Winners and Losers from the AP College Basketball Top 25 Rankings in Week 10
After nearly a month with virtually no movement in the AP Top 25 rankings, things finally got a little crazy, with eight of last week's Top 25 teams losing in the past seven days.
Sure, the Top Five teams remained unchanged once again, but everything else looks like a freshly shaken game of Boggle.
San Diego State and Colorado made big jumps after picking up huge wins on Sunday afternoon. Duke and Oklahoma State took big tumbles after suffering the perils of early conference play on Saturday evening.
As a result, there were at least two dozen winners and losers to choose from this week, but we've whittled the list down to five of each.
Winner: San Diego State Aztecs
San Diego State debuted at No. 24 back on Dec. 2 after knocking off both Creighton and Marquette to win the Wooden Legacy.
It then lingered in the 20s for four consecutive weeks, unable to gain ground on anyone by playing games against Southern Utah, McNeese State and St. Katherine College.
The Aztecs needed some sort of marquee win in order to justify being propelled into the teens. They got such a win on Sunday at Kansas.
The Jayhawks had averaged 86.3 points per game in their last three contests—against New Mexico, Georgetown and Toledo, no less—but San Diego State held them to just 57 points to pick up one of the biggest nonconference victories of the season.
For their efforts, the Aztecs made the biggest jump of the week, moving from No. 21 to No. 13.
Loser: Pittsburgh Panthers
Look, AP voters, I get it. You're still angry that the Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati eyesore at Madison Square Garden caused you to stay up even later to watch Florida vs. Memphis on Dec. 17.
However, that's not a proper justification for leaving either team out of the Top 25 this week.
According to KenPom.com, Pittsburgh is the eighth-best team in the entire country.
By no means am I endorsing Pitt for the Top 10—I personally had them at No. 18 in this week's power rankings—but it doesn't seem right that a well-respected stat-head like Ken Pomeroy is getting blatantly ignored by the people who dictate how we perceive the 25 best teams in the country.
Aside from Harvard, Toledo and Incarnate Word—the latter of which definitely does not count because it hasn't won a single game against a D-I opponent—Pittsburgh is the only unranked team with fewer than two losses.
The Panthers' schedule hasn't been daunting by any means, but this weekend's come-from-behind win on the road against North Carolina State was a thing of beauty. This team is ready to compete in the ACC, and it belongs in the Top 25.
Winner: The State of Ohio
The wrath of college basketball calamity touched teams far and wide over the past week, but it forgot to do any damage to the state of Ohio.
The Ohio State Buckeyes struggled early in both games this week against Purdue and Nebraska, but they ended up winning each somewhat comfortably. They remain one of the six unbeaten teams in the country—though Tuesday's game at Michigan State could very well change that.
Cincinnati picked up a huge 16-point road win over Memphis on Saturday after dismissing Southern Methodist on New Year's Day. The Bearcats didn't quite complete the leap from zero votes to the Top 25, but if they can take care of business against the bottom-feeders of the AAC over the next few weeks, they should absolutely be ranked for the Jan. 30 showdown with Louisville.
Xavier added a pair of home conference wins against St. John's and Butler, picking up three votes in this week's poll.
Dayton won on the road against Ole Miss on a buzzer-beater in overtime in a game that could prove to be massively important for both teams in about a month once we really start talking about who's on the bubble.
Heck, even Cleveland State picked up a 28-point road win against Milwaukee.
Football fans in Ohio aren't too thrilled this week, but it was a pretty stellar week for the state's college basketball programs.
Loser: The American Athletic Conference
Despite the great week for Cincinnati and Houston, the rest of the conference didn't do so well.
Going on the road in the early parts of the conference schedule is never easy, but it's a little messed up that Connecticut lost to both Houston and Southern Methodist, right?
Two weeks ago, it felt like the AP voters had some sort of hidden agenda against the Huskies. In hindsight, it seems they were correctly reading the tea leaves in the aftermath of the loss to Stanford and finding a team whose string of incredibly good luck had run its course. Perhaps Shabazz Napier and co. will rediscover some of that Kemba Walker magic, but the team doesn't belong anywhere near the Top 25 right now.
And unfortunately for the conference, Cincinnati's gain came at the expense of Memphis. Though they arguably deserved to drop out of the Top 25 entirely, the Tigers only fell to 24th. However, they played a leading role in turning this conference from one with three teams in the Top 18 to a conference with just one team (Louisville) in the Top 23.
Winner: Wichita State Shockers
Don't look now, but the Wichita State Shockers have tiptoed all the way up to No. 6 in the country.
It seems almost impossible to think that they could lose a single game between now and February 5 when they travel to Indiana State.
Three days ago, you could have argued that road trips to Drake and Missouri State might pose a threat, but those two teams just lost by a combined total of 43 points to two teams that were a combined 10-17 before the weekend began.
Meanwhile, either Michigan State or Ohio State is guaranteed to lose on Tuesday night, all but promising that Wichita State will gain another spot in the national totem pole next Monday. And with Arizona traveling to UCLA on Thursday and Syracuse hosting North Carolina on Saturday, who's to say that there might not be another few spots up for grabs?
