It was a relatively calm week of college basketball, as only two lower-ranked/unranked teams pulled off an upset in the 22 games featuring at least one ranked squad on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
FULL RANKINGS: AP Top 25
Still, there was plenty of important action. Perhaps most crucial: Kansas downed Baylor in Waco, Texas, on Saturday, and while the Jayhawks didn’t budge in this week’s rankings, the Bears fell from No. 4 to No. 9.
The Jayhawks’ win, along with their triumphant overtime victory against West Virginia on Monday, means they’ll likely capture their 13th Big 12 title in a row. Baylor would have loved to have snapped the streak, but the Bears now have five conference losses and are on the outside looking in. After a sizzling start, Scott Drew’s squad has lost four of its last six games; Baylor’s résumé is still mightily impressive, but the Bears are coming back down to earth. Residing in the top 10 of the rankings is something to be proud of, but Baylor needs to recapture its early-season form in order to avoid plummeting even further.With Baylor falling, a trio of Pac-12 schools — Arizona, UCLA and Oregon — each rose one spot. The Pac-12’s depth is suspect, but its elite teams are just that: elite. Arizona has one loss since Dec. 3, and it came to Oregon on the road, which has two losses since Nov. 21. UCLA is back to lighting up the scoreboards, as the Bruins blew out crosstown rival Southern California by 32 on Saturday. But most importantly, UCLA is getting its act together on the defensive side of the ball; Steve Alford’s crew hasn’t allowed 80 points or more in its current five-game winning streak. Even when UCLA was winning earlier this season (and usually, with ease), teams would routinely throw up more than 80 points against them. If this Bruins defense has turned a corner, beware, college basketball.
There were no major risers in this week’s poll, but one team that’s picking up some steam is Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish moved from 25th to 21st, and they’re in the midst of a four-game winning streak after dropping four in a row.
Notre Dame has seven losses, but all of them are defensible. The Fighting Irish have fallen to Purdue, Villanova, Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Florida State and Georgia Tech (perhaps the hardest to explain, but at least it was on the road).
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As usual, the Irish are lethal offensively. Bonzie Colson is one of the most productive players in America. V.J. Beachem is one of the smoothest wings in the country. Matt Farrell continues to orchestrate everything with a sense of calm confidence. Notre Dame takes care of the ball — its 14.3 percent turnover rate ranks third in the country, which gives its shooters plenty of cracks at the goal. The Irish lead the country in free-throw percentage and are hitting almost 40 percent of their 3s. The names change, but Notre Dame continues to be a problem for ACC opponents every season.
There is one new team in this week’s rankings, and that’s Wichita State. The Shockers are doing what they always do: running through the Missouri Valley Conference. Wichita State has won nine games in a row and sits at a pristine 25-4 on the year. Gregg Marshall’s teams are always stout defensively, but statistically, this team has a higher adjusted offensive efficiency rating (118.3) than the 35-1 2013-14 team did (117.1).
The Shockers have a number of players that can beat you. Sophomore Markis McDuffie, a rangy 6-foot-8 wing with an impressive collection of physical tools, leads the team in scoring. Conner Frankamp is making 43 percent of his 3s, and Landry Shamet is right there with him. Wichita State boasts a healthy mix of shooters, passers and slashers; it also seems to be peaking at the right time. Look out for these guys come March.