Reactions to the Week 12 College Basketball AP Top 25 Poll

    After three of the top four teams in last week's AP Top 25 Poll suffered a loss in Week 11, there's a new No. 1 team in the land, which marks the fourth

    January 21, 2019

    After three of the top four teams in last week’s AP Top 25 Poll suffered a loss in Week 11, there’s a new No. 1 team in the land, which marks the fourth different school to hold the top ranking this season. Duke and Virginia both received first-place votes despite their respective losses, as did Michigan State, which is ranked outside of the top five.

    Here are our reactions to the latest AP Top 25 poll.

    A long time coming

    Tennessee is ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25 Poll for just the second time ever and the first time since 2008 when the Volunteers started the season 25-2. They’re on a similar trajectory this year thanks to a 16-1 record, sole possession of first place in the SEC and the country’s second-most efficient offense.

    On a game-by-game basis, Tennessee is predicted to win the rest of its regular season games, according to kenpom.com, but ultimately the site projects the Volunteers to enter the SEC Tournament with a 27-4 record.

    After Cuonzo Martin jumped to Cal after leading Tennessee from the First Four to the Sweet 16 in his third season in Knoxville, Volunteer fans had to endure a 16-16 season in Donnie Tyndall’s lone year as head coach, then a combined 31-35 record in the first two years of the Rick Barnes era as he rebuilt the program.

    Well, it was worth the wait.

    Tennessee will be in contention for a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday and the Volunteers, which are big, experienced and athletic, are legitimate national title contenders.

    Enjoy this year’s regular season ACC title race

    After No. 1 Tennessee, it’s No. 2 Duke and No. 3 Virginia. The Blue Devils were only one basket in regulation – or likely a healthy Tre Jones or Cam Reddish – away from beating Syracuse in their 95-91 loss at home in overtime last Monday. Duke definitely would have stayed No. 1 if it had beaten Syracuse and Virginia last week.

    Likewise, Virginia, which cut Duke’s lead to two points with De’Andre Hunter’s jumper at the buzzer in Cameron Indoor Stadium, was only a few plays from beating the Blue Devils on the road.

    So despite each team’s respective loss last week, Duke only dropped one spot and Virginia actually climbed one spot in this week’s poll after previously undefeated Michigan lost at Wisconsin.

    Virginia and Duke are No. 1 and No. 2 on kenpom.com, respectively, and they’re the only teams in the country that rank in the top six in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency.

    The Blue Devils and Cavaliers are two of the six ACC teams that are tied for the conference lead entering Monday night’s games and luckily, we’ll get Duke-Virginia Part II on February 9 in Charlottesville.

    Gonzaga is lying in wait

    Gonzaga moved up to No. 4 in the latest AP Top 25 Poll, and there’s a chance the Bulldogs might actually be undervalued entering the postseason. They’ve won nine straight games and they have a 28.8 percent of going undefeated in conference play, according to kenpom.com.

    The Zags don’t have the same marquee games in conference play that can compare to Duke-Virginia in the ACC, Tennessee-Kentucky in the SEC or Michigan-Michigan State in the Big Ten, but they have the most efficient offense in the country and they’re finally healthy.

    Gonzaga might not reach No. 1 in the AP poll again this season unless Tennessee, Duke and Virginia all suffer multiple losses, but the Bulldogs’ 89-87 win over Duke and 76-73 loss to Tennessee have proven they’re peers with the teams ranked ahead of them.

    Kentucky’s on the rise

    No. 8 Kentucky may not have the eighth-best resume in the country, but the Wildcats played like a top-10 team in their road win at Auburn on Saturday, which was arguably their best performance of the season and a crucial victory in their pursuit of Tennessee in the SEC standings.

    Given Kentucky’s climb in the AP poll and its upcoming games against Mississippi State and Kansas, the Wildcats could be knocking on the door of the top five a week from now if they win their next two games.

    New faces in the back of the poll

    Louisville, Iowa State and LSU cracked this week’s rankings at No. 23, No. 24 and No. 25, respectively. The Cardinals are tied for first place in the ACC and they’re riding a three-game winning streak after being picked to finish 11th in the preseason media poll. The Cyclones ended their two-game losing streak with back-to-back wins over Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, while the Tigers have won seven in a row, including a 4-0 start in the SEC.

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