College basketball rankings: Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Arizona fall in AP Top 25

College basketball rankings: Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Arizona fall in AP Top 25
Skip Bayless reveals why Pats’ Super Bowl LII loss showcased the best version of Tom Brady we’ve ever seen
nAfter another wacky weekend of college hoops, here’s the newest AP Top 25:

Duke, Kansas, Arizona and Kentucky all lost on Saturday, and as expected, each fell in the rankings. Duke tumbled five spots to No. 9 after losing to St. John’s; Kansas dropped to No. 10 after a setback against Oklahoma State; Arizona is down to No. 13 after losing a heartbreaker to Washington; and Kentucky slipped to No. 24 after falling at Missouri.

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We’ll focus on Duke, Kansas and Arizona, because Kentucky’s issues are youth and scoring-based. What does that trio have in common besides their blueblood status?

Duke has the No. 2 offense and the No. 74 defense. The Blue Devils can beat anyone – but are also capable of losing to a winless Big East team because their defense can’t bail them out of an average offensive performance. The same goes for Arizona (No. 6 on offense; No. 106 on defense), though Washington is surging and has a good chance to reach the NCAA tournament. Kansas ranks 32nd defensively, but it lacks interior size – the Jayhawks’ defense comes and goes. Rebounding is their biggest issue – Kansas ranks 271st in defensive rebounding rate. Defend as well as you want on the perimeter, but it’s hard to stop anyone if you’re consistently allowing second and third chances.

The good news for the wounded bluebloods: while these struggles are uncharacteristic, all of them can still make the Final Four – and perhaps even win while there. South Carolina made the Final Four in 2017. Syracuse made it in 2016. We could go on – but the point is, Duke, Kansas and Arizona are better now than those teams were then. They can flip the proverbial switch. But if these schools win big, it could come as a surprise – and when was the last time we could say that about any of them?

Florida out as Miami slips back into top 25 of AP college basketball poll

Despite all of the huge weekend upsets, no team rose a notable amount in this week’s rankings. That’s because the schools who pulled off the upsets – St. John’s, Oklahoma State and Washington – weren’t close to the AP Top 25 before the games happened (though the Huskies are creeping up). So there’s a glut of teams who creeped up a few spots in the poll.

Xavier is in the top five despite a close call against Georgetown on Saturday. The Musketeers are proof that it doesn’t necessarily matter how you win – just that you do it. Xavier has won six in a row and has a senior duo that no team wants to deal with in Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura. A tough Tuesday matchup with Butler looms.

The middle of the SEC continues to be a jumble that is hard to sort out: Conference record and standings do not matter to the selection process, but 11 of the league’s 14 teams are between 6-4 and 4-6 in conference play. Four teams are 15-8 overall, another is 14-8 and two more are 13-9. The only reliable teams this season have been Auburn and Tennessee. There are eight SEC teams in the bracket, but five are seeded between Nos. 9-11. There are still five weeks left to sort all this out, but just about every conference game matters for the bracket at this point.

Villanova, Virginia, Purdue stay 1-2-3 atop latest AP Top 25

There’s a lot of chatter about the overwhelming parity in college hoops this year. There’s some truth to that. When Duke, Kansas, Arizona and Kentucky lose on the same day, it feeds into the narrative.

Purdue vs. Michigan State big for both teams: The other No. 1 seed, Purdue, has a big week ahead. The Boilermakers have the last two Tier 1 games left on their regular season schedule coming up. Wednesday, Ohio State will visit Mackey Arena and Saturday, Purdue will take on Michigan State in East Lansing, Michigan. It is the only meeting the Boilers have with each of those teams in the regular season.
Skip Bayless reveals why Pats' Super Bowl LII loss showcased the best version of Tom Brady we've ever seen
Skip Bayless reveals why Pats’ Super Bowl LII loss showcased the best version of Tom Brady we’ve ever seen

College basketball: Top 10 conference heat check

Villanova has two stars on the floor in Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges, and a star on the bench in Jay Wright. Virginia is on pace to have the best defense of the KenPom era. Purdue has the No. 3 offense and is shooting a sizzling 43 percent from distance.

They’re beatable, sure, but there are three clear-cut 1-seeds as it stands in early February. Granted, after that, it’s kind of a mess. It’s going to be a blast watching this all play out – but Villanova, Virginia and Purdue should have silenced the “there are no great teams in college basketball this year” talk by now.

TOP 25 THIS WEEK: Purdue-Michigan State tops week’s schedule

Selection Sunday is inching closer and closer. The greatest time of the year is just around the corner, but there’s plenty of madness still to come between now and then.

