We’re fresh off of another college basketball week defined by craziness, and the newest AP Poll reflects as much.
MORE: Full AP Top 25
Last week’s Nos. 2, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 9 teams all lost. If the non-conference portion of the season made it look like 2016-17 would be dominated by bluebloods, the conference slate has proven otherwise. Any team can lose on any given night.
The biggest riser in this week’s rankings is No. 5 Oregon, which throttled Arizona at home by 27 points over the weekend. The Wildcats were among the nation’s hottest teams going into Saturday, and the Ducks flat-out dominated them; Oregon has ripped off 18 wins in its last 19 outings after a shaky start.
Dillon Brooks was injured at the beginning of the season, and the Ducks struggled to find their footing. On the outside, that was slightly concerning; Brooks is Oregon’s best player, but what made the Ducks so tough last season was the vast array of offensive weapons they boasted. Guys like Tyler Dorsey, Dylan Ennis and Jordan Bell struggled in November, but that’s looking more and more like an anomaly as the season wears on.After Kansas’ loss to Iowa State, Oregon now holds the longest home winning streak in the country. With that said, five of the Ducks’ last seven games are on the road. Oregon will need to stay hot in difficult environments in order to remain in the top five.
Another team that jumped in the rankings this week is Louisville, which sits at No. 4 in the nation. The Cardinals have the nation’s top defense, and they outscored their past three opponents by an average of 34.3 points. Louisville has a date with Virginia on Monday night, which could be troublesome — the Cavaliers have given Rick Pitino’s squad fits in recent memory. The Cards will be without several key players, so if they prevail, it will be a huge step towards earning a high NCAA tournament seed. But if they fall, they likely won’t be docked too heavily in next week’s poll.Moving on to a few teams that dropped in this week’s rankings — Baylor is down to No. 6 after losing to Kansas and Kansas State, while Kentucky plummets to No. 15 after falling to Florida.
Baylor has already compiled so many quality wins that a few setbacks won’t be terribly damaging, but the Bears likely would have stood pat had they taken care of business against the Wildcats. They didn’t, and that’s just proof that there’s no such thing as a night off in the Big 12. Kansas State is 5-5 in the league, but it’s already taken down West Virginia and Baylor; the Wildcats also nearly won at Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 3. Texas and Oklahoma are down this season, but they can catch you on the right night, too. Life in the Big 12 means you’ll have several opportunities to build up high-level wins, but if you don’t bring your A-game, prepare to get nipped.
Meanwhile, Kentucky is in its biggest funk of the season. The Wildcats have lost three of four, and their only win went to overtime against Georgia at Rupp Arena. UK’s defense has struggled as of late — it’s surrendered 82.5 points per game during that stretch.
Kentucky really struggles to contain medium-sized wings. De’Aaron Fox and Isaiah Briscoe are good defenders, but there’s not much either of them can do when going up against, say, a Josh or Justin Jackson. Bam Adebayo is a good interior defender, but he’s not a great one, and Kentucky has gotten inconsistent production out of its power forward spot all year.
At the end of the day, Kentucky is talented enough to get hot for a few weeks in March and reach the Final Four. But it’s not talented enough to cruise through the SEC. The Wildcats have more than enough time to right the ship, but they need to get back to the basics in order to rise back up in the rankings.