NCAA Top 25 Poll
By Kevin Duffy
Team (Record) AP Poll Rank / ESPN/USAToday Rank
[img_assist|nid=3548|title=Wayne Ellington - Andy Altenburger/Icon SMI|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=406]1. Memphis (11-0) 2 2
The good news: Memphis has found another shooter. Sophomore guard Doneal Mack nailed 7 threes in last weeks rout of Pepperdine and may be this year’s version of Jeremy Hunt for the Tigers. The bad news: Freshman sensation Derrick Rose is averaging just 5.5 points per game over his last two contests. The other good news: Rose is still sharing the ball and rebounding. Memphis doesn’t necessarily need him to score 20 points a night to be dominant.
2. North Carolina (12-0) 1 1
UNC stays at No. 2 here and at No. 1 in both the AP and Coaches poll after a nail-biting 90-88 overtime victory at Clemson. Tyler Hansbrough had a quiet game offensively, but Wayne Ellington’s sweet stroke kept the ‘Heels unscathed. Ellington scored a career-high 36 points on 11-19 shooting from the field. The super soph also knocked down 5 of 8 threes and made all nine of his free throw attempts. Quentin Thomas also returned in this game and should provide UNC with some depth at both guard positions after Bobby Frasor went down with a torn ACL.
3. Kansas (11-0) 3 3
The Jayhawks made a serious statement on Saturday when they shelled a talented Boston College team 85-60 on the road. For all the hype generated by Darrell Arthur, Brandon Rush, and Mario Chalmers, not much has been said about senior forward Darnell Jackson, who turned in his second consecutive 20+ point performance when he dropped 25 on BC.
4. UCLA (13-1) 5 5
The Bruins continue to roll, as they came up with two big wins on the road over rivals Stanford and Cal to kick off Pac-10 play. Josh Shipp led the way with 19 points on 5-8 three point shooting over Stanford, and Kevin Love dominated the heralded Cal frontcourt of DeVon Hardin and Ryan Anderson, nearly equaling their output alone scoring 19 points and grabbing 14 rebounds (8-10 fg). He helped limit Hardin and Anderson (Mbah a Moute deserves most of the credit here) to a combined 20 points and 16 rebounds (6-18 fg).
5. Washington State (11-0) 4 4
Is Washington State a Final Four contender? Maybe. Are they the fourth best team in the country (as the ESPN/USA Today and AP Polls indicate)? Not buying it yet. Wazzou struggled to a 56-52 win over in-state rival Washington last weekend. After this week’s games against USC and UCLA, we will truly know whether the Cougars are worthy of a spot in the top five.
6. Michigan State (13-1) 6 6
The Big Ten is shaping up to be a two-horse race between State and Indiana. After squeaking by a gritty Minnesota squad in the conference opener, Raymar Morgan (31 points, 10 rebounds in the victory) and Co. take on Purdue and Iowa this week.
7. Tennessee (12-1) 8 9
The Vols, who have been idle since a December 29 victory over Gonzaga, have a challenging week ahead. Tennessee welcomes undefeated Ole Miss into Knoxville on Wednesday and then travels to Southern California to take on a talented and hungry USC squad.
8. Duke (11-1) 9 7
The Dukies shook off the cobwebs of a 2-week layoff with an 81-67 win over Cornell. DeMarcus Nelson led the Devils with 23 points and 8 rebounds and depending on how Duke fares against UNC, Nelson could be in position to win the ACC Player of the Year award. He will have to wait a while to make his case however- Duke’s lone game this week is against Temple.
9. Georgetown (9-1) 7 7
G’Town opened Big East play with an uninspiring 12-point win over Rutgers, but the Hoyas will have their hands full this week when they visit a surging DePaul squad on Tuesday and play host Saturday to a Connecticut squad that matches up very well with Georgetown. Roy Hibbert, who mustered just 6 points and 4 rebounds against Rutgers, has not faced a defender like UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet this season and will need to come up big for the Hoyas to prevail.
10. Indiana (12-1) 11 12
Eric Gordon opened Big Ten play in a big way. The freshman sensation poured in 25 points as the Hoosiers held off Iowa, or should I say Justin Johnson, 79-76. Johnson hit 8 three-pointers en route to a 29-point performance that nearly upstaged Gordon’s impressive effort. This week, Indiana heads to Ann Arbor to take on Manny Harris and the 4-10 Michigan Wolverines.
11. Texas A&M (12-1) 12 10
The Aggies survived a non-conference test- if you can even call it that- in a 26-point romp over LSU last weekend. A&M looks to have one of the most balanced attacks in the country and should be among the top three teams in the Big 12 for the rest of the season. The Aggies first conference game comes at home this Saturday versus Colorado.
12. Texas (13-2) 12 13
Texas responded very well after a few set-backs with a convincing 81-62 victory over then No. 24 St. Mary’s. DJ Augustin, widely considered one of the best point guards in the country, proved that assertion with a 30-point outburst over the Gaels. Now that Kevin Durant has moved to the NBA, Damion James has seen his role expand exponentially. The 6-foot-7 230 lb James has been an absolute terror at both ends of the court. He turned in a career-high 29 points last week vs. Fordham and added 14 rebounds in the victory. Now with freshman beast Gary Johnson added to the mix, if James continues to improve every week, this Texas team has the potential to contend for a National Championship.
