but because of something that began nearly 40 years ago.

    Anyone who is anybody in the world of college hoops journalism had something to say about Mike Krzyzewski's 1,000th win. As Sunday's game against St. John's approached, a new feature on Coach K's legacy popped up on Twitter on seemingly an hourly basis.

    Despite the knowledge that everyone was watchingand previously critiquing the team's inability to play defense19-year-old kids like Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones calmly led the Blue Devils to three consecutive wins to make Krzyzewski the only men's college basketball coach in history with four digits in the win column.

    Now that the milestone is behind them, where do the Blue Devils go from here? Was history holding them back from realizing their full potential, or was it the motivation they needed to be better than they actually are?

    Upcoming road games against Notre Dame and Virginia could be understandable losses for just about any team in the country, and it will be interesting to see whether Duke falls flat or comes out stronger than ever.

4. Wisconsin

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    Record: 18-2, 6-1 (65 points)

    Previous rank: 7

    Results since last poll: vs. Iowa (W 82-50); at Michigan (W 69-64)

    Games this week: at Iowa

    In 111 minutes since becoming the starting point guard for the Badgers, Bronson Koenig has 37 points, seven assists and two turnovers.

    We're not saying they're better off without Traevon Jackson, but it certainly doesn't look like they're going to fall apart without him.

    More intriguing than Koenig's impact is whether this new-look lineup might propel Frank Kaminsky ahead of Okafor in the Player of the Year race. The big man has averaged 19.0 points and 8.3 rebounds over the past three games since returning from the concussion that sidelined him for one game (the loss at Rutgers).

    Speaking of that loss, is 2014-15 Wisconsin becoming 2013-14 Michigan State?

    All last year, it was argued that Michigan State would be the best team in the country when fully healthy. Well, the Badgers were incredible early in the season, but they lost to Duke while Sam Dekker dealt with an ankle injury and lost to Rutgers with no Kaminsky and an early departure for Jackson.

    Might Wisconsin be the most talented team in the country if and when it's at full strength? Will we ever find out?

3. Gonzaga

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    Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

    Record: 20-1, 9-0 (69 points)

    Previous rank: 3

    Results since last poll: vs. Saint Mary's (W 68-47); vs. Pacific (W 91-60)

    Games this week: vs. Portland; vs. Memphis

    Even excluding their 54-point win over St. Thomas Aquinas, the Bulldogs have won their 10 home games this season by an average margin of 29.3 points. Not one of those games was decided by fewer than 15 points.

    That home-court advantage won't do them much good come tournament time, but let's just say we're not too worried about next weekend's game against Memphis.

    Outside of a scare against Pepperdine in which Gonzaga missed 19 free throws, Mark Few's crew has been completely destroying its West Coast Conference opponents. Saint Mary's was supposed to give them a scare Thursday night, but the Bulldogs blew the game wide-open in the second half.

    They didn't even wait that long to put Pacific away, jumping out to a 15-point lead under 10 minutes into the game.

    It's becoming increasingly difficult to see Gonzaga being challengedlet alone losingagain before the NCAA tournament.

2. Virginia

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    Record: 19-0, 7-0 (72 points)

    Previous rank: 2

    Results since last poll: vs. Georgia Tech (W 57-28); at Virginia Tech (W 50-47)

    Games this week: vs. Duke

    Virginia Tech grabbed one offensive rebound and shot 26.3 percent from three-point range, and the Hokies still nearly upset Virginia.

    The Cavaliers remained undefeated and No. 2 in our poll, but it was one of the very few times this season that they looked particularly mortal.

    Were they already looking ahead to the next three games against Duke, North Carolina and Louisville? Is there another possible explanation for one of the most efficient offenses in the nation suddenly forgetting how to score against a team that has now lost seven consecutive games?

    At least we have Thursday's win over Georgia Tech to reassure us that this team belongs at or near the top. When the Yellow Jackets scored but 28 points against Virginia, they became the third team this season to be held to 28 points or fewer by Virginia.

    Even Virginia's football team gave up at least 28 points five times this season.

1. Kentucky

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    Record: 19-0, 6-0 (75 points)

    Previous rank: 1

    Results since last poll: vs. Vanderbilt (W 65-57); at South Carolina (W 58-43)

    Games this week: at Missouri; vs. Alabama

    The Wildcats are so good that we have resorted to making up struggles for them.

    On Tuesday, they won a home game against Vanderbilt. The eight-point margin was perhaps a little closer than we thought or expected it would be, but according to KenPom.com, Kentucky's chance of winning the game never dropped below 92 percent.

    Yet the narrative after the game was that the SEC is better than the credit we gave it a few weeks ago.

    Where were those stories after the Wildcats went on the road and systemically broke South Carolina's will to live despite grabbing a terribly uncharacteristic three offensive rebounds?

    Maybe Kentucky eventually loses a game and releases the season-long stranglehold it has had on the No. 1 spot in the polls, but it would take some kind of collapse for this team to no longer be considered the favorites to win the national championship.

    Games against Missouri and Alabama this week are quite unlikely to produce such a fall from grace.

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

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