Ranked teams were an endangered species this past week in college basketball, leading to a massive shake-up in Bleacher Report's Top 25.
It started Monday when Duke lost at home to North Carolina State for the first time in 22 years, but the big shockers came Tuesday. That's when Kansas, Kentucky and Villanova—all of whom were ranked in the Top Four in the previous poll—dropped conference games on the road. Those losses set the tone for a week where 14 ranked teams lost a combined 18 games with nine of those setbacks coming from Top 10 schools.
How wild was this week? Colorado, which was projected to finish in the top half of the Pac-12 but then started 0-7 in league play, snapped Oregon's 17-game winning streak Saturday night in Boulder.
Yet through all that chaos, one team stood out not just for its ability to avoid an upset but also for making the concept nearly unfathomable. Gonzaga, the nation's lone unbeaten team, won three games last week (including a trip to Portland that was rescheduled from earlier in the season because of weather) by an average of 34 points. Who knows how the Associated Press and USA Today poll voters will feel about the Bulldogs, but in our book, they're the unanimous No. 1 team.
|B/R's Week 13 Top 25 Poll|
|6. (tie) North Carolina||19-4||9|
|6. (tie) Virginia||16-4||13|
|13. West Virginia||17-4||21|
|15. Saint Mary's||19-2||19|
|17. Florida State||18-4||8|
|19. Notre Dame||17-5||12|
|21. (tie) Northwestern||18-4||25|
|21. (tie) Purdue||16-5||22|
|23. (tie) Duke||16-5||18|
|23. (tie) South Carolina||17-4||Not ranked|
Moving Up: Cincinnati Bearcats
The American Athletic Conference might not be that strong of a league overall—Connecticut was the only team ranked in the AP poll to start the season and then proceeded to lose its first two games—but Cincinnati is making sure it still gets noticed. Sunday's 94-53 win over South Florida, the Bearcats' 12th in a row, moved them to 19-2 overall and 8-0 in the AAC.
That streak includes an 86-78 home win Thursday against crosstown rival Xavier, a game that's always among the most hotly contested in the country each year (and which has led to brawls in the past). Cincinnati is in the top 20 nationally in scoring defense, allowing 61.8 points per game, but it's shown the ability to thrive in both slow- and fast-tempo games.
The Bearcats outlasted Marshall 93-91 in overtime in December despite allowing 17 three-pointers—Xavier nailed 15 threes—but they've also won methodical rock fights, such as at Iowa State (55-54 in overtime) in December and against SMU (66-64) earlier this month.
The Feb. 12 trip to second-placed SMU might be all that stands between Cincinnati and a perfect conference record. The Bearcats last went unbeaten in league play in 1999-2000 when they were in Conference USA.
Moving Down: Florida State Seminoles
Florida State came back to Earth with a major thud after opening 6-1 in ACC play against a murderers' row of opponents. The drop was even more pronounced because, after beating Duke, Louisville, Notre Dame and Virginia early on, the Seminoles were beaten at Georgia Tech and Syracuse.
The 'Noles lost by 22 at Georgia Tech and then fell by 10 at Syracuse, running their road losing streak to three games. Winning away from home had been an issue for FSU for several years, as it went 16-28 over the previous four seasons, which contributed to its lack of an NCAA tournament bid during that span. Winning the ACC opener at Virginia looked like it had changed that trend, but since then, FSU has been outscored by an average of 15 points on the road.
And the schedule won't get any easier for the 'Noles, who next play at Miami—which just romped over North Carolina—and still have to visit Duke and Notre Dame.
Worth Noting: 20-win teams
What a difference a year makes.
At this time during the 2015-16 season, the best record in the country belonged to SMU, which sat at 19-1 and was tied with seven other schools with 19 victories. But because the Mustangs weren't eligible for the postseason due to NCAA sanctions, the bigger story from a national scale was the lack of a dominant team.
The Top 10 teams in the Associated Press poll had a combined 31 losses and no school reached the 20-win mark until February.
Flash forward to now and we've got six schools with at least 20 victories, topped by Gonzaga's 22, with another three able to get to 20 before January ends. And the Top 10 in our poll only have 26 losses.
On the Radar: Georgia Tech
Picked to finish second-to-last in the 15-team ACC and given basically no shot to do anything this season under first-year coach Josh Pastner, Georgia Tech is more than holding its own in the country's best conference. Saturday's 62-60 home win over Notre Dame bumped the Yellow Jackets to 13-8 overall and 5-4 in the league, good for a sixth-place tie.
That wasn't enough to get Tech into our rankings, but it did get it into the NCAA tournament conversation. Bleacher Report's Kerry Miller tweeted Saturday the Yellow Jackets are "totally going to be in my projected bracket Monday night" thanks to their fifth win over a top-50 RPI opponent.
Tech has played the tougher half of its ACC schedule in which it has faced six ranked teams. Its remaining nine league contests only feature one matchup against a currently ranked squad.
As long as the Yellow Jackets don't shoot themselves in the foot with bad losses, they should be in the mix for their first NCAA tournament bid since 2009-10.
What to Watch for This Week
—No. 4 Baylor at No. 3 Kansas (9 p.m. ET Wednesday on ESPN2)
—No. 21 Purdue at No. 16 Maryland (noon ET Saturday on ESPN)
—No. 5 Arizona at No. 9 Oregon (4 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN)
—No. 19 Notre Dame at No. 6 North Carolina (6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN)
—No. 8 Kentucky at Florida (8:15 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN)
Expect some further movement at the top of our poll, as well as the possibility of some conference leads changing hands, during this week's action. Teams in first place in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC all have matchups over the next few days against opponents who are among the top three or four in their league.
Baylor and Kansas are tied atop the Big 12 with 7-1 records, each having lost at third-placed West Virginia in January. Kansas rebounded from that setback to the Mountaineers by running past Kentucky on the road, while Baylor rallied from down 15 at Ole Miss.
Maryland is tied with Wisconsin for first in the Big Ten, with those schools set to meet on Feb. 19 in Madison. Until then, each will have to keep pace by taking on the rest of the league's challengers, with the Terrapins facing not just Purdue but also visiting an improving Ohio State team.
Arizona and Oregon will play the game of the week in what could have been a battle of 10-0 Pac-12 teams had the Ducks not lost at Colorado over the weekend. Oregon ended Arizona's 49-game home-court winning streak a year ago, and it enters this week having won 38 straight at Matthew Knight Arena, the second-longest active run in the country.
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 up to create the Top 25.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.