The JW Top 25

The JW Top 25
Jan 08, 2007, 07:41 pm
1.7 Timberweolves Shootout Recap

Stability at the top, but look out below. The JW Top 25's first seven remains unchanged from last week, but nobody ranked from fifteen on down has proven capable of holding onto a spot. With conference play kicking into full gear, wins and losses start to become even more important.

1. Florida (12-2, 1-0; win over Georgia; NC) – Corey Brewer puts in a dynamite performance, Gators win. As long as the first can be said, the second is almost a given. (1/9 Arkansas, 1/13 @South Carolina)

2. North Carolina (14-1,1-0; win over Florida State; NC) – The Heels are going to slip up in conference play, for some of the same reasons that the 2005 title team did (too much talent, inconsistent rotations, and vulnerability to teams slowing the game down) and some different ones (extreme youth). But the end result could be the same. Lawson, Ellington, Wright and Hansbrough on the court at the same time and on the same team just isn’t fair to everybody else. (1/10 Virginia, 1/13@Virginia tech)

3. UCLA (14-1, 3-1; win @Oregon State, loss @Oregon; NC) – Maybe you thought since I was just about the only person to not have the Bruins at #1 headed into last week that I would take the opportunity to drop the 2nd to last undefeated a few notches. No can do. UCLA is still relatively young in spots, and it was only their 2nd road game of the season. They are still a fantastic team, and losing @Oregon doesn’t change a thing. (1/13 @USC)

4. Kansas (13-2, 0-0; win @South Carolina; NC) – I thought about moving the Jayhawks past UCLA, but this team still hasn’t shown me enough consistency on the offensive end. But the perimeter defense is simply disgusting. Check out Gamecock PG Tre Kelley’s line from yesterday if you don’t believe me. Robinson, Chalmers, Collins – I salute you! Oh yeah, Oklahoma State is in town. This is the game that could define Bill Self’s third season as KU head man. (1/10 vs Oklahoma State, 1/13 @Iowa State)

5. Ohio State (13-2, 2-0; win over Indiana, win @Illinois; NC) – Maybe Wisconsin deserves this spot, but it seems foolish to make the switch the night before the big showdown. Plus, the Buckeyes did look ridiculous against the Illini.(1/9 @Wisconsin, 1/13 Tennessee)

6. Wisconsin (15-1, 1-0; win over Minnesota; NC) – Tomorrow is the night for Wisconsin. They get their crack at Greg Oden, and they get it at the Kohl Center. Alando Tucker’s stock could go through the roof if he puts up another 25+. Does anybody else think Michael Flowers is severely underrated? (1/9 Ohio State, 1/13 @Northwestern)

7. Arizona (12-2, 3-1; win @Washington, loss@ Washington State; NC) – I’m not going to penalize the Wildcats for a painfully close loss on the road against a great team. They looked absolutely phenomenal against Washington, negating the Husky size advantage, sharing the ball as well as I’ve seen an Arizona team do in quite some time, and shooting the living crap out of it. The hold on #7 weakens, but Lute Olson’s bunch still deserves this spot. (1/11 Oregon State, 1/14 Oregon)

8. Pittsburgh (14-2, 2-0); win @Syracuse, win over South Florida; +3) – The Panthers look just about perfect in this spot. They might not have that championship type of upside, but it is pretty obvious that Pitt is the class of the Big East. A big showdown with Georgetown this weekend. (1/10 @Depaul, 1/13 Georgetown)

9. Texas A&M (13-2, 1-0; win over Kansas State; +1) – The Aggies are slowly creeping back into the picture, despite not earning that marquee victory just yet. This week won’t provide any new answers, but nobody else deserves this spot. (1/9 @Baylor, 1/13 @Colorado)

10. Duke (13-2, 0-1; win over Temple, loss to Virginia Tech; -2) – This isn’t your typical Blue Devil team, but a down year for Duke is still a great year for most programs. They will bounce back from the Virginia Tech loss, with this week’s matchup against Georgia Tech telling us a lot. McRoberts is playing much better, with Gerald Henderson (finally) starting to get some real court time. (1/10 @Georgia Tech,1/14 @Miami)

11. Oklahoma State (15-1, 1-0; win over Baylor; +1) – The Cowboys head to the Phog this week. Nothing else to say, really. (1/10 @Kansas, 1/14 @Nebraska)

12. Tennessee (13-2, 1-0; win over Mississippi State; +1) – Bruce Pearl’s team isn’t winning games convincingly, but the man is a tactical genius and his team is only going to get better. It is hard not love watching guys like Dane Bradshaw, Duke Crews, and Chris Lofton play. (1/10 @Vanderbilt, 1/13 @Ohio State)

13. Nevada (13-1, 1-0; win over Idaho; +1) – The Wolfpack are in a good spot, after getting a marquee road win and surviving the first semester without a major hiccup. The trip to Hawaii is always a dangerous one, but Fresno State looks like the only real competition in the WAC this year. (1/8 Boise State, 1/11 San Jose State, 1/14 @Hawaii)

14. Alabama (13-2, 0-1; win over Oklahoma, lost @Arkansas; -4) – Alabama has done nothing to justify staying this high in the rankings, but with teams like Washington, Connecticut and Gonzaga tanking, there is nobody else I’d take over the Crimson Tide right now. This team has obviously gone through quite a bit this year, and played their worst on a night where Arkansas could do no wrong. It is very likely that this group will bounce back. Still no excuse for losing by 27 to the Razorbacks… (1/9 LSU)

