NCAA Top 25 Poll
By Kevin Duffy
Team (Record) AP Poll Rank / ESPN/USAToday Rank
The New Year is not only a time to set personal goals, but also a time for College Basketball teams to set goals of their own. While you’ll be at the gym trying to work off those heavy Christmas meals, college basketball teams across the country will be trying to correct early season mistakes. Here are this week’s rankings complete with a New Year’s resolution for each team.
[img_assist|nid=3566|title=Derrick Low - Chris Williams/Icon SMI|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=445]1. Memphis (11-0) 2 2
Beat up on Georgetown. Check. Handle an up and coming Arizona squad. Check.
Though ‘Zona played without freshman sensation Jerryd Bayless, Memphis was impressive in the 76-63 victory. The Tigers roll into the New Year facing an easy conference schedule with a few difficult non-conference games sprinkled in. If John Calipari keeps his team focused, Memphis has a legitimate chance to go unbeaten.
New Years Resolution: Make free throws! Memphis currently shoots 60.2 percent as a team from the charity stripe.
2. North Carolina (12-0) 1 1
The ‘Heels blew out two respectable mid-major teams in Nevada (106-70) and Valparaiso (90-68) in the last week. Though UNC is not giving a reason for voters to slide them down to No. 2, Memphis continues to steal some first-place votes away each week (two more in the latest AP Poll) and narrow the gap. The ‘Heels will have a chance to get some of those votes back if they can convincingly defeat Clemson (11-1) on January 6 in the ACC opener.
New Years Resolution: Find a player to stick in the rotation who can fill the ballhandling/spot-up shooting duties vacated by senior guard Bobby Frasor (torn ACL).
3. Kansas (11-0) 3 3
All the talk has been about Memphis and North Carolina, but Kansas has taken care of business early and has looked extremely impressive in doing so. The Jayhawks figure to be tested a few times in the Big 12, but the conference isn’t nearly as strong as it was last season and because of that, it would be a shock if KU wasn’t a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday.
New Years Resolution: Take away Mark Mangino’s meal plan.
4. UCLA (11-1) 5 5
The Bruins remain at No. 4 after a quiet week that saw them defeat UC Davis 76-48. UCLA will have a chance to make a big statement early in 2008 as it faces Stanford, Cal, Washington, and Washington State all in the first 12 days of the New Year. Kevin Love continues to impress as the freshman forward/center leads the Bruins with 16.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.
New Years Resolution: Get to the Final Four again….and avoid Florida this time.
5. Washington State (11-0) 4 4
The Cougars have the chance to rest for a few days before they begin Pac-10 play on January 5 vs. In-state rival Washington. After weeks of under-ranking Wazzou in my poll, I am finally beginning to recognize the potential of this team. Behind senior guards Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low, the Cougars have an opportunity to contend for a final four berth. We will learn a lot about them on January 12 when they hit the road to take on No. 4 UCLA.
New Years Resolution: Beat UCLA and win the Pac-10.
6. Michigan State (12-1) 6 6
The Spartans move up a spot this week thanks to the unexpected blowout loss Dayton dealt then No. 6 Pittsburgh. As Washington State, UCLA, and North Carolina begin difficult conference schedules, Michigan State enters league play in perhaps the easiest major conference in America. It’s only a matter of weeks before the Spartans are ranked in the Top 4 or 5.
New Years Resolution: Score premiere tickets to “Meet the Spartans.” (Shouldn’t be that difficult to do.)
7. Duke (10-1) 9 8
Saying the Blue Devils have been idle would be a serious understatement. Duke has not played a game since its December 20 loss to Pitt and will not take the court again until a January 6 date with Cornell. Coach K hopes the time off won’t hurt his Blue Devils, who also have early-January games against Virginia, Florida State, and Clemson.
New Years Resolution: Develop some semblance of a student section to generate a little excitement for the games.
8. Tennessee (11-1) 8 9
With consecutive wins over Xavier and Gonzaga, the Volts are justifying their No. 8 ranking. JP Prince has emerged to give Tennessee yet another scorer in the backcourt and Tennessee can continue to improve their rank with victories over Ole Miss (January 9) and Vanderbilt (January 15).
