RTC Top 25: Week Two

Posted by rtmsf on November 25th, 2013

We’re now two weeks into the season and there’s not a whole lot more clarity in the poll than there was last week. Michigan State is a strong #1, but #2 Kansas is nipping on the Spartans’ heels and #3 Kentucky and #4 Arizona are not far behind. Then things start to get muddled. Louisville put doubt into everyone’s minds with its no-show versus North Carolina, while Oklahoma State is soaring as a result of its fantastic beatdown of Memphis. Duke‘s close call versus Vermont led pollsters to devalue the Blue Devils, while Connecticut‘s close win over Indiana pushed the Huskies to the edge of the Top 10. And then there are a bunch of teams that people still haven’t gotten a great handle on — the good news is that for schools like Syracuse, Gonzaga and Creighton, we’ll know a lot more about them at this time next week — Feast Week will make sure of it. The quick n’ dirty analysis of this week’s poll is after the jump.

rtc25 11.25.13

Quick n’ Dirty Analysis:

  • Michigan State Remains at #1. Sparty captured six of the eight #1 votes this week, and with no holiday tournament to deal with and a generally favorable schedule through December, it’s a reasonable bet that Tom Izzo’s team will stay at the top until at least the new year. Kansas could sway some votes with a championship at this week’s Battle 4 Atlantis followed by road wins against Colorado and Florida, but at least three voters would have to change their minds about the order of these two teams to cause the switch. Michigan State and Kansas were the top two in all eight ballots this week.
  • Strong Consensus  at the Top. The top nine teams were more or less in everyone’s top 10 this week, but after that point it starts to get a little wild. Syracuse comes in as high as #7 but as low as #14, and it only gets more variable from there. #13 Gonzaga ranges between #11 and #19, depending on whom is doing the evaluation, and a team like #15 Creighton falls between #13 to unranked. #17 Iowa, #18 North Carolina (back in the poll after a one-week hiatus), #19 Wichita State and #19 Michigan all have significant variances. People just aren’t sure what to make of these teams at this point in the season.
  • Four New Teams. #18 North Carolina and #22 Massachusetts were both quite impressive last week. The Minutemen continued their undefeated run to begin the season by claiming the championship at the Charleston Classic. The title run was highlighted by 16-point victory over last week’s #22 New Mexico squad. After a home defeat at the hands of Belmont a week ago, The Tar Heels got back on the winning track in impressive fashion when they stunned last week’s #2 Louisville at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic. #24 Saint Louis and #25 Florida State also sneaked into the poll this week by virtue of strong performances as well.

Poll Defense: RTC pollster Brian Otskey took the chance to defend his inclusion of two-loss Michigan at #15 and two-loss VCU at #20:

Although Michigan has suffered two losses thus far in the young season, I’m allowing the Wolverines to get through their period of growing pains as they sort out the point guard position and allow role players from last season’s team to grow into more important players. Remember, this is a team that lost Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, its top two scorers. It is not easy to replace them and those expecting big things out of Derrick Walton right away are simply being unrealistic. He is a freshman and kids like Burke are an exception, not the rule. It is going to take some time for this group to get going but the pieces are there and John Beilein is one of the best pure coaches in the nation in case anyone needed to be reminded. Michigan’s losses were at Iowa State (not a bad loss) and to Charlotte (third game in four days) on a bad shooting night. It happens. I’m not going to ding the Wolverines too much for that. They were No. 10 in my preseason poll and No. 11 last week. I feel a drop to No. 15 is certainly warranted, but let’s not overreact in November. There are questions marks, such as figuring out the point guard spot and finding a way to get Mitch McGary more touches, but Michigan remains one of the best teams in the Big Ten.

As for VCU, the detractors may have a better argument because of the way it lost to Florida State and struggled with Long Beach State. That said, I’m sticking with the Rams at No. 20, down from No. 12 last week. The loss to Florida State on Thursday was certainly discouraging but the Seminoles are a lot better than most people thought they would be. As for the loss to Georgetown, I’m not going to punish Shaka Smart’s team too much for losing to a quality opponent. The moment that sticks in my mind regarding the Rams is their gutty win at Virginia a couple of weeks ago in a very hostile environment. The Rams showed the ability to overcome being whistled for 27 fouls in that game and managed to pick up a huge road win against what will prove to be a very good Virginia club. Given the new rules regarding fouling and the pace Virginia plays at compared to how VCU wants to play, I thought the Rams had no chance going into that game. They proved me wrong and I was impressed that they overcame two clear disadvantages going into that game. That is what good teams do and it has stuck with me throughout November, despite a pair of recent losses.

Event of the Week: Maui Invitational. With Syracuse, Baylor, Minnesota and Gonzaga in the field, this is definitely an event to keep an eye on from Monday to Wednesday. Only one team can finish the tournament unscathed, so it will be interesting to see which of these teams steps up to win it all – or if a dark horse team from the rest of the field can pull a few upsets and grab the title.

Conference CallBig Ten (5), Big 12 (4), ACC (4), Pac-12 (3), SEC (2), AAC (2), Atlantic 10 (2), West Coast (1),  Big East (1), Missouri Valley (1).

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