RTC Top 25: Week Nine

Posted by WCarey on January 13th, 2014

Another week of college basketball is in the books and with that was another week of noteworthy upsets. Previously undefeated and third-ranked Ohio State relearned the rigors of the Big Ten, as the Buckeyes fell twice this past week – at #4 Michigan State on Tuesday and at home to #8 Iowa on Sunday. Having lost its first ACC game to Notre Dame, #24 Duke rebounded nicely with a home win over Georgia Tech before suffering another conference loss – this time on the road to Clemson. Previously 13th-ranked Oregon and 17th-ranked Colorado discovered the perils of Pac-12 play, as the Ducks dropped home games to California and Stanford, and the Buffaloes were thoroughly outmanned in a loss at Washington on Sunday. If the first two weeks of conference play serve as any indication, the conference season will be full of excitement, surprises, and a rather fluid RTC25 the rest of the way. The quick n’ dirty analysis of this week’s poll is after the jump.

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Quick n’ dirty Analysis.

  • Arizona is the Consensus #1 Team for a Fifth Consecutive Week. The Wildcats remain the consensus #1 after a successful Southern California road trip where they were able to win at both UCLA and USC. Arizona only hits the hardwood once this week, as it hosts intrastate rival Arizona State on Thursday. If the Wildcats are victorious, you should expect them to remain the consensus #1 team for the sixth straight week
  • Iowa Rises to #8. The most impressive win of the past week might very well have been Iowa’s tough road win at Ohio State on Sunday. Not very many teams leave Columbus with a victory, but the Hawkeyes shook off an early second half deficit and battled their way to a 10-point triumph. Fran McCaffery’s squad does not play again until Sunday at home against Minnesota, so Iowa has some extra time to revel in its impressive victory.
  • Wichita State was Not Penalized for Its Narrow Victory. The undefeated Shockers figured to be in cruise control for much of their Missouri Valley conference slate, but they faced quite the battle when they traveled to Missouri State on Saturday. The Shockers overcame a 19-point second half deficit on their way to a 72-69 overtime win. Even with Saturday’s uneven performance, Wichita State was not penalized by our pollsters and remained #6 in this week’s poll.
  • Three New Teams. #19 Saint Louis, #20 Cincinnati, and #21 Memphis enter the polls this week after perfect weeks. The Billikens were victorious in road games at Rhode Island and Dayton. The Bearcats ran their winning streak to eight with wins at Houston and at home against Rutgers. The Tigers won an impressive road game at #15 Louisville on Thursday and also won on the road at Temple on Saturday.

Poll Defense. RTC pollster Chris Johnson took the opportunity to defend his reasoning behind ranking Iowa at #7 and Iowa State at #10 despite the fact that the Hawkeyes have three losses (including one to Iowa State) and the Cyclones just have one.

Iowa State’s loss on Saturday at Oklahoma isn’t a shocking result. The Sooners are a tough team that nearly took out Kansas in Norman earlier in the week. But it did prove something I’ve long believed to be true about Fred Hoiberg’s team: It’s going to struggle to beat good teams on the road. The Cyclones are good, no doubt, but they’re simply a different team when they don’t have Hilton Magic behind them. Iowa, meanwhile, might have scored the best win ANY TEAM has notched this season when it won at Ohio State on Sunday. The Hawkeyes had come close to pulling off a few big wins already this season — including against Villanova at the Battle 4 Atlantis, at Wisconsin, and at Iowa State. On Sunday, they finally closed the deal. I think this team is good enough to compete for a Big Ten championship, which is sort of what its efficiency profile implied over the first two months of the season. I tend to give teams a lot of credit (probably too much credit) for winning on the road against good teams. Iowa did it this weekend against not just a good team, but the best defensive team in the country. Iowa State lost to a worse team on the road. Is it an apples-to-apples comparison, or maybe not? But hey, who said ranking teams had to be a scientific process? Another thing I considered was Iowa’s near win in Ames earlier this season. Considering how tough it is to win at Hilton, losing by just three (a game Iowa could easily have won) is pretty impressive. If the two teams played at Carver-Hawkeye right now, I’d pick Iowa to win and not think twice about it. Iowa State could well upend Kansas Monday night, which might make my decision to rank Iowa over it look misguided. But after this weekend, 1) I think Iowa is slightly better than Iowa State, and 2) I am rewarding the Hawkeyes for an immensely impressive road win.

Game of the Week. #9 Oklahoma State at #13 Kansas. This match-up was circled by many in the preseason as the premier game on the Big 12 slate. Not many teams win in Allen Fieldhouse, but the Cowboys were able to emerge victorious last season, so you have to expect the Jayhawks to have that in mind when they hit the hardwood this coming Saturday. Not only is this a great match-up between two outstanding teams, but it also provides a showdown between two of the more ballyhooed players in America in Cowboys guard Marcus Smart and Jayhawks’ swingman Andrew Wiggins.

Keep Tabs On. #13 Kansas vs. #11 Iowa State, Connecticut vs. #21 Memphis, UCLA vs. #25 Colorado, #23 Michigan vs. #3 Wisconsin.

Conference Call: Big Ten (6), Big 12 (4), ACC (3), AAC (3), Pac-12 (2), SEC (2), Atlantic 10 (2), Big East (1), Missouri Valley (1), Mountain West (1).

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