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Campus Sports Top 25: Spartans rule roost, giants tumble

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Another week gone, another great week of college hoops in the books. Michigan State continues to dominate the scene early in the season along with some others, but some team’s weaknesses have been glaringly exposed.

No time to talk. Let’s jump right into this week’s rankings!

 

1. Michigan State (11-0)

The reason that the Spartans have not been beaten yet this year is simple: it’s just impossible. Tom Izzo’s crew runs like a well-oiled machine to the point that Maryland-Eastern Shore was defeated 78-35 and Florida just barely lost 58-22. The latter win was ugly, but Denzel Valentine is still making a strong case for the Wooden Award and this team only has more cupcake matchups coming on the docket, with the next two contests against Northeastern and Oakland to round out non-conference play.

 

2. Kentucky (9-1)

Kentucky needed to look dominant after losing to UCLA earlier this month, and did just that in taking down Eastern Kentucky and Arizona State. The Sun Devils proved scrappy, but the Wildcats pulled together to put up a strong scoring effort in the second half and pull off the blowout.

Freshman center Skal Labissiere’s rebounding issues are still an issue and probably will be for the rest of the season as he learns how to be a big man, but the rest of the team is performing well enough that we just have to put Kentucky back in the Final Four conversation, especially if they beat Ohio State this week.

 

3. Maryland (9-1)

The Terps have bounced back after falling to UNC, winning three straight against St. Frances (PA), UConn, and Maryland-Eastern Shore. Their next game is against the tough Princeton squad of the Ivy League and though the game is technically at a neutral site in Baltimore’s Royal Farms Arena, it might as well be a Terps home game. Long story short, this team is special and is one to watch in the Big Ten.

 

4. Duke (8-1)

The Blue Devils had a bye and thus stay right here at No. 4 with no change. Moving on!

 

5. Kansas (8-1)

Nothing like big wins over Holy Cross and Oregon State to keep the momentum rolling, at least in the Jayhawks’ case. They’ve fallen a bit due to strength of schedule, but still have tons of potential. Once Bill Self starts giving Cheick Diallo consistent minutes, it’s going to be hard to stop Kansas.

 

6. Iowa State (9-0)

The Cyclones remain undefeated, but I’m dropping them on the grounds that the team needs a kick in the butt after needing an epic second-half comeback to take down unranked Iowa, who outclassed them earlier this week. Iowa State bounced back with a big win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, but being down by 20 to Iowa at any point is unacceptable for this team. Next up is feisty UNI, so coach Steve Prohm’s boys had better wake up.

 

7. Oklahoma (7-0)

The Sooners are officially for real, having beaten Villanova and Oral Roberts this week. The team’s balanced attack and strong defense are top notch right now and with Creighton next, the victory train should keep on rolling so long as everyone stays focused and doesn’t rely too much on fast offense.

 

8. Virginia (8-1)

Virginia’s streak continues after losing to George Washington early on, the latest Cavaliers victory coming against Bob Huggins and West Virginia. That game was an absolute massacre to the tune of 70-54, but there’s no time for a victory hangover. Next up is a visit from Villanova, and a true test to see how great Virginia can be against top opponents.

 

9. Purdue (11-0)

Even though Purdue has fallen a bit, it’s really only because other teams had bigger wins and the Boilermakers didn’t really beat anybody notable last week with games against Howard and Youngstown State. The good news is that freshman big Caleb Swanigan appeared to turn a corner in posting 19 points and 12 boards against Howard and the team’s balanced attack through the frontcourt is starting to establish itself as one of the best.

Next comes in-state rival Butler, and the team’s biggest test of the season so far.

 

10. Xavier (10-0)

Another week, another big win for the Musketeers, this time over Cincinnati. Xavier looks the best it has in years and is showing zero signs of slowing down, and a game against rebuilding Auburn this week should keep the streak alive easily.

Simply put, Xavier is out from under the radar and with a vengeance.

 

11. Villanova (8-1)

It’s always rough when a Big East squad loses to one from the Big 12, and that’s what happened to ‘Nova last week against Oklahoma. In fact, they were blown out 78-55 because they just couldn’t beat the Sooners’ D and tried to shoot their way out of trouble.

That means they fall down in the rankings and with the next game against Virginia, Jay Wright’s men had better wake up.

 

12. North Carolina (7-2)

Just when it looked like UNC was back in the saddle on the back of Marcus Paige, they fell again to another unranked opponent. The Tar Heels couldn’t hold a lead against Texas over the weekend, losing on a controversial last-second bucket by Javan Felix and failing to keep up with coach Shaka Smart’s havoc game.

