A Closer Look at This Week’s Top 25

What a wild week in college basketball. Remember this time last week when team’s like UCLA, TCU, LSU, and Clemson were ranked? Each of the aforementioned teams lost at least one game this week leaving us with a few new members of the top 25. By the way, Duke lost too. Here is a look at this week’s top 25 teams.

#1 Gonzaga

The Bulldogs are 5-0 after impressively beating Duke last Thursday and winning the Maui Invitational tournament. They jump up to the top spot in this week’s rankings from number three where they will stay if they can continue taking care of business. The veterans on this team have provided everything Gonzaga could have asked for and the depth is starting to show and if it continues the pacific northwest will be playing basketball into early April.

#2 Kansas

The Jayhawks were thought to be a team that could have taken advantage of Duke losing and moving up to the number one spot but even after beating Tennessee they remain in the second spot in the rankings. In the win over Tennessee, the depth this Kansas team had was in full effect as Quentin Grimes and Lagerald Vick only combined for 5 points, but Dedric Lawson stepped up to take over the lead scorer role.

#3 Duke

Just because they lost, doesn’t mean they have to fall far. Duke is still easily one of the premier teams in the country after an upsetting loss to now #1 Gonzaga. Despite this, if RJ Barrett doesn’t go 9-25 from the floor every game, the Blue Devils should be just fine. Coach K will have Duke ready to go against a very tough Indiana team on Tuesday but if he doesn’t this is a trap game that could result in a losing streak.

#4 Virginia

UVA was able to hang solid point totals on a couple of not-so-great defenses before coming back to form and only putting up 53 in a win over ranked Wisconsin. The defense has been the focal point of Cavaliers teams for years and nothing seems to be different this season. Virginia is a well deserving number four team in the nation.

#5 Nevada

Sure they haven’t played anyone too impressive, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are taking care of business in the games they play. Nevada hung 110 points on Umass Amherst on Friday night led by 29 points from Caleb Martin in another impressive offensive showing. Nevada will always be an underdog because of their schedule but right now they seem to match up well against just about everybody.

#6 Tennessee

Admiral Schofield has led this Volunteers group to an expected 4-1 record to start the season in impressive fashion. They took the number two team in the country to overtime on Friday, even having a lead very late in the second half. Tennessee has played fantastic defense so far this season which could be a thorn in the side of high powered offensive teams that rely on outscoring opponents to win.

#7 Michigan

They keep on moving up. Michigan followed up their best early season win against Villanova with three straight wins, allowing them to continue to climb the rankings. The Wolverines will again be tested this week as they take on UNC on Wednesday.

#8 Auburn

After narrowly defeating Xavier, Auburn lost by eight to a Duke team that still sits close to the top of these rankings. Although there is no shame in losing to the Blue Devils, there is also reason to believe that Auburn is one of the more overrated teams heading into December. Don’t be surprised to see this team sitting in the teens of these rankings or possibly lower by the time Christmas is around.

#9 Michigan State

What looked to be a scare in the first half against Texas turned into a victory for a resilient Spartans team.  The Spartans are both offensively and defensively sound and are led by their guy Cassius Winston who is averaging 18 points and 7.5 assists per game. After allowing 44 first-half points to Texas, Michigan State gave up just 24 the rest of the way, something coach Tom Izzo can be proud of.

#10 Kentucky

The Wildcats embarrassing loss to Duke on opening night is officially in the rear-view mirror as they have motored on with five straight victories since. Kentucky hasn’t played anybody nearly as good as Duke during their winning streak and for that, they have not jumped in the rankings since they fell to 10 three weeks ago, seeing teams like Michigan and Michigan State pass them. Until Kentucky begins to build a resume there is no way to say this team is significantly better than the one that got squashed by Duke.

#11 North Carolina

A disappointing first loss of the season was a three-point loss to Texas in a very high scoring game and a game that could have easily gone UNC’s way. The Tar Heels are going to be a scary team moving forward as freshman phenom Nassar Little begins to find his groove at the college level. Little is averaging nearly 13 points off the bench for UNC and was clutch in the teams most recent win against UCLA.

#12 Kansas State

Don’t lie to yourself, nobody knew Kansas State would be THIS good heading into December. Yeah, they were going to be a good team but to get out of the teens part of the rankings in a positive way is impressive for the Wildcats. Dean Wade’s impact is definitely being felt throughout the K-State locker room as they look to continue their impressive season this week.

