There are a number of fascinating conversations to have about the Top 25 this week, not the least of which is who should be ranked No. 1 in the country.
If you subscribe to the idea that losing should automatically drop you down, than it would make sense to move Oklahoma out of the top spot. But consider that A) The Sooners at Iowa State in a building called Hilton Magic because of how difficult it is for opponents to win, and B) Followed that up by going into Waco and totally dismantling the team that had been in sole possession of first place in the conference.
That’s not to say that it’s wrong to rank North Carolina No. 1. They’re still my pick to win the national title. They’re the only team that was ranked in the top eight last week that didn’t lose. They’re all alone in first place in the ACC with their only two losses this season coming by a combined six points, both of which were on the road.
But that’s just the beginning.
Where do we rank Iowa? They’re the hottest team in college basketball — I don’t even think that’s arguable — but are we really ready to rank the Hawkeyes as high as the top three? What about Texas A&M? Are they truly a top ten team? What should we make of the top two (Villanova and Xavier) in the Big East losing at home this week? Kansas and SMU got pounded on the road. Maryland lost but played their best basketball in weeks at Michigan State who snapped their own three-game losing streak with the win. West Virginia played their worst game of the season against Texas.
And then there are the likes of Providence, and Virginia, and Louisville.
Don’t even get me started on the back end of the top 25.
My point is that the various rankings that you’ll see for teams this week are going to be all over the pace.
That’s what happens in a year where no one seems to be all that good. Here’s the NBC Sports Top 25:
1. Oklahoma (16-2, LW: No. 1): We’re sticking with Oklahoma as the No. 1 team in the country this week. There’s not shame in losing at Iowa State, even if Iowa State hasn’t been quite as good as we expected this season, and what the Sooners did to Baylor on Saturday afternoon is illegal in 37 states. Here’s the most impressive part: Oklahoma has the inside track to the Big 12 regular season title.
2. North Carolina (18-2, LW: No. 2): The Tar Heels are cruising along in the ACC, although they have yet to play one of the other contenders in the conference. The big question now: Getting Marcus Paige’s shooting stroke figured out. Since he went for 30 points at Florida State two weeks ago, he’s scored 15 points in the last four games while shooting 5-for-35 from the floor. That’s not good.
3. Iowa (16-3, LW: No. 8): Yeah.
I’m doing it.
I’m now all-in on the Hawkeyes, who have started out Big Ten play with a sweep of Michigan State and a sweep of Purdue. Jarrod Uthoff is playing like a first-team all-american, Peter Jok is on a roll right now and Mike Gesell looks like the kid we’ve been waiting to see for three years. They’re tough, they actually defend and they’re not blowing leads this season. Can it last?
4. Kansas (16-3, LW: No. 3): The Jayhawks lost by 19 at Oklahoma State during the week, but they regrouped and came back from an early 12-point deficit in a fairly convincing win over Texas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Something to watch going forward: Bill Self cut his rotation after the loss in Stillwater.
Who got benched?
5. Villanova (17-3, LW: No. 4): When Kris Dunn is playing well, Providence’s supporting cast is hitting threes and Ben Bentil is playing like he’s Dwight Howard, the Friars can beat anyone in any gym in America. They did all of that to the Wildcats on Sunday. For my money, Villanova is still the best team in the Big East.
6. Xavier (17-2, LW: No. 5): Getting pushed around by Georgetown at home was not exactly a good look, but A) It was just Xavier’s second loss of the season and B) It came on a night where a sophomore point guard with 15 make field goals on the season popped off for 21 points and five threes. I’m not backing off the Musketeers yet.
7. Maryland (17-3, LW: No. 6): The trend of the Terps playing up — or down — to the level of their competition continued as Mark Turgeon’s team was taken to overtime at home by Northwestern and followed that up by giving Michigan State one helluva fight in East Lansing. Consistency out of Diamond Stone and Rasheed Sulaimon will be a key moving forward.
8. Texas A&M (17-2, LW: No. 11): The Aggies are probably the most underrated team in the country right now. Not in the sense that they should be ranked higher than this but in the fact that no one seems to be talking about them. This is a balanced, veteran group that is currently the favorite to win the SEC. Stay woke, fam.
9. West Virginia (16-3, LW: No. 7): The Mountaineers were awful in their loss to Texas at home on Wednesday, but they got eight points in 56 seconds from Tarik Phillip to avoid losing to Texas Tech on the road.
10. SMU (18-1, LW: No. 9): Here’s the question about SMU moving forward: Will they still have something to play for? Their motivation, without an NCAA tournament to look forward to, was a perfect season. That’s over, thanks to Temple.
11. Michigan State (17-4, LW: No. 10)
12. Providence (17-3, LW: No. 16)
13. Miami (15-3, LW: No. 14)
14. Virginia (15-4, LW: No. 15)
15. Baylor (15-4, LW: No. 13)
16. Iowa State (15-4, LW: No. 21)
17. Louisville (16-3, LW: No. 17)
18. Arizona (17-3, LW: No. 19)
19. Purdue (16-4, LW: No. 20)
20. Indiana (17-3, LW: No. 25)
21. Kentucky (15-4, LW: No. 23)
22. Oregon (16-4, LW: UR)
23. Wichita State (14-5, LW: UR)
24. USC (15-5, LW: No. 18)
25. Duke (15-5, LW: No. 25)
DROPPED OUT: No. 12 Butler, No. 22 South Carolina
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 22 Oregon, No. 23 Wichita State