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College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25

Jan 20, 2014, 9:40 AM EST

source: Getty Images

Last week, the thing I got the most heat about in these rankings were where I had Syracuse situated: sitting at No. 3, sitting directly behind a Michigan State team that has a loss to a North Carolina team that the Orange have already beaten.

So I figured this week I would explain my reasoning why.

Michigan State has not been at full strength in a long, long time this season. Even now, the Spartans are playing without Adreian Payne, who sprained a foot on top of his planter fasciitis. Gary Harris, Keith Appling, Matt Costello, Branden Dawson and Travis Trice have all dealt with various ailments and nagging injuries this season. The loss to UNC? The Spartans essentially were playing with four of their five starters limited in that game.

But when Michigan State is at full strength? Watch out.

The Spartans top four players are as talented as any team’s top four: Appling, Harris, Payne and Dawson. They’re also veterans, with as much experience as anyone, and they’re coached by Tom Izzo, a guy who deserves the reputation he has for game-planning.

That’s not a knock on Syracuse, mind you. There’s a reason I have the Orange ranked above Florida and Kansas and Villanova and Wichita State. Their zone is a nightmare to prepare for, Jerami Grant is starting to come into his own and Tyler Ennis proves he’s one of the best point guards in the country on a nightly basis.

But all things considered, at full strength, Michigan State might be the most dangerous team in the country.

THE TOP 25

1. Arizona (18-0, LW: No. 1): The Wildcats played one game this week and absolutely pasted in-state rival Arizona State. In the last two games T.J. McConnell is now 7-for-10 from three. The scouting report coming in was to let him shoot.

2. Michigan State (17-1, LW: No. 2): The Spartans won a pair of road games this week, taking down Northwestern and Illinois. They’ll get Indiana and Michigan at home this week.

source:  3. Syracuse (18-0, LW: No. 3): The Orange notched a come-from-behind win over Boston College on Tuesday and followed that up by beating Pitt at home, 59-54. Tyler Ennis once again made huge plays down the stretch.

4. Florida (15-2, LW: No. 5): At this point, the Gators are what they are. They still could end up getting Chris Walker this season, but just how much of an impact is Walker going to have? He’s a pure-bred athlete, yes, but will he be able to break into the front court rotation at this point? Who knows.

5. Kansas (13-4, LW: No. 9): The Jayhawks are peaking. Joel Embiid is starting to dominate and Naadir Tharpe is playing out of his mind of late. The problem? In the last two games, those two combined for 21 turnovers.

6. Villanova (15-1, LW: No. 6): The Wildcats keep on rolling, but they’ll get a nice test tonight as they host Creighton and Doug McDermott. Jayvaughn Pinkston has quietly had a sensational season.

7. Wichita State (17-0, LW: No. 7): The Shockers just keep winning games, and their bid for an undefeated regular season got just that much more serious this weekend, as they blew out Indiana State by 22 points in Wichita. They’ll head on the road for a pair of games this week.

8. San Diego State (16-1, LW: No. 8): San Diego State put together and impressive win on Saturday, knocking off a UNLV team that bounced back from a slow start to the season with a win over New Mexico on Wednesday.

9. Iowa (15-3, LW: No. 10): Minnesota is one of the most surprising teams in the country, and the Hawkeyes beat them by 21 points on Sunday afternoon. Iowa is legit.

10. Wisconsin (16-2, LW: No. 4): The Badgers got bounced twice this week, losing at Indiana and at home to Michigan. Leaving them in the top ten still may be overrating them, especially if their perimeter defense doesn’t improve, but it’s hard to ignore everything they have done this season.

11. Kentucky (13-4, LW: No. 12)
12. Oklahoma State (15-3, LW: No. 13)
13. Cincinnati (17-2, LW: No. 17)
14. Iowa State (14-3, LW: No. 14)
15. Pitt (16-2, LW: No. 20)
16. Louisville (16-3, LW: No. 22)
17. Saint Louis (17-2, LW: No. 24)
18. Michigan (13-4, LW: UR)
19. Duke (14-4, LW: No. 23)
20. Ohio State (15-3, LW: No. 11)
21. UMass (16-1, LW: No. 19)
22. UConn (14-4, LW: UR)
23. Memphis (13-4, LW: No. 18)
24. Creighton (15-3, LW: No. 16)
25. Cal (14-4, LW: UR)

  1. jcmeyer10 - Jan 20, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    Tough not to see CU on there but it makes sense. Go Buffs and can’t wait to see a solid clash when they play Utah.

