JW Top 25

JW Top 25
Dec 18, 2006, 08:21 pm
1. North Carolina (8-1) – The Tar Heels hold on to the top spot by the narrowest of margins. The freshmen look spectacular, but Roy Williams still has some work to do. Ohio State takes over if the Buckeyes can top Florida this weekend. (FAU, @St. Louis)

2. Ohio State (9-1) – The Buckeyes looked downright scary good on Saturday. Oden looks like the real deal, and Matta has an impressive group of shooters surrounding him. Mike Conley is already one of the best point guards in the country. (Iowa State, @Florida)

3. UCLA (9-0) – The Bruins are young team already playing at a high level, with several big wins to their credit. To be honest, I see little difference between this year’s team and last year’s. The defense and aggression on the glass are first rate. (Sam Houston, Michigan)

4. Florida (9-2) – Corey Brewer is back, but in what capacity? Against Ohio State, Billy Donovan needs more than the 11 minutes he played in Sunday’s easy win at Florida A&M. At the end of the day, I still think this is one of the top 5 teams in the country (Stetson, Ohio State)

5. Kansas (8-2) – Yes, the Jayhawks have two ugly losses. But there are a couple of nice wins, and this team is too talented not to be here at the end of the season. It should be a breeze for Bill Self in a weakened Big XII, with Russell Robinson Mario Chalmers anchoring the best defensive backcourt in the country. (Winston Salem, Boston College)

6. Arizona (8-1) – Lute Olson & company choked away the season opener at Virginia, or the Wildcats would be 9-0. They don’t have a marquee win, but have looked progressively better in taking down solid team such as New Mexico State, UNLV, Illinois, San Diego State and Houston. The guards seem to be doing a better job of playing together, and the play of Ivan Radenovic is a revelation. (Memphis)

7. Wisconsin (11-1) – Yes, Saturday’s win was impressive. As was last weekend’s win over Marqette. Nonetheless, it is hard for me to believe that Alando Tucker will continue to scorch the nets the way he did the last two weekends. Tucker, Brian Butch and Kammron Taylor scored all but 16 of the Badgers’ points against the Panthers, so a lot is riding on their shoulders. (Pacific)

8. Texas A&M (9-2) – Billy Gillispie’s club has two losses, but it is hard to penalize any team for losing @LSU or @UCLA. This might be the best defensive team in the country, and Gillispie has a luxury of depth that his previous teams did not. It is pretty clear that the Aggies will be there in the end (@Auburn)

9. Alabama (9-1) – It is hard to fault the Crimson Tide too much for the Notre Dame loss, as Ron Steele was hobbled and Jermareo Davidson has been going through a lot off the court. However, it was disturbing to see how porous the defense was. The continued production of Mykal Riley is key. (@NC State, Coppin State)

10. Pittsburgh (10-1) – Yes Aaron Gray was sick and the Panthers were on the road, but I never thought of this team as legit Top 5 material to begin with. Pittsburgh is quite pedestrian on the perimeter, and relying on a Gray type as a go-to offensive option can never be a good thing. The schedule doesn’t get any easier from here. (@Oklahoma State, Dayton)

11. Duke (9-1) – It hasn’t been pretty so far, but major offseason injuries to your point guard and expected leading scorer will do that. However, Josh McRoberts absolutely must become more of a post presence for Duke to rejoin the national elite. Like usual, the defense has been phenomenal. We learn a lot more this Thursday. (Kent State, Gonzaga)

12. Wichita State (8-0) – The Shockers are certainly deserving of a spot in the Top 15, though I’m just not ready to bump them into the Top 10 just yet. Neither LSU nor Syracuse is playing particularly good basketball at the moment. (Kennesaw, @ New Mexico)

