Jan 20, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT
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.
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)
Mar 10, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT
Creighton and Villanova are the Big East’s two darlings, but which other teams are best positioned to separate themselves from the conference’s middle and earn a bid?
Mar 10, 2014, 1:34 PM EDT
MAAC, CAA and Southern all at stake tonight.
Mar 10, 2014, 12:43 PM EDT
Justin Bieber and Rick Barnes! I shouldn’t have to say more.
Mar 10, 2014, 12:12 PM EDT
Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and All-Conference teams for every league in the country.
Mar 10, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT
Regular season champion Southern’s ineligible for the NCAA tournament, which could open the door for Texas Southern to grab the league’s automatic bid.
Mar 10, 2014, 9:44 AM EDT
Florida is still No. 1. Wichita State is still No. 2. How does the rest of the Top 25 shake out?
Mar 10, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
Wichita State is unbeaten, but would they get the nod over the Gators when Selection Sunday rolls around?
Mar 10, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT
Doug McDermott is on the list, but who joined him on the first team?
Mar 10, 2014, 1:16 AM EDT
We know Joel Embiid’s back is bothering him, but should we be worried about whether or not he’ll be healthy for the NCAA tournament?
Mar 10, 2014, 12:10 AM EDT
Three more teams earn automatic bids to the NCAA tournament, Nebraska strengthens its resume and two regular season champions fall in conference tournaments.
Mar 9, 2014, 11:09 PM EDT
Catch up on all of today’s bubble action. Is Nebraska a lock after beating Wisconsin? Can St. Joseph’s still dance after losing to La Salle?
Mar 9, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT
Picked to finish last in the Big Ten’s preseason poll, Nebraska moved closer to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1998 with a win over No. 9 Wisconsin.
Mar 9, 2014, 9:26 PM EDT
William & Mary beats Towson, moving to within 40 minutes of their first NCAA tournament berth.
Mar 9, 2014, 8:50 PM EDT
No. 22 Michigan State’s late-game execution left much to be desired on Sunday.
Mar 9, 2014, 7:39 PM EDT
LaQuinton Ross finally found his scoring touch, but that wasn’t the main reason the Buckeyes won.
Mar 9, 2014, 7:38 PM EDT
Did she say yes?
Mar 9, 2014, 6:31 PM EDT
Top-seeded Fightin’ Blue Hens will play William & Mary (7 p.m., NBCSN) with an NCAA tournament berth on the line.
Mar 9, 2014, 5:16 PM EDT
Get to know the fifth entry into the 2014 NCAA Tournament field, the Mercer Bears
Mar 9, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT
The Missouri Valley Conference had an unfortunate mistake in the t-shirts that they gave Wichita State for winning the conference tournament.
- 2014 Big East Tournament Preview: Can Villanova finally beat Creighton? 0
- College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25 4
- Bracketology: Florida in driver’s seat for overall No. 1 seed 4
- NBCSports.com’s 2014 College Basketball All-Americans 8
- Bubble Banter: Nebraska’s marquee win, St. Joseph’s problematic loss 0
- Turnovers help Ohio State beat No. 22 Michigan State in regular season finale 1
- Wichita State will head into the NCAA tournament 34-0 as a No. 1 seed 10
- Wichita State will head into the NCAA tournament 34-0 as a No. 1 seed (10)
- No. 7 Syracuse falls to Georgia Tech in a shocking home loss (9)
- NBCSports.com’s 2014 College Basketball All-Americans (8)
- College Basketball Talk’s latest Top 25 (6)
- Assigned Reading: Dean Smith’s health continues to deteriorate (6)