Campus Sports Top 25: There’s a new sheriff at the top

It’s been another great week of college basketball, with stunning upsets left and right. One team took a shocking stumble, and another just seems unstoppable.

No time to dally. Let’s get right into the latest Top 25.

 

No. 1: Michigan State (9-0)

Can anyone stop the Spartans? It seems doubtful at this point. Michigan State has proven to be a team that can beat you in so many ways, with so many different players on top of star guard Denzel Valentine chipping in. Even after an emotional come-from-behind win over Louisville last week, the team stormed strong right over Binghamton 76-33.

Simply put, to not rank the Spartans at the top would be borderline criminal.

 

No. 2: Kansas (6-1)

The Cheick Diallo Show has officially premiered in Lawrence and though this may seem a high ranking for the Jayhawks, they’re just too cohesive a unit. Everyone plays together so well and they’re only going to get better over the course of the season, especially once Diallo gets his wheels under him and finds a way into the regular rotation. With an easy slate of games this week, look for Kansas to continue its strong start.

 

No. 3: Iowa State (6-0)

Another week gone, another strong Cyclones performance. Iowa State continues to perform as though Fred Hoiberg never left or that Steve Prohm was the coach the whole time over its recent run of success. The team will be tested this week with feisty Buffalo and in-state rival Iowa on the docket, but they should find a way to keep moving forward.

 

No. 4: Duke (8-1)

What Kentucky loss? Since losing to the Wildcats, Duke has won six games in a row, and decisively. Brandon Ingram is coming into his own as a player and it’s only a matter of time before Derryck Thornton follows. This team has a week of rest and so long as the cobwebs aren’t too thick, look for them to continue kicking butt and taking names in the ACC.

No. 5: North Carolina (7-1)

The Tar Heels are back in the saddle, having pulled off important wins against Maryland and Davidson this week. Marcus Paige is back in action and Roy Williams’ on-court family is at its best once again as a result, so look for them to head into Saturday’s matchup with Texas with fresh legs.

 

No. 6: Villanova (7-0)

‘Nova has gotten off to another hot start after a phenomenal 2015-16 campaign, but have their first real test this week. The team plays Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor tonight, and Lon Kruger’s tough defensive approach could neutralize Jay Wright’s fast-paced ways.

However, with a win over the Sooners, it’ll be time to pay attention to Villanova as a title contender once again.

 

No. 7: Purdue (8-0)

The Boilermakers are building around the bigs, with seven-footers Isaac Haas and A.J. Hammons leading the way. Freshman Caleb Swanigan looks great in the paint, but needs to develop his low post game and not focus so much on the face-up aspect. If he can improve his percentages and continue being a great banger, honing his craft in a pair of cupcake games this week against IUPU and Howard, then Purdue can continue pushing itself into the elite conversation.

 

No. 8: Oklahoma (5-0)

The Sooners have always looked strong under Lon Kruger, but have their first test of the season playing Villanova today. If they can keep up with the Wildcats’ fast-paced approach and play some good lockdown defense, then Oklahoma can establish itself as a true Big 12 contender this season.

Moreover, even in defeat, Oklahoma can still assert itself as a Big 12 contender and then some so long as the score is kept close.

 

9. Maryland (7-1)

The Terps are still solid at 7-1, but losing to a non-conference opponent in UNC doesn’t help them as they tumble down the rankings. It also doesn’t help that Maryland has another tough opponent in UConn coming up this week, and two losses in a row could sink this team from a rankings standpoint for the rest of the season.

The good news is that Mark Turgeon is a fine coach and if there’s a man who can rally the troops after a tough loss, it’s him. Thus, don’t worry about Maryland, at least not TOO much.

 

10. Kentucky (7-1)

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Kentucky fell to unranked UCLA this week, suffering its first regular season loss since March 2014. It doesn’t get any easier this week, as the Wildcats have games against Eastern Kentucky and then a feisty Arizona State squad.

Needless to say, though Kentucky is still very much the team to beat, their weaknesses have been exposed tremendously, and they had better right the ship fast before it’s too late.

 

11. Virginia (7-1)

The Cavaliers have shaken off an early season loss to GW to win their last six in a row, including one to a stumbling Ohio State team. The team’s schedule isn’t particularly strong, but there’s no denying that Virginia is once again for real and a team to watch out of the ACC in the 2015-16 season.

With an important game against West Virginia on Tuesday, look for this team to take a big step forward regardless of outcome.

 

12. Xavier (8-0)

The Musketeers are making a big statement in the Big East, but still need a few more signature wins under their belt. Fortunately, Chris Mack’s boys have a big game against Cincinnati on Saturday after a tuneup match against Wright State earlier on.

The long and short of it is that this team has continued to play well despite losing a key piece in Matt Stainbrook and though the hot start seems like overachieving, it’s still hard to ignore.

 

13. Arizona (7-1)

Ladies and gentlemen, the Wildcats are back and in a big way. Even after losing to Providence early on, a win over fast and feisty Gonzaga has reestablished Arizona as a team to watch out of the Pac-12.

A pair of easy games against Fresno State and then Missouri should keep Sean Miller’s team moving forward as the slow march to the Big Dance continues, and Arizona’s run-and-gun game is only going to get better with time.