NCAA tournament bracketology: Villanova, Virginia, Purdue and Auburn are No. 1 seeds
NCAA tournament bracketology: Villanova, Virginia, Purdue and Auburn are No. 1 seeds

Joe Boozell has been a college basketball writer for NCAA.com since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, FOXSports.com and NBA.com. Joe’s claim to fame since joining NCAA.com: he’s predicted the correct national championship game twice… and picked the wrong winner both times. Growing up, Joe squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene. You can imagine how that went.

SEC (24). State of the league: Deeper than it’s been in a long time. Right now you could put eight teams in the bracket, which is amazing for a league that hasn’t had more than five in a decade. Two teams (Auburn and Tennessee) currently are in the hunt for a No. 1 seed. Kentucky and Florida have gotten flaky but remain dangerous. This conference tournament in a new location (St. Louis) could be wild. Player of the Year as of now: Collin Sexton, Alabama. Coach of the Year as of now: Cuonzo Martin of Missouri if you care about federal investigations; Bruce Pearl of Auburn if you don’t. Game to watch this week: Tennessee at Kentucky, Tuesday. Volunteers won in Knoxville, and the Wildcats are struggling.
NCAA tournament bracketology: Villanova, Virginia, Purdue and Auburn are No. 1 seeds
NCAA tournament bracketology: Villanova, Virginia, Purdue and Auburn are No. 1 seeds

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When it goes bad at Minnesota (35), it goes bad. The Golden Gophers currently are riding a five-game losing streak and have lost eight of their last nine, plummeting from the Top 25 to nowhere near the NCAA bubble. This marks the fourth straight season under Richard Pitino (36) that Minnesota has lost at least five in a row. The Gophers lost the first five Big Ten games they ever played under Pitino in 2015, dropped a whopping 14 straight in 2015-16, five straight in January 2017, and the current five-game skid. The expulsion of big man Reggie Lynch (sexual assault investigation) and the Big Ten schedule have combined to do this Minnesota team no favors; only one of its last six games has been at home.

NCAA.com is a part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network.

The FBI’s announcement in late September of 10 arrests (including those of four high-major assistant coaches) in relation to a probe into fraud and bribery in college basketball recruiting sent shockwaves through the sport, most notably resulting in the firing of Louisville coach Rick Pitino. Very little new information has been made public since then, however, and the season has regained a feeling approaching the status quo, though there remains a lingering sense that another shoe could drop at any moment. The teams connected to the scandal have generally underachieved but none have been truly sunk. Louisville, under 32-year-old interim coach David Padgett, has chugged along to a 16-7 record that should still earn it a decent NCAA tournament seeding. Arizona, which had an assistant coach (Emanuel Richardson) arrested, has recovered from a disastrous November to enter February leading the Pac-12. One game behind the Wildcats is USC, who also had an assistant coach arrested (Tony Bland) and has recovered from its own early-season losing streak, though it does not resemble the deep-tournament contender it entered the season expected to be. Oklahoma State, which employed arrested assistant coach Lamont Evans, is the mid-level Big 12 team many expected. And Auburn, which not only had an assistant coach (Chuck Person) arrested but also has been missing two key players for their connections to the investigation, has been one of the country’s surprise teams at 21-2 with a two-game lead in the SEC.

Riding a nine-game winning streak, the Wildcats remain at the top of the USA TODAY Coaches Poll as February begins. USA TODAY Sports

While Duke became a heavy preseason favorite once top prospect Marvin Bagley III reclassified to enroll in college this fall and Michigan State and Arizona also entered with understandably lofty expectations, all three have hit bumps of various kinds along the way and slipped a bit in standing. No team in the country even made it to January undefeated and only two still sport just one blemish: Villanova and Virginia. It’s those two teams and Purdue that have, to differing degrees of surprisingness, emerged as the strongest contenders thus far. Villanova has the country’s most efficient offense thus far, but a susceptible defense ranked just 42nd that was positively lit up in the Wildcats’ lone loss, at Butler. Virginia’s imbalance is inverted, as has become customary in the Tony Bennett era, with the Cavaliers’ D ranked No. 1 in efficiency and its offense 33rd, but with such a particularly stout defense, this might be the best such team Bennett has had. And Purdue, which has not lost since Thanksgiving, offers a tantalizing balance (third in offense, 16th in defense) and pairs elite outside shooting (42.8% from three, second nationally, with five players shooting 39.6% or better) with the presence of 7’2” center Isaac Haas. Those three are your current best bets for No. 1 seeds come March.

