A lot has happened this week to shake up the college basketball landscape. Duke is back atop the polls after a one week hiatus. Some wins by top teams are less impressive than originally believed; some losses now look worse.
Well, you can call me Eminem, because I’m back with a brand new rap. I guess I should say wrap. Anyway, here is my wrap on this week’s top 5 in College Basketball. (Spoiler: it’s different from my top 5 from last week.) PS: If you hate Duke like a majority of America, perhaps this article is not for you.
Despite a recent home loss to Wisconsin (who turned around and lost to an unranked, but potentially dangerous, Iowa team,) I have to put the preseason #1 in my top 5. Cody Zeller is arguably the best big man in the country along with Duke’s Mason Plumlee. They have the top 3 pt shooter in the country in Jordan Hulls. Indiana boasts a diaper dandy (term essentially property of Dick Vitale) in Yogi Ferrell, which balances out their upperclassmen leadership from Watford and Oladipo. The Hoosiers boast depth on depth on depth. Seriously, they make the Pacific Ocean look shallow. Also, the Hoosiers get a little bit of a break (as far as breaks in the Big Ten go) with their upcoming schedule, not playing ranked teams back to back until late February. I expect Indiana to go on a tear coming up that will solidify them as one of the four #1 seeds come the Big Dance. As of right now, they’ll be at the bottom of my top 5.
Syracuse is staying at #4 for a few reasons. They did have an impressive win over Louisville at the YUM Center (I love saying that,) but followed it up with a close win at home vs. a Cincy team that had struggled to start off Big East play. I think Cincy is a good team, but I expected Syracuse to dominate the Bearcats, especially at the Carrier Dome. My main reason for keeping the Orange at #4 is not their fault though. Following Louisville’s close loss to ‘Cuse, the Cardinals lost by 9 to struggling Villanova, a loss that makes Syracuse’s win lose some luster. Relatively speaking, the Big East is down this year, and I don’t see another game on the Orange’s schedule in which they won’t be favored. However, the Big East is the Big East, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they slip up once or twice. However, as long as they finish with about two or three losses (they only have one right now,) they should lock up a #1 seed.
Michigan followed up a tough loss to Ohio State by hanging on to win a game at the Barn, one of the most unique venues and toughest places to play in the sport. This, along with three straight unranked opponents, makes me still believe Michigan is the team to beat in the Big Ten. The only team I really see Michigan losing to for the rest of the season is Indiana (because they are typically monsters at home, minus the game against Wisconsin.) Trey Burke is the favorite to win the Cousy award, and he should lock it up with a Big Ten championship. It physically, mentally, and spiritually hurts me to have Michigan in my top 3, but this team deserves it.
Just casually pulling off a 16-game win streak, but that is not anything unusual in Lawrence. Ben McLemore’s stock seems to be rising with each game as he emerges as a leader (he’s only a redshirt freshman.) Despite almost blowing a game to Texas, Kansas showed grit in pulling that off. As an encore, they decided to walk into their rival’s gym in Manhattan, KS and beat K-State (ranked #11 and #13 at the time.) That was their toughest game remaining, and the only ranked team they play the rest of the way is Kansas State again, but this time it will be in Allen Fieldhouse, a place where Jayhawks are usually the only team to survive. This is also a team that is only getting better as the season goes on. It’s like in the original Spiderman movie; Spidey was kind of powerful at the beginning, but by the end, when he had controlled his power, he was downright unbeatable. (It’s just a coincidence that both Kansas and Spiderman’s uniforms are red and blue.)
The Blue Devil’s top spot could be in jeopardy, but I have to keep them here for now. Remember when they had beaten the #2, #3, and #4 teams in the country before December? Well, none of those teams (Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State) are looking as sharp as previously believed. Also, their one loss (to NC State) is even more glaring because of State dropping two of their last three (the Maryland loss not too bad; the Wake Forest loss bad enough to make up for the Maryland one.) One thing is clear: Ryan Kelly needs to come back. The ACC isn’t where is has been in recent years, so any loss is sure to set the Blue Devils back a bit. A game against #25 Miami (FL) is big, so we will see how the Fighting Coach K’s can do against their first ranked opponent since the loss to NC State.
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