Roy Devyn Marble, Lenzelle Smith

College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25

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I can already tell what’s going to happen so I figure I’ll just address it now before I’m ripped on twitter and in the comments section: Yes, I have Iowa ranked above Iowa State despite the fact Iowa State beat Iowa. And no, it has nothing to do with the ankle injury that Deandre Kane is dealing with right now.

I wrote this about the Cyclones on Tuesday after they beat Baylor at home and I still believe it now. I’m not sure there is anyone in the country that I would pick to beat Iowa State in their own building, but until this team proves that they can win a game against a good team away from Hilton Coliseum, they are just another talented team with a strong home-court advantage.

Iowa, on the other hand, just went into Columbus and put up 84 points on the nation’s best defense in a win over Ohio State. Their three losses this season? To 15-1 Villanova in overtime in the Battle 4 Atlantis title game in which Iowa blew a nine-point halftime lead; to Wisconsin in Madison in a game where a Fran McCaffery-ejection spurred on a run by the Badges that resulted in the Hawkeyes blowing an 11-point halftime lead; and at Iowa State, where Iowa gave the game away down the stretch by missing free throws and wide-open threes (ahem, Zach McCabe).

If you’re going to lose three games, it may as well be three heartbreakers to top 15 teams with a combined two losses.

The bottom line is this: I am not just ranking the resumes of the top 25 teams. This isn’t bracketology. There’s more to a win or a loss than it being just a win or a loss. It’s subjective. There’s room for interpretation and opinion, and, in my opinion, these are the nation’s top 25 basketball teams.

Disagree?

Call me on it. Leave a note in the comments. Tweet at me. I promise there’s at least some logic behind it.

THE TOP 25

source: Getty Images1. Arizona (17-0, LW: No. 1): The Wildcats just keep rolling along. This week, they went to LA and knocked off both UCLA and USC. Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell both had big games this week. It’s weird: the No. 1 team in the country has one of the nation’s least-appreciated back courts. Those dudes are good!

2. Michigan State (15-1, LW: No. 2): The Spartans survived a pair of overtime games this week, both of which took place in East Lansing. They still aren’t healthy, however. Adreian Payne spent this past week battling a sprained foot. He sat out against Minnesota.

3. Syracuse (16-0, LW: No. 3): The Orange weren’t pushed in games against Virginia Tech and, surprisingly enough, North Carolina. In ACC play, Cooney is shooting 10-for-39 (25.6%) from the floor and 7-for-32 (21.9%) from three.

4. Wisconsin (16-0, LW: No. 4): The Badgers weren’t properly challenged this week, as they whipped up on Illinois in the only game they played. It may not happened this week, either, as a trip to Indiana and a visit from Michigan await the Badgers.

5. Florida (13-2, LW: No. 6): Florida beat down South Carolina at home before notching an impressive win at Arkansas in overtime despite playing without Casey Prather and with a banged up Scottie Wilbekin.

6. Villanova (15-1, LW: No. 7): The Wildcats won at Seton Hall and St. John’s this week, neither of which are all that notable.

7. Wichita State (17-0, LW: No. 7): The Shockers needed overtime to complete a comeback from 19 points down in the second half in their visit to Missouri State on Saturday night. The Bears are a better team than you think and one of the three toughest road trips the Shockers will be taking this season.

8. San Diego State (14-1, LW: No. 9): The Aztecs followed up their win at Kansas by knocking off Boise State and Air Force in Mountain West play. SDSU is awesome defensively. Finding consistency scoring the ball — hi Winston Shepard! — will be the key.

9. Kansas (11-4, LW: No. 15): Kansas followed up their loss to SDSU at home by beating a good Oklahoma team on the road and smacking around Kansas State by 26 points at home. Wayne Selden averaged 22.0 points in the two wins.

10. Iowa (14-3, LW: No. 19): The Hawkeyes finally landed the big win that had escaped them this season, going into Columbus and knocking off Ohio State. They also beat Northwestern in a game that Fran McCaffery was suspended.

11. Ohio State (15-2, LW: No. 5)
12. Kentucky (12-3, LW: No. 12)
13. Oklahoma State (13-2, LW: No. 17)
14. Iowa State (14-1, LW: No. 18)
15. Baylor (13-2, LW: No. 15)
16. Creighton (14-2, LW: No. 22)
17. Cincinnati (15-2, LW: No. 23)
18. Memphis (12-3, LW: No. 24)
19. UMass (14-1, LW: No. 25)
20. Pitt (15-1, LW: UR)
21. Colorado (14-3, LW: No. 10)
22. Louisville (14-3, LW: No. 14)
23. Duke (12-4, LW: No. 13)
24. Saint Louis (15-2, LW: UR)
25. UCLA (13-3, LW: UR)

Looking Forward: Which programs are on the rise as we head into 2016-17?

FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, file photo, Wisconsin's Vitto Brown, left, and Bronson Koening laugh during the final seconds of an NCAA college basketball game against Ohio State in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin won, 79-68. Though he moved on to the NBA long ago, March Madness is also Steph Curry's world now. (AP Photo/Andy Manis, File)
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The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone. Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season. The coaching carousel, which ended up spinning a bit faster than initially expected, has come to a close for all of the major programs. 

In other words, by now, we have a pretty good feel for what college basketball is going to look like during the 2016-17 season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some programs on the rise heading into next season.

Virginia Tech: Buzz Williams’ second season in Blacksburg proved to be more successful than many expected, as the Hokies won ten ACC games (20 overall) and played in the Postseason NIT. What can they do for an encore? In all honesty the pieces needed for the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007 are in place, with six of their top seven scorers from a season ago due to return led by forward Zach LeDay and guard Seth Allen. Expecting the Hokies to contend for the ACC title may be a bit much, but it’s fair to expect them to work their way into the Top 25 and the NCAA tournament in 2016-17.

Creighton: The Bluejays, picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason poll, nearly played its way onto the NCAA tournament bubble thanks to a much-improved big man in Geoffrey Groselle, transfer Maurice Watson Jr. and Cole Huff, and guard Isaiah Zierden. Groselle’s gone, but given the combination of returnees and the addition of former Kansas State guard Marcus Foster the Bluejays could be in line for another leap forward. The key for Greg McDermott’s team will be the return of Watson, who’s going through the NBA Draft evaluation process.

Wisconsin: At one point last season the Badgers were 9-9 overall and 1-4 in Big Ten play, with it appearing highly unlikely that Greg Gard would have his interim tag removed. But Gard’s team turned things around, winning 22 games and reaching the Sweet 16. Provided Nigel Hayes, who’s currently going through the NBA Draft evaluation process, returns to school the Badgers will be on the short list of Big Ten title contenders. Bronson Koenig and Ethan Happ lead four other starters who will be back, and Andy Van Vliet (who the NCAA sidelined for last season) will help in the front court as well.

USC: The Trojans’ progression was a year ahead of schedule, as after producing consecutive 12-win seasons they earned an NCAA tournament berth in Andy Enfield’s third season at the helm. USC does have some questions in the form of guard Julian Jacobs and forward Nikola Jovanovic both going through the NBA Draft process, but if both return the Trojans will be a contender in the Pac-12. Jordan McLaughlin, Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu are among the returnees for a team that could return five of its six double-digit scorers — Katin Reinhardt being the lone departure — from last season.

UCLA guard Bryce Alford, center, attempts to move the ball past Kentucky guard Charles Matthews, right, as Jamal Murray, left, helps defend during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
UCLA guard Bryce Alford (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

UCLA: Staying in Los Angeles, this is a big year coming up for Steve Alford. The Bruins were a major disappointment last season, but the combination of some key returnees and a recruiting class led by Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf should propel UCLA back into the Pac-12 and national conversations. Ball should be handed the keys to the show from the start given his abilities at the point, which should result in plentiful scoring opportunities for the likes of Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton and Thomas Welsh. How good this team can be will depend on two things: how well the pieces mesh, and an improved commitment on the defensive end.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs reached the Sweet 16 last season, but the way in which they got there wasn’t what we’ve grown accustomed to with regards to Mark Few’s program as they needed the WCC automatic bid to ensure a spot in the field. Even with the departures of Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga has the tools needed to be better in 2016-17, as a backcourt that made strides as the season progressed will be a year older with Josh Perkins and Silas Melson leading the way. Also, Przemek Karnowski will be back on the court after missing last season with a back injury.

Florida State: Leonard Hamilton received some good news, as both Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes decided to return after briefly flirting with the NBA Draft. They’ll be asked to lead the way for a team that adds a solid recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American Jonathan Isaac, and putting points on the board won’t be much of an issue. If they can get back to defending at the level we’ve come to expect from Hamilton-coached teams, Florida State can make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2012.

