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Big 12 Hoops Top 25: Week 5

 

Analysis after the jump.

1. Duke dominated Bradley and Saint Louis this week.  But the real story is Kyrie Irving's toe.  All we know so far is that there's ligament damage, and it's complex.  Originally it sounded like he would miss three or four weeks, but now Krzyzewski has dropped the "whole season" bomb.  Clearly, speculation is reserved for less refined articles (but if I was a betting man I'd wager 4-6 weeks), but this will really affect Duke's season.  Right now the Blue Devils are the best team in the country.  You can argue "head and shoulders above" or not, but I don't think there's a question that with Irving they've been the best team in the country.  The questions come with how good they'll be with Nolan Smith running the point.  I think they'll still be top ten (maybe top three) good, but Coach K will have to make major adjustments.  He's had success adjusting for injured players in the past (see 2001 championship team where Carlos Boozer broke his foot), but we'll have to wait and see how long Irving will be out and how affected Duke's offense is by his absence.

2. Ohio State survived a mini-scare against IUPUI behind Jared Sullinger's 40 points and 13 rebounds (one word: wow).  The Buckeyes have gobs of talent, but they still struggle at times.  They can't expect him to put up those kind of numbers against teams with more comparable bigs, like the teams they'll see in conference play.

3. Kansas made a statement against Memphis, but don't look too much into the win.  The Jayhawks turned the ball over 20 times, and Memphis matches up very poorly in the frontcourt.  Memphis was probably overrated, but a neutral win over a top 25 opponent is nothing to sneeze at.  I think this team's struggles will come against talented frontcourts (ala UCLA and Arizona). 

4. Tennessee explodes into the top five after a decisive road win over Pitt.  The Volunteered manhandled Pitt.  Any team that can outrebound Pitt on the road has major talent.  Scotty Hopson deserves an award for his incredible play (and bringing back the high top fade).  What's to be seen is how the Vols hold up during Bruce Pearl's eight game SEC suspension.  I still expect them to be the best team in the Eastern Division, but Pearl feels like the catalyst of this team, so they could drop a few games.

5. Kansas State had a fairly innocuous week with wins over Alcorn State (who is a solid 0-8 and still hasn't played a game at home) and at Loyola Illinois.  A road win is a road win though, and the Wildcats have to be happy the Jacob Pullen's beard has filled out and his shots have started falling.  It's very clear this team needs him to be playing well in order to be successful.  The Wildcats will get to earn their stripes the next two games against Florida and UNLV.

6. So Baylor hasn't played in a while...  Luckily they have a couple of games this week against Bethune Cookman and Gonzaga.  Gonzaga should be a great game to watch, as the Bulldogs will be out for blood (aka an at-large bid), having yet to notch a marquee win this season.

7. Syracuse flies into the top ten after a decisive victory over Michigan State and a dominating performance over Colgate.  Jim Boeheim has to be pleased (even if he won't admit it).  Syracuse still has some major questions--namely shooting--but Rick Jackson is playing like the man.  And if teams aren't comfortable against a zone, they'll pay.

8. Connecticut feels ripe for the picking.  Don't be surprised if they Huskies get knocked off by a lesser team in the next couple of weeks (right now Harvard and South Florida look like the dangerous teams).  The Huskies are running a one-man show to some extent, and they're about to embark on a murderer's row at Pitt, at Notre Dame and at Texas.

9. Pitt got manhandled by Tennessee this week.  The Panthers were averaging close to 45 rebounds a game going in, and left the game with only 28.  That's huge.  Jamie Dixon's teams are known for physicality and rebounding (the two go hand in hand), and I'm sure he was not impressed by his squad's performance against the Volunteers.  Ashton Gibbs also struggled, which added to the Panthers' woes.

10. San Diego State continued their victory lap around California with wins over Cal (by 20 points on the road no less) and San Diego.  Right now this team is playing like the best in the West.  Kawhi Leonard is the real deal.  The Mountain West could be a very exciting conference this year with San Diego State, BYU and UNLV all looking terrific so far.  A side note: I think we're seeing a little bit of the Virginia Tech/Boise State phenomenon with Gonzaga/San Diego State.  I think the home loss to the Aztecs really took a lot out of the Zags, and they haven't been able to recapture their winning ways.  That said, I expect they'll bulldoze their way through conference play, and I wouldn't be surprised if Mark Few has them turning some heads in March.

11. Georgetown showed some flaws in their loss at Temple.  Make no mistake: the loss was not bad.  Temple is a great team, but the Hoyas never lead, their stellar backcourt was contained, and they got zero production off the bench (10 points in 48 minutes).  There's no doubt that Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark make up one of the most talented backcourts in the nation.  The questions come from whether the Hoya supporting cast can fill in the rest.

