Winners & Losers from the AP College Basketball Top 25 Rankings in Week 6
The sixth edition of the AP Top 25 has been released, and Arizona is officially the top team in the country for the first time in more than a decade.
After putting Arizona in the top spot by dethroning Michigan State, North Carolina reappeared in this week's poll at No. 18. Colorado (No. 21) and Missouri (No. 24) also joined the Top 25, replacing Dayton, Michigan and UCLA.
Two weeks ago, Villanova didn't receive a single vote. Today, the Wildcats are a Top 10 team. That's a pretty good microcosm for how unpredictable this season has been at times.
Read on for this week's list of winners and losers from the new rankings, including a loser that hasn't lost a game yet.
Winner: Arizona Wildcats
We officially have a new No. 1 team. Arizona joins Kentucky and Michigan State to become our third head honcho of the season.
The Wildcats really backed into the honor by struggling with UNLV on Saturday. It was a tug-of-war from start to finish, with neither team leading by more than six points at any point in time. A win is a win, though, and Arizona did enough to climb to the top of the poll.
UNLV game aside, this team has earned the top spot. For the first time all season, the best team in the country is actually ranked No. 1.
Loser: Champions Classic
It hasn't even been a full month since the Champions Classic, but three of those four teams looked nothing like champions in the past seven days.
It started on Wednesday with Michigan State losing at home by double digits to the most Jekyll and Hyde team in the universe—North Carolina. Save perhaps for the game against Oklahoma in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, it was the Spartans first legitimate test since becoming the No. 1 team in the country.
To be fair, both Keith Appling and Adreian Payne were playing at considerably less than 100 percent, but they still lost the game.
Kentucky then lost to Baylor on Friday night before Kansas lost to Colorado on Saturday. If not for Duke's win over Michigan, the teams who played in the Champions Classic would have been winless for the week.
As a result, Michigan State, Kansas and Kentucky combined to drop 19 spots in this week's poll.
Winner: Colorado Buffaloes
With wins over Colorado State and Kansas in the past seven days, the Buffaloes made their long-awaited debut in the Top 25, checking in at No. 21.
Since losing to Baylor on opening night, Colorado has now won nine consecutive games. Clearly, though, none was bigger than Saturday's win over the Jayhawks.
Askia Booker may very well have traveled before hitting the buzzer-beating three-pointer that vaulted the team into the Top 25, but let's call it karma for Sabatino Chen's three-pointer against Arizona last season that was disallowed.
A home game against Elon on Friday is the only thing separating us from a ranked showdown between Colorado and Oklahoma State on December 21.
We had grown accustomed to a ton of chaos over the past few weeks, but things were relatively sedated in the latest poll.
Sure, Kansas and Kentucky plummeted after their losses, and the No. 1 ranked team lost a home game to an unranked opponent. But aside from Dayton's loss to Illinois State, every loss by a team that was ranked last week came against a team that is ranked this week.
The pot wasn't so much shaken as it was lightly stirred.
In total, only four of last week's Top 17 teams lost a game, leaving 14 of the current Top 25 teams within two spots of where they were yesterday.
Winner: Syracuse Orange
With the count of undefeated teams now down to only 15, just about every team in the country has a few warts or question marks.
Every team except for Syracuse, that is.
The Orange apparently got all of their doubts out of the way early in the year by struggling with Cornell and St. Francis (NY) during that pre-Thanksgiving portion of the season that's already getting a little fuzzy in our memories.
Since then, they've merely breezed through the Maui Invitational and completely demoralized both Indiana and Binghamton in the past week. Coupled with losses by many of the teams around them, it was more than enough to jump to No. 2 in this week's AP Poll.
Loser: Illinois Fighting Illini
There are five teams from the Big Ten with fewer than two losses. Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin are each ranked in the Top 5. Iowa is ranked in the Top 25.
