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College Basketball Talk’s Top 25: How far does North Carolina fall?

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We’re now a month into the college basketball season, which means that it is time to really take a look at the top 25. That’s why there are some pretty drastic changes to the top 25 here:

[MORE: Coaches Poll | AP Poll]

1. Michigan State (11-0, LW: No. 2): There’s no fighting it now. Michigan State has to be ranked No. 1 this week. I’d be surprised if it wasn’t a consensus in both the AP and Coaches Polls.

2. Maryland (9-1, LW: No. 4): We know how good Melo Trimble is and we know how well Rasheed Sulaimon complements him. Robert Carter hasn’t quite lived up to the hype he had this offseason but he’s been consistently solid this month. The good sign this week: Diamond Stone finally looked like a kid that was a top ten prospect in the Class of 2015. The bad sign this week: Jake Layman still looks overwhelmed by big games.

[MORE: Is Xavier for real? | What about UCLA?]

3. Kansas (8-1, LW: No. 5): It took a while for Kansas to wake up against Oregon State, but once they decided to start playing, they ran the Beavers off the floor. Wayne Selden is shooting 60 percent from three, has multiple threes in every games this season and has hit at least three in all but two games. And there’s an argument to be made that he isn’t even their best guard.

4. Oklahoma (7-0, LW: No. 8): I’m still not totally convinced that Oklahoma is truly a title contender, but after their beatdown of Villanova, we can’t ignore this team anymore. I’m not sure there is a better back court in the country than Jordan Woodard, Isaiah Cousins and Buddy Hield.

5. North Carolina (7-2, LW: No. 1): Maybe I’m just not yet ready to admit that I was wrong about North Carolina being the best team in the country — because I still think they will be come March — but I’m not ready to drop this team outside the top five when they lost a game on the road to an improving Texas team on a shot that may or may have actually come before the final buzzer sounded. Sorry not sorry.

[RELATED: You make the call: Should Felix’s shot have counted?]

6. Kentucky (9-1, LW: No. 3): I’m still not sure what to make of this group. They looked so, so, so dominant against Duke, particularly in the back court, but that was really the only time this season they’ve looked really good. I get that we have to be patient with Skal Labissiere, but it’s now mid-December and he just went for zero points, zero boards and five fouls in 13 minutes against Arizona State. Yikes.

7. Xavier (10-0, LW: No. 11): Xavier was totally dominant in a ten point win over intra-city rival Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon, and that was not the first time this season that they’ve played like that. I’m not sure what the weakness is in this team outside of front court depth. Trevon Blueitt has been sensational, James Farr and Edmond Sumner have been much improved and Jalen Reynolds hasn’t yet hit his stride. Is this the best team Chris Mack has ever had at Xavier?

[MORE: Player of the Week: Javan Felix | Team of the Week: Wichita State]

8. Purdue (11-0, LW: No. 12): Purdue has the most overpowering front line in the country. Isaac Haas deserves all-american consideration at this point for the way that he has played this season and the scary part is that A.J. Hammons is better than him. Caleb Swanigan has fit in perfectly at the four and the Boilermaker guards are hitting jumpers, getting the ball to their bigs in a position to score and defending. This is a really, really good team, and it will be interesting to see what happens on Saturday when they face off with Butler.

9. Iowa State (9-0, LW: No. 7): The concerns that I had for this Iowa State team manifested themselves in the win over Iowa: They couldn’t stop Jarrod Uthoff when he got rolling and they don’t have the depth in the front court to keep Jameel McKay rested. If that 20 point deficit came against anyone other than Iowa, the Cyclones currently have a loss on their résumé.

10. Duke (8-1, LW: No. 9): Duke dropped a spot despite the fact that they didn’t even have a game this week. Virginia dropped a spot after beating West Virginia, a top 20 team in their own right. My opinion of those two ACC powers has not changed. In fact, I actually think more of Virginia after watching them in the Jimmy V Classic. But at this point in the season, I believe both Xavier and Purdue are better basketball teams, so it makes no sense to rank them lower than a pair of one loss team because of how I felt about them in the preseason.