 

14. Providence (8-1)

Get to church, folks, because the Friars are officially for real. This team not only took Michigan State to the brink last week, but bounced back with wins over Hartford and URI afterwards.

Coach Ed Cooley’s wins aren’t going to be pretty on a regular basis, nor are his players eye-popping, save for guard Kris Dunn, but Providence basketball is back with a vengeance in the Big East and the rest of the college basketball world had better take note. This team is on the rise and anyone who underestimates them will learn about that the hard way.

 

15. Cincinnati (8-1)

The Bearcats suffered a tough loss to Butler, but bounced back quickly against Morgan State. Mick Cronin’s boys have most of the week off before facing Xavier at the Cintas Center on Saturday, which means they’ll face the Musketeers with fresh legs.

If they can pull off a non-conference signature win, then Bearcats Basketball could officially be back with a vengeance.

 

16. West Virginia (7-0)

Back to the Big 12 we go, this time to celebrate the Mountaineers. West Virginia doesn’t have any signature wins, but is still playing great defense and outscoring the opposition by almost 30 points per game.

This can be attributed to coach Bob Huggins’ commitment to excellence and never backing down regardless of opponent. That means that if WVU can take down Virginia this week, the Big 12 could wind up looking like one of the more competitive teams in basketball this year, and the Mountaineers will immediately be a squad to watch long-term.

 

17. Miami (7-1)

The U is back and not going down quietly, even if the only wins after a heartbreaking loss to Northeastern came against Nebraska and Charlotte. Those aren’t big wins, but still prove that the ‘Canes can rebound after a tough loss.

Next up is the matchup with in-state rival Florida and though there’s still work to be done, Miami could definitely make a lot of noise in the ACC so long as everyone stays focused and doesn’t get overwhelmed as the season progresses.

 

18. Butler (6-1)

The Bulldogs continue to play a pesky game on both ends of the court, as evidenced by their recent win over Cincinnati. The future schedule is pretty easy, but let’s not forget that Butler ranks 2nd in the nation in scoring and can move at a fast pace while also slowing it down when necessary

Simply put, so long as Butler keeps playing at a high level, the Big East could become entirely up for grabs.

 

19. Utah (7-1)

The Utes have won four straight since falling hard to Miami, but have a week off before taking on pesky Wichita State on Saturday. Utah isn’t the best team in the Pac-12, but still plays a strong enough game that they need to be taken seriously on a regular basis.

If Jakob Poeltl keeps dominating on both ends, then this team is only going to keep climbing in the rankings so long as they keep playing at a high level and, hopefully, winning.

 

20. UNLV (7-1)

The Runnin’ Rebels are back, and their wins over Oregon and Indiana prove it. UNLV has shaken off the losses of Rashad Vaughn and Christian Wood near-perfectly, making lots of noise in the Mountain West this year.

Next comes a match with Wichita State and if they can knock off the stumbling Shockers, then UNLV will officially be for real for the first time since the days of Tark the Shark and Lon Kruger.

 

21. Baylor (6-1)

The Bears have just knocked off Vanderbilt and though this may only seem like a small climb in the rankings, knocking off an SEC squad is still enough to put them at this spot. Baylor has no other signature wins and though the schedule doesn’t get hard for a while, knocking of Vandy is something to be proud of on all levels.

 

22. Pittsburgh (6-1)

At long last, the Panthers appear to be adjusting to the fast-paced style of the ACC. Pitt ranks 21st in scoring and even though no signature wins have happened yet, junior big man Michael Young is finally coming into his own as a team leader and producer. He’s leading the team in scoring and rebounding and with high-scoring Eastern Washington and tough Morehead State on the horizon, the team can easily pick and pop its way to victory.

 

23. Oregon (6-1)

The Ducks lost to UNLV recently, but are still a squad to beat in the Pac-12. The only issue with them is that their rebounding game leaves something to be desired, but the schedule ahead gives them plenty of leeway to potentially rise.

The team’s next three games are against Navy, Boise State and UC-Irvine, all of which they should win handily. Should Oregon do that, then they will be on the rise in the rankings once again.

 

24. Florida (6-1)

Billy Donovan left, you say? Funny, because Florida seems to still be playing at a high level under first year coach Mike White. Dorian Finney-Smith is leading the Gators in both scoring and rebounding, but his percentages could use some work despite his team looking phenomenal thus far and ranking fourth in rebounding.

So long as Florida can slow down Miami this week and then go after Michigan State full force, they’ll definitely be a team to watch in the SEC.

 

25. South Carolina (8-0)

The Gamecocks are finally turning a corner under Frank Martin, having already beaten high-scoring Hofstra and rattling off decisive wins left and right. Lithuanian sensation Mindaugas Kacinas has carried the team to its best start since 2009-2010, when the Gamecocks started 4-0 under Darrin Horn before stumbling to a 15-16 finish.

That’s not the case with Martin, as South Carolina could very well end up making some noise in the SEC. Just how well they’ll perform once conference play starts remains to be seen, but one thing is certain. This team is tough and can only keep moving forward.

 

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*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports