Predicting the College Basketball AP Top 25 Poll for Week 4

    Feast Week didn't disappoint. There were two top-five matchups last week featuring four different teams, and the weekend ended with a pair of unranked

    November 26, 2018

    Feast Week didn’t disappoint. There were two top-five matchups last week featuring four different teams, and the weekend ended with a pair of unranked teams knocking off top-20 opponents in the Advocare Invitational on Sunday. There’s destined to be some major re-shuffling in the next AP Top 25 poll.

    Here’s what we predict the AP poll will look like when it’s released Monday.

     

    1. Kansas (5-0): There’s certainly a case that can be made for Gonzaga at No. 1 after the Bulldogs beat No. 1 Duke to win the Maui Invitational, but we think Kansas, the preseason No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 poll, will reclaim the top spot. The Jayhawks picked up neutral-court wins this week over Marquette and No. 5 Tennessee to win the NIT Season Tip-Off at the Barclays Center. They’re the only team ranked in the top five in offensive and defensive efficiency.

     

    2. Gonzaga (6-0): It wouldn’t be a surprise for Gonzaga to be ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25 poll sometime this season and that moment might come as early as Monday. If it does, that’ll mark the third season in the last seven that Gonzaga has held the top spot in the AP poll. Its best win (Duke) is better than Kansas’ best win (Tennessee), but you could argue that the Jayhawks have three wins (Tennessee, Michigan State, Marquette) better than Gonzaga’s second-best win (Arizona), so reasonable people can disagree on the order of the Jayhawks and Bulldogs.

    Gonzaga will have the chance to pick up its first road win on Saturday at Creighton.

     

    3. Duke (5-1): The Blue Devils lost their first game ever in six trips to the Maui Invitational as they fell in the championship game to Gonzaga 89-87. Duke missed seven potential game-tying or go-ahead shots in the final minute, so this game could have just as easily been a win for the No. 1-ranked Blue Devils.

    There’s no need for overreaction; Duke was never going to go undefeated this season. If there are any big-picture takeaways, it might be that RJ Barrett is the team’s second-least efficient player on offense but he has taken nearly 40 percent of the team’s shots when he’s on the floor. He’s a big-time scorer, but not a particularly efficient one thus far. Duke hosts Indiana on Tuesday.

     

    4. Virginia (6-0): The Cavaliers’ best win of the season – a 53-46 victory over No. 25 Wisconsin – wasn’t sexy. They are undefeated, however, they just won the Battle 4 Atlantis, and they have the second-most efficient defense in the country. Virginia will play on the road against Maryland on Wednesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which represents the best remaining opportunity to improve its resume during its non-conference schedule.

     

    5. Nevada (6-0): The Wolf Pack’s best win of the season came in its season-opener against BYU, so Nevada doesn’t have the same level of wins as the other top-10 teams, but it’s undefeated and has the No. 1 offense in the country. Nevada travels to Loyola Chicago for a rematch of last year’s Sweet 16 game on Tuesday, then it plays at USC on Saturday, so the Wolf Pack could pick up a pair of key wins this week.

     

    6. Tennessee (4-1): The Vols received one first-place vote in last week’s AP Top 25 poll, and they likely would’ve received more than a few more if they had beaten Kansas in the NIT Season Tip-Off. Tennessee fell 87-81 in overtime after reigning SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams fouled out. Its only game this week is Wednesday against Eastern Kentucky.

     

    7. Michigan (6-0): After vaulting into the top 10, Michigan had a quiet week with just an 83-55, ho-hum win against Chattanooga. But the Wolverines’ level of competition ramps up in a hurry with a game against North Carolina on Wednesday and their Big Ten opener against Purdue on Saturday. Two wins and Michigan could crack the top five in the AP poll.

     

    8. Auburn (5-1): The Tigers finished in third place in the Maui Invitational after wins over Xavier and Arizona that sandwiched a 78-72 loss to Duke. Somewhat similarly to Tennessee’s loss to Kansas, Auburn proved itself a worthy foe against one of the country’s best teams on a neutral floor. It’s ranked in the top 12 in offensive and defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com, which is something only four teams can claim as of Sunday night.

     

    9. Michigan State (5-1): The Spartans won the Las Vegas Invitational by beating No. 17 UCLA and Texas. Michigan State won both games by double digits and held its opponents to less than 70 points in each game. Through six games, junior guard Joshua Langford is on pace to have the most efficient year of his career even as he plays more minutes and transitions to a larger role with Miles Bridges in the NBA.

    Michigan State plays Louisville on the road on Tuesday.

     

    10. Kentucky (5-1): The Wildcats have won five straight games with wins against Winthrop and Tennessee State since last week’s AP Top 25 poll. Three-point shooting – both offensively and defensively – is probably the team’s biggest concern. Kentucky has made just 30 three-pointers in six games and it’s second-to-last nationally by allowing opponents to shoot 43.4 percent from three.