15. Washington State (14-2, 3-1; win over Arizona State, win over Arizona; NR) – It is absurd to think that a team could jump from not ranked to #15 in one week, but I try not to base this ranking on a team deserving to move up or down a standard number of spots. There is a gaping dropoff after #13, the Cougars were my second team out last week, and they are playing some downright nasty good hoops right now. (1/11 @California; 1/13 @Stanford)

16. Missouri State (12-3, 3-1; win @Bradley, win over Wichita State; +9) – Another alarmingly high jump for a home win over Wichita State, but I really penalized the Bears too much for losing @Creighton last week. Missouri State is the class of the MVC, and my guess is that they’ll continue to prove it this week. (1/09 Evansville; 1/13 @Southern Illinois)

17. Syracuse (12-4, 1-1; loss to Pittsburgh, win @Marquette; +1) – The Orange finally got a significant win, though it isn’t clear if beating Marquette is significant or if the Golden Eagles just happened to put things together for one game against Duke. Eric Devendorf is playing like a man possessed, but Syracuse has to prove itself this week with two more games that will tell us quite a bit. I’m surprised Coach Boeheim hasn’t found a way to get Paul Harris more involved. (1/10 @Rutgers, 1/13 Villanova)

18. Air Force (15-1, 2-0; win @Colorado State, win over UNLV; +2) – Air Force really hasn’t been anybody all that significant, but their only loss of the year came to a Top 10 team – and they continue to beat up on mediocre opponents. We’ll see, but they certainly look like the class of the MWC right now. (1/9 New Mexico, 1/13 @Wyoming)

19. Clemson (16-0, 2-0; win @Florida State, win over Georgia Tech; +4) – It isn’t clear whether close wins over Florida State and Georgia Tech should vault the Tigers into the upper echelon of the polls. We don’t know enough about those teams yet, though winning @Florida State is always impressive. What these two games did more than move Clemson higher was to solidify their spot in the JW Top 25. (1/9 @ NC State, 1/13 @Maryland)

20. LSU (11-3, 2-0; win over Connecticut; +1) – I still don’t like this team, but you can’t argue with the results. They play great defense at home, and have a chance to really make a jump this week if they can finally win a big one on the road. I really like Garrett Temple, by the way. (1/9 @ Alabama, 1/13 Auburn)

21. USC (13-4, 3-1; win @Oregon, win @Oregon State; NR) – Maybe I’m jumping the gun a bit, but I think the Trojans deserve a spot in the Top 25. They are a botched charge call away from being 4-0 in the Pac-10, despite playing one of the toughest schedules thus far. The win @Oregon means something and the absolute pounding of Oregon State can’t be ignored. As Gabe Pruitt rounds into form, this team is only going to get better. (1/13 UCLA)

22. Oregon (14-1, 2-1; loss to USC, win over UCLA; NC) – Just like Clemson, the Ducks have now earned their spot in the Top 25. The win over UCLA was huge, but it is hard to move Oregon up too much further because they lost at home earlier in the week and now must go on the road. Nonetheless, it is quite amazing to see how much Aaron Brooks and Bryce Taylor have turned their careers around. (1/11 @Arizona State, 1/14 @Arizona)

23. Georgetown (11-3, 1-0; win over Notre Dame; NR) – Call me crazy, but I’ve always believed in the Hoyas and will completely jump the gun in putting them back in the Top 25 after the blowout win against Notre Dame. There were some pieces to replace in the backcourt, so expect this team to continue getting better. The trip to Pitt is one heck of an opportunity. (1/08 Villanova, 1/13@Pitsburgh)

24. Butler (14-1, 3-0; win over Wright State; NR) – Anybody who just now put Butler in their Top 25 must be an idiot. Right? Well, that’s me. The Bulldogs are winning conference games with ease, and deserve this spot. They will still have trouble making it into the top 20, though. (1/10 @Illinois-Chicago, 1/13 South Dakota State)

25. West Virginia (13-1, 3-0; wins over Villanova and St John’s; NR) – I struggled with this one, as the Mountaineers are quite young and haven’t gone on the road in conference yet. It is likely that they will lose one or both of their games this week and find themselves outside this ranking once again, but this team has looked good. Young wings Joe Alexander and Da’Sean Butler are going to be household names someday. (1/9 @Notre Dame, 1/13 @Marquette)

Dropped Out: Washington, UConn, Notre Dame, Marquette, Drexel

”Wow, this is Really Awkward…It’s not, you it’s me – I swear !” – I have no excuse for dropping Drexel and not including Northern Iowa. It really can’t be justified. I wouldn’t have had a problem keeping Washington, Notre Dame or UConn around for another week either, but sometimes a person has no choice but to be picky. This week, it was tough to narrow the field down to 25.

The Dragons certainly did nothing wrong, but were dumped in place of several teams with sexier profiles. My guess is that Drexel will be re-appearing in the JW Top 25 shortly. Northern Iowa’s recent streak is impressive, but the Wichita State win isn’t as appealing as it once was and the rest of the wins came at home. If they are undefeated in MVC play at this point next week, they are back in good graces for sure.

Pounding down the door… – Two storied programs appear on the verge of re-entering Top 25 contention after rough starts to the year. Kelvin Sampson’s Indiana program looked very good @Ohio State and smoked the Spartans yesterday. Their losses three losses are justifiable, and the schedule reads Purdue, @Penn State, and Iowa over the next 10 days. One of the Hoosiers’ losses came at Kentucky, another team with several forgivable failures and a few solid wins to their credit. Since losing to North Carolina by 12, Kentucky has reeled off wins over the aforementioned Indiana, Louisville (on