RTC Top 25: Week FivePosted by WCarey on December 16th, 2013
Another week of the college basketball season is in the books, as the full start of conference play is right around the corner. While things were mostly status quo this past week, three teams in particular – #11 North Carolina, #15 Kansas, and #18 Kentucky – played game(s) that factored greatly in this week’s poll. Youthful Kentucky was able to fight off a solid Boise State squad on Tuesday in Lexington, but the previously eighth-ranked Wildcats fell in Chapel Hill Saturday to a North Carolina team that now owns victories over Kentucky, Louisville, and Michigan State along with its losses to Belmont and UAB. Kansas had a rough trip down to Gainesville where it was thoroughly dominated by Florida on Tuesday night, but the previously 10th-ranked Jayhawks shook off that tough defeat Saturday when they were able to defeat a strong New Mexico squad at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. The quick n’ dirty analysis of this week’s poll is after the jump.
Quick n’ dirty analysis.
- Arizona Remains the Consensus #1 Team. Arizona’s reign as the top team in the country began with a dominating victory over New Mexico State on Wednesday where the Wildcats used their superior talent advantage to coast to an easy win. Things were not as easy on Saturday when the Wildcats needed a feverish comeback effort to beat a very capable Michigan team in Ann Arbor. With only a match-up versus Southern on the docket this week, look for Arizona to remain #1 for a while longer.
- Differing Opinions on Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Kentucky. Our pollsters were all over the board in where they ranked four of college basketball’s blue-bloods. Two-loss Duke was ranked as high as #7 and as low as #19. North Carolina, a team still viewed as a bit enigmatic due to its quality wins and puzzling losses, was ranked as high as #7 and as low as #16. Three-loss Kansas was ranked as high as #8 and as low as #21. Fellow three-loss Kentucky was ranked as high as #13 and as low as #23.
- No New Teams. As mentioned earlier, much of the past week was status quo. As a result, the 25 teams that made this week’s poll were also in last week’s rankings. It is also appropriate to note that only other five teams (UCLA, Missouri, Michigan, St. Mary’s and Creighton) received votes for this week’s poll – a figure quite low for this early point in the season.
Poll Defense. RTC pollster Andrew Murawa took the opportunity to defend the reasoning behind his ranking #15 Kansas ahead of #13 Florida after the Jayhawks lost to the Gators this past week:
I’ve got Kansas one spot ahead of Florida despite that fact that the Gators knocked off the Jayhawks just a few days ago for much the same reason I’ve got Florida ahead of Connecticut despite the Huskies knocking off the Gators a couple weeks back: homecourt advantage. After watching that Kansas/Florida game closely, and while I was certainly impressed by how much better Scottie Wilbekin can make the Gators, I couldn’t help thinking that a part of the reason for the big first half deficit the Jayhawks built up for themselves was due to location. The Jayhawks were coming off a road loss at Colorado, got back home for a minute, then got on the plane and flew to Gainesville to play in front of a raucous partisan crowd at the O-Dome. And the Gators were certainly geeked for the game early, with Wilbekin shaking off an ankle injury and freshman point guard Kasey Hill returning from same. But every game this Kansas team plays together puts them a little bit closer to being the team I think they can be, namely the best team in the country. Bill Self and company are still finding themselves, but they’re likely better this Monday than they were last week at this time, and they’ll likely be even a bit better come next Monday. If these two squads were playing on a neutral floor this afternoon, I’d make Kansas the slightest of favorites. Meanwhile, don’t think I’ve got any hate for the Gators; they moved up a couple spots for me into my top 10 and they have all the hallmarks of a team that will also be better come February and March (and maybe even April?) than they were in November and December.
Game of the Week. #13 Florida vs. #20 Memphis. There are still plenty of questions about both the Gators and the Tigers, so Tuesday night’s match-up at the Jimmy V Classic could be helpful in answering some of them. Florida has had depth issues in the early season due to injuries and suspensions, but with Kasey Hill now back from injury and Scottie Wilbekin and Dorian Finney-Smith returned from suspension, the Gators showed how good of a team they can be in their win over Kansas. Memphis’ two most noteworthy games of the season thus far were both against Oklahoma State. The Tigers were thoroughly outclassed by the Cowboys in their first meeting in Stillwater before turning the tables and beating them in the finals of the Old Spice Classic. Memphis head coach Josh Pastner has had well-documented struggles with Top 25 teams throughout his career, so it will be interesting to see if he got that proverbial monkey off his back with the aforementioned victory over Oklahoma State.
Keep Tabs On. Cincinnati vs. #23 Pittsburgh, Stanford vs. #8 Connecticut, Texas vs. #11 North Carolina, UCLA vs. #11 Duke, Notre Dame vs. #3 Ohio State, Texas vs. #6 Michigan State, Georgetown vs. #15 Kansas, Belmont vs. #18 Kentucky, #24 Colorado vs. #7 Oklahoma State, Kansas State vs. #22 Gonzaga, BYU vs. #10 Oregon.
Conference Call: Big Ten (4) ACC (4) Big 12 (4), AAC (3), Pac-12 (3), SEC (2), Big East (1), Missouri Valley (1), WCC (1), Atlantic 10 (1), Mountain West (1).