AP Top 25 College Basketball Rankings: Week 15 Takeaways

    AP Top 25 college basketball rankings takeaways from week 15.

    February 15, 2016

    Takeaways from Week 15’s AP Top 25 college basketball rankings.

    This has to be the strangest season of college basketball in recent history.

    Seven teams in the AP Top 25 avoided a loss this past week, which means a whopping 18 teams listed in the polls added another tally — at least — to the loss column in the past seven days alone.

    And again, the surprise factor is inherently gone. It seems to be widely accepted that the Madness truly has arrived early this year — far earlier than anyone anticipated.

    1. Villanova (22-3)
    2. Kansas (21-4)
    3. Oklahoma (20-4)
    4. Iowa (20-5) 
    5. North Carolina (21-4)
    6. Maryland (22-4)
    7. Virginia (20-5)
    T-8. Xavier (22-3)
    T-8. Michigan State (21-5)
    10. West Virginia (21-5)
    11. Miami (20-4)
    12. Arizona (21-5)
    13. Iowa State (18-7)
    14. Kentucky (19-6)
    15. Dayton (21-3)
    16. Oregon (20-6)
    17. Purdue (20-6)
    18. Louisville (19-6)
    19. Notre Dame (18-7)
    20. Duke (19-6)
    21. SMU (21-3)
    22. Indiana (20-6)
    23. Providence (19-7)
    24. Texas (16-9)
    25. Baylor (18-7)

    They’re back!

    Duke catapulted up ten slots to No. 20 in the nation after Grayson Allen’s last-second, controversial game-winner gave the Blue Devils a much-needed victory over No. 7 Virginia.

    But don’t get too comfortable yet, Cameron Crazies. The output against the Hoos was very impressive, regardless of the final call, but the upcoming trip to the Dean E. Smith Center will be the true telling point for the Blue Devils.

    Sticking with the ACC, it’s looking like a fine time to jump on the Notre Dame bandwagon. The Fighting Irish are one of the newcomers to this week’s rankings, but after consecutive wins against North Carolina, Clemson and Louisville, it’s hard not to believe in what they’re accomplishing.

    Demetrius Jackson receives national recognition, but probably not to the degree he deserves. Barring a late-season collapse, the Irish are going to be a trendy pick come March.

    The west coast, on the other hand, is unlikely to have any hot commodities in the coming month.

    Just when it seems like Oregon is going to emerge as the leader of the Pac-12, the Ducks lose back-to-back games to Cal and Stanford. Picking the winner of the Conference of Champions is going to be an absolute toss up. At the moment, Oregon, Arizona, Cal and USC all appear to be viable candidates for the Pac-12 crown. They simultaneously seem like feasible options to miss the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. 

    Meanwhile, with Kentucky once again looking like the well-oiled machine John Calipari has operated for so many years, the foggy SEC situation seems to be clearing up. Texas A&M is staggering at the worst possible time, and LSU’s greatest weapon, Ben Simmons, likely won’t be enough to take down a Wildcats team starting to hit on all cylinders.

    Kentucky is beginning to look like a safe bet to, once again, hoist the SEC Championship trophy.

    But then again, given the direction this whacky season has gone thus far, is there even such thing as a safe bet in college hoops anymore? 

Ponder that question while prettying up those calendars.

    Duke vs North Carolina, Wednesday

    There is no rivalry in college basketball that matches the same level of intensity and hatred brewed between the Blue Devils and the Tar Heels. The utter disdain displayed between the two prestigious programs makes for one heck of a battle every year.

    Wednesday will be no different, with Duke coming fresh off a wild, yet questionable win over Virginia in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

    North Carolina, meanwhile, received a confidence boost after easily handling Pitt on Sunday. Prior to that matchup, the Heels were handed consecutive losses to Louisville and Notre Dame and narrowly avoided what would have been a stunning loss to Boston College.

    The question now is whether the Blue Devils are out of the rut that knocked them out of the Top 25 for the first time since 2007? Or is North Carolina about to prove Saturday’s win was just a fluke?

    Wisconsin vs Michigan State, Thursday

    This game would have meant virtually nothing two weeks ago. Wisconsin was arguably the most disappointing team in the nation throughout the majority of the regular season.

    But the Badgers have now won seven games in a row, most recently picking up a road win over then-No. 2 Maryland. And what was the Badgers’ first win that sparked this tenacious hot streak? It was a nail-biting, one-point victory over then-No. 4 Michigan State.

    Wisconsin hasn’t fallen back to Earth since, but if there’s a team capable of knocking the Badgers off of cloud nine, it’s the Spartans. Denzel Valentine is coming off a Valentine’s Day performance that spun a ludicrous number of ironic headlines, in which he dropped 30 points and notched a double-double against Indiana.

    But is that enough to stop a Wisconsin team that has bought fully into interim head coach Greg Gard? The deliberate swing offense former head coach Bo Ryan developed for the Badgers is working wonders right now.

    All of a sudden, Wisconsin is in the race for the Big Ten title, and Gard is making a serious case for a long-term head coaching gig.

    Michigan State is one of the nation’s elite teams, sure, but pulling the Badgers out of their euphoric state may prove to be too tall of a task for anyone at the moment.

    Oklahoma vs West Virginia, Saturday

    The hustle West Virginia puts into each and every game is incredible. The Mountaineers lead all of college basketball in steals and defensive turnover percentage. Plus, they run one of the stingiest press defenses we’ve seen in recent years.

    So what happens when the nation’s most tenacious defense meets its finest offense?

    College hoops fans win.

    In their last matchup, the Sooners squeaked by the Mountaineers with a 70-68 win thanks to Khadeem Lattin’s last-second tip-in.

    This time, West Virginia gets home-court advantage. Morgantown, W.Va., is going to be alive and well come Saturday, with a Mountaineers squad thirsty for vengeance after coming within inches of being the first team to defeat the No. 1 and No. 2 AP teams consecutively in the regular season since 1989.

    Oklahoma is coming off a performance against Kansas in which it shot a discouraging 33.3 percent from the field. While WVU’s 37.5 percent shooting against TCU last week wasn’t much prettier, the advantage should still go to the Mountaineers here. Playing in front of the home crowd should fuel the defense and hold the Sooners to another underwhelming shooting performance.

    MORE: College Basketball Winners, Losers From Week 14


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