Winners and Losers of AP College Basketball Top 25 Poll in Week 3
Indiana and Villanova both received first-place votes in this week's college basketball Associated Press Top 25, but the Kentucky Wildcats are the new No. 1 team in the poll.
College basketball's "Feast Week" is upon us, and it begins with devouring the winners and losers of the latest rankings.
Creighton jumped 10 spots after three wins over major-conference foes and could have climbed even higher. Michigan State dropped 11 spots for getting blown out by Kentucky and nearly losing to Florida Gulf Coast, but Tom Izzo's guys are lucky to still be in the Top 25.
Because teams like the Spartans are still ranked, strong teams like Michigan, Wichita State and California got the short end of the stick and remain outside the poll despite impressive performances.
But is the biggest loser of all the Maui Invitational? This week's marquee tournament devolved from a potential Final Four preview to North Carolina and a bunch of teams struggling to find their way.
Read on for the rest of this week's biggest winners and losers.
Winner: Baylor Bears
Per usual, Baylor was shown little to no respect in the preseason polls. Though the Bears were No. 19 in the preseason B/R Top 25, they did not receive a single vote in the AP Top 25 or the USA Today men's basketball coaches poll.
They responded by beating the pants off Oregon to soar into this week's AP poll at No. 20.
Some thought King McClure or Jake Lindsey could be headed for a breakout year as a sophomore, but the big story for Baylor has been the incoming transfers.
Former Miami shooting guard Manu Lecomte has become a phenomenal lead guard with the Bears, averaging 16.7 points, 7.0 assists and 2.3 steals per game while shooting 8-of-18 (44.4 percent) from beyond the arc. And former JUCO transfer Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. is looking like a strong candidate for best big man in the nation, averaging 10.7 points, 10.0 rebounds and 5.3 blocks per contest.
(As an aside, imagine how good Miami would be right now if it hadn't lost transfers Lecomte and Deandre Burnett, who is averaging 24 points per game and shooting the lights out for Ole Miss.)
The Bears only scored 66 points against Oregon, but they still won by 17 thanks to great defense from that duo and horrendous three-point shooting (3-of-21) by the Ducks. Not having Dillon Brooks available was an obvious problem for Oregon, but Baylor probably wins that game even if the preseason All-American is on the court.
Up next is the Battle 4 Atlantis, where the Bears could make one heck of a statement by running through VCU, Michigan State and Louisville to win the tourney.
Loser: Maui Invitational Semifinals
Based on the preseason rankings, the second round of the Maui Invitational was supposed to be one of the most star-studded nights of the regular season outside of the Champions Classic. Provided the favorites could survive their opening challengers, it should have been No. 5 Oregon vs. No. 9 Wisconsin in the top half of the bracket with No. 6 North Carolina and No. 16 Connecticut squaring off in the bottom half.
The lesson as always: Preseason rankings are garbage.
North Carolina is taking care of business, sitting at 4-0 with an average margin of victory of 25.3 points. The Tar Heels are up to No. 4 in this week's AP poll and even got a couple of second-place votes. Kennedy Meeks is averaging a double-double, while both Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson are playing like guys who were rightfully offended about getting snubbed in preseason All-American discussions.
If North Carolina wasn't already the clear favorite to win this tournament, it certainly is now.
Connecticut was booted out of the rankings one week ago following an opening-night loss to Wagner, and it is no longer receiving any votes following a second loss to Northeastern and a nail-biter against Loyola Marymount. At this point, the Huskies could get blown out by Oklahoma State in their first game in Maui, and no one would be shocked.
On the other side of the bracket, Oregon (sans Dillon Brooks) was blown out by Baylor, while Wisconsin (what's its excuse?) lost by a dozen to Creighton. The Ducks and Badgers are both still ranked, but they were two of the week's biggest tumblers, falling to No. 13 and No. 16, respectively.
Their opening-round opponents aren't in great shape, either. Oregon faces Georgetown, which is 1-2 with a home loss to Arkansas State, and Wisconsin draws Tennessee, which lost to Chattanooga and got more of a fight than expected from Appalachian State.
