My weekly AP top 25 ballot
I really love this time of year in college basketball. I mean, I enjoy the entire season. But when teams get in the teeth of conference play, they have often have to adjust to maintain or improve their play. It’s all about gearing up for March Madness and we’re now one day short of seven weeks until Selection Sunday.
Putting together my ballot this week offered a chance to see how teams are doing in their maturation.
Two of last year’s Final Four teams – Syracuse and Wichita State – look like teams that can get back to the big party in Dallas this spring.
Florida is playing its best basketball of the season, having won 11 consecutive games. The Gators only losses were at Wisconsin and at Connecticut – both tight games. They haven’t lost to anyone since Dec. 2. I think the Gators would get a No. 1 seed if tournament started today. Thus, they are in at No. 4 in my Top 25.
Villanova falls out of the top five after that embarrassing home loss to unranked Creighton. Sure the Bluejays have player of the year candidate Doug McDermott. But a 28-point loss on your home court? Yeesh. Down to No. 9.
Kansas has four losses, more than any other top 10 team. But the Jayhawks are capable of playing deep into March and they’ve played a challenging schedule. They’ve won 9 of their last 10 and three of their losses – Florida, San Diego State, Villanova – are to fellow top 10 teams. Kansas has wins over top 25ers Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Baylor over the last three weeks.
As for Duke, I dropped the Blue Devils out of my top 25 immediately following their loss at Clemson. But Duke is transforming and is playing its best basketball of the season right now so it is back on the cusp of the top 10 in my opinion..
The four-game winning streak, outside of the win over Virginia, has come against inferior competition. But the win over Florida State, at home admittedly, came in dominating fashion. This week’s games at Pittsburgh and Syracuse will tell us how far the Blue Devils have come and whether they are truly top-10 caliber again.
Michigan (15-4) is moving up like a rocket. The Wolverines also have four losses but they have knocked off top-25 teams Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin over the last two weeks. Clearly a better team than the one Duke beat in December at Cameron Indoor Stadium
At the bottom of the poll, Creighton and Gonzaga re-enter. I dropped the Bluejays like a rock when they lost at Providence in ugly fashion. The stunning win at Villanova got my attention again followed by an impressive win over Georgetown. At 16-3, Creighton deserves a low vote in the poll.
Same for Gonzaga at No. 25. Zags have an impressive 18-3 record and are rolling through the West Coast Conference, save for a loss at Portland. Not great, but worthy of No. 25.
Here's my full ballot:
3. Wichita State
5. San Diego State
6. Oklahoma State
10. Michigan State
15. Iowa State
16. Saint Louis
24. Ohio State