13. Connecticut (9-0) I don’t care if they haven’t played anybody. This is a good team, with a chance to be a great team. Certainly young and inexperienced, but Calhoun’s Huskies could probably sleepwalk to 10 wins in the Big East. A developing Hasheem Thabeet has to leave opposing Big East coaches and post players trembling…(Pepperdine, Coppin State)

14. Gonzaga (9-3) – The Georgia loss can’t be considered a letdown, as that was a legitimate team. Nonetheless, it had to be a disappointment for Gonzaga fans stilly giddy after Saturday’s emphatic win. Georgia’s athletic backcourt ran all over the ‘Zag guards, and Few’s ballhandling crew will have its hands full again this week against Duke’s complicated schemes. (Duke)

15. Washington (8-1) – This group is all about potential. The Huskies are quite vulnerable at the moment, especially on the defensive end, but will contend for the Pac-10 title yet again. Spencer Hawes has been outstanding, but Quincy Pondexter looks good enough to be one and done as well.

16. Oklahoma State (11-0) – The Sooners have run a gauntlet with a couple of nice tests thus far, but the non-conference slate is only getting started. Sean Sutton’s bunch travel to Tennessee tonight, and host Pitt on Thursdsay (@Tennessee, Pittsburgh)

17. Boston College (7-2) – Yes, Boston College ought to be back in the Top 25. Extraordinary shot blocker Sean Williams instantly turned the Golden Eagles into a different team, and Al Skinner has run off three impressive wins in a row. Skinner’s teams sometimes take some time to adjust, but they almost always end the season playing better than they did when they started. Kansas will be a true test (Kansas)

18. Missouri State (9-1) – Another bounce in their direction, and Barry Hinson’s bears are 10-0 and getting just as much hype as fellow MVC power Wichita State. There probably isn’t as much separating these two teams as many might think, and the fact that Missouri State can’t be found in the national polls is downright laughable. Two road tests await before Christmas (@Saint Louis, @South Florida)

19. Notre Dame (8-1) – I’m not quite ready to go all in, but Russell Carter is certainly an emerging star on the national level. Notre Dame is finding ways to win games they would have lost last year, which is a big step. Four cupcakes remain on the non-conference slate, so expect the Fighting Irish to enter Big East play at 13-1 (Portland, Army)

20. LSU (6-2) – The Tigers aren’t playing all that well at this juncture, but played Texas tough and won in a hostile Oregon State building. This is a team that could improve dramatically as the season goes on, with numerous players still in the process of being integrated or emerging. Wednesday against the Huskies should be telling. (@Washington, Louisiana Tech)

21. Syracuse (9-2) – This team is going to put it together, but it could take some time. The two home losses have both come against good teams, but both games were at home. It is cupcake city until January (Drexel, Hofstra)

22. Marquette (10-2) – I get the feeling that this team can be very good or very bad, depending on what side of the bad Dominic James woke up on and whether or not Ousmanne Barro can stay out of foul trouble. In any regard, the Golden Eagles weren’t at their best last weekend against Wisconsin and still managed to keep it close in Madison. (Oakland, Morgan State)

23. Tennessee (8-2) – The win last week against Memphis was impressive. Tenessee has more firepower in the backcourt than ever. While the frontcourt is thin on bodies, Pearl’s system has never required much from its big men and Duke Crews is special. Chris Lofton is a likely All-American. (Oklahoam State, Texas)

24. Nevada (9-1) – The emergence of Ramon Sessions as a legitimate standout at PG is huge for Mark Fox. But last weeks’ loss to UNLV proved that Nevada goes where Nick Fazekas takes them. When he’s healthy, the Wolfpack appear to be capable of competing with anybody. (@Akron, Maine)

25. Oregon (10-0) – We’ll throw the Ducks one last bone here, after years of underachieving. The Ducks have a couple of decent wins, but the Georgetown win isn’t looking as nice as it once did. Tajuan Porter is predictably cooling off, but the returned Malik Hairston is picking up the scoring slack. Is Hairston this year’s Brandon Roy?

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