     

    11. Kansas State (6-0): The Wildcats picked up their best win of the season last Monday against Missouri, but the rest of their wins have come against teams ranked outside of the top 140 on kenpom.com. Kansas State is undefeated, though, and has one of the country’s five most efficient defenses. It’ll likely stay in the top 15, but out of the top 10 until it faces tougher competition or until higher-ranked teams lose.

     

    12. Virginia Tech (5-0): The Hokies only played one game since the last AP poll, winning 75-37 against St. Francis (PA). It was their first game this season in which sophomore guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker wasn’t the team’s leading scorer as Ahmed Hill scored a team-high 19 points. Virginia Tech plays at Penn State on Tuesday.

     

    13. Texas (5-1): The Longhorns beat North Carolina 92-89 in the Las Vegas Invitational behind Kerwin Roach II’s 32 points. They lost to Michigan State 78-68 despite leading by eight at halftime, but their neutral-court wins over North Carolina and Arkansas mark a quality November. Texas will host Purdue and Providence in December.

     

    14. North Carolina (6-1): The Tar Heels had mixed success in the Las Vegas Invitational, where they lost to unranked Texas 92-89 on Thursday, but bounced back with a 94-78 win over No. 17 UCLA on Friday. Freshman guard Coby White had the two best games of his young college career as he led North Carolina in scoring in both games, including 33 against Texas. A trip to Michigan on Wednesday might be the most compelling of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchups as North Carolina’s No. 3 offense faces off against Michigan’s No. 1-ranked defense.

     

    15. Florida State (5-1): The Seminoles suffered their first loss of the season on Sunday against Villanova, 66-60, in the Advocare Invitational. But they went 3-1 since the release of the last AP poll, so it was still a productive week for Florida State, capped off by an overtime win over No. 19 LSU.

     

    16. Texas Tech (6-0): The Red Raiders are positioned to have one of the country’s stingiest defenses for the second year in a row under coach Chris Beard. They’re ranked third nationally on that end of the floor and they haven’t allowed more than 63 points in a game this year. Texas Tech picked up double-digit, neutral-court wins over USC and Nebraska on consecutive days last week.

     

    17. Arizona State (5-0): The Sun Devils are potentially in the midst of another impressive non-conference run after starting 12-0 last year. They beat No. 15 Mississippi State 72-67 last Monday and their remaining non-conference schedule includes a neutral-court game against Nevada, trips to Georgia and Vanderbilt, and a home game against Kansas.

     

    18. Mississippi State (4-1): The Bulldogs faltered in their first test against a high-major opponent this season as they lost 72-67 to Arizona State in the MGM Resorts Main Event. Mississippi State shot just 8-for-30 (26.7%) from three-point range, which is about par for the course for the Bulldogs this season. They’re ranked 329th nationally with a 26.2 three-point percentage.

     

    19. Iowa (5-0): The Hawkeyes had a light schedule after cracking the AP Top 25 following their 2K Classic title. Iowa only played one game against Alabama State last week and won 105-78. The Hawkeyes host Pitt in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge before a massive four-day stretch in which they play Wisconsin and Michigan State to kick off conference play.

     

    20. Clemson (5-1): The Tigers had mixed results at the Cayman Islands Classic, where they survived in a 72-69 win against Akron in the first round, followed by a 64-49 win against Georgia. Then Clemson lost to unranked Creighton 87-82 in the championship game. The Tigers host Nebraska on Monday as they try to avoid a two-game losing streak.

     

    21. Oregon (4-1): The Ducks received nearly a full week off between their 83-72 win over Green Bay last Tuesday and their game against Texas Southern on Monday. They travel to Houston for a game on Saturday.

     

    22. Buffalo (5-0): The Bulls beat Dartmouth and Marist by a combined 66 points last week. They have another light week with just one game against Milwaukee before a three-week stretch in which they’ll play St. Bonaventure, Southern Illinois (again), Syracuse and Marquette with three of those games coming on the road.

     

    23. Ohio State (6-0): The Buckeyes rolled Samford and Cleveland State last week behind a team-high 19 points from Kaleb Wesson in both victories. Ohio State hosts Syracuse on Wednesday before Minnesota comes to Columbus for both schools’ first Big Ten game on Sunday.

     

    24. Purdue (5-1): The Boilermakers begin a huge five-game stretch on Wednesday with a road trip to Florida State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, followed by a visit to Ann Arbor to face Michigan on Saturday. After that, Purdue plays Maryland, Texas and Notre Dame.

     

    25. Maryland (6-0): None of the Terrapins’ wins have come against teams ranked in the top 100 on kenpom.com, so it’s fair to question just how good Maryland is at this point in the season, especially with one of the least experienced rosters in college basketball. We’ll have a better idea after the Terps play Virginia on Wednesday.

     

    Dropped out of rankings: No. 17 UCLA, No. 18 TCU, No. 19 LSU, No. 25 Wisconsin

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