A decade ago, seeing a team enter the month of March with an unblemished record was almost commonplace. During the 2003-04 season, both Stanford and Saint Joseph's were undefeated until the final week. Ditto in 2004-05 for Illinois, which lost by one point on the final day of the regular season.
How far will the Shockers get?
Loser: The State of North Carolina
With all due respect to Wake Forest, North Carolina's three biggest basketball programs laid a pretty big egg this weekend.
North Carolina State appeared to be turning a corner after suffering an early-season loss to North Carolina Central—which doesn't seem anywhere near as terrible now as it did at the time, but it's still pretty bad. In the past month, the Wolfpack had a convincing win over Northwestern in the ACC/B1G Challenge, a road win over Tennessee that could loom large in March and a near upset over Missouri.
In the first half against Pittsburgh, it seemed they were continuing that trend in the right direction, only to get blown out of their own building in the second half. Where a win might have earned them a couple of votes in this week's poll, the loss pretty much assures they won't be on anyone's ballot at any point in the next month.
Later that same day, Duke somehow managed to lose to a 9-4 team—playing without its leading scorer—that needed overtime to beat Canisius earlier in the week. Jabari Parker scored just seven points and spent the final minutes of the game on the bench despite no fouls and no injury.
“He wasn’t playing well," Mike Krzyzewski said, via GoDuke.com. "For any kid who is not playing well, you should try to find a kid that is playing well. But that happens. Sometimes kids don’t play well throughout the game. He just wasn’t having a good game.”
Far be it from us to question Coach K's methods. Perhaps it was a misguided attempt to prove to the rest of his players that they are capable of winning without riding on Parker's coattails. Whatever the reasoning, that one was a tough pill to swallow for Duke fans, and it sent the Blue Devils spiraling from No. 7 all the way down to No. 16.
Last but definitely least, North Carolina barely even bothered to show up against Wake Forest on Sunday night. The Tar Heels dominated on the glass—finishing the game with a plus-19 rebounding margin—but were completely lackadaisical in every other aspect of the game.
Of course, this is just business as usual for the Tar Heels, who have made a habit of only looking good when playing the best teams in the country.
Winner: Gonzaga Bulldogs
Apparently the 10-point loss to Kansas State on Dec. 21 was exactly what the doctor ordered for the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
It's not exactly a surprise to see them destroying their West Coast Conference competition, but it certainly is refreshing after the way they sputtered through the middling weeks of December.
Gonzaga strangely played four home conference games in a span of eight days from Dec. 28 through Jan. 4, winning those games by an average margin of 21.5 points per game. As little as five years ago, that would've been no big deal, but this conference isn't anywhere near the toxic waste dump that it used to be.
For their efforts—and thanks in large part to losses by five of the eight teams previously ranked directly ahead of them—the Bulldogs jumped from No. 24 to No. 22, nearly tripling their vote count from last week.
Loser: Oklahoma State Cowboys
Compared to the tumbles experienced by Connecticut, Duke, Memphis and Oregon, Oklahoma State's drop from No. 6 to No. 11 for losing to Kansas State wasn't all that precipitous.
However, the Cowboys had arguably the worst week of any team in the country.
Last Monday, they lost Michael Cobbins for the rest of the season to a torn Achilles tendon. Two days later, backup point guard Stevie Clark was arrested for possession of marijuana. There's no word yet on if or when he'll be welcomed back to the roster, but the team was playing with considerably less than a full deck on Saturday without those two key reserves.
Games against Texas, West Virginia and TCU in the next 10 days shouldn't be overwhelmingly difficult for the Cowboys, but they had better figure things out in a hurry if they have any aspirations of winning at Kansas on Jan. 18.
Winner: Villanova Wildcats
It was barely 48 hours ago that we were wondering if the first two months of Villanova's season were merely a mirage, questioning whether the loss to Syracuse and the narrow win over Butler were a more accurate representation of where the Wildcats stood.
But then they went and put a 30-point beating on Providence and made everything better.
In most years, smoking Providence would be anything but groundbreaking news. The Friars have finished above .500 in conference play just once since the 2003-04 season and haven't competed in any of the past nine NCAA tournaments.
However, they were looking somewhat respectable this season until Villanova changed that narrative.
Thanks to that commanding victory and losses by Oklahoma State, Duke and Oregon, Villanova jumped back into the Top 10 this week, matching its earlier high-water mark as the No. 8 team in the country.
Loser: UCLA Bruins
If we're going to argue that Pittsburgh is a loser for not making it into the Top 25 this week, UCLA needs a slide as well.
On some level, it's even more offensive that UCLA was overlooked, because the Bruins have actually been ranked in the past. At one point in time, most of the AP voters felt that they were one of the 25 best teams in the country. But, apparently, a 34-point shellacking of USC on Sunday wasn't enough for them to rejoin that elite group.
As is also the case with Pittsburgh, it isn't too difficult to argue that UCLA's strength of schedule is severely lacking. The road loss to Missouri and the neutral-court loss to Duke aren't exactly things to be ashamed of, but there's only one RPI Top 70 win (vs. UC Santa Barbara) upon which the Bruins can hang their hat.
Make no mistake about it, though: UCLA is a very good team. That will be made abundantly clear when it hosts Arizona on Thursday night.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.
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