[MORE: Best Dunk? Gary Payton II | Edmond Sumner | Alex Poythress]

11. Virginia (8-1, LW: No. 10)
12. Baylor (7-1, LW: No. 13)
13. Miami (8-1, LW: No. 15)
14. Villanova (8-1, LW: No. 6)
15. Butler (8-1, LW: No. 16)
16. Providence (10-1, LW: No. 17)
17. Arizona (9-1, LW: No. 18)
18. SMU (7-0, LW: No. 23)
19. West Virginia (8-1, LW: No. 19)
20. Louisville (7-1, LW: No. 21)
21. Cincinnati (8-2, LW: No. 22)
22. Texas A&M (8-2, LW: UR)
23. George Washington (9-1, LW: UR)
24. UCLA (7-3, LW: UR)
25. Wichita State (5-4, LW: UR)

DROPPED OUT: No. 14 Vanderbilt, No. 20 Gonzaga, No. 21 Oregon, No. 25 UConn
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 22 Texas A&M, No. 23 George Washington, No. 24 UCLA No. 25 Wichita State

Point man: Can Nick Weiler-Babb’s move to PG put Iowa State back in the tourney?

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AMES, Ia. — It was clear Iowa State needed a change. The Cyclones stood 0-2 with an 18-point home loss to Milwaukee already on the resume. It was clear they were due for a reboot this season after losing four starters – including All-American point guard Monte Morris – but getting trounced at Hilton Coliseum by a team picked to finish eighth in the Horizon League constitutes an emergency.

The Cyclones didn’t panic, though. They adjusted. 

After that disastrous start to the season, coach Steve Prohm moved Nick Weiler-Babb from small forward to point guard while slotting the two players who had been manning the point –  sharpshooter Donovan Jackson and five-star freshman Lindell Wigginton – off the ball.

All Iowa State done since is win.

The Cyclones have rattled off seven-straight with Weiler-Babb flirting with triple-doubles, Jackson shooting 41.6 percent from deep and Wigginton looking like a future star.

“Good we moved him over there,” Prohm said.

It certainly has been good for the Cyclones. Iowa State was 9 of 34 (26.5 percent) from 3-point range, shot 38.8 percent overall and failed to reach 60 points in its opening two losses. In the seven games since, they’re converting at a 46.4 percent clip overall, 39.4 percent from distance and averaging 83.6 points per game. They’ve seemingly become a different team with Weiler-Babb at the helm.

“It’s taking a whole new role,” Weiler-Babb said. “Coach just told me whatever I have to do to win, I have to do it. That’s what I’ve tried to do. Take the ball out of the guys’ hands and give it to the scorers.”

The 6-foot-5 junior is averaging 7.9 assists along with 12.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. He’s become indispensable for the Cyclones a year after being a bit player on the Big 12 tournament championship team.

“He went through some tough times last year,” Prohm said. “But that’s what everybody’s got to understand. Freshmen, sophomore, you’ve got to put your time in a little bit to have success and earn success. He’s doing that.”

The immediate returns have been spectacular for Iowa State, but a question still lingers as they eye Big 12 play later this month.

Is it real?

Or, rather, will it be real against an unforgiving Big 12 schedule? Given Iowa State’s non-conference slate, whether it is or not will determine the postseason fate of a team sitting on a program-best six-straight NCAA tournament appearances.

As good as Weiler-Babb and the Cyclones have been during their seven-game winning streak, the competition can’t be ignored. Iowa State’s best win during this stretch is either Boise State, which only got 8 minutes from Chandler Hutchison after a head injury, or Iowa, which is 5-6 with losses to Louisiana Lafayette and South Dakota State. The wins haven’t all come easy for Iowa State, either. They narrowly defeated Appalachian State and Tulsa while initially struggling against Northern Illinois and Alcorn State before pulling away.

Things have been good for the Cyclones, but they haven’t been perfect.