This week offers a bit of a breather with games against Tulane and UCLA, but one thing is certain. UNC needs to learn how to defend teams that like to run and play tight on-ball defense, lest they want to continue to be outplayed by them.

 

13. Arizona (9-1)

‘Zona is back in action after beating Gonzaga, taking down Fresno State and Missouri to move to 9-1. With Northern Arizona and then UNLV this week, don’t be shocked to see the Wildcats rocket up the rankings next week.

 

14. West Virginia (8-1)

The Mountaineers lost a tough one to Virginia last week, but bounced right back with a blowout win over UL-Monroe. Next is another non-conference match against Marshall, so this spot is more than fair for Bob Huggins’ squad.

 

15. Providence (10-1)

The Friars got off to a rough start against Bryant over the weekend, what with not having star guard Kris Dunn due to illness and Ben Bentil coming off the bench due to a bum ankle, but Providence found itself in the second half and continued to prove that it will dominate this season. This team is looking like a Big East favorite as non-conference play winds down, so don’t be shocked to see them continue to be as such once Dunn is feeling better.

 

16. Butler (8-1)

The Bulldogs took down SEC staple Tennessee last week and have won five straight since falling to Miami. But the guard-heavy squad has a big test on Saturday when it faces big man-heavy Purdue in a true clash of styles. Lose the game, and Butler is a Big East team that is talented, but has holes

Win, however, and they’re a giant-slayer.

 

17. Miami (8-1)

The U continues to roll this year, having taken down Florida last week and looking strong in doing so. This team is one of the best-scoring in the nation and has another cupcake game this week against Charleston, so don’t expect the Hurricanes to let up any time soon.

 

18. Baylor (7-1)

The Bears followed up a big win over Vanderbilt with a dominant one over Northwestern State, but the Big 12 staple has a horse of a different color to face this week. After a tuneup game against Division III Hardin-Simmons, Baylor takes on in-state rival Texas A&M in College Station, not an easy game by any means. If Taurean Green and Rico Gathers can provide a 1-2 punch and slow down the Aggies, then Baylor should rise up the rankings. If not, they could fall out entirely.

 

19. Louisville (7-1)

Even after losing to Michigan State, the Cardinals have continued to roll with big wins over Grand Canyon and Eastern Michigan. Next comes Kennesaw State and Western Kentucky and, in all likelihood, more wins that should keep the Cardinals rocketing up the rankings.

 

20. Texas A&M (8-2)

The Aggies are more than just a team with a great football squad, even if the basketball team has gone 2-2 in its last four games and lost to Syracuse and Arizona State. Non-conference losses are never good, but enough has happened this week around the bottom of the rankings that Texas A&M can enjoy a spot here at least for now. If they can beat Baylor this weekend, then they’ll definitely earn an extended stay.

 

21. UCLA (7-3)

The Bruins have won four in a row, with two of those wins coming against powerhouses in Kentucky and Gonzaga. Simply put, if that doesn’t warrant a spot in the Top 25, I don’t know what does. A tuneup game against Louisiana-Lafayette should keep UCLA’s momentum rolling, which is important with a matchup against North Carolina at the Barclays Center coming on Saturday.

 

22. SMU (7-0)

Even with a postseason ban, SMU is out to prove something this year. Beating Michigan this week proved how strong this team is and even if we won’t see them in the big dance in 2016, we’ll at least be prepared for the Mustangs to return there the following year.

 

23. George Washington (9-1)

The Colonials are on a three-game winning streak after losing to Dayton, having defeated Penn State, Seton Hall and Rutgers. GW is definitely one of the teams to beat in the Atlantic 10 this year and with another easy matchup with St. Peter’s coming up, there’s little to suggest that they won’t continue to run the table in the conference.

 

24. Cincinnati (8-2)

Even after losing to Xavier, the Bearcats have proven themselves a team to watch this year in terms of strong title contention. Cincinnati has two bad losses to the Musketeers as well as Butler, but managed to keep those games close despite not coming out on top. So long as the ship can be righted quickly and the on-ball defense tightens up, they should overcome this small drop.

25. St. John’s (7-3)

Don’t let the record fool you, because the Red Storm are starting to turn a corner. Federico Mussini is finally adjusting to being the team’s backcourt leader this year and, most important of all, freshman sensation Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared to play and should start dominating on defense sooner rather than later.

Oh, and there’s also the fact that the team beat Syracuse.

 

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*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports

CAMPUSSPORTS Writer
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