College basketball rankings: Xavier enters top 5 of coaches poll; Duke, Kentucky fall

The madness that accompanies March always has an appetizer of sorts. The kind where college basketball teams are projected in or out of the NCAA tournament field and their seeds constantly fluctuate. 

The state of college hoops being what it is, there’s a strong crop of first-year players that have instantly become key figures in the sport’s landscape. Bagley, a versatile 6’11” forward who is expected to be in contention for the No. 1 pick in June’s NBA Draft, is a likely first-team All-America (21.4 points, 11.2 rebounds per game) who starts for Duke alongside two other potential one-and-done lottery picks in wing Gary Trent Jr. (15.0 points, 44.8% from three) and Wendell Carter Jr. (14.4 points, 9.6 rebounds). Bagley’s biggest competitor for the top draft spot among American prospects is Arizona seven-footer Deandre Ayton, who is averaging 19.7 points and 10.8 rebounds with a well-rounded game and skills beyond his years. Other rookies of particular note include Texas seven-footer and defensive difference-maker Mohamed Bamba, Alabama point guard Collin Sexton, Michigan State forward Jaren Jackson Jr., and a Kentucky crop headlined by versatile scoring forward Kevin Knox. Missing from that group is 6’10” Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr., who had been the Class of 2017’s top recruit but has not played since the opening two minutes of the Tigers’ season after undergoing back surgery. He is not expected to return this season, but has said he has not ruled it out.

That non-stop predicting madness begins here at USA TODAY Sports — 34 days away from Selection Sunday. 

Except what’s most surprising about our debut bracket isn’t necessarily the teams that have made the projected field of 68. It’s who is up top. 

Heading into 2017-18, Duke, Kentucky, Arizona and Michigan State were the usual suspects to land No. 1 seeds. None of these kingpins are better than No. 3 seeds, which isn’t all that surprising given how easily preseason expectations can be shattered in three months. What is surprising is how dominant Virginia has been in the ACC and Purdue has been in the Big Ten. And what is downright stunning is who else ascended to the top seed marks. Auburn a No. 1 seed? Clemson and Texas Tech as No. 2 seeds? Tennessee a No. 3 seed? 

AP College Basketball Poll 2018: Complete Week 14 Rankings Released

While there’s much that can unfold in the next five weeks, Villanova’s stranglehold on a No. 1 seed seems intact at this point. The Wildcats, No. 1 in the coaches and AP polls, present an impressive overall profile that could take a hit if they stumble in the Big East. Yet there’s way less opportunity to stumble there than, say the ACC.

► Others considered for at-large bids (in no particular order): Syracuse, SMU, Marquette, Nebraska, South Carolina, Utah, Maryland, Mississippi State, UCLA, Western Kentucky.

Villanova doesn't budge from No. 1 in AP Top 25 poll
Villanova doesn’t budge from No. 1 in AP Top 25 poll

AP Top 25 men’s basketball: Villanova remains steady after chaotic week

► Multi-bid conferences: ACC (9), SEC (9), Big 12 (7), Big East (6), Big Ten (4), Pac 12 (4), Atlantic 10 (2), AAC (2), WCC (2).

Associated Press releases Week 14 Top 25 poll

Leaders or highest RPI from projected one-bid conferences — (23 total): America East – Vermont, Atlantic Sun – FGCU, Big Sky – Montana, Big South – UNC-Ashville, Big West – UCSB, CAA – Charleston, C-USA – MTSU, Horizon – Wright State, Ivy – Penn, MAAC – Rider, MAC – Buffalo, MEAC – NC A&T, MVC – Loyola-Chicago, MWC – Nevada, Northeast – Wagner, Ohio Valley – Belmont, Patriot – Bucknell, Southern – ETSU, Southland – Nicholls State, SWAC – Ark PB, Summit – South Dakota State, Sun Belt – Louisiana, WAC – New Mexico State.

Virginia holding tight to it’s No. 2 spot in new AP Top 25 Poll

Banned from participating: Alabama A&M, Grambling, Savannah State, SE Missouri State.

Note:  All RPI and statistical data is used from WarrenNolan.com.

About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 on his website, Bracket W.A.G. He joined USA TODAY in 2014. In his fifth season as our national bracketologist, Mast has finished as one of the top three bracketologists in the past four March Madnesses. He’s also predicted for The Indianapolis Star, collegeinsider.com and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.


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