Iowa State is a mediocre shooting team overall and could have serious spacing issues going forward given the roster forces Prohm to play two non-shooting bigs together for major minutes. Wigginton has been excellent, scoring 20-plus in three of the last four games, but his level of athleticism is something the likes of Western Illinois can’t counter. Texas, Kansas and West Virginia can. Big swaths of the roster, which features eight newcomers, haven’t faced Big 12 caliber competition ever in their careers. Weiler-Babb’s size and skill at the point guard position makes him a major problem for mid-majors, but can he keep up this pace when he faces length and physicality similar to his own?

Those questions, though, have to be welcomed by the Cyclones. If there were answers to them for a team with so much youth and so many unproven players in new positions in mid-December, it probably would register in the negative.

That they’re unknown means there is possibility, opportunity and promise. That exists in no small part because Prohm made Weiler-Babb a point guard.

“The challenge is, what do we really want to be?” Prohm said. “But he spearheads everything we do.”

Texas’ Jones out with a broken wrist

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Texas may be without its leading scorer heading into conference play.

Longhorns coach Shaka Smart announced Monday that sophomore Andrew Jones suffered a hairline fracture in his right wrist and will be sidelined for the foreseeable future.

“Fortunately it’s not one of those injuries where he should be out for an extended long period of time,” Smart said at his news conference Monday, “but he’s going to miss at least the next few games before Christmas. They decided not to put it in a cast, which is good news.”

Jones suffered the injury last week against VCU when he took a number of tumbles to the floor. He’s averaging 15.3 points while shooting 52.4 percent from the floor and 43.2 percent from 3-point range.

“It’s a tough injury for us because he’s our leading scorer and has done a phenomenal job for us this year,” Smart said. “We’re going to need everyone on our team, not just guards, but everyone on our team to step up and take a little more responsibility.

“Your margin for error is a little smaller.”

The Longhorns, who are 6-2 with losses to Duke and Gonzaga, face Michigan on Tuesday, Louisiana Tech on Saturday and Alabama next week. Jones is certainly out for those games, and his availability for Texas’ first Big 12 games – Dec. 29 vs. Kansas and Jan. 1 at Iowa State – would seem to be in question.

“We don’t have an exact timeframe,” Smart said. “It’s really good news they didn’t put it in a cast.

“We’re hopeful that we can get him back in three, four weeks, but that’s not a set timetable.”

 

Coaches Poll: Villanova climbs to the No. 1 spot

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The new top 25 coaches poll is out, and the No. 1 team in college basketball is now Villanova.

Michigan State, who received 10 of a possible 32 first-place votes, came in at No. 2 while Duke, last week’s No. 1 team, fell to No. 4 with a loss to Boston College.

After winning at Kansas this week, Arizona State vaulted up to the No. 6 spot, while the Jayhawks fell to No. 12.

Here is the full coaches poll.

1. Villanova (22 first-place votes)
2. Michigan State (10)
3. Wichita State
4. Duke
5. Kentucky
6. Arizona State
7. North Carolina
8. Miami
9. Xavier
10. Texas A&M
11. West Virginia
12. Kansas
13. Gonzaga
14. TCU
15. Seton Hall
16. Virginia
17. Purdue
18. Notre Dame
19. Florida State
20. Tennessee
21. Baylor
22. Florida
23. Arizona
24. Oklahoma
25. Creighton

Villanova hops over Michigan State for No. 1 in AP Top 25

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Villanova’s unbeaten start now includes a No. 1 ranking in the AP Top 25 , while Arizona State is making a rapid rise into the top 10 under third-year coach Bobby Hurley.

After a tumultuous week in which unanimous No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Kansas lost, the Wildcats (10-0) earned 41 of 65 first-place votes to hop over Michigan State and reach the top for the third straight season.

Villanova and Michigan State were the favorites to take over at the top after the Blue Devils’ weekend loss at Boston College, though there was far less certainty for voters about who was now the nation’s top team. The Spartans (9-1) earned 19 first-place votes to climb from third to second, while the other five first-place votes went to the Sun Devils — who leapt 11 spots to No. 5 after Sunday’s win at Kansas.