Then there's Illinois, which didn't receive a single vote this week after suffering its first loss of the season to Georgia Tech.
The Illini don't deserve any votes, either. Their best win of the season came against a 3-4 UNLV team. Their second-best win is a toss-up between home games against Valparaiso and IPFW. In case it's unclear whether that's a good or bad toss-up, we're awarding brownie points for anyone who knows what IPFW stands for without looking it up.
A "neutral-court" game against Missouri in Missouri and a road game against Oregon may eventually make Illinois' nonconference schedule look slightly better than completely dreadful. Still, one doesn't need to look very hard to find this year's Big Ten team that is most likely to post a 21-11 record and miss the NCAA tournament by a landslide due to a lack of quality wins.
Winner: Missouri Tigers
After spending all of last season and the first month of this season as Florida, Kentucky and a bunch of average teams, the SEC now has a third team that belongs in the Top 25.
They needed a pair of 80-71 home wins over West Virginia and UCLA to get there, but the 9-0 Missouri Tigers finally debuted at No. 24 this week.
Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross combined for 122 of the team's 160 points in those two wins, continuing to play the role of "biggest three-headed monster backcourt" in the country. The three 6'5" guards have scored more than 67 percent of Missouri's points this season.
Unless someone figures out how to slow those three guys down, we might be talking about Missouri as a Top 10 team before long.
Loser: Wichita State Shockers
One week ago, Wichita State was ranked 11th in the nation after receiving 911 votes.
Because of a 13-point win over Oral Roberts this weekend, the Shockers received 884 votes and are now ranked 12th.
Some of that decrease is undoubtedly due to the inspired play of Connecticut and Villanova—each of which jumped Wichita State to get into the Top 10.
However, one has to wonder if the Shockers have already reached an arbitrarily self-imposed cap in the eyes of some of the AP voters. This is 100 percent speculation, but it wouldn't be a surprise if—fearful of a repeat of last year's situation in which Gonzaga became the No. 1 team in the country almost by default—some voters are simply refusing to put Wichita State into their Top 15 until they have no other choice.
There were a fair number of voters who had Wichita State in their Top 10, but I count 13 voters (20 percent of the total) who had Wichita State at No. 16 or worse. Most notably among them, Tom Keegan—who covers Kansas Jayhawks basketball less than 200 miles from Wichita—left the Shockers off his ballot altogether.
I recognize that Wichita State has struggled in the first half of many of its games this season, but come on. This is a 9-0 team with an average margin of victory of 18.1 points per game. If Oregon cracks your Top 15, Wichita State has to be in your Top 25.
Winner: Dave Borges
Who is Dave Borges, you ask?
By day, he is the beat writer for Connecticut's men's basketball team for the New Haven Register.
By night, he is the lone voice for Toledo.
Borges is one of the 65 AP voters, and as luck would have it, he was the only one who cast a vote for the still-undefeated Toledo Rockets.
Of the 15 remaining undefeated teams, 11 are ranked in the Top 25. Pittsburgh received 47 votes, Boise State received 34 and Saint Mary's picked up three. Thanks to Borges, Toledo finally appears in the "Others receiving votes" footnote.
In his blog, Borges defended his acknowledgment of Toledo's perfect season by writing, "Sure, there are more high-profile programs worthy of a ranking (Colorado, Missouri, Indiana, New Mexico). But I always like to reserve at least one spot for the little guys, so Toledo's in this week."
Loser: Virginia Cavaliers
Virginia wasn't quite in the Top 25 last week. With 73 votes, the Cavaliers checked in at No. 27.
This week, however, they are nowhere to be found.
Scoring 38 points at home against Wisconsin and losing to a school from the Horizon League tends to have that kind of effect.
In the span of one week, the Cavaliers went from a team that might be able to contend for the ACC regular-season title to a team that we might have been giving too much credit all along.
They don't play again until December 21, but that's unlikely to change the sour taste that this past week has left in our mouths.