This week was a bloodbath for the top 25, as 12 of the teams that entered the week ranked ended up losing. Three members of the top 10 — Michigan State, Miami and Duke — lost both of their games this week. Then-No. 1 Kansas lost at West Virginia. Then-No. 3 Maryland lost at Michigan. Virginia, Providence, Iowa State, Kentucky and South Carolina all lost to unranked opponents.
Like I said, it was a bloodbath.
But it shouldn’t be all that surprising, not if you’ve been paying attention.
Back in November, I wrote this column, which essentially said this season is going to be wide open because an uninspiring freshman class combined with a lack of clustering of talented newcomers meant that there really wasn’t a team in the country that is all that intimidating. That column got some pushback, but it looks pretty smart now, doesn’t it?
(Excuse me while I pat myself on the back.)
Anyway, the point is that all of the teams at the top of the polls — and at the top of the standings in every major conference — are flawed. North Carolina is soft. Maryland can’t blow teams out. Villanova shoots too many three at too low of a percentage. Kansas has depth but doesn’t have a go-to guy that intimidates opponents. Oklahoma has Buddy Hield but their bench is a question mark. West Virginia struggles defending in the half court. Xavier doesn’t have a true point guard. SMU doesn’t have any depth. I can’t fully trust Iowa, at least not yet.
I could go on and on, but you get the point.
There are no great teams this season.
Anyone in the country is susceptible to getting picked off on the road in league play, which is why weeks like the one we just had won’t feel that out of the norm come March.
And while last season’s star power was great to track all season long, a wide open season means wide open league races, so get ready for some wild swings this season.
We’re just getting started.
Anyway, here’s the top 25:
1. Oklahoma (15-1, LW: No. 2): Khadeem Lattin redeemed himself on Saturday afternoon, tipping home a missed layup with 2.8 seconds left to knock off West Virginia in Norman. That win is what vaults the Sooners into the top spot, although it may not last for long; Oklahoma will be playing at Iowa State on Monday night.
2. North Carolina (16-2, LW: No. 5): For my money, the Tar Heels are still the most talented team in the country and my pick to win the national title. It was nice to see Kennedy Meeks return to form in Saturday’s win over N.C. State, but unless Marcus Paige can find a way to be “Marcus Paige” again, the Tar Heels do have a ceiling.
3. Kansas (15-2, LW: No. 1): There’s no shame in losing at West Virginia, although it was a bit worrisome how rattled Frank Mason and Wayne Selden looked dealing with that press.
4. Villanova (16-2, LW: No. 6): Villanova’s made a concerted effort to change the kind of threes that they take — nothing quick and contested, play inside-out — and it’s made a different. This looks like a different team than the one that was embarrassed by Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor. Josh Hart is the nation’s most under-appreciated super star.
5. Xavier (16-1, LW: No. 8): Xavier’s only loss this season came at Villanova in a game where their star lead guard Edmond Sumner was stretchered off the floor with a head injury that kept him off the court for two weeks. Maybe we should be talking about this group more?
6. Maryland (16-2, LW: No. 3): The Terps finally got burned at Michigan. They entered the game 15-1 in games decided by six points or less with Trimble on the roster, losing to Michigan by three in a game where Caris LeVert didn’t even suit up. Yes, it was a road game in league play, but that is concerning, as well Melo Trimble’s poor performance.
7. West Virginia (15-2, LW: No. 14): I was far more impressed with West Virginia’s performance in their loss at Oklahoma than I was the Sooners’. The emergence of Jaysean Paige has been huge, as has WVU’s ability to avoid being a sieve defensively if teams beat their pressure.
8. Iowa (13-3, LW: No. 15): The collapse never came against Michigan State, as the Hawkeyes blew out the Spartans on the road en route to a spot atop the Big Ten standings. This group is tougher than past Iowa teams. How long will it last?
9. SMU (17-0, LW: No. 11): The Mustangs haven’t beaten anyone of note. That’s a concern. That said, look at how many teams are losing games they should not be losing this season. That hasn’t happened to SMU yet, which is as notable as any win that any team ranked above them has.
10. Michigan State (16-3, LW: No. 4): The Spartans were run off the court at home in a game where they were out-toughed by Iowa. They went into the Kohl Center and gave a game away in the final 30 seconds. Tom Izzo teams don’t do that.
11. Texas A&M (15-2, LW: No. 16)
12. Butler (13-4, LW: No. 17)
13. Baylor (14-3, LW: No. 18)
14. Miami (13-3, LW: No. 7)
15. Virginia (13-4, LW: No. 9)
16. Providence (15-3, LW: No. 10)
17. Louisville (14-3, LW: No. 21)
18. USC (15-3, LW: No. 22)
19. Arizona (15-3, LW: No. 25)
20. Purdue (15-3, LW: No. 23)
21. Iowa State (13-4, LW: No. 19)
22. South Carolina (16-1, LW: No. 20)
23. Kentucky (13-4, LW: No. 12)
24. Duke (14-4, LW: No. 13)
25. Indiana (15-3, LW: UR)
DROPPED OUT: No. 24 Pitt
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 25 Indiana