Arizona State (9-0) is off to its best start since the 1974-75 season. Now the Sun Devils — who also have a win against Xavier this season — have their highest ranking since reaching third during the 1980-81 season.

Wichita State climbed three spots to No. 3, followed by Duke and Arizona State. Unbeaten Miami climbed four spots to No. 6, followed by North Carolina, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Xavier to round out the top 10.

Villanova helped itself with an impressive win against No. 12 Gonzaga last week in New York, though the Wildcats had to fight to the final minute Sunday to close out a La Salle team that entered at 5-5.

“It’s always an honor to be ranked No. 1,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said in a statement. “It’s great for the Nova Nation and we appreciate the respect of the writers. We know it’s early, though, and we need to get a lot better.”

KANSAS’ FALL

The Jayhawks (7-2) slid 11 spots to No. 13 after two losses last week, the first coming against Washington in Kansas City, Missouri, before losing to the Sun Devils in Allen Fieldhouse.

SHUFFLE UP

Only two teams — No. 8 Kentucky and No. 12 Gonzaga — stayed in the same spot. Thirteen teams rose in the poll, while four of the seven teams that fell slid at least eight spots.

TOP RISERS

Arizona State’s leap was the biggest, though No. 11 West Virginia (9-1) moved up seven spots after beating then-No. 15 Virginia. No. 14 TCU (10-0) climbed six spots after a win against a then-ranked Nevada team.

Miami, UNC, No. 15 Seton Hall, No. 17 Purdue and No. 20 Tennessee all climbed four spots.

LONGEST SLIDES

While Kansas’ losses stood out, No. 22 Florida had the biggest fall of the week.

The Gators (6-3) slid 17 spots after home losses to Florida State and to Loyola Chicago — a game in which they led for all of 93 seconds. Florida salvaged a win against Cincinnati in the Never Forget Tribute Classic in Newark, New Jersey, to avoid a four-game skid.

No. 18 Notre Dame (8-2) fell nine spots after an upset loss to Ball State, while the No. 25 Bearcats (7-2) slid eight spots.

NEWCOMERS

There were three newcomers to this week’s poll, though one is more of a welcome back.

The list included No. 19 Florida State (9-0) and No. 24 Texas Tech (7-1), while Arizona returned to the rankings at No. 23.

Arizona’s 0-3 showing at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas made the Wildcats the first team in three decades to go from No. 2 in the AP Top 25 to unranked in a week. But four straight wins have the preseason Final Four favorite back in the poll.

SLIDING OUT

Minnesota (No. 14 last week), Nevada (No. 22) and Southern California (No. 25) all fell out of the poll.

1. Villanova (41 first-place votes)
2. Michigan State (19)
3. Wichita State
4. Duke
5. Arizona State (5)
6. Miami
7. North Carolina
8. Kentucky
9. Texas A&M
10. Xavier
11. West Virginia
12. Gonzaga
13. Kansas
14. TCU
15. Seton Hall
16. Virginia
17. Purdue
18. Notre Dame
19. Florida State
20. Tennessee
21. Baylor
22. Florida
23. Arizona
24. Texas Tech
25. Cincinnati

Expelled Yale captain has enrolled at Belmont University

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Former Yale basketball captain Jack Montague, who was expelled from the Ivy League school in 2016 for sexual misconduct, has enrolled at Belmont University in Tennessee.

Montague, who is still suing to be readmitted to Yale, complained in a court deposition last spring that he was unable to apply to other schools. He said Yale would not release his transcript until he paid a disputed tuition bill.

Karen Schwartzman, a spokeswoman for Montague, says Yale later released the transcript, allowing Montague to enroll at Belmont this fall. She says not all of his credits transferred and he will need two semesters to graduate.

He exhausted his basketball eligibility at Yale.

Montague denies the sexual misconduct allegations. No criminal charges were ever sought.

Yale’s attorneys have said the school and its officials acted appropriately.

The lawsuit, which also seeks monetary damages, is expected to go to trial next year.