College Top 25 Recap
A Top-25 breakdown for the week of January 19-26.
by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
With conference play in full swing and February right around the corner, it’s time to start getting ready for March Madness. Here’s a chance to catch up on all the action that went down in the Top 25 over the last week (or so), as well as games to look forward to over the next seven days. Be sure to check back every week for a recap and get your college hoops knowledge up!
1. Kentucky (20-1, 6-0)
The young Wildcats have now won 12 straight including six straight over SEC foes. Behind the strong defensive play of freshman Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and scoring output from sophomores Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones, Coach Calipari’s group looks like they have hit their stride at the right time. After beating Alabama and Georgia over the last week, the ‘Cats travel to LSU and then host Tennessee. With a weak SEC, look for UK to build on their strong play as the season goes on.
2. Missouri (18-1, 5-1)
Four days after beating Top-10 Baylor 89-88 in a dogfight of a game, Mizzou was stunned last night by Oklahoma State in Stillwater thanks to freshman LeBryan Nash’s breakout 27-point game. This loss shouldn’t be of any concern to Tiger fans though; it is tough to win conference games on the road; especially in a conference as deep as the Big 12. The Tigers have one of the most explosive offenses in the country and it all starts with Ricardo Ratliffe. The senior forward has been on a tear recently putting up 27 and 8 in Mizzou’s win over Baylor and 25 and 12 in last night’s loss. Missouri returns home to face Texas Tech on Saturday then travels to Austin for a matchup with Texas on Monday.
3. Syracuse (21-1, 8-1)
With emerging big man Fab Melo forced to stay at home due to academic issues, the former number one team in the nation dropped a Big East game in South Bend to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. But, ‘Cuse didn’t dwell on their loss and came out strong two days later to beat a tough Cincinatti team on the road. Syracuse has one of the most experienced (I seriously cannot believe Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine are still in school) teams in the nation, which will benefit them as they battle through a rigorous Big East schedule. After five days off, the Orange host West Viriginia on Saturday in a matchup that features two of the better small forwards in the country in Joseph and potential Big East POY Kevin Jones.
4. Ohio State (17-3, 5-2)
After being upset by Illinois in Champaign, the Buckeyes rebounded with blowout wins over Indiana and Nebraska. Although they have struggled on the road (Ohio State has dropped three games when traveling already this season), Thad Motta knows what it takes to win in the Big 10 and has the luxury of having an extremely talented, young frontcourt with sophomores Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas. Ohio State waxed Penn State 78-54 last night behind Sullinger’s 20 point 13 rebound performance. The Buckeyes get a few days rest before Michigan comes to town on Sunday to play arguably the biggest Big 10 conference game of the season thus far.
5. Kansas (17-3, 7-0)
The Jayhawks are playing some of the best ball in the country having won 10 straight including wins over Texas and Texas A&M in the past week. The ‘Hawks have been lead by junior forward Thomas Robinson who has been averaging a stellar 17.8 points and 12 rebounds a game while shooting 53 percent from the field. Combine those stats with senior guard Tyshawn Taylor’s 16.6 points and 5 assists per and the Jayhawks have one of the most lethal inside-outside combos in the nation. Kansas is sitting pretty atop the Big 12 and play Iowa State and Oklahoma before a huge showdown with Missouri on February 4.
6. Baylor (17-2, 5-2)
After dropping two in a row to conference foes Kansas and Missouri, the Bears stormed back with a win over Oklahoma behind a 21-point, 12 rebound effort by Perry Jones III. Baylor has one of the most talented starting lineups in the nation and all five starters average double figures in scoring. In a crowded top half of the Big 12, Baylor will need Quincy Miller and Perry Jones III to grow up fast if they want to win their conference and earn a potential No. 1 seed come March. The Bears host Texas on Saturday before heading to Texas A&M next Wednesday for a matchup with the Aggies.
7. North Carolina (16-3, 3-1)
After an embarrassing 33-point loss to Florida State, the Tar Heels recovered quickly and got back on track with a 14-point victory over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Carolina hosts NC State t0night in a pivotal matchup for a chance to regain ground in the ACC. Harrison Barnes dropped 27 against Virginia Tech and is now averaging 17.4 points and an alarmingly low 4.8 rebounds per. With Dexter Strickland lost for the season due to a torn ACL, Roy Williams needs one of his bench players to step up and give him solid minutes to ease the loss of Strickland.
8. Duke (16-3, 4-1)
After losing a heartbreaker to Florida State, the Blue Devils rolled into College Park and spoiled Gary Williams’ big night. Maryland, who honored long time coach Williams by naming their court after him prior to tip-off, had no answer for Mason Plumlee who scored 23 points and grabbed 12 boards in a 74-61 win. After getting off to a slow start, highly touted frosh Austin Rivers has settled in nicely down in Durham. He is now averaging 14 points a game but only 2 assists while playing 30 minutes a session. Hopefully he will become more polished during these crucial months and begin distributing the ball more regularly. The Red Storm of St. John’s travel to Cameron Indoor on Saturday for what is always a fun game. Following their matchup with the Johnnies, Duke gets a few days off before traveling to Virginia Tech.
9. Georgetown (16-3, 6-2)
The Hoyas are one of the most surprising teams of the season. After their incident in China, John Thompson’s squad banded together and proceeded to play some tremendous basketball and now find themselves in great position for a chance to win the Big East. After losing a tough one to Cincy, G’Town won three straight against St. John’s, DePaul and Rutgers. Led by senior guard Jason Clark, who dropped 31 against DePaul, the Hoyas travel to Pitt for a conference game with the underachieving Panthers before returning home to face a very talented UConn team.
10. Michigan State (16-4, 5-2)
Led by senior forward Draymond Green, the Spartans are, once again, right in the thick of things as the season progresses. After a tough loss to rival Michigan, State came back and blew out Purdue and Minnesota in back to back games. Last night’s victory against the Gophers turned out to be a monumental win for head coach Tom Izzo. Izzo, who has been one of the most successful coaches of all time, notched his 400th career win, an incredible achievement. Sparty now has 6 days to celebrate with their coach before taking the floor in Illinois. Izzo’s squad better not get caught looking ahead to their rematch with Michigan on the 5th.
11. Murray State (20-0, 8-0)
Hailing from the little known Ohio Valley Conference, Murray State is now the only undefeated team remaining in Division I basketball. Although it is tough to gauge just how good the Racers are considering they play a relatively weak schedule compared to the rest of their Top-25 counterparts, 20 straight wins is nothing to sneeze at—regardless of conference. Behind junior guard Isaiah Cannan’s 18.7 points, Murray State has been breezing through conference play and with games against Eastern Illinois and SE Missouri State scheduled over the next week, their regular-season dominance should continue.
12. UNLV (18-3, 2-1)
UNLV has emerged has one of the top teams in the West this year and will be a team to keep an eye on come March. The Rebels are a high scoring, efficient and unselfish team; they average 81 points, 39.8 rebounds and 18.4 assists a game while shooting 47 percent from the field. Led by double-double machine Mike Moser, UNLV has beaten both Carolina and Illinois already this season, proving that they can compete with the big boys. Last night they survived a scare against lowly Boise State on the road, winning 77-72 in overtime. The Runnin’ Rebels continue conference play on Saturday against Air Force, then return home to play Colorado State on February 1.