New Years Resolution: Start hitting more threes. For a team that is predicated so much on backcourt play, the Vols have struggled mightily from downtown. JaJuan Smith shoots the best percentage of all Tennessee guards at a very average 35.4 percent and sharpshooter Chris Lofton, who knocked down 46.5 percent, 43.7 percent, and 41.9 percent of his three-point attempts in his first three seasons, is shooting just 33.6 percent so far in his senior campaign.
9. Georgetown (9-1) 7 7
Thanks largely in part to losses by Texas and Pitt, the Hoyas find themselves back in the top ten of our poll. Georgetown will have a few warm-up Big East games versus Rutgers and DePaul before a potential trap game with UConn on January 12.
New Years Resolution: Make free throws. Georgetown is shooting a woeful 58.7 percent from the stripe. Roy Hibbert has a decent outside stroke and should convert at a better rate than his current 52.2 percent average suggests. Vernon Macklin hasn’t seen much playing time, but the dynamite athlete is 3 for 19 from the line thus far.
10. Indiana (11-1) 11 12
January 13 marks the reunion of Eric Gordon and Illinois freshman Jeffrey Jordan (better known as Michael Jordan’s son). For all of the high school basketball fans out there, who can forget last year’s nationally televised beat down that Air Gordon put on Jordan. The All-American shooting guard poured in 43 points as MJ watched in amazement from the sidelines.
New Years Resolution: As impressive as Gordon has been, his assist to turnover ratio could use some work. He is turning the ball over 3.3 times per game and dishing out only 2.4 assists. No one is perfect, but if Gordon, and the team as a whole, cut down on their mistakes (the Hoosiers have a 1 to 1 assist to turnover ratio), Indiana could be even more dangerous late in the season.
11. Texas A&M (12-1) 12 10
With the Big 12 down this year, the Aggies could be looking at 25 regular season wins and a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. They still have some maturing to do, but this team is headed in the right direction.
New Years Resolution: Continue to gel under Mark Turgeon and go further in the NCAA Tournament than they did last year.
12. Marquette (10-1) 10 11
The Golden Eagles continue to plug away at an easy schedule. Case in point—a 77-37 thrashing of Savannah State last week. Things will get much tougher very quickly, however, as Marquette faces a potential upset in its Big East opener versus Providence.
New Years Resolution: Start recruiting big men. Guards are clearly vital to success, but in order to excel on a national level, you need some post players. What better time to start bringing in some size than 2008? (Marquette has signed two highly-rated shooting guards- Tyshawn Taylor and Nick Williams to their ’08 class.)
13. Texas (11-2) 14 14
If Rick Barnes had a hit list, Wisconsin guard Michael Flowers would be at the top of it. Flowers nailed a long three with 2 seconds left and then stole Texas’ inbound pass to lift the Badgers to a shocking 67-66 upset. On a positive note, Damion James had a career night with 21 points and 15 rebounds.
New Years Resolution: Don’t give Mack Brown’s step-son front row seats to the basketball games. Here’s what he did at the Holiday Bowl: http://youtube.com/watch?v=kqq87I9NiI0&feature=related.
14. Vanderbilt (12-0) 15 15
Shan Foster and Andrew Ogilvy have proved to be among the top 1-2 punches in the nation. Vandy, among the few undefeated teams remaining, won’t face a real test until a January 12 “showdown” with Kentucky.
New Years Resolution: Give students the day off for a campus wide “Skip Bayless Day.” (Bayless is a Vanderbilt alum and for anyone who watches 1st and 10, a huge Commodore fan.)
15. Villanova (10-1) 17 16
The Wildcats continue to move up by default, but have a few holes that suggest they could stumble once they reach Big East play. Nova’s January schedule is light, however, as it faces DePaul, a depleted Pittsburgh squad, and Rutgers in its first three games.
New Years Resolution: A. Get some production out of freshmen Antonio Pena and Corey Stokes. At 6-foot-8 265 lbs, Pena would give the Wildcats a body to defend the big men of the Big East. B. Sign shooting guard Tyreke Evans. Evans, the No. 6 player in the class of 2008, lists Villanova and Louisville as his top choices.
