NCAA Basketball Rankings 2017-18: Bleacher Report's Final Top 25

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistApril 3, 2018

Villanova's Omari Spellman
Villanova's Omari SpellmanEric Gay/Associated Press

Behind a 31-point explosion from sixth man Donte DiVincenzo, the Villanova Wildcats toppled the Michigan Wolverines 79-62 in the biggest game of the season to the national championship.

But as the offseason begins, we're taking one moment to reflect on the campaign with a final Top 25.

Five members of B/R's college basketball crewDavid Gardner, David Kenyon, Jason King, Kerry Miller and C.J. Moorewere asked to submit a ballot for the final ranking. A first-place vote was worth 25 points, followed by 24 for second and so on.

The NCAA tournament had a considerable influence on the positions, but an early loss didn't necessarily remove a team.

1. Villanova
2. Michigan
3. Kansas
4. Loyola-Chicago
5. Duke
6. Virginia
7. Texas Tech
8. North Carolina
9. Purdue
10. Xavier
11. Cincinnati
12. West Virginia
13. Gonzaga
14. Michigan State
15. Kentucky
T-16. Arizona
T-16. Nevada
18. Clemson
19. Tennessee
20. Wichita State
21. Houston
T-22. Kansas State
T-22. Miami
24. Florida State
25. Ohio State

           

Biggest Surprise: Loyola-Chicago Ramblers

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 24:  Cameron Satterwhite #23, Cameron Krutwig #25, Lucas Williamson #1, Nick Dinardi #44 and Christian Negron #12 of the Loyola Ramblers celebrate their teams win over the Kansas State Wildcats during the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tou
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

As if there were any debate: The Missouri Valley champions climbed to the most unexpected place in the final Top 25.

Loyola-Chicago entered the tournament as a highly respected No. 11 seed, and a buzzer-beater gave the Ramblers a minor first-round upset of Miami. And they kept winning.

Down went Tennessee, Nevada and Kansas State en route to the Final Four. Michigan put together a late charge that the Ramblers could not match, sending Porter Moser's team home.

Loyola's run will be remembered for its dramatic finishes, since its first three victories came by a combined four points. With Clayton Custer, Marques Townes and Cameron Krutwig all potentially returning, the Ramblers might not be done yet.

         

Biggest Disappointment: Virginia Cavaliers

The 2018 men's NCAA tournament will first be recalled as "the year a No. 16 seed finally defeated a No. 1."

Virginia holds that inglorious title following its 74-54 loss to University of Maryland Baltimore County. The top-seeded Cavaliers shot a miserable 41.1 percent from the floor and 18.2 percent from three.

UMBC, meanwhile, pulled away for the stunning blowout victory thanks to a 53-point outburst in the second half. This season, 15 teams failed to score 53 on Virginia in a whole game.

Yes, UVA was without star sixth man De'Andre Hunter. But his absence only contributed to a complete letdown by the Cavaliers, who seemed ready for the long-awaited breakthrough in the Big Dance under Tony Bennett.

            

One on the Edge: Penn State Nittany Lions

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 29: Head coach Pat Chambers of the Penn State Nittany Lions celebrates with his team after defeating the Utah Utes 82-66 during the 2018 NIT Championship game at Madison Square Garden on March 29, 2018 in New York City.  (Photo by Abb
Abbie Parr/Getty Images

A late-season slide prevented Penn State from sneaking into the NCAA tournament with an at-large bid. The Nittany Lions missed three chances at signature wins against Purdue and Michigan over a 14-game stretch, so they ended up in the NIT.

"Champions" still has a nice ring to it.

Penn State toppled Temple, Notre Damethe first team "out" of the March Madness fieldMarquette, Mississippi State and Utah to earn the NIT title. It was the program's second NIT championship over the last 10 years (2009).

Thanks to that performance, the Nittany Lions finished the season 26-13 and 26th in our Top 25 voting.

       

What Could've Been: Miami Hurricanes

Miami received tough news at the end of January: Star guard Bruce Brown Jr. would be sidelined for at least six weeks because of a foot injury, which required surgery.

Although he struggled for part of the season as a shooter, he provided regular all-around contributions: 11.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.8 blocks. In games he was healthy, Miami was 14-5.

The Hurricanes, who were projected as a top-15 team, still qualified for the NCAA tournament. But there's no guarantee Miami beats Loyola if Brown is healthy. His value as a defender and passer would've been key against a motion offense and stout defense, though.

Had the South Region played out the same way, the Canes never would've met No. 1 Virginia, No. 2 Cincinnati, No. 4 Arizona or No. 5 Kentucky. It's possible that a Brown-led Miami team could've put together the same run Loyola did, but the Ramblers made it happen.

          

Stats via Sports Reference and NCAA.com unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter, @Kenyon19_BR.

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