2016-17 RTC Top 25: Week SixPosted by Bennet Hayes on December 28th, 2016
It’s official: Conference play is here. Tuesday’s quartet of Big Ten games may have done little to impact next week’s edition of the RTC25, but it did signal the beginning of college basketball’s second season. Fans across the country shouldn’t be sad about this development, either, after a quiet final week of the non-conference season carried us through the winter holidays. The RTC25 reflects the depth of last week’s college basketball moratorium, as South Carolina (home losers to rival Clemson) was the only team to move up or down more than two spots, sliding out of the poll from #22 last week. The only other game of true consequence was significant in reality, but Louisville’s defeat of Kentucky did more for its NCAA Tournament resume than it did the Cards’ standing in the RTC25. Rick Pitino’s team rose two spots to #7 in this week’s poll, while the vaunted Wildcats dropped past the Cardinals to #8. It was a big game during an otherwise quiet week, but with conference foes lying in wait, consider the silence broken. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty Analysis of the RTC25 is after the jump.
Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.
- 2016: When staying unbeaten in the non-conference was easy. Six teams in the RTC25 (#1 Villanova, #3 UCLA, #5 Baylor, #6 Gonzaga, #12 Creighton, and #22 USC) will enter conference play this season without a loss. This is the highest number of non-conference unbeatens since 2013, but expect many of these perfect records to find early blemishes in conference action. Both #3 UCLA and #22 USC will make the difficult trip to Eugene to play #19 Oregon this week, while Big East unbeatens #1 Villanova and #12 Creighton will face off in a New Year’s Eve battle that will add to the loss column of one of those two (more on that below). It’s no small feat to make it this far without a loss, but come back and see us with a zero in the loss column in February and we will really be impressed.
- How good is USC? The Trojans continued their perfect start last week with a pair of wins in Las Vegas over Missouri State and Wyoming, but the latter victory (which came in overtime) was just the latest hint at a record that may be of greater quality than the team which has earned it. Andy Enfield’s bunch will have plenty of time and opportunity to clarify things in Pac-12 play, but expect the skeptics to persist for now. USC may only be 44th in KenPom‘s rankings, but it is owners of victories over KenPom top 40 squads Texas A&M (on the road) and SMU. Of course, there are also the 10 victories over teams ranked 125th or higher (including last week’s two wins), but there’s no ambiguity in stating that the Trojans are off to a perfect start.
- Florida, Cincinnati enter the RTC25. Normally home wins over Arkansas-Little Rock and Marshall (in overtime, no less) won’t help a team crack the polls, but in Florida and Cincinnati’s cases, respectively, that’s just what happened. Of course, both teams were among those receiving votes last week, so it was more a case of what others didn’t do than what either of the Gators or Bearcats accomplished. The one team with a clear failure last week was South Carolina, which lost at home to Clemson, but the other team to slide out of the poll was Oklahoma State, which held serve by pounding Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. There’s no good reason why the Cowboys are gone and both Florida and Cincinnati are here, but Oklahoma State wins versus West Virginia and at Texas this week would surely amend that situation.
Game of the Week. #1 Villanova at #12 Creighton. If you were an unbeaten team seeking some national respect, what would be a good arrangement to go about fixing that situation? Would a New Year’s Eve game, at home, against the defending National Champion and also-unbeaten #1 team in the country sound like a nice opportunity? You should have said yes halfway through the last sentence, but to state the obvious: This is the perfect chance for the 12-0 Bluejays (which could be 13-0 after tonight’s game with Seton Hall) to make a massive national statement. Villanova still has plenty of basketball left in front of it and there are plenty of games the Wildcats need to win to defend their Big East and National titles (and this one wouldn’t hurt), but this is Creighton’s big shot. It’s a dream scenario for Maurice Watson, Marcus Foster and company to prove that Greg McDermott doesn’t need his son to produce beautiful – and winning – offense.
Keep Tabs On. #7 Louisville vs. #10 Virginia; #19 Oregon vs. #3 UCLA; #19 Oregon vs. #22 USC; #15 Indiana vs. #7 Louisville; #10 Virginia vs. #21 Florida State.
Conference Call: ACC (6), Pac-12 (4), Big East (4), Big 12 (3), Big Ten (3), SEC (2), WCC (2), AAC (1).