It’s time to start looking differently at these rankings. Instead of rankings teams like the AP Poll does, it’s time to rank them as who I believe is the best team to the 25th best team in the country.
Consider that a warning, when you see a surprise around No. 9. Plenty of people will be mad and confused, but if I don’t see a team as an Elite Eight or Final Four team, how can they be ranked in the top eight?
Note: These rankings are before games played on January 19.
- Oklahoma State
The Cowboys have had a brutal schedule the last week, traveling to Kansas and Oklahoma which resulted in two losses. However, this team is talented enough with Le’Bryan Nash, Anthony Hickey, Michael Cobbins and Phil Forte to be a threat in the Big 12.
- San Diego State
The Aztecs make their way back into the top-25 after missing out for a long stretch. But, three consecutive wins including a come-from-behind victory over UNLV makes San Diego State the favorite to win the Mountain West.
The Bears picked up a nice win over Iowa State last week before blowing a large second half lead against Kansas State on Saturday. Rico Gathers is currently averaging a double-double with 10 points per game and over 11 rebounds.
The Hawkeyes are starting to emerge as the third team in the Big 10 after completing the season sweep of Ohio State on Saturday. Aaron White continues to make a case for All-American, averaging over 16 points and seven rebounds per game.
- Northern Iowa
The Panthers coasted through an easy stretch of games, comfortably winning over Bradley and Missouri State. Games against Indiana State and Illinois State loom ahead for Northern Iowa and should tell us more about this team.
Since late November the Flyers have gone 13-1 with the one loss being at Arkansas. Despite not playing anyone over 6’6”, Dayton continues to look like a threat because of its ability to spread the floor and shoot. Jordan Seibert leads the way with nearly 16 points per game.
- Seton Hall
The Pirates lost their first home game of the year when Butler defeated them last Tuesday. A long break has given Seton Hall time to get better and get Isaiah Whitehead healthy.
Texas absolutely dismantled West Virginia on Saturday, looking like the Final Four caliber team many predicted early in the season. Can the Longhorns win on the road though? We’ll find out when they travel to TCU, Iowa State and Baylor in three of their next four games.
- Wichita State
It’s a very real possibility the Shockers go undefeated in conference play yet again. After handling Evansville with ease, the only challenge left for Wichita State is a game against Northern Iowa at the end of the month.
It was a close game against Duquesne, but the Rams were playing without Treveon Graham. It’s hard not to notice the havoc VCU is causing again, forcing teams into over 17 turnovers per game over the last 10 games. The three losses VCU has on its record doesn’t look bad anymore as the teams are a combined 48-3.
- North Carolina
Did North Carolina finally figure out how to play together? It’s sure looking that way with Marcus Paige playing like a star, especially against North Carolina State last week when he threw up 23 points and nine assists. Kennedy Meeks has been improving with each game and the Tar Heels are starting to look more like contenders.
The Sooners had two completely opposite games last week. After getting blown out at West Virginia by 20, they turned around and beat Oklahoma State by almost 20. Tonight’s game at Kansas could be the turning point in the season and have the Sooners’ looking like a top-10 team.
If teams go zone against Louisville will the Cardinals ever win a game? It sure looks suspect after the loss to Duke, where they looked like they can’t score if the ball isn’t in Montrezl Harrell or Terry Rozier’s hands. Teams will start focusing on Harrell, causing games to be low scoring and ugly. Louisville needs help from someone else.
- Notre Dame
Notre Dame snuck by Georgia Tech and Miami by a combined eight points last week. However, the wins look better when you realize starting center Zach Auguste didn’t play against Georgia Tech and only played nine minutes in the Miami game. The Irish have enough offensive power to be a threat in March.
It’s hard to win on the road in conference play, especially at Iowa State when ESPN’s GameDay is there. However, you have to wonder what’s going on in Lawrence. Perry Ellis doesn’t resemble an average player yet Cliff Alexander doesn’t get the minutes despite Kansas’ need for help in the paint.
Maryland is by far the biggest surprise of the year. With a freefall of people leaving the team before the season started and then star player Dez Wells missing seven games with a fractured wrist, the Terps are currently 17-2. A dominating home victory over Michigan State gave Maryland the season sweep and Melo Trimble is turning into one of the best point guards in the country.
Here it is folks. Virginia is undefeated yet the Cavaliers are No. 9 on my rankings. Why? Because the ceiling for this team is a Sweet 16, therefore they can’t be ranked in the top eight. Justin Anderson won’t keep shooting over 55 percent from deep and losses will start happening. So, go ahead and let me hear about it, but this is the truth. Virginia is overrated.
- Iowa State
Iowa State is the sixth Big 12 team to make the top 25 rankings, with West Virginia looming as the seventh. The conference is just going to beat each other up, with the conference winner likely going 10-8 or 11-7. But, for the right now the Cyclones are the best in the league. Iowa State can score with anyone and Jameel McKay is providing the defense that the Cyclones desperately needed.
Yes, I understand the Utes lost by 18 to Arizona. But, the game was on the road and Utah is still getting back to full strength with Jordan Loveridge being healthy. This team has lost to Arizona, Kansas and San Diego State, nothing to be ashamed about. Delon Wright will keep Utah competitive throughout the year.
Arizona desperately needed that win over Utah to help solidify itself as the best in the Pac-12. More importantly, the Wildcats finally crashed the boards. They had 17 offensive rebounds compared to Utah’s 19 total boards. With players like Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski, this should happen all the time.
Doug Gottlieb made a great point about Villanova during his call of the UNLV-San Diego State game on Saturday. The Wildcats are this year’s version of Florida from last season. An older team without much NBA talent, but the Wildcats will be there in Indianapolis. Daniel Ochefu is the most improved player in the country and a legitimate post threat for Villanova.
The loss of Traevon Jackson at point guard will hurt Wisconsin, but Bronson Koenig showed he has the talent to replace Jackson for the time being. In the 37 minutes he played against Nebraska he turned the ball over just once. The Badgers need to keep Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes healthy now.
Duke got a big win at Louisville, but there are still flaws with the Blue Devils. Teams will continue to force Jahlil Okafor to make quick decisions in the post and try to turn him over, while defensively we’ll see if the zone lasts. Duke needs to become a better defensive team if it wants to win a national championship.
I don’t want to hear Gonzaga doesn’t play anyone or they are a mid-major team who will choke against the big boys in March. This isn’t a typical mid-major team. The Bulldogs have the perfect mix of senior leadership, transfers who played at the biggest programs in the country and a freshman who has played against pros. The Bulldogs can beat you inside or shooting the ball from deep. There’s no question this is the second best team in the country.
What’s wrong with Kentucky? That was the narrative after two overtime victories to start SEC play. Is that still a thing? Or did the 49 point win against Missouri and 22 point win at Alabama stop that?