Who had UNC and Oklahoma State as the only undefeated Division I teams at the start of this tournament?
Winner: Creighton Bluejays
We expected big things from Creighton this season, but 4-0 with three blowout wins over major-conference opponents?
Bluejays, you officially have the nation's attention.
They jumped from No. 22 up to No. 12 after wins by double-digit margins over Wisconsin, Washington State and North Carolina State, but they likely would have climbed even higher if those games had been played during windows in which more people were actually watching.
The 79-67 win over then-No. 9 Wisconsin was held Tuesday evening while the rest of the world was watching either the Champions Classic or the release of the latest College Football Playoff standings. It wasn't until after the fact that the Twitter-sphere even seemed to realize what Khyri Thomas, Justin Patton and company had done to the preseason favorites to win the Big Ten.
Then, Sunday's 112-94 win over Dennis Smith Jr. and North Carolina State in the Paradise Jam didn't end until nearly midnight on the East Coast. Seven Bluejays scored in double figures as they shot better than 60 percent from the field as a team, but how many stayed up to watch? Seth Davis had already tweeted his AP ballot out before the game ended—and he's a West Coast guy.
Give it a few more weeks, though. Creighton has an easy schedule until the start of Big East play and may well be 12-0 by the time those home games against Seton Hall and Villanova are played in late December. If this team keeps winning, it'll be in the Top 10 in no time—no matter how many people are currently paying attention.
Loser: Michigan State Spartans
The season-opening loss to Arizona bumped Michigan State down one spot from No. 12 to No. 13. We had doubts about the Spartans before the year began because of injuries in the frontcourt, but if anything, it was impressive that they were able to hang with an Arizona team with multiple 7-footers and a few veteran leaders in the backcourt.
Getting blown out by Kentucky and barely escaping with a home win over Florida Gulf Coast, however, was not a good look for this squad.
The near-loss to FGCU is what officially sounded the alarms, resulting in a drop all the way to No. 24 in this week's poll. Eron Harris had 31 points, and they shot better than 50 percent from three-point range as a team, blocked eight shots and attempted 16 more free throws than the Eagles. Yet they still needed a little home cooking from the clock operator to survive with a one-point win—thanks in large part to a 41-29 deficit in rebounding margin.
Sparty was surprisingly competitive on the glass in the first two losses to Arizona and Kentucky before destroying Mississippi Valley State, but a lack of height finally caught up with Michigan State against the artist formerly known as Dunk City. FGCU's Antravious Simmons had 18 points and 12 rebounds and was responsible for eight of the team's 21 made two-point attempts.
Last year, the Spartans had one of the best two-point defenses in the country. They're ranking pretty well in that department so far this year, but the 47-point win over MVSU is a big reason why. They are struggling to keep quality teams out of the paint. We'll see how much that hurts them in the Battle 4 Atlantis later this week.
Winner: Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue played two games this past week. It lost a hard-fought home battle against Villanova and played horribly for 33 minutes against Georgia State before closing the game on a 20-0 run to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Though it was a promising loss to the reigning national champion followed by an impressive finish against an average opponent, it was the type of week that typically results in a somewhat significant drop in the rankings. For example, former No. 1 Duke lost a great game against Kansas before beating Penn State and Rhode Island to win the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, but the Blue Devils dropped five spots to No. 6.
Purdue, though, barely lost any votes and slipped just a couple of spots from No. 15 to No. 17.
Despite the win in the AP poll, it was a troubling week for the future of the Boilermakers. Big man Isaac Haas had 33 points in 40 minutes, but he also had five turnovers, five fouls and only three rebounds. Despite an obvious size advantage in the paint with Haas, Caleb Swanigan and Vince Edwards, Purdue was out-rebounded 65-59 for the week.
Georgia State had a clear defensive plan of attack against the Boilermakers, throwing a 2-3 zone at them, doubling Haas and Swanigan every time either one touched the ball and daring Purdue's guards to win the game from the perimeter. Even though the Panthers shot poorly from the field and committed 19 turnovers, they led by a dozen with seven minutes remaining.