16. Butler (12-1) 16 17
If Butler lost any more than 4 games in the regular season this year, it would be a complete shock. The Bulldogs face only conference competition from here on out and are likely to garner a fairly high seed in the NCAA Tournament.
New Years Resolution: Share the ball more. Believe it or not, the Bulldogs average a paltry 12.8 assists per game so far this year.
17. Pittsburgh (11-1) 13 13
This may be a little low to drop the Panthers, but with the injury to Levance Fields (out 8-12 weeks), it’s difficult to think Pitt is any better than the 17th best team in the country, especially after a 25-point loss to Dayton last week.
New Years Resolution: Take away Dave Wandstedt’s contract extension.
18. Arizona (9-3) 17 18
We can’t knock ‘Zona down too far after losing to No. 1 Memphis without its best player and floor leader Jerryd Bayless. The ‘Cats sit at 9-3 but are ranked ahead of many 1-loss teams because of their strength of schedule and overall talent. This team could be the one to reverse the recent fortune, or lack there of, of Arizona postseason basketball.
New Years Resolution: Be more mentally tough in the NCAA Tournament.
19. Dayton (11-1) 20 24
This just in—Dayton might be good. The Flyers whizzed by then No. 6 Pitt last week 80-55 and have jumped out to an impressive 11-1 record in what has become a surprising Atlantic 10 conference.
New Years Resolution: Start publicizing Brian Roberts more. The Flyers’ senior guard is averaging 19.3 points, 4.6 assists, and 3 rebounds per game and may be one of the best players in the country. He is certainly worthy of All-American consideration. Check out a column about Roberts by NBADraft.net’s Adi Joseph-- http://nbadraft.net/joseph022.asp.
20. Rhode Island (13-1) 23 22
If before the season you told me that two A-10 teams would be ranked in the Top 20 and neither of them would be Xavier, I wouldn’t have said “you’re crazy,” but I would have been very skeptical. While I’m still not convinced that either Dayton or URI is better than Xavier, I will say that the January 9 matchup between the Flyers and Rams will be huge for the A-10 conference.
New Years Resolution: Be the best team in New England (would imply being ranked higher than the likes of traditional powers such as UConn and Boston College.)
21. Ole Miss (12-0) 18 18
Aside from Clemson, Ole Miss has beaten NO ONE. Behind the stellar play of freshman Chris Warren, the Rebels are flying up the rankings in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Poll, but I’d be careful with this team. I’m not sold on them as an NCAA Tournament squad just yet.
New Years Resolution: Don’t stumble in SEC play.
22. St. Mary’s (12-1) NR 24
St. Mary’s can make or break their status in the polls on January 5 when it takes on No. 13 Texas. It is a big statement game for the program and also for the WCC.
New Years Resolution: Beat the Zags!
23. Wisconsin (10-2) 25 24
The Badgers find themselves back in the polls after pulling off a shocking upset at Texas. We know Bo Ryan’s squad will always play gritty defense and play smart, but they might not be talented enough to overcome the likes of Indiana and Michigan State.
New Years Resolution: Teach Bo Ryan how to “Walk it Out.”
24. Clemson (11-1) 19 19
The Tigers find themselves back in the rankings, at least for a day. Clemson takes on Alabama at 4:30 EST on January 1, and I’m not usually one for predictions, but I’ll go out on a limb and say the Tigers lose to ‘Bama and then get blown out by North Carolina on January 5.
New Years Resolution: Prove Kevin Duffy wrong.
25. USC (9-3) 22 NR
The Trojans hold onto the No. 25 spot after an uninspiring 13-point victory over UC-Riverside last week. There are teams with better records, but not as many with as much talent as the Trojans, who have three bonafide stars in OJ Mayo, Davon Jefferson, and Daniel Hackett.
New Years Resolution: Recruit Lil’ Romeo’s posse. Lil’ Bow Wow (sorry, Bow Wow, my bad) would give the Trojans a good combo guard to complement Romeo’s floor leadership and Fat Joe would give them a nice presence on the interior.
Dropped out: BYU, Miami (Fl), West Virginia