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College Basketball Talk’s latest top 25

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What do we do with Villanova and Louisville this week?

The Wildcats lost on the road to Syracuse, the nation’s No. 2 team, by 16 points in a game that was closer during the second half than the final score would indicate. That’s a game Villanova is supposed to lose. The same can be said for the Cardinals, who went into Rupp Arena and lost by seven to Kentucky, arguably the nation’s best team playing with their backs against the wall.

Again, that’s a game Louisville is supposed to lose. How much can you punish teams that lose games they are supposed to lose? How much does the way they lose — Villanova blowing an 18-point lead and getting outscored 71-37 in the final 30 minutes, Louisville getting dominated without Julius Randle on the floor — factor into those rankings?

Here’s my line of thinking: I think that Louisville’s had a flaw exposed. They don’t have enough of a supporting cast for Russ Smith and Chris Jones. Until Luke Hancock and Wayne Blackshear are scoring from the perimeter and Montrezl Harrell and Chane Behanan are effective in the paint, the Cards are going to be completely reliant on Jones and Smith for points when they don’t force turnovers.

Villanova, on the other hand, was on the wrong end of a bad matchup. They thrive on their ability to create mismatches with their guard-heavy lineups, but that was nullified by the Syracuse zone.

In other words, the way I see it, Louisville’s loss was the result of an issue with their roster makeup. Villanova picked the wrong day to struggle against a team they didn’t matchup well with. That’s why I dropped Louisville from sixth to 14th while keeping Villanova slotted at 10th.

THE TOP 25

1. Arizona (13-0, LW: No. 1): The Wildcats picked up another blowout, non-conference win last week. They’ll kick off Pac-12 play with a visit from the Washington schools next weekend. The biggest concern for Arizona right now? Finding some depth. With Gabe York struggling, this team basically goes six-deep.

2. Syracuse (12-0, LW: No. 2): The Orange made quite a statement on Saturday afternoon, putting a whipping on Villanova despite digging themselves a 25-7 hole. Villanova is a good basketball team, and Syracuse made them look like they didn’t belong in the same gym for the last 30 minutes.

3. Wisconsin (13-0, LW: No. 3): The Badgers continued rolling along, smacking around Prairie View A&M to end their non-conference season. Wisconsin kicks off league play next week with a trip to Northwestern.

4. Ohio State (13-0, LW: No. 4): Over the course of his last eight games, LaQuinton Ross is averaging 17.1 points and shooting 48.5% from three. Let’s see how that works out in league play.

5. Michigan State (11-1, LW: No. 5): The Spartans won by 53 points on Saturday thanks to a career-high 27 points from Keith Appling. Michigan State look like it’s getting healthy.

6. Duke (10-2, LW: No. 7): Rasheed Sulaimon followed up last Thursday’s breakout performance against UCLA with 13 points, three assists and two steals in 22 minutes against Eastern Michigan.

7. Florida (10-2, LW: No. 8): The Gators, now at full strength, look more impressive every time out.

8. Oklahoma State (11-1, LW: No. 9): Wins over Colorado and Memphis stand out, but the Cowboys are going to be tested in Big 12 play. There may not be a tougher conference, top-to-bottom, than the Big 12.

9. Kansas (8-3, LW: No. 13): I know Villanova beat Kansas, so please don’t remind me. But I also think that Kansas is better than Villanova, and the Jayhawks are only getting better as they learn that their best option this season will be to pound the ball into Joel Embiid and Perry Ellis.

10. Villanova (11-1, LW: No. 10): I still like the Wildcats, loss at Syracuse or not.

11. Wichita State (13-0, LW: No. 11)
12. Oregon (12-0, LW: No. 12)
13. Kentucky (10-3, LW: No. 16)
14. Louisville (10-2, LW: No. 6)
15. Baylor (10-1, LW: No. 14)
16. UConn (11-1, LW: No. 15)
17. Memphis (9-1, LW: No. 17)
18. Iowa State (11-0, LW: No. 18)
19. Iowa (11-2, LW: No. 19)
20. North Carolina (9-3, LW: No. 20)
21. San Diego State (10-1, LW: No. 21)
22. Illinois (11-2, LW: No. 22)
23. Missouri (11-1, LW: No. 23)
24. Colorado (11-2, LW: No. 24)
25. UMass (11-1, LW: No. 25)

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Some conference matchups play out before football

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, left, reacts after scoring a basket against Utah during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Oregon defeated Utah 77-59. (AP Photo/George Frey)
(AP Photo/George Frey)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Utah at No. 16 Oregon, 4:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview:

Utah suffered one of the worst losses I’ve seen in a while on Thursday night, when Brandon Taylor, for some unknown reason, decided to foul an Oregon State player firing up a half court prayer at the buzzer. The Utes, who are arguably the second-best team in the Pac-12, will look to bounce-back on Sunday against the best team in the Pac-12, No. 16 Oregon at 4:00 p.m.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. No. 12 SMU will attempt to stay atop the American standings as they travel to South Florida. While the Mustangs won the first matchup between these two teams at home by 14, they’ve dropped their last two games on the road.

2. A few more American contests are going down as East Carolina travels to UConn and Houston heads to Tulsa. The game between the Cougars and Golden Hurricane is especially interesting because both teams are sitting two games back of SMU and trying to make a move on the postseason.

3. No. 5 Iowa continues the soft part of the schedule as they face Illinois on the road. The Hawkeyes posted recent easy victories over Northwestern and Penn State and will be heavily favored again on Sunday.

4. Could be an intriguing game as No. 17 Miami travels to Georgia Tech. Although the Yellow Jackets aren’t a major contender in the ACC, they’ve been tough this season, especially at home. The Hurricanes fell victim to Georgia Tech last season while they were ranked by Marcus Georges-Hunt has to get back on track after a recent slump for that to happen.

5. There is an Atlantic 10 game that will be featured on NBCSN on Sunday: Saint Louis at St. Bonaventure (2:00 p.m.).

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Sunday afternoon.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.