13. Vanderbilt (15-0) 13 12
One would think the Commodores reached their peak last season when they advanced all the way to the Sweet 16, especially considering they graduated Derrick Byers, one of the best players in school history. Somehow, (think Andrew Ogilvy) that notion is incorrect. Vandy, now 15-0, is even better this season, and they have an All-American in Shan Foster who may be better than Byers. Foster racked up 32 points in a 97-88 win over UMass to help boost his average to 21.1 per game.
14. Butler (14-1) 14 14
Last week I said it would be doubtful that Butler loses more than 4 games this season. While that still may be true, the Bulldogs may have a tougher time in the Horizon league than expected. Butler started off league play with two close wins over Valparaiso and Loyola (Ill.) Wright State, who handed Butler its only loss of the year, is 1-3 in conference play. Are the Bulldogs overrated or is the Horizon league just very competitive?
15. Marquette (11-2) 15 16
The Golden Eagles suffered a minor setback at West Virginia on Sunday, but will have the opportunity to rebound this week against Seton Hall and a surprising Notre Dame team that is in a three-way tie for first place in the conference. The Big East is so even this year that its realistic to expect a team such as Marquette win the conference with a 11-5 record in league play. Thus, the Big East won’t get many high seeds, but should get eight dangerous teams into the NCAA Tournament.
16. Dayton (12-1) 17 22
The AP buys Dayton. The Coaches aren’t quite sold yet. As the ranking indicates, I buy the Flyers as well, but in order to justify its ranking, Dayton will have to continue to win in the ever-competitive Atlantic 10. This week’s game of the week, potentially in the whole country, outside top 5 match up UCLA and Washington State: Wednesday night’s match-up of Dayton vs. No. 18 Rhode Island.
17. Clemson (12-2) 18 19
When’s the last time a team moved up 7 spots after a loss? Probably never, until now in this poll. I became a believer in the Tigers after their heart-breaking 90-88 defeat versus AP and ESPN/USA Today No. 1 North Carolina. Clemson proved it can play with anyone and certainly proved this year’s squad is better than the one that started out 17-0 last season and fell short of an NCAA berth.
18. Rhode Island (13-1) 22 20
The Rams just keep winning. Common knowledge would suggest URI will suffer some setbacks in conference play, but the way this group is playing, anything is possible. Wednesday’s game at Dayton will be the biggest test the Rams have faced this year (they’ve already beaten Providence and Syracuse).
19. Ole Miss (13-0) 16 15
The Rebels’ lone victory of significance was over Clemson, a team that at the time, still had a lot of question marks because of the way it finished last season. Now that Clemson has proved to be a legitimate team, that win looks a lot more valuable. I still won’t totally buy into the Rebels just quite yet, however. Wednesday’s game versus No. 8 Tennessee will be the measuring stick for this team.
20. Wisconsin (12-2) 21 21
The Badgers are playing their best ball since early last season. Two convincing Big 10 wins to open the season have Bo Ryan’s squad in position to finish third in the Big East and earn a fairly high seed in the NCAA Tournament. It's enough to make you want to dance!
21. Xavier (12-3) 24 25
The Musketeers jumped back into both polls after averaging a whopping 105.5 points per game in victories over Kansas State and Virginia. Though they are ranked below Dayton and Rhode Island, if this team continues to play last week, there isn’t anyone in the A-10- let alone in most other conferences- that can beat Xavier.
22. Villanova (11-2) 19 17
Once ranked as high as No. 16, ‘Nova has come back down to earth after a blowout loss to DePaul to open Big East play. The Wildcats knocked off a depleted Pitt squad last week to earn their first conference win, but still have to come up with a signature win in the coming weeks to justify a Top 25 ranking. Right now, the ‘Cats are over ranked in both polls and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them fall out entirely very soon.
23. Stanford (12-2) 23 23
It pains me to put Stanford in these rankings because they score so little and win so ugly, but as the old saying goes, a win is a win, and Stanford has come up with 12 of them. Beating USC 52-46 helped the Cardinal’s cause a little bit, but playing a close contest against UCLA in a 76-67 loss may have helped more.
24. Oklahoma (12-3) NR NR
The Sooners crack our rankings for the first time after stringing together five consecutive wins, two of which came over then-ranked opponents in Gonzaga and West Virginia. Freshman sensation Blake Griffin, who is averaging 14.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, is currently projected as the No. 1 pick of the 2009 Draft by NBADraft.net. Griffin will go up against 2008’s projected No. 1, Michael Beasley, in a match-up of two of the most physical and athletic freshmen in the country on Saturday.
25. Pittsburgh (12-2) 20 18
Wasn’t it just two weeks ago that Pitt was ranked No. 6 in the country? Since then, a Mike Cook knee injury (out for the season), a loss to Dayton, a broken foot suffered by Levance Fields (out 8-12 weeks), and a loss to Villanova have nearly dropped the Panthers from the rankings.