Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Poll Dancing: TBI's Top 25 College Basketball Rankings (Dec. 31 Edition)

Not much movement on this week's top 25, since we only saw about 150 games all week. Hopefully, everyone got good Christmas presents, because Louisville fans only ended up with lumps of coal.

Worst week, however, had to go to St. Mary's. A trip to Hawaii seemed like it was set to be a pleasure cruise in which the Gaels would prove themselves top-25 worthy in an expected championship meeting with Iowa State. Three losses later, SMC ends up in last place behind luminaries like Oregon State and South Carolina. Hardly the mark of a team that will crack the rankings again...ever.

Speaking of teams that weren't expected to make the top 25, let's examine a totally puzzled pair of Faceplants.

Faceplants: Minnesota (No. 24), Florida State (No. 25)
--The Gophers blew out Corpus Christi, and their prior win over Nebraska-Omaha keeps looking better as the Mavericks climb to No. 101 in the new Back Iron Index. However, what did them in was the slow ascent of a team that owns a head-to-head victory over Minnesota. More on them at No. 25.

And of course, it's hard to rank Florida State just ahead of Minnesota when the Gophers own the head-to-head win.

Bubbling Under: Pitt, Missouri, Harvard, Gonzaga, Illinois
25. Arkansas (10-2, LW NR)
--The Hogs have two losses to unranked teams, but look at the wins. Joe Casual Fan won't get excited about wins over Louisiana-Lafayette, SMU, Minnesota and Clemson, but all four of those teams are now BII top-100 sides. Expect this ranking to vanish unless Arkansas scores a couple of the big scalps in SEC play. Home games against Florida and Kentucky will be prime proving grounds on Jan. 11 and 14.

24. LSU (9-2, LW NR)
--Like their conference rivals, the Tigers have some underrated wins (St. Joseph's, Butler and the Tar Heel-killers at UAB). What puts them ahead of Arkansas is their two defeats (UMass and Memphis, both top-20 teams).
Southern needs to eat little fish like this. For shame, Aztecs.

23. San Diego State (10-1, LW 22)

22. Iowa (11-2, LW 20)
21. North Carolina (9-3, LW 23)
20. Memphis (9-2, LW 19)
19. Colorado (11-2, LW 21)
18. UMass (11-1, LW 18)
--Some minor market corrections here, since this whole group either played scrubs or played no one at all. (Seriously, San Diego State? St. Katherine's? A demerit for not blowing them out 116-12.)

Colorado's up to four top-100 wins, but that's still child's play compared to UMass' SEVEN.

17. Louisville (11-2, LW 10)
--So, why the hell is Louisville still ahead of a team with that many scalps? Especially after the Cards have stiffed against their only two marquee opponents? Southern Miss, ULL and Missouri State are top-100 teams, but the latter two just get under that wire.

16. Kansas (9-3, LW 15)
--Sorry, Toledo. No massive upset (or undefeated season) for you.

15. Kentucky (10-3, LW 17)
--The major undercurrent from the UK/UL game is the divergent narratives of players showing off for NBA scouts. Half the UK roster is trying to audition for the lottery, while Russ Smith is trying his best to pretend he can be a point guard. The fact that Russdiculous was goose-egged over the final 8:53 of that game says advantage Wildkittens.

14. Baylor (11-1, LW 16)
--BII policy states that if teams are separated by only a spot or two and have played head-to-head, the winner must stay ahead of the loser. Because trust me, a win over Oral Roberts does not carry two ranking spots' worth of weight. Baylor does, at least, have three top-100 wins, and South Carolina is nearly there after a good showing in Hawaii.

13. Florida (10-2, LW 13)
--There are only six teams that are in both Ken Pomeroy's top 20 offenses and defenses. Three of them are ranked ahead of the Gators on this list. The other two are Louisville and Pitt because, dear God, those schedules are fugly.

12. UConn (11-1, LW 12)
--Still need to see the Huskies blow away a decent opponent. Oddly enough, SMU looks like the next candidate, then comes a meeting with Hahvahd.

