Well, I didn’t even beat Mark Titus to the punch this week, but I can only do my best. Luckily, the “Real” Top 25 gets some added hindsight the ridiculous AP Poll doesn’t have the luxury of (like when it ranked Syracuse 12th). Let’s do it, boys and girls.
The “Real” Top 25
#25 St. Mary’s: I realize I’m far too friendly toward Mid-Major teams, but I couldn’t help but give St. Mary’s a nudge after they crushed Creighton (who one ESPN analyst called “possibly the greatest mid-major team ever”). The Gaels have only lost to Gonzaga in the WCC (which obviously is terrible, but there is nothing a team can do but beat the teams it has to play). You can expect the Gaels to see the Zags once more in the WCC Championship with ideas of avenging the two losses this year…while possibly garnering a seed as high as 6 in the Big Dance.
#24 UNLV: I said we’d find out a lot about Colorado State this week and boy did we. The Rams lost both of their big games and have fallen out of the “Real” Top 25 due to its shameful performance. The Running Rebels want to be a good team, I can just see it in their eyes. The problem arises when they step onto the hardwood from time-to-time. There are four pretty good teams in the Mountain West (RISE!) and UNLV is an impressive 4-2 against the other three. If the Rebs played to their full potential every night, they’d be one scary-ass team to see come March. They are one of those teams bracketsters hate because they just go crazy in a game as a 7 and beat a 2 and you rip your hair out…or maybe a #15, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
#23 Illinois: Did they sneak up on you? The Illini have definitely snuck up on me. Just a few weeks ago they were dead in the water and looked to be headed toward the NIT…sorry, CBI*, but these days Illinois is just winning basketball games (Save its most recent against Michigan). Illinois rallied to 5 straight Big Ten wins. The other teams to do that this season? Indiana and Michigan State.
#22 Memphis: Well hell, the Tigers finally lost a game in the Cintas Center against Xavier on Tuesday. It looked like they might just roll forever, but eventually even the great ones fall. I saw a distinct lack of shot faking in the game and I cannot help but assume this is to blame for the defeat. The Tigers have not been known for their shot faking, but all the great….well, good teams have that one guy who does it every Goddamn possession. Memphis needs one if they wish to become a contender come March.
#21 Notre Dame: You just keep winning, don’t you Notre Dame? No matter how many times I kick you down, you always get right back on your Goddamn feet. You get embarrassed at Providence and finally I see light at the end of this hazy tunnel which is your team (YES THEY REALLY ARE BAD!), but then you go and win in Pittsburgh and at home against the incessantly offensively challenged Cincinnati Bearcats…if you’re going to win, please just do it. I cannot have you wavering between spots on my list any longer. It’s going to break me.
#20 Ohio State: Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Aaron Craft finally took the ball to the basket in the win over Michigan State and supplied some firepower aside from DeShaun Thomas and his pencil mustache. Yes, crushing Minnesota was also fun, but the Bucks are on the short list of America’s most inconsistent teams. At least some of the top ranked teams are consistently cardio-cursing (see Miami Hurricanes), but the Bucks seem to either play amazing or just plain abysmal. It’ll take poor facial hair and rosy cheeks to win in March, but for now Columbus can wade into the depths of beliefs….until a thrashing in Bloomington on March 5th.
#19 St. Louis: I hate that the Bilikins beat my VCU Rams…and by beat I mean take to the woodshed. I knew Butler was going to lose at home against St. Lou, but did you have to beat VCU? I still might’ve considered you for the list! Jeez, Bilikins! You not only have the one mascot who haunts my dreams (it eats children), but you beat my A-10 constant in the rankings? You suck.
#18 Wisconsin: The Badgers didn’t really do anything wrong to cause this drop in the rankings, but there were teams who played beter and jumped them…plus you all know I hate this team so pretty much any opportunity to drop them is like candy for me………I have nothing more to say.
#17 Florida: Sure, I have the benefit of knowing Florida lost to Tennessee, but the AP should have known that was going to happen anyway. Tennessee has been playing great roundball and it was in Knoxville. Everyone was expecting Florida to get upset, taking the Gators would have been the bold prediction in my mind. The loss to Missouri last week also hurt a little, but hey, it’s all downhill from here for Florida. I expect them to rip through Bama because they’re mad as all hell that they lost to the Vols. Vanderbilt at home is like a gimme and if they don’t slaughter Kentucky without Nerlens Noel I’m going to seriously begin questioning this team’s ability to win.
