Whether it’s been inconsistent play, lack of offense or injuries this week seemed to put further separation between Kentucky and the field in college basketball.
There continues to be a rotating door at the back half of the Top 25 as teams beat up on each other and inexplicably lose games. Filling out the field come the NCAA Tournament should lead to plenty of debates with teams refusing to grab a hold of the reins.
Note: These rankings are before games played on February 9.
Maryland is in a complete free fall. Don’t be surprised to see the Terps get a No. 8 or 9 seed come March. Melo Trimble has been struggling to score, but more importantly Maryland is not defending the three well.
24. Stephen F. Austin
Why not? The Lumberjacks are 19-3 on the season. Parity, folks.
If SMU could just find a way to not play Cincinnati it’d be okay. The Mustangs did get a nice win over AAC leader Tulsa last week. Sitting with a 10-2 conference record, both losses have come to the Bearcats.
22. West Virginia
The Mountaineers got embarrassed at home by Oklahoma and Baylor. Both losses were by 19 and 18 points respectively and honestly weren’t that close. West Virginia struggles offensively and if it can’t score, it can’t set up the press. The recipe to beat West Virginia is quite easy.
If Arkansas wants to be good, this week is its chance. After beating South Carolina and Mississippi State by 20, the Razorbacks travel to Auburn and Ole Miss this week. To be taken seriously as a top-25 pick, they need to win those games.
20. Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State got two wins it absolutely needed. After looking like an NIT team, the Cowboys got wins over Texas and Kansas to help solidify their NCAA Tournament bid and make a run up the Big 12 standings. Phil Forte is still one of the best pure shooters in the entire country.
19. Wichita State
Wichita State will stay stagnant until it plays Northern Iowa again in a couple weeks. There should be no trouble running through the MVC until that game, but this isn’t as good of a Wichita State team as the last couple of years.
18. Ohio State
Start. Watching. D’Angelo. Russell. Other than that, there’s not much. But, he’s good enough to make this team a Sweet 16 program.
Don’t have Valentine’s Day plans yet? Find that special person, get in front of a TV at 6 p.m. and watch Butler take on Villanova in the biggest Big East game of the year. Roosevelt Jones is showing his value to this team after missing all of last year with a wrist injury.
The Sooners are currently on a four-game winning streak in the Big 12. That’s damn impressive. However, the road doesn’t get easier as Iowa State comes to town tonight. If Oklahoma can win this game, it’s time to start looking at them as a potential Elite Eight and Final Four sleeper.
Baylor has only won three consecutive Big 12 games. But, all three of them came by at least 18 points against Texas, TCU and West Virginia. Rico Gathers is almost guaranteed for a double-double every time he steps on the court. This team is incredibly balanced and tough to plan against due to its depth.
14. North Carolina
Just how talented is North Carolina? The Tar Heels are one of the more baffling teams in the country as they have a ton of pure talent, especially with Marcus Paige playing well. They crash the offensive glass at a high rate, but they need to play more intelligently. They don’t know how to attack or when to attack, which has led to a 2-6 record against the RPI Top 50.
13. Northern Iowa
The Panthers continue to look like the best mid-major team in the country. Sorry, we’re not counting Gonzaga as one. Seth Tuttle is still playing like one of the best players in the country, and the Panthers will be a tough out come March. The game against Wichita State should be another fun one to watch.
12. Notre Dame
Yes, Notre Dame lost by 30 at Duke, but that will be an outlier as the season goes on. The Blue Devils had revenge on their mind and shot lights out. This is still a talented team and when Pat Connaughton snaps out of his funk the Irish will be a top-10 team again.
Hey, Rick Pitino, recruit a shooter one time, will ya? This team is so horrid offensively, it’s a miracle they are a top-15 basketball team. The loss to Virginia was expected as Louisville stinks on the offensive side of the ball and Virginia is strong defensively. But seriously, this team will falter due to the lack of offense.
Utah is 8-2 in Pac-12 play. Utah hasn’t played a Pac-12 game where the score has been within 10 points. This has to be some sort of record. The Utes are starting to become more complete as the season goes on instead of relying solely on Delon Wright. Want a Final Four team that people aren’t talking about? Right here.
Justin Anderson is out 4-6 weeks with an injury to his shooting hand. The Cavaliers might not score more than 55 points the rest of the year. Anderson was the perfect wing for Tony Bennett’s system and there is very little offense elsewhere. Good luck winning.
8. Iowa State
The story has been the same for Iowa State, which is a strong offensive team with a lack of a defense. The emergence of Jameel McKay has helped that a little bit. Monte Morris is still making a case for best point guard in America as he just doesn’t turn the ball over.
Kansas got a nice win at home against Iowa State before losing a second-half lead at Oklahoma State. The main reason for the loss was the lack of productive play from Kelly Oubre. This team will go as far as Oubre allows it.
Villanova looked like an elite team in its revenge game against Georgetown. The Wildcats held the Hoyas to 31 points in the first 30 minutes of the game before winning 69-53. Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston are the two key players who have turned this program around.
Arizona has three losses by a combined nine points this season. Yes, the three losses are to teams outside of the RPI 50, but don’t doubt this team come March. For whatever reason Arizona seems to play uninspired games under Sean Miller sometimes, which leads to losses like the one Saturday at Arizona State.
If Jahlil Okafor can learn to play defense anytime soon the Blue Devils will be up there with Kentucky. However, they can shoot the ball, as evident in the game against Notre Dame. Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook always seem to hit a big-time three when it’s needed.
Whether it was an up tempo game like the win against Indiana or a slower, grind it out game against Northwestern, Wisconsin showed it can play with anyone. Frank Kaminsky is a favorite to win National Player of the Year, and if this team can stay healthy, it is on the very short list of national title contenders. Since losing to Rutgers, Wisconsin is averaging 1.32 points per possession.
People will continue to knock Gonzaga because of the conference the Bulldogs play in. Don’t let any close games fool you, this team is for real. There’s too much talent and experience on this roster for Mark Few to fail early in the NCAA Tournament.
Jaw is still wide open from that Willie Cauley-Stein dunk.