Down go the Bruins.
UCLA is outside the Top 3 for the first time since Bleacher Report's Week 4 poll, and it's time to take a hard look at the resurgence in Westwood.
Yes, it's still a wonderful story. Yes, Lonzo Ball is still playing beautiful basketball, and no team is more entertaining than UCLA.
The Bruins rank 124th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.com, after their 96-85 home loss to Arizona on Saturday.
That's one spot ahead of the Towson Tigers. Yuck.
Since Ken Pomeroy started keeping track of advanced statistics in 2002, no team has won an NCAA title with an adjusted defensive ranking below 21.
The Bruins did not take the biggest tumble this week, but their defense—or lack thereof—should be the biggest takeaway.
|B/R's Week 12 Top 25 Poll|
|8. Florida State||18-2||12|
|9. North Carolina||18-3||10|
|12. Notre Dame||17-3||11|
|19. Saint Mary's||17-2||20|
|21. West Virginia||15-4||7|
|24. Kansas State||15-4||NR|
Moving Up: Arizona
It's time to consider the Wildcats a national title contender.
Arizona made a huge statement Saturday by winning at UCLA in Allonzo Trier's season debut. The sophomore wing missed the Wildcats' first 19 games because he unknowingly took a banned substance and could not return until it left his system.
Trier's absence had made many pollsters in America hesitant to put Arizona in the Top 10. But without Trier, the Wildcats were undefeated in the Pac-12, and their lone losses had come to undefeated Gonzaga and giant-killer Butler, which has also knocked off Villanova, among others. So they already had a resume worth consideration.
In Trier's absence, freshman Lauri Markkanen emerged as a three-point efficiency monster, and Arizona's other freshmen (Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins) got comfortable in scoring roles. With Trier back, Markkanen can spend more time at his natural position of power forward—he had spent a lot of time at the 3—and the once-thin Wildcats now have nice depth.
Combine that with a typical Sean Miller-level defense, and Arizona has one of the more complete rosters in college basketball.
Moving Down: West Virginia
The Mountaineers went 0-2 this week with an overtime loss to Oklahoma in Morgantown and a four-point loss at Kansas State. Now, there's no shame in losing in Manhattan. The OU loss was a shocker. The Sooners are just 8-10 and have only one other Big 12 win.
In defense of West Virginia, Oklahoma is not as bad as its record; it's young and has some talent. But if the Mountaineers have any hopes of competing for the Big 12 title and chasing a top seed in the NCAA tournament, they have to take care of business at home.
Sooners head coach Lon Kruger is also 4-2 against Bob Huggins since WVU adopted the press. No one in the Big 12 has fared better during that time.
The Mountaineers are 4-3 in conference play, and the press has been less dangerous than it was in nonconference play. This is not all that shocking. It's now the third year of "Press Virginia," and Big 12 teams are more familiar with the press and how to attack it. And while the Mountaineers' opponents' turnover numbers dropped last year, too, WVU seems to be giving up more easy buckets this year than last season.
|West Virginia Defense: This Season vs. Last Season|
|2PT% (vs. Big 12)||2PT% (All Games)||3PT% (vs. Big 12)||3PT% (All Games)||TO% (vs. Big 12)||TO% (All games)|
Oklahoma and Kansas State combined to make 53 of 94 twos this week and got 69 shots at the rim, making 42. Those numbers need to improve if West Virginia is to get back on track.
Worth Noting: Creighton
The biggest bummer of the college basketball season was the loss of Bluejays senior point guard Maurice Watson Jr., who tore his ACL in a win at Xavier on Monday.
Watson was the nation's assists leader and the engine of Creighton's up-tempo offense that was more fun to watch than any outside of Westwood.
The Bluejays, not shockingly, lost their first game without Watson on Saturday—102-94 to Marquette.
Creighton still has a resume worthy of Top 10 consideration—wins against Wisconsin, North Carolina State, Seton Hall, Butler and Xavier—but Watson was its best player, and it's hard to see it as a Final Four contender now. (The Bluejays were before.)
The good news for Creighton is that its offense can apparently still cook, even without Watson, and freshman point guard Davion Mintz might be better than expected. Mintz had played double-digit minutes only three times all season before Saturday, but he went for 17 points and eight assists in 26 minutes against the Golden Eagles. All figures were season highs.
The Jays just need to play some defense now. They weren't a defensive juggernaut with Watson, but he was their leader, and they fed off his energy, particularly on the defensive end.
They have the pieces to do some damage come March, but they better start getting some stops. Because as easily as they scored Saturday, the offense is going to at least start to come back to the field without its All-American-caliber point guard leading the way.
On the Radar: Wichita State
The Shockers are 26th in the poll this week and appeared at No. 23 on Brian Pedersen's ballot.
While Wichita State has done a good job of beating up lesser competition—outscoring its Missouri Valley opponents by 21.6 points per 100 possessions, per KenPom.com—Gregg Marshall's team has yet to record a signature win. The Shockers' lone wins against squads ranked in the KenPom.com top 100 are Oklahoma and Loyola Chicago. On the flip side, Wichita State doesn't have any bad losses, as losing to visiting Oklahoma State is the worst of its four setbacks.
But are the Shockers even the best team in the Valley? At this point, it looks like Illinois State may end WSU's three-year reign. The Redbirds are undefeated and own a 14-point win over the Shockers. Illinois State, however, didn't do enough in nonconference play, going 8-4, to warrant consideration just yet. Win at Wichita State on Feb. 4, however, and I'd consider putting them on my ballot the next week.
What to Watch for This Week:
- No. 2 Kansas at No. 21 West Virginia (7 p.m., Tuesday on ESPN2)
- No. 13 Virginia at No. 12 Notre Dame (8 p.m., Tuesday on ACC Network)
- No. 2 Kansas at No. 4 Kentucky (6:15 p.m., Saturday on ESPN)
- No. 13 Virginia at No. 1 Villanova (1 p.m., Sunday on Fox)
Kansas dropped from first to second in this poll without losing a game. I bumped Villanova up.
Here was my logic: The Jayhawks have been skating by in the Big 12 against teams they should beat—outscoring conference opponents by 11.7 points per 100 possessions, per KenPom.com—and the Wildcats have a better collection of wins (at Purdue, versus Notre Dame on a neutral floor, at Creighton and versus Xavier) and are outscoring Big East opponents by 18.2 points per 100 possessions. Villanova's one loss (at Butler) was also to a better team than KU's lone defeat (versus Indiana on a neutral floor).
But if the Jayhawks sweep their games this week, the debate will be on. Kansas has not won at West Virginia since Perry Ellis was a freshman. (I know what you're thinking: That was 1953. No, it was 2012-13.) The Jayhawks will then travel to Kentucky for one of the most anticipated games this season, with the nation's top two backcourts squaring off.
Kansas then follows that with a home game against Baylor the following Wednesday. You're not going to find a tougher three-game stretch in college basketball this season.
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 to create the Top 25.
C.J. Moore covers college basketball and football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @CJMooreBR.