NCAA Top 25 Poll
By Aran Smith
With finals week going on, it's a slow week for college basketball games and our own Kevin Duffy is off. Aran Smith fills in and Kevin will return next Tuesday with his weekly poll critique.
Team (Record) AP Poll Rank / ESPN/USAToday Rank
1. North Carolina (8-0) 1 1
North Carolina made short work of Penn, proving that they are on a different level in talent and athleticism than their Ivy league opponents. Tyler Hansbrough continues to show why many picked him as preseason National Player of the Year. After 12 days off, the Tar Heels will play Rutgers on Sunday.
2. Memphis (7-0) 2 2
The Memphis Rose is in bloom as their blue chip recruit has had a big impact on the team from jumpstreet. Although OJ Mayo kept him off the scoreboard for much of their match up at MSG, Rose showed the composure and floor general leadership lacking from Mayo's game pushing Memphis to victory. The Tigers play Middle Tennessee State on Saturday and Cincinnati early next week. Their December 22nd match up with Georgetown will be an early Christmas present for college hoop fansbold and should have the energy of March Madness. This game could ultimately be a prequel to a Final Four match up.
3. Kansas (9-0) 3 3
KU's stifling defense allowed them to put together a 24-1 run against DePaul and cruise to a 20+ point win in their 100th straight sell out at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. The game marked the return of their go-to scorer Sherron Collins who was shaking off the rust of his six game absence due to injury. Center Sasha Kaun will look to carry over the momentum of a 15 point (6-7 fg) in 15 minute performance. Is it just me or do DePaul head coach Jerry Wainwright, and Wisconsin's Bo Ryan look like Simpsons characters? They're certainly two of the most animated (and passionate) coaches around. Next up for Kansas is Ohio University on Saturday.
4. Georgetown (7-0) 5 4
Georgetown has been leapfrogged by Texas on the AP poll, but not the USA Today/ESPN poll or here. Granted the Longhorns have beaten both UCLA and Tennessee, but coming off a final four birth last year, Georgetown is too talented to fall out of the top 4 until they're beaten. Roy Hibbert has improved once again and is showing post moves he didn't have last year.
5. Texas (9-0) 4 5
DJ Augustin might be the best point guard in the country right now. He may not be the prospect that Derrick Rose or Darren Collison are, but he has the Longhorns playing at an extremely high level right now. Fellow sophomore Damion James has raised his level of play knocking down one dribble jump shots, some impressive skills considering his tremendous athletic ability.
6. Duke (9-0) 6 7
Duke continues to impress and prove that it belongs to be among the Nation's elite. Michigan's young athletic team was no match for the precision of the Duke attack. After a short hiatus, the Duke-North Carolina rivalry appears ready to reclaim it's place at the top of all sports rivalries. February 6th and March 8th, it's on, and will be the first two times these teams meet. They will also likely square off again in the ACC Conference final.
7. Washington State (9-0) 7 6
After beating Gonzaga on their home floor in Spokane, it's time to give this team it's due. They are incredibly solid in all areas with great coaching and an experienced and talented back court. Despite lacking the athletes of other top 10 teams, this team's cohesiveness allows them to hang with any team in the country. With teams like Wazzou, there's no question the Pac-Ten is the strongest conference in the country.
8. UCLA (8-1) 8 8
The Bruins were down big early against Davidson but showed great composure, quickly erasing a double digit lead to pull even at the half. Collison, Shipp and Westbrook form the best 3 guard trio in the country and make the Bruins the team to beat in March. Augustin outplayed Darren Collison in their match up at Pauley, but it was DC's first full game back from his knee injury. He'll be much stronger, as will the Bruins in a few weeks.
9. Michigan State (8-1) 9 8
The Spartans won at Bradley and at BYU last week, the second of which was an impressive victory against a tough BYU team in a hostile environment. This isn't the most talented Izzo team, but they play as a unit as well as anyone in the nation.
10. Tennessee (8-1) 12 11
Tennessee looks like a well oiled machine with multiple scoring options and an extremely unselfish star in Tyler Smith, who is doing his best Jeff Green impersonation this year. If Chris Lofton can return to his form of last year, this team will be extremely dangerous in March.
11. Pittsburgh (9-0) 11 9
Pitt won a close one at Washington after Justin Dentmon's last second shot was determined to be after time had expired. Pittsburgh remained undefeated, by a millisecond. Sam Young is clearly one of the most improved players in the country. Pittsburgh faces a young and athletic Oklahoma St. squad on Saturday, with a big match up with Duke slated for the 20th.
12. Indiana (8-1) 13 14
With the absence of Eric Gordon who came down awkward on his back in their previous game, DJ White picked up the slack helping Indiana soundly beat Kentucky. White has been playing especially well of late. Gordon's injury is not considered to be serious and he's expected to return soon. Next up for Indiana is Western Carolina on Saturday.