#16 Middle Tennessee State: Say what you want, but the Raiders of Middle Tennessee are without a doubt the most overlooked mid-major in the country. They received 2 votes in the AP this week, which is bogus. They’re sitting pretty at 25-4 and I know you’re going to ask “Adam, who are those four losses to?!?!”, well, avid reader and sports fan, I’ll tell you. Middle Tennessee has lost four road games, three of which were to likely tournament teams. Early in the season, Florida grounded them into a fine powder, but it was early and some teams need to find an identity. You’re probably saying, “Shouldn’t Florida have needed to be finding its identity?” Well, curious reader, the Gators returned four starters and a fifth guy who played a helluva a lot, so no they knew they’re identity because its pretty much the same team minus Bradley Beal…anyway, the other losses were on the road to Akron in overtime, on the road to Belmont by 15 (yucky) and on the road to Arkansas State in overtime. Sure the Ark State loss is heinous…but they’re probably better than TCU.
#15 Syracuse: I could not in good conscience put the Orange ahead of Marquette. Being competent (like Jim Boeheim apparently is not) I would suggest when Syracuse plays a good team they refrain from jacking up a bunch’o threes like they drippin’. 33% against Marquette is not completely miserable, but 20% against Georgetown and 17% against UConn definitely constitute terrible…also, when playing Georgetown it appears safe to say Otto Porter needs to be guarded at minimum as tightly as the other players for the Hoyas. Now that, Orangemen, was a player who was drippin’!
#14 Marquette: There you are, Peter! (I recommend fast forwarding to about :55 in that link…or just ignore it). Marquette is 20-7 and I understand your rage at mine placing them here, loyal reader, but honestly I was at a loss of which teams lower should be ranked higher? Facts remain facts and the Golden Eagles are second in the second best conference in America. I wish these bros weren’t such a confusing team. One day they play a great game and the next I’m flipping to the old fall back program. I hope they can manage a 3-0 finish, but for some reason Notre Dame thinks it can win consistently now, so beware the Irish visiting Wisconsin (dreary old, cheese-filled, meat-packing Wisconsin) on March second (SATURDAY!!)
#13 Oklahoma State: I feel too harsh sometimes when I condemn teams for losses, especially to good teams. Sure, Okie State saw its win in Phog Allen be pretty much neutralized by a loss in Stillwater to Kansas, but the Cowboys took the Jaybirds to two editions of overtime before succumbing. Beating teams on the road never hurts, even if they are below .500 like West Virginia. The toughest game left may be heading to Ames, Iowa where you know Iowa State will be waiting to pounce and give a highly ranked team its best punches. I really really hope ESPN broadcasts the game, because it’ll be a strong one.
#12 Arizona: Step 1 of winning out complete by obliterating Washington and Washington State, but honestly I think a pee wee team could have just the task. March second is a contest with UCLA is So-Cal and it sure to be a thriller. It may even be broadcast on a station aside from Fox Sports Network, so buckle up for that! Arizona needs Solomon Hill (not Mark Lyons) to be its go to guy. Hill is a better athlete with more size who was riding some Wooden lists early in the year.
#11 Louisville: The Cardinals are looking more and more like the team everyone thought they could be. I’m still a little frightened at Peyton Siva’s continuing struggles, but they are no longer enough of struggles to be costing the Cardinals games…granted the games have been against St. John’s, South Florida, and Seton Hall; you have to start somewhere. Can the Cards go undefeated? Absolutely. Will they? Absolutely not. Siva’s struggles will cost them a win in one of the four remaining games….oh, and I must remind the Cardinals there are no easy games in the Big East except DePaul.
#10 Kansas State: Remember all those Bruce Weber Illinois teams which couldn’t win in February and March? Yeah, they’re getting a little hazy for me too. four straight dubs with two looming on the horizon @ Baylor and home against TCU should set up a cute little matchup with Oklahoma State in Okieville. Will Spradling continues to look utterly out of place on the basketball court which is rather amusing for the casual (or ardent) college basketball fan.
#9 Miami Florida: I could only keep you at #1 for so long, Miami. You had to go and fail me and in mayhaps the most embarrassing fashion: against Wake Forest. I swear to all which is holy if you allow Duke to win the ACC regular season crown I’ll slap every last one of you across the face and you will sit there and take it like men because it may just teach you a little lessen in toughness which you showed none against the horrendous Demoned Deacons. I said good-day!
