NCAA Top 25 Poll
By Kevin Duffy
Team (Record) AP Poll Rank / ESPN/USAToday Rank
[img_assist|nid=3463|title=Tyler Smith - Icon SMI|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=429]1. Tennessee (25-2) 1 1
The Vols rightfully earned every first place vote in the coaches poll, but were still snubbed out of three votes in the AP. What more do the voters want? They went into Memphis and beat the undefeated, No. 1 Tigers on the road! If that’s not enough to deserve a first-place ranking, nothing is. **Despite losing at Vandy in their first game as #1, this poll was completed beforehand, so they get recognition at the top spot this week.
2. Memphis (26-1) 2 3
This loss could end up benefiting Memphis in the long run. By the time the Tigers get to the NCAA tournament, they won’t have to deal with the pressure of completing college basketball’s first undefeated season since 1978. Tennessee is a terrific team, but I still wouldn’t take them over Memphis in the tournament.
3. UCLA (24-3) 4 4
UCLA rebounded nicely from a disastrous loss to Washington with three straight wins and has positioned itself back in the top five. With the team finally healthy and Russell Westbrook quickly becoming a star, this could be the year that the Bruins finally get over the top.
4. North Carolina (26-2) 3 2
The voters are once again overrating the Tar Heels. Sure, they have the likely National Player of the Year in Tyler Hansbrough, but the Heels still don’t play a lick of defense and because of that, there’s no way they should be ranked ahead of UCLA.
5. Texas (23-4) 5 5
After reaching as high as No. 4 in my poll earlier in the year, the Longhorns went on a semi-losing streak and fell out of the top ten. I declared that they would be back in the Top 5 before season’s end, and low and behold, here they are. Enough tooting my own horn, however. Time to give Texas its due. After all, this is the team that dismantled now No. 1 Tennessee 97-78 earlier in the season. If they win the Big 12, they will have a 1 seed locked up.
6. Duke (23-3) 6 6
Following two consecutive losses to Wake Forest and Miami (Fl.), the Dukies had the luxury of playing St. John’s last week, which translated into a 30-point victory. Duke will have to close out the season strong (including a March 8 showdown with UNC) if it wants stay as a No. 2 seed.
7. Kansas (24-3) 6 7
I once considered Kansas to be the runaway No. 2 team in the country. Unfortunately, I was sorely mistaken. The Jayhawks have fallen on some hard times, partly due to off the court issues involving the shootings of cousins of Russell Robinson and Rodrick Stewart. If this team can get it back together, it is still a legitimate final four threat.
8. Stanford (22-4) 8 8
Believe it or not, the Cardinal are just one game out of first-place in what many consider the best conference in America. Stanford may not always look pretty when it wins, but given the right match-ups it could go far in the NCAA tournament.
9. Xavier (24-4) 10 12
The Musketeers just continue to roll through the A-10. Next up: Second-to-last place George Washington.
10. Louisville (22-6) 13 18
Georgetown is ahead of Louisville in both polls, but the Cardinals have the same exact conference record (12-3) and AND they beat G’Town earlier in the year. You can’t argue with that. Now that they’re healthy, the Cardinals are a threat to fulfill Dick Vitale’s pre-season prediction and reach the Final Four.
11. Georgetown (22-4) 11 10
Though I may have bashed the Hoyas this season, I will say that they have a chance to reach the Final Four if they get the right match-ups in their bracket. Depending on how they do in the Big East tournament, G’Town could be a No. 3 seed, however, and that would make it difficult for the Hoyas to repeat their post-season performance from last year.
12. Indiana (23-4) 12 12
Ok, so how can Indiana be ranked ahead of Wisconsin even though the Badgers defeated them? Because both teams possess the same record and Indiana has more star power. When it’s crunch time in March, Eric Gordon and DJ White will be able to get it done. Wisconsin doesn’t have that superstar it can turn to.
13. Notre Dame (21-5) 17 17
Kyle McAlarney was absolutely unconscious on Sunday versus Syracuse. The junior guard tore apart the Orangemen zone, going 9-11 from three en route to scoring 30 points in the Notre Dame victory. The inside-outside duo of McAlarney and Luke Harangody, along with the leadership and unselfishness of point guard Tory Jackson, could take the Irish far.
14. Wisconsin (23-4) 9 10
The Badgers sit atop the Big 10 right now, but I’m not convinced they have the overall talent and offense to avoid another NCAA tournament let-down.
15. UConn (21-6) 15 16
Villanova ended the Huskies 10-game winning streak, but don’t expect them to be down for long. Explosive guard Jerome Dyson returned from suspension on Tuesday vs. Rutgers. He gives UConn another offensive threat in a suddenly deep backcourt that already contains AJ Price, Craig Austrie, and Doug Wiggins.
16. Vanderbilt (23-4) 18 14
The coaches love Vandy. The AP isn’t so convinced. I’m right in the middle. Vandy has some serious star power that could take it deep into the tournament, but the lack of a supporting cast might come back to haunt them. Note: Poll before Tennessee game on Tuesday night.
17. Drake (24-3) 20 20
The Bulldogs really proved something when they went into Butler and knocked off the No. 8 team in the nation. Though both teams are mid-majors, we can now accurately gauge Drake as one of the top 20 teams in the nation.
18. Michigan State (22-5) 19 15
Revenge is sweet. The Spartans clipped Iowa last week, making up for a 43-36 loss to the Hawkeyes earlier in the season (in what probably was the ugliest college basketball game this year, all NJIT games excluded).
19. Butler (25-3) 13 14
Tough loss at home for the Bulldogs, but they’ll be back. Butler shoots the ball too well to be knocked out early in the tournament.
20. Purdue (21-6) 16 19
The Boilermakers 11-game win streak was snapped by Indiana, but it was enough for them to reach the tournament even if they suffered a complete meltdown from here on out.
21. Washington State (21-6) 22 22
After the Cougars started getting hot, they fell to Arizona and dropped to 9-6 in the conference. Wazzou will make the tournament, but its clear that it never deserved to be ranked in the Top 5.
22. Marquette (21-6) 21 21
After reeling off five straight wins, the Golden Eagles have a huge test on their hands when they host Georgetown on Saturday and southern powerhouse Florida Gulf Coast next Tuesday.
23. Gonzaga (21-6) 24 NR
Uh oh, the Zags are back. We haven’t heard much from Mark Few’s boys this year, but they certainly have the talent to pull off a throwback Gonzaga-like upset in the NCAA tournament this March. They also find themsleves in a dogfight for conference supremecy as their rematch with St Mary's could crown the gaels regular season champs.
24. Mississippi State (18-8) NR NR
This will be an interesting story on Selection Sunday. The Bulldogs are 9-3 in conference, but if they lose a few more conference games or get knocked out early in the SEC tournament, this team could be squarely on the bubble.
25. Kent State (23-5) 23 24
Antonio Gates’ alma mater cracked both polls after knocking off red-hot St. Mary’s last week. The Golden Flashes are 11-2 in the MAC and are suddenly on everyone’s tournament radar. Wonder if Gates could still crack the rotation?