Here's a look at the newest AP Top 25 college basketball rankings, which features the same top four as last week's AP Poll but some changes after that:
|15||North Carolina State||13-1||674||18|
Others receiving votes: Villanova 56, Wisconsin 45, Iowa 40, Minnesota 23, Purdue 20, Nebraska 15, Maryland 14, Seton Hall 14, Alabama 7, UCF 6, Louisville 3, Texas 2, Arizona St 1, Florida 1, North Texas 1.
We'll start with a quick word on Gonzaga, which rose into the top five after regular-season wins over Santa Clara and Cal St. Bakersfield. There's not much we can glean from those two games, but because Nevada and Kansas lost, the Bulldogs were the logical choice to move up.
That's the benefit of playing such a loaded nonconference schedule when you're the clear favorite to win your league championship. Gonzaga played plenty of good opponents and beat plenty of good opponents in November and December, and it figures to run through the WCC as usual. Teams ahead of the Bulldogs will continue to fall. Killian Tillie returned to action against Santa Clara, and this team will have the luxury of being able to use the next few months to experiment with different lineup combinations before March. Don't be shocked to see them wind up in the top three soon.
MORE: USA Today Coaches Poll
Texas Tech was another team that rose this week after notching Big 12 wins over West Virginia and Kansas State, rising three spots to No. 8. The Red Raiders still have the No. 1 defense in the nation and didn't allow either of those teams to crack 60 points.
The Red Raiders have a proven winning formula: an elite defense, and a legitimate superstar in Jarrett Culver. Culver is averaging 18.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists on 56 percent shooting. And he only went 2-for-7 against the Wildcats. He's probably not going to win the Naismith, but he absolutely deserves to be in the discussion. The Big 12 Player of the Year debate between Culver and Dedric Lawson is going to be fascinating, too.
Speaking of Kansas, the Jayhawks dropped two spots to No. 7 after falling to Iowa State, but perhaps more importantly, they lost Udoka Azubuike for the season. Kansas is a basketball team that will still win a lot of games without him, but this much is undeniable: it lowers the Jayhawks' ceiling. Lawson and Azubuike formed what was arguably the most dangerous frontcourt in the country. Considering how young Kansas' backcourt is, that was going to have to carry them deep in March.
The Jayhawks should still be expected to win the Big 12 until... well, they don't. But Texas Tech has a prime opportunity.
Nevada was another prominent school that fell this week, dropping to No. 10 after losing its first game of the season to New Mexico. The game wasn't close; it was an ugly loss. But it's not too damaging for the Wolf Pack's resume. Losing a shot at an undefeated season is never a good feeling, and perhaps it's troubling that Nevada wasn't competitive against a team that was 7-6 going in.
But Nevada can still snag a top-four NCAA tournament seed if it rebounds. That said, it's worth watching more closely to see if that was simply an off night, or if the Wolf Pack have some issues to figure out.
There wasn't much drastic movement in the rest of the poll, but three new schools joined the fray in No. 20 Iowa State, No. 24 St. John's and No. 25 TCU.
These teams have all been impressive as of late, but the Cyclones really deserve praise. They smoked Kansas by 17, and they now have top-20 units on both sides of the floor. Iowa State is one of only six teams who can say that. Balance is key; the Cyclones don't have an obvious weakness to exploit, and Marial Shayok has been a massive addition as a transfer from Virginia.
And St. John's has a good shot to win the Big East if it keeps playing like this. Or, if Shamorie Ponds keeps playing like this. Ponds has scored 63 points in his last two games and is one of the top pick-and-roll players in the country.
We're just more than two months away from Selection Sunday and March Madness. The best time of year is rapidly approaching, but enjoy the madness along the way to the national championship.