#8 Michigan State: Before anyone panics, realize Michigan State will do the exact same thing it does every year. Look a little shaky down the stretch, lose early in the Big Ten Tournament (because Izzo gives no f***s) and end up winning every NCAA Tournament game by like 5 or 6 before reaching the Elite Eight and every looks around thinking, “How did they do this again?” whilst Izzo sits atop his throne of kingship as the best coach in the country (I mean imagine if he had the talent K, Roy Williams, and John Callipari raked in every off-season?) laughing at the peons folding early in tourney play. Anyway, Michigan State lost at Ohio State, but it’s no reason to doubt Sparty as a team. Every team on this list has suffered a worse loss. Sure, they lost at home agaisnt Indiana, but the Hoosiers were playing their best basketball and gave Michigan State its best punch…only to win by 4. Michigan and Wisconsin are scheduled this week, so there is no time to lick the 2 game wounds.
#7 New Mexico: I’m not, no I’m not. No team on this entire list save Gonzaga has as quality losses as New Mexico. They haven’t loss to Minnesota, TCU, Maryland. Granted, losing to South Dakota State is nothing to be proud of, but the Jackrabbits are not nearly as poor as the readers would believe. I’d take SDSU over a lot of the teams on this list come March for two reasons: 1) they can shoot the lights out and 2) they’ll be massively overlooked by whomever they play. The other three losses are on the road to Saint Louis (a team which now seems really strong), my Aztecs, and UNLV. They knocked upstart Colorado State down a peg away from The Pit which combined with zero losses make it one of the better weeks for any team on the list. New Mexico is good and they’ll be sitting pretty at 27-4 come tourney time.
#6 Duke: Having to rank Duke this high is really really hard. Knowing they’ll probably crush Miami in Durham makes things a little more sour. Add that to my gut wrenching fear of the Blue Devils miraculously winning the ACC regular season crown and I’m about to have to stop typing this damn list.
#5 Kansas: Five straight wins off of three straight losses is nice. The Jayhawks got a boost from some suspect officials’ work and soem guy named Elijah Johnson en route to taking down Iowa State in overtime in Ames. A double overtime affair in Stillwater sandwiched a revenge game against TCU. Overall, Kansas should coast into the Big 12 tourney at 27-4.
#4 Michigan: The AP and I actually have the Wolvs in the same spot…now things are getting a little awkward. It’s going to be tough to see if they can win either home game against MSU or IU the next two Sundays. We all know what type of talent Michigan has (and by “we” I mean both myself and the AP), but will they ever mesh into the Final Four caliber team they’ve been hyped to be?
#3 Georgetown: I think I may have epitomized a Georgetown game last week when I said, “the margin never really gets too wide, but it seems the Hoyas are never in an ounce of danger.” That description came after watching the Hoyas play Cincinnati and Marquette, but it holds more merit after they played ‘Cuse last week. I must admit, I was a little giddy watching the Hoyas win in the Carrier Dome after having ranked them so high….AP, get on my goddamn level! Dear Georgetown, don’t lose to UConn tonight. Thanks!
#2 Gonzaga: I know Indiana lost to Minnesota last night. I know the Zags have only lost to Illinois and Butler (although, Butler is terrible). I know it seems the Zags should be ranked #1. In all seriousness, I know the AP will put them #1 and in a fresh state of mind I cannot put a team which has rolled through the abominable West Coast Conference ahead of a team which has played extremely well in the nation’s best conference even when the Zags have looked unbelievable. The ESPN analyst (I’ll continue to protect his identity) who called Creighton the best mid-major ever might have misspoken and meant this Gonzaga team. The Foreigners may not be the best mid-major ever, but I do believe they have the best shot of any ever to win the National Championship since the #1 seeded Memphis which lost to Kansas in the Championship.
#1 Indiana: Don’t talk to me about last night. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want anyone to question Indiana being here. Just deal with the fact that a Big Ten team deserves to be ranked #1 so long as it doesn’t fall into utter disarray…which for the Hoosiers might be one more loss.
Player of the Year:
Victor Oladipo; just look at the last few posts.
Coach of the Year:
Middle Tennessee head coach Kermit Davis: If Middle Tennessee wins out, I expect Kermit to get exactly zero votes from anyone besides me.
Most Underrated Team:
By me? Probably Oregon still. I don’t even have them ranked. By the AP? A two’fer, Georgetown and Middle Tennessee: The Hoyas have been better than anyone the last few weeks and Middle Tennessee is Gonzaga without the relative prestige
Most Overrated Teams
By me? Probably New Mexico, but you know how I like my winners. By the AP? Butler forever.
National Champion at This Juncture:
I want a team which has the horses to get there, a coach who knows how to get there, and they haven’t look like shit the entire season. Call my a front-runner, but Indiana takes over this role.
1) Butler is going to lose again this week to VCU on the road and FINALLY fall from the to