RTC Top 25: Week SixteenPosted by Walker Carey on March 3rd, 2014
With just one full week left in the regular season, things started to get very interested this past weekend. A total of 10 previously-ranked teams suffered setbacks on either Saturday or Sunday. The most noteworthy results of the week involved previously 19th-ranked Kentucky. John Calipari’s enigmatic squad, which was ranked first in the preseason edition of the RTC25, is now unranked after falling at home to Arkansas on Thursday and getting stunned at 11-18 South Carolina on Saturday. The SEC, ACC and Big 12 conference races were all decided on Saturday. #1 Florida grabbed the outright SEC crown by remaining unbeaten in conference play with a comfortable 18-point win over LSU in Gainesville. #4 Virginia clinched the ACC regular season title outright, as it moved to 16-1 in conference play with a dominating 19-point victory over #7 Syracuse. #6 Kansas wrapped up the regular season Big 12 title by besting #21 Oklahoma in Lawrence on Monday and taking advantage of losses by the conference’s second-place teams, #15 Iowa State and Texas, on Saturday. The outright regular season Pac-12 champion was determined on Sunday by virtue of #2 Arizona handily defeating Stanford in Tucson. With several major-conference crowns yet to be determined, the final week of the regular season promises to bring the intrigue that college basketball has become to be known for every season. The quick n’ dirty analysis of this week’s poll is after the jump.
Quick n’ Dirty Analysis:
- Florida Remains At #1. The SEC champion Gators remain the top team in this week’s RTC25 after wins over Vanderbilt and LSU. While Florida remains the nation’s #1 team, this week’s voting saw its first place votes drop from seven to six ballots. Billy Donovan’s squad finishes its season this week with a trip to South Carolina on Tuesday and a senior day home game against Kentucky on Saturday. If the Gators can earn victories in both of those games, they will finish their SEC slate with a perfect 18-0 record.
- Arizona and Wichita State Keep Winning. After falling at Arizona State on February 14, #2 Arizona has secured four consecutive victories to once again place it among the most elite teams in the country. Since the season-ending injury to forward Brandon Ashley at the beginning of February, the Wildcats have reinvented themselves as a more up-tempo unit. That new style of play has been on display lately, as the Wildcats have scored 88, 87, and 79 points in their last three games, all victories. The Pac-12 champions can continue their winning ways this week, as a trip to Oregon to face off with the Oregon State on Wednesday and Oregon on Saturday is next. Wichita State finished its perfect regular season Saturday with a blowout home victory over Missouri State. The Shockers are now an unblemished 31-0 as they head into the Missouri Valley Tournament in Saint Louis. Gregg Marshall’s squad is a heavy favorites to take home the crown, so it will be intriguing to see whether that the Shockers can enter the NCAA Tournament with an unscathed record, the first school to do so in over 20 years.
- Saint Louis Had a Rough Week. Saint Louis entered last Thursday’s home game with Duquesne as winners of 19 consecutive games. The Billikens were unable to move that streak to 20, as they were stunned by the underdog Dukes. Things did not get easier for the team on Saturday, as it fell behind VCU early and never recovered in suffering its second straight defeat. Saint Louis fell eight spots (from #11 to #19) in the week’s RTC25 and things will remain tough for Jim Crews’ team to close out the season. The Billikens host a surging Dayton squad on Wednesday before closing out their season at Massachusetts in what will be a daunting road environment on Sunday.
- Three New Teams. The three new teams in this week’s RTC25 are all members of the AAC. #17 Connecticut, #21 SMU, and #24 Memphis all enter after earning some impressive victories. The Huskies scored a victory at South Florida on Wednesday before defeating #16 Cincinnati at home on Saturday. The Mustangs won at Central Florida on Saturday after a string of nice wins before that. The Tigers rebounded from a head-scratching defeat at Houston on Thursday to best #11 Louisville at home on Saturday.
Game(s) of the Week. #21 SMU vs. #11 Louisville and #14 North Carolina vs. #4 Duke. SMU hosts Louisville on Wednesday in what will be the Mustangs’ biggest game of the season. The Cardinals (along with Cincinnati) are currently one-game ahead of SMU in the AAC race, so Wednesday’s game will be a major factor in determining the conference champion. A match-up to watch will be SMU guard Nic Moore and Louisville guard Russ Smith, as both lead their respective teams in scoring. The Tar Heels head to Durham on Saturday night to take on their bitter rival, Duke. The Blue Devils may be looking for some revenge after dropping the first match-up in Chapel Hill on February 20. Something to watch in this game will be if Duke guards Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton are able to contain North Carolina guard Marcus Paige, who has been on a tear as of late.
Keep Tabs On. #20 Michigan State vs. #23 Iowa; #24 Memphis vs. #16 Cincinnati; Kentucky vs. #1 Florida; #17 Connecticut vs. #11 Louisville; #24 Memphis vs. #21 SMU; #17 New Mexico vs. #13 San Diego State; Ohio State vs. #20 Michigan State.
Conference Call: AAC (5), Big Ten (4), ACC (4), Big 12 (3), Big East (2), Pac-12 (2), Mountain West (2), SEC (1), Atlantic 10 (1), Missouri Valley (1).