  2. protectthishouse54 - Jan 20, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    It doesn’t really matter, but your reasoning is kind of flawed. You cite coaching and experience, but Syracuse has an equally great, if not better, coach and FF experience. I understand the health issue, but I’ll take Ennis, Fair, Grant and Cooney over Appling, Harris, Payne and Dawson. Just my opinion though.

    • Rob Dauster - Jan 20, 2014 at 1:32 PM

      Ennis is a freshman. Grant and Cooney have “experience”, but they are in completely different roles this season.

      When healthy, I would take Appling, Harris, Payne and Dawson over any four players on one team in the country. I think I’d take Tom Izzo over just about any coach in the country. I think Michigan State may actually be the best team in the country in a month if Payne gets his foot right.

      So no, my reasoning is absolutely not flawed unless you’re looking at it through Orange-tinged glasses.

      • protectthishouse54 - Jan 20, 2014 at 2:06 PM

        I admit that I’m biased, and my comment was simply my opinion. But this is your opinion too. Saying you’d “take Izzo” is nothing more than opinion – it’s not a valid reason.

        Your other opinion is that MSU’s experience is more valuable than SU’s. My opinion is that that doesn’t matter either. Both teams have senior leadership and experience.

        What’s great is that rankings don’t matter in CBB…The players will eventually decide. Right now, you’re entitled to your opinion that 15-1 MSU is better than 16-0 Syracuse.

      • Rob Dauster - Jan 21, 2014 at 1:51 AM

        Exactly. You can disagree with my opinion, which is completely fair. But my reasoning is perfectly legitimate.

  3. valade6 - Jan 20, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    Here are 3 resumes. Who’s better?

    Team 1
    17-1
    Quality wins (inside top 75 RPI or potential tourney teams)
    H 11
    N 13
    N 16
    H 30
    @ 37
    @ 54
    @ 70
    Quality Loss
    H 57
    Top 10 0-0
    Top 25 3-0
    Top 50 5-0
    Top 75 7-1

    Team 2
    18-0
    @ 15
    N 18
    @ 28
    @ 29
    H 60
    Top 10 0-0
    Top 25 2-0
    Top 50 4-0
    Top 75 5-0

    Team 3
    18-0
    H 2
    H 17
    N 30
    N 34
    N 36
    H 48
    H 57
    H 70
    Top 10 1-0
    Top 25 2-0
    Top 50 6-0
    Top 75 8-0

    • Rob Dauster - Jan 20, 2014 at 1:29 PM

      Don’t show me resumes. I’m not seeding the NCAA tournament. I’m ranking teams as of right now.

  4. mtuftee08 - Jan 20, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    I know rankings in January don’t mean too much but seeing Iowa in the Top 10 makes me as happy as a schoolgirl. What Fran has done in just 4 years after the Lickliter debacle in the deepest if not best conference is just amazing.

  5. joneildu - Jan 21, 2014 at 9:13 AM

    Kentucky beat no one worth mentioning and lost to Arkansas. A team not worth mentioning. And they moved up.

    Wat?

  6. godelleb - Jan 21, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    I’m an Iowa graduate and follow the team religiously. While they are definitely a team to contend with this year, they still have not beaten anybody of consequence. Ohio State now has 4 consecutive losses so that makes Minnesota, a team that is mediocre, the Hawkeyes biggest win. How does close losses to good teams along with wins against average and below average teams make them deserved of a number 10 ranking? It simply doesn’t. They have a weak strength of schedule. Until they beat a good team I am unconvinced.

  7. mayanman - Jan 21, 2014 at 5:26 PM

    Florida and Iowa both lost to Wisconsin.

  8. dacuseman - Jan 22, 2014 at 10:02 PM

    @ Rob Dauster: Your logic is flawed because you totally omit the fact that UNC was not at full strenght either, was at home and got absolutely pounded. Also, #12 UK loses, to an unranked team no less, and they move UP to #11 in your rankings??? Please explain the logic behind that.

    • dacuseman - Jan 22, 2014 at 10:04 PM

      clearification: MSU was @ home and got pounded.

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