Last week, I had Michigan State sitting at fifth behind four undefeated teams: Arizona, Syracuse, Wisconsin and Ohio State.
I have the Spartans second, jumping them past Syracuse, Wisconsin and Ohio State despite the fact that none of those three teams lost this week.
Which probably doesn’t make a ton of sense considering the fact that in most polls, the only way a teams drops is if they lose.
But here’s where I counter: the biggest reason that Michigan State lost to North Carolina, and thus the biggest reason that they found themselves ranked as low as they were, was that the Spartans spent much of the month of December battling nagging injuries to a number of their key players. Gary Harris had an ankle injury. Adreian Payne is dealing with planter fasciitis. Matt Costello had mono. Keith Appling had a bum wrist.
That would be four of their five starters.
And now that those guys are healthier, the Spartans are starting to roll again. They whipped up on Penn State and Indiana on the road this past week, looking as dominant as ever. And when this team is healthy and playing its best basketball, they are the best team in the Big Ten and easily one of the best teams in the country.
So they get the bump even if the teams they jumped didn’t necessarily deserve to drop.
THE CBT TOP 25
1. Arizona (15-0, LW: No. 1): After putting together one of the most dominating defensive performances of the season, giving up just 25 points to Washington State, the Wildcats struggled to finally put away Washington on Saturday.
2. Michigan State (13-1, LW: No. 5): Gary Harris had a career-high 26 points in a 17-point win at Indiana on Saturday.
3. Syracuse (14-0, LW: No. 2): The Orange struggled to put away Miami at home in their ACC opener, and it had a lot to do with the 2-for-12 performance they got from Trevor Cooney.
4. Wisconsin (15-0, LW: No. 3): Wisconsin was dominated in the first half of their win over Iowa in the Kohl Center on Sunday night. They came back in the second half in a win that was sparked by a pair of technicals that Fran McCaffery picked up.
5. Ohio State (15-0, LW: No. 4): LaQuinton Ross scored 36 points in two wins this week, but just as important was the fact that Shannon Scott hit four of the ten threes that he took against Purdue and Nebraska.
6. Florida (11-2, LW: No. 8): The Gators only played one game this week, struggling to beat Richmond in their last non-conference game. Michael Frazier had been struggling a bit but went for 18 points in the win.
7. Villanova (13-1, LW: No. 10): Villanova narrowly avoided getting picked off by Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse on New Year’s Eve, following that up with a blowout win over Providence at home on Sunday night.
8. Wichita State (15-0, LW: No. 11): How many teams in the country have a better back court than the Shockers’ trio of Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton? I’m not sure there are five.
9. San Diego State (12-1, LW: No. 21): The Aztecs won a pair of road games in two of the toughest environments in the country last week, going into Moby Arena and beating Colorado State before knocking off Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse.
10. Colorado (13-2, LW: No. 24): The Buffaloes are now off to their best start in school history and have picked up home wins over Oregon and Kansas.
11. Oregon (13-1, LW: No. 12)
12. Kentucky (10-3, LW: No. 13)
13. Duke (11-3, LW: No. 6)
14. Louisville (13-2, LW: No. 14)
15. Kansas (9-4, LW: No. 9)
16. Baylor (12-1, LW: No. 15)
17. Oklahoma State (12-2, LW: No. 8)
18. Iowa State (13-0, LW: No. 18)
19. Iowa (12-3, LW: No. 19)
20. Illinois (13-2, LW: No. 22)
21. Missouri (12-1, LW: No. 23)
22. Creighton (12-2, LW: UR)
23. Cincinnati (13-2, LW: UR)
24. Memphis (10-3, LW: No. 17)
25. UMass (12-1, LW: No. 25)