Until someone other than Dakota Mathias steps up as a viable option to hit threes for Purdue, expect to see more of the same from opponents going forward.
Loser: Michigan and Wichita State
Pardon my French, but what the hell do you AP voters want before you'll show more love to Michigan and Wichita State?
The Wolverines dominated the 2K Classic, beating Marquette and SMU by a combined margin of 40 points. Both games were over by halftime, as they temporarily made two potential NCAA tournament teams look like they had never played organized basketball before this week. They were even minus-17 on the glass against SMU, yet they won by a landslide thanks to efficient offense and aggressive defense.
Wichita State's competition has been decidedly less challenging, but what the Shockers are doing to their opponents right now is borderline criminal. Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker are gone, yet this team is 4-0 with a margin of victory of 36.8 points per game. The closest any team has come to beating Wichita State was Tulsa losing by a score of 80-53.
No Shocker is averaging more than 22.0 minutes or 11.5 points per game. This isn't one or two guys destroying teams. It's a swarm of locusts, devouring crop after crop with no resistance.
But the AP doesn't care. Both teams got votes, but hardly any more than Cincinnati got for losing to a Rhode Island team that played most of the game with its starting point guard in the hospital getting evaluated for a head/neck injury. Michigan State still got more votes than the Wolverines and the Shockers combined, even though the Spartans have been nothing but disappointing thus far.
Wichita State can fix this error by making a statement in the Battle 4 Atlantis, but it's kind of pathetic that the 65 people tasked with identifying the nation's best teams whiffed on both of these.
Winner: Blue-Blood Schools
The six blue-blood programs in college basketball are Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina, Kansas, Duke and UCLA.
They are respectively ranked Nos. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 14 this week. And considering UCLA is averaging nearly 106 points per game after Sunday night's thrashing of Long Beach State, it seems it'll only be a matter of time before the Bruins make their way into the Top 10.
It's kind of boring in the offseason to see the same teams on top of the projections year after year, but college hoops is at its best when all of these teams are relevant and battling each other.
Indiana vs. Kansas and Duke vs. Kansas were already instant classics this year. Later on, we'll be treated to Kentucky vs. Kansas, North Carolina and UCLA, UNC against Indiana and, of course, the two games between the Blue Devils and Tar Heels.
Moreover, it's good for the game when the sport's largest fanbases are going tit for tat on Twitter and message boards. For years, we've been trying to come up with ways to make college basketball more marketable in months other than March, but it really just boils down to a matter of hoping all six of these markets have a product worth watching.
After seven months of hearing about how unbeatable Duke is going to be, the Blue Devils have already taken one loss and are now among the teams jostling for that top spot. If the rest of the year is anything like what these first 10 days have been, buckle up for a fun ride.
Loser: California Golden Bears
California was barely ranked one week ago. The Golden Bears were No. 25 with 109 votes, followed closely by Dayton (102), Maryland (100) and Florida State (95). With teams like Baylor, Michigan and Wichita State on the rise, it's no big surprise they fell out of the Top 25.
But where did all their votes go?
Needing overtime to beat UC Irvine in their only game of the week wasn't a great look from the bird's eye view, but the AP voters clearly didn't notice the circumstances. Ivan Rabb was out with a toe injury. Jabari Bird was out with a back injury. Grant Mullins missed the game with a neck sprain.
Without its three most important players, though, California was willed to victory by 38 points from freshman guard Charlie Moore.
Roger Moute a Bidias and Kingsley Okoroh started, played a combined 60 minutes and attempted one field goal. Sam Singer also started and scored just six points in 43 minutes. The Golden Bears had virtually no choice but to give the ball to Moore and hope for the best. And he delivered in a huge way.
So, if you thought this was a Top 25 team one week ago after watching Moore score just six points in his career debut, how is it possible you aren't more enamored with California now that it has found its replacement for Jordan Mathews? Somehow, Cal went from 109 votes down to just 54, and that's a mistake.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.