Rhode Island: Dan Hurley’s Rams began the 2015-16 season viewed as a team that could contend in the Atlantic 10. Then the injury bug hit, with E.C. Matthews being lost to a torn ACL and multiple key contributors (including Hassan Martin) missing time throughout the course of the year. URI’s healthy again, and with Four McGlynn being the lone major contributor out of eligibility 2016-17 should see the Rams rebound and make a run at the Atlantic 10 title.

Michigan’s Spike Albrecht to finish his career at rival Big Ten program

Michigan guard Spike Albrecht (2) makes a layup between Northern Michigan forward Brett Branstrom, top left, and center Vejas Grazulis (52) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Michigan won 70-44. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
(AP Photo/Tony Ding)
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Spike Albrecht’s career isn’t over, as the former Michigan point guard and graduate transfer has committed to play his final season for Big Ten rival Purdue.

“I’ll be playing my 5th year for Purdue University,” Albrecht tweeted on Tuesday morning. “Boiler Up.”

Albrecht’s career has been fascinating to follow. A very lightly recruited high schooler, Albrecht picked Michigan over Appalachian State, playing very limited minutes behind National Player of the Year Trey Burke before popping off for 17 points in the first half of the national title game that season (and launching the greatest heat check in the history of heat checks). He would play a bigger role as a sophomore before averaging 7.5 points and 3.9 assists in 32 minutes as a junior in 2014-15.

But as a senior, Albrecht cut his season short after just a couple of games due to a degenerative issue in his hips. He had surgery on both hips prior to last season and initially announced that his career was over. That changed, but Michigan’s scholarship situation didn’t: They had already recruited someone to take his scholarship after his graduation, so Albrecht was forced to transfer.

Purdue is a good fit for him. He’ll provide veteran leadership on a team with just one other senior on the roster — redshirt junior Basil Smotherman — and he’ll help anchor the point guard spot currently held by junior P.J. Thompson.

Villanova’s Jenkins to return for senior season

Villanova forward Kris Jenkins (2) reacts to play against North Carolina during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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After briefly taking part in the NBA Draft evaluation process, Villanova forward Kris Jenkins announced Monday night that he’s decided to withdraw and return to school for his senior year. Jenkins, whose three-pointer as time expired gave the Wildcats the win over North Carolina in the national title game, announced the news via Twitter.

2015-16 was a breakout season for Jenkins, who moved into the starting lineup and averaged 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The 6-foot-6 forward shot 45.9 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from beyond the arc, and with starters Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu graduating he’ll have even more opportunities to produce next season.

Jenkins’ decision to return leaves wing Josh Hart as the lone Wildcats going through the early entry process at this time. Hart was a first team All-Big East selection as a junior, and his return would be the final piece to the puzzle for a team that many expect to be a national title contender in 2016-17.

Jenkins and Hart wouldn’t be the only returnees who had a part in the national title run, with guards Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth, wing Mikal Bridges and forward Darryl Reynolds back as well. To that group Villanova adds Fordham transfer Eric Paschall and a recruiting class anchored by Omari Spellman and Dylan Painter with Donte DiVincenzo and Tim Delaney available after being hampered by injuries last season.

Delaney missed all of last year after undergoing surgical procedures on his hips, and DiVincenzo played a total of 74 minutes over the first nine games before having to sit due to a broken foot.

Florida State guard Rathan-Mayes to return for junior season

Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (22) drives past Notre Dame guard Rex Pflueger, left, for a score in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
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With their top three scorers from last season all deciding to declare for the NBA Draft, Florida State was facing the possibility of having to rebuild their backcourt ahead of the 2016-17 season. However two of those three have decided to return to Tallahassee, with rising junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes announcing on Monday that he will be back in school.

Rathan-Mayes joins rising sophomore Dwayne Bacon in returning to play another season for head coach Leonard Hamilton, with Malik Beasley hiring representation and remaining in the draft.

Rathan-Mayes had more scoring help last season and as a result was able to concentrate more on the distribution aspects of the point guard position, as he averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 assists per contest. With the return of Rathan-Mayes and Bacon, Florida State will have two of its top three scorers from last season back on campus.

The Seminoles did lose some veteran players, most notably guard Devon Bookert and center Boris Bojanovsky, but the returnees and a recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American forward Jonathan Isaac means that they won’t lack for options next season.

Auburn lands third transfer within the last week

Auburn guard T.J. Dunans (4) and coach Bruce Pearl celebrate a 75-74 win over UAB in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.  (Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP)
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After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.

Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.

Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.