13. Marquette (6-1) 10 13
Marquette beat their in state rivals handing Wisconsin a five point loss. They've played just twice since their loss to Duke at the Maui Invitational on November 21st. Despite losing to Duke, they showed they are one of the better teams in the country. Dominic James has heated up over the past two games for 22 and 20 points and shot at a high clip.
14. Texas A&M (8-1) 14 12
The Aggies suffered a tough loss to Arizona after building a big first half lead. They have overwhelmed lesser opponents since. Deandre Jordan has been picking up his level of play with an 18 and 9 performance in which he knocked down 6-11 free throws.
15. Oregon (7-1) 16 16
Ernie Kent's group is playing excellent ball after being ambushed by St. Mary's. Coming off a minor injury, Bryce Taylor is starting to heat up going for a season high 20 points in the Ducks win over Utah on Saturday. Tajuan Porter is a handful with his blinding speed and shooting ability. The Ducks play Sacramento State Tuesday night and head to Nebraska on Saturday.
16. Arizona (6-2) 21 22
The loss of Lute Olsen for the year is a tough one for the team, but it actually might be a positive as Kevin O'Neal has shown the ability to run them successfully. Not having to deal with the uncertainty of Olsen's return this year is certainly good news as the team can focus on moving forward without that unknown looming over them. Bayless, Budinger and Hill make Arizona maybe the most dangerous two loss team in the country right now. Hill had his best game ever with 23 (8-12) and 14r in their win over Illinois.
17. Gonzaga (8-2) 19 23
Washington State showed their experience and toughness beating Gonzaga on their home floor. Despite a rough start, Gonzaga has Final Four potential with great coaching, talent and depth. Expect this team to be playing its best basketball at season's end with Josh Heytvelt back and their young players, particularly Austin Daye, having a regular season of experience. Gonzaga will be a team no one wants in their bracket.
18. Xavier (7-1) 17 17
After an early season loss to Miami (OH) Xavier has been red hot beating Indiana in the process. Diminutive Drew Lavender (5-foot-7) had 28p and 10a in their victory over Creighton showing why he was once rated a top 50 recruit. Xavier has a tough stretch coming up with Cincinnati, Arizona State and Tennessee in the next 3 games.
19. Villanova (7-1) 23 18<
Nova took care of business against one of their their Philly cross town rivals at the Palestra with a 101-93 victory over Temple. The backcourt tandem of Scottie Reynolds and "Fisher Price" makes the Wildcats extremely tough.
20. Vanderbilt 9-0 20 21
After an Elite Eight run last year, many thought this team would struggle this year but with inside outside tandem Shane Foster and AJ Ogilvy, the Dores continue to break on through their opponents.
21. West Virginia (6-1) NR NR
The Mountaineers only loss on the year was by two to a formidable Tennessee squad. The Mountaineers have a budding superstar in Joe Alexander who went for a season high 26 6 and 5 in their win over Duquesne. Huggins bunch don't have much opposition outside of Oklahoma before conference play begins in January.
22. Saint Mary's (7-0) 24 24
The Gael forces have been strong lately with their three standouts Patrick Mills, Omar Samhan and
Diamon Simpson. Mills has been one of the biggest impact freshman in the country leading St. Mary's to their upset of then 11th ranked Oregon, which was no fluke. Samham and Simpson are capable scorers and give the team excellent size.
23. Clemson (8-0) 15 15
Clemson cracks our top 25 for the first time. The one quality opponent they have beaten (Purdue) in late November was a game they barely eeked out. They loaded up on softies in their non-conference schedule which is probably a good thing considering they're playing without their star James Mays. Will this be a deja vu season for them once Conference play begins?
24. Butler (8-1) 18 19
Wright State handed Butler their first loss of the season in a game where the Bulldogs couldn't hit a shot to save their lives. They hit an ugly 16-50 from the field (32%). their excellent defense kept them in the game but ultimately lost 43-42 in a game in which both teams scored 15 points in the second half.
25. Boston College (7-1) NR NR
Along with Augustin, Tyrese Rice could also make a claim as the top point guard in the country. His speed and passing ability gave Greivis Vasquez and Maryland fits. BC is young but has a lot of young talent and with such a quality floor general as Rice should continue to improve as the season progresses.
Notes: Derrick Caracter was suspended by his teammates not Coach Pitino for violating the team's curfew. He isn't expected to rejoin the team for "a while" as Coach Pitino put it. Louisville (5-2) falls out of our top 25. As Robert DeNiro's character tells his son in A Bronx Tale "The saddest thing in life is wasted talent." Lets hope Caracter can wake up before it's too late. ... BYU lost a tough one at home to Michigan State. They hung tough with both North Carolina and Michigan State after upsetting Louisville early in the year. Despite two losses, behind Trent Plaisted this is a quality team worthy of a top 25 ranking and just misses our list.