11. Iowa State (11-0, LW 14)
--The Cyclones are surviving close games against good teams at neutral venues now. As far as the BII goes, ISU is firmly into the 1-seed conversation. To actually finish there, they need to assert control of a surprisingly deep Big 12. Baylor and Kansas both come to Ames in the next two weeks.

10. Oregon (12-0, LW 11)
--The Ducks have five top-100 wins by a combined 51 points. They've moved into the BII top 10, so it's time they make their first appearance in the Poll Dancing top 10.

9. Wichita State (13-0, LW 9)
Wichita fans will call the committee mutha- (SHUT YO MOUTH)s.
--State's off to a great start, there's no denying that. However, the Shockers still have only three wins over top-100 teams. BYU and Tennessee aren't close to expectations, while St. Louis hasn't really tested itself. Strength of schedule is going to be a big question mark for WSU going forward, and they may get the shaft come Selection Sunday.

8. Duke (10-2, LW 8)
--Yes, Duke's still clinging to a top-10 spot. Barely. Their strong win against UCLA lends a lot of optimism for ACC play, as the Devils did good work against the Bruin zone. Still, UCLA's no Syracuse. Dominant wins in early ACC play are required.

7. Villanova (11-1, LW 5)
--Watching how the tide turned so rapidly in the Nova-Syracuse game made me wonder, "What ever happened to Clubber Lang?" Nova played the role of Clubber early on, landing some heavy blows against the Orange. The only real difference between the Cuse and Rocky was that Syracuse came storming back and blew Nova off the court, rather than Rocky's scratch-and-claw comeback. Still, don't let the loss erase how Nova's started the season. The Cats should still be considered Big East favorites.

6. Michigan State (11-1, LW 7)
--Sparty draws a deceptively tough start to Big Ten play (at Penn State, at Indiana, vs. Ohio State, vs. Minnesota). Take all four of those, and MSU will richly deserve the top-five spot it will finish with.

5. Wisconsin (13-0, LW 6)
--The Badgers' only game in 19 days was against Prairie View. Yawn. They can thank Villanova for the top-five position.

4. Oklahoma State (12-1, LW 3)
--At the start of the season, OSU's start to Big 12 play (at Kansas State, vs. Texas, at West Virginia) looked like a cakewalk, road venues and all. Two months later, those opponents are Nos. 81, 43 and 87, respectively, in the BII. Not as easy as we thought, but a Final Four contender should still sweep with room to spare. Don't get caught looking ahead to Kansas on the 18th.

3. Ohio State (13-0, LW 2)
--While OSU West was playing Bobby Mo and OSU East was playing UL-Monroe, Syracuse smashed Villanova. Game, set, match.
"And who da hell took my pretzels?"

2. Syracuse (12-0, LW 4)
--Is there an NBA lottery pick on this year's Orange? Doesn't appear that way, unless you really love Jerami Grant. (As an aside, C.J. Fair appears to have crapped in Jonathan Givony's Wheaties, as Draft Express has Fair two picks away from Mr. Irrelevant status in the latest mock.) Still, this just looks like a more cohesive team than last year's. If Trevor Cooney had been able to get it together like this last season, SU would have won the national title. He's the guy that spurred the big run against Nova, and his confidence is soaring after 17 or more points in five of his last seven games.

1. Arizona (13-0, LW 1)
--The Cats beat Southern by 26, and Southern beat some team by 104. Therefore, Arizona would have won that game by 480 bazillion. UA gets to ease into Pac-12 play with the two Washington schools. January 9th at Pauley Pavilion should be must-stay-up TV.

Major Games to Watch:
Villanova at Butler, Tuesday
Michigan State at Penn State, Tuesday
Michigan State at Indiana, Saturday
UConn at SMU, Saturday
Iowa at Wisconsin, Sunday
Oregon at Colorado, Sunday
San Diego State at Kansas, Sunday

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