#13 Virginia Tech

Don’t look now but Virginia Tech is here to stay. This marks another week where the Hokies leaped in the rankings as they finished off their week with a beat-down of St Francis PA winning by a score of 75-37. Ahmed Hill led Virginia Tech with 19 points and averages 15 a game for the Hokies who are not a team anyone wants to see on their schedule moving forward.

#14 Iowa

Iowa is 5-0 obviously because everyone knew that this was going to happen. Okay, enough lying, here are the facts. Iowa is 5-0 and has been playing fantastic basketball to open up the season. The Hawkeyes have a good win on their resume as they beat Oregon as an unranked team and have had Luke Garza lighting it up for them. Through the first five games, Garza has impressed averaging 16.2 points. Iowa will likely not keep up this pace but there is no denying they have been one of the biggest surprises so far this season.

#15 Florida State

Florida State had a truly wild week. They narrowly avoided defeat against a now unranked LSU team, barely coming out of the game with an overtime win. Two days later they took a close loss to an unranked Villanova team that is now ranked after an impressive win over these Seminoles. The outlook on Florida State after their 5-1 start is still foggy and the weeks to come will further shed light on whether they are pretenders or contenders.

#16 Ohio State

Here come the Buckeyes. From unranked to low ranked to 16 in this weeks newest poll, Ohio State looks like they can be for real this year. After a somewhat fluke like season last year with an early March exit, the Buckeyes have relied on Kaleb Wesson from the first game against Cincinnati to this point to carry the load. Wesson is averaging almost 15 points this season and has carried the load offensively.

#17 Texas

The Longhorns went from unranked to number 17 in the country after a huge win over UNC and a statement first half against Michigan State. Even though they were not able to finish the game against Michigan State it is clear that this Texas team maybe even better than last year’s squad despite losing center Mo Bamba to the NBA draft. The big test for the Longhorns will be Sunday when they take on 19th ranked Purdue.

#18 Oregon

Be wary, Oregon is not as good as they seem. Yes, Bol Bol is the real deal but the Ducks are not. The Ducks have not been able to put up more than 84 points yet this season and have had a tough time stopping opponents with their zone defense at times. Bol needs to step up on the defensive end in order for the Ducks to regain their preseason ranking despite their good 4-1 record.

#19 Purdue

Purdue has done exactly what they should have done this year. The Boilermakers have beaten everybody that they should have this year and lost to the one team they should have lost to in Virginia Tech. Despite the loss, Purdue will be tested this week against both Florida State and Michigan before taking on Maryland and Texas in a brutal stretch of four ranked teams. If Purdue emerges from this stretch with only one loss it should be looked at as a success.

#20 Texas Tech

Seeing the Red Raiders in this week’s rankings was something of a surprise. Texas Tech hasn’t played a ranked team yet and their wins haven’t been that impressive this season. They were only allowed 70 points against Nebraska who is likely the best team they have faced. Jarrett Culver has led the team with almost 19 PPG but Texas Tech will need more to win big going forward.

#21 Buffalo

Buffalo is still undefeated. The Bulls win over West Virginia remains their best win on the year but they have not let the foot off the gas pedal since claiming a spot in the rankings. CJ Massinburg is the best scorer on the team averaging over 20 points per game and although Buffalo isn’t a true contender in March at the moment, they could become one as the season goes on.

#22 Wisconsin

The Badgers move up in the rankings despite losing to UVA in a bad offensive showing. The Badgers will need more consistent scoring outside of leading scorer Ethan Happ if they want to go anywhere in March. The Badgers have a big game against Iowa later this week.

#23 Villanova

Back in the rankings after three straight wins which followed up on two losses. Nova beat a strong Florida State team and have a statement win now on their resume. The Wildcats have a lot to look forward to if Phil Booth doesn’t have to be the first scorer on the team and they can easily up move back up in the rankings.

#24 Maryland

Maryland hasn’t beaten anyone ranked but they will have a huge test against Virginia on Wednesday. Maryland’s offense has been incredible early in the season but they are going up against a UVA team that is as good as it gets on the defensive end. Expect Maryland to lose and lose their rank along with it.

#25 Mississippi State

Mississippi State was almost unranked after they lost to Arizona State last week. ASU is undefeated and was the closest team to taking the Bulldogs out of the top 25. With that being said, Mississippi State is better than they have played and are better than some of the teams above them. By the end of December, Mississippi State should still be standing with teams like Maryland, Buffalo or Texas Tech falling.


Photo: Land Grant Holy Land

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