12. Missouri got a great win in overtime against Vanderbilt this week, but this team still feels like they're missing something.  While Kim English is still finding his mojo, I think I'm more disappointed in how many open shots opponents have gotten against Missouri's defense.  I'm not sure if the team is still adapting to Anderson's 40 minutes of hell, or if it's the lack of interior depth.  Marcus Denmon and Ricardo Ratliffe have been fantastic though.  Denmon totally took over the Vandy game in the second half and overtime (including clutch shots and the steal at the very end).

13. Villanova survived a scare at Lasalle this week.  The Wildcats saved themselves with a barrage of threes and a huge foul shooting discrepancy (I'm not saying the discrepancy wasn't warranted, but they took 34 free throws to Lasalle's 13).  This team has leadership issues right now, which isn't surprising so soon after Scottie Reynolds' departure.  The key will be for someone in the backcourt to step up and lead the way.

14. BYU took Arizona out behind the woodshed this week.  The Cougars exposed Arizona's inability to score against a zone that collapses on Derrick Williams and forces guards to make big plays.  Jimmer Fredette put up a jaw-dropping 33 points in the rout.  Now seems like an appropriate place to reiterate my excitement for Mountain West play this year.

15. Illinois had an unimpressive week beating Northern Colorado and Oakland.  The Illini have the talent to compete for the Big 10 this year, but I see a couple potential problems: they rely too much on threes, and they're a little soft inside.  I'm less worried about the second issue after their swift dispatching of UNC last week, but the first issue is very real.  This team is very good at shooting, but they don't have any real post presences, and, if shots aren't falling, they'll really need McCamey to have a great game.

16. Minnesota also had a pretty boring week.  I mainly moved them up because I think they should be ahead of Kentucky, and I couldn't think of anyone to put in front of them.  They have offensive consistency struggles that will keep them from being an true top tier team this season.

17. Kentucky had a great week with wins over Notre Dame and Indiana.  I'm still not really sure why Freedom Hall (Louisville's old arena) now has a Kentucky blue court, but right now I'm hypothesizing it's to spite Rick Pitino.  Regardless, the Wildcats had a very strong week.  They have major frontcourt depth issues, but this team can put up points in a hurry (especially when Terrence Jones is feeling it).

18. Louisville enters the top 25 this week after an impressive win over UNLV.  I was still unconvinced of the Cardinals before (with one good win over Butler), but now I think Pitino is coaching with some fire in his belly.  This team is probably playing a little above its paygrade right now, but the game against Kentucky at the end of the month should be incredible. 

19. Michigan State took a few steps back this week, getting manhandled by Syracuse and almost upset by Oakland.  I'm not really sure what's wrong with the Spartans, but I think Kalin Lucas' not being 100% and a low overall "basketball IQ" are probably the biggest issues to date.  Lucas will obviously get stronger as the season progresses, but I'm not sure the basketball IQ (for the record I hate that saying...what does it really mean?) will improve.  They commit too many turnovers and settle for bad shots.  If teams took notes during the Syracuse game, they'll play a zone against Michigan State.

20. Temple is back in the mix after an excellent win over Georgetown.  I'm not sure why Lavoy Allen hasn't played better this season, and this team still has some issues with consistency.  That said, beating Georgetown was the real deal.  The loss to Cal still isn't pretty, but the loss to A&M is starting to make more sense.  If Fran Dunphy can get Allen to play to his potential (or Ramone Moore to continue to be a beast), look out.

21. Memphis got exposed by Kansas this week.  I think a lot of people saw this coming (or at least anyone who had seen Memphis play).  The Tigers are very young, and it shows.  This team is probably a year or two away from elite unless they can get Wesley Witherspoon to start making better decisions.  I still expect them to be the team to beat in Conference USA.

22. Central Florida will be Memphis' primary competitor this year in conference play.  The Knights haven't done a whole lot besides beating Florida, but they might be the best team in Florida if they beat Miami this week.  Should be interesting to see how they develop as they're tested more.

23. Texas A&M enters the top 25 on wait for it...defense.  It shouldn't surprise anyone that Mark Sturgeon has another physical defensive team that's able to compete with about anyone (just ask Washington).  Aggie games aren't always pretty, but they've beaten Temple and Washington. 

24. UNLV lost to Louisville, but all hope is far from lost.  The Rebels will get another chance for a marquee nonconference win (not that they need it with wins against Wisconsin and Virginia Tech) when they take on Kansas State later this month. 

25. Richmond rounds out the bottom of my top 25.  There's a bit of log-jam down here, as any of the honorable mentions easily could've been substituted seamlessly into this spot, but I was very impressed by the Spiders' decisive win over VCU.  Kevin Anderson is the best player in the A-10, and I think Richmond will be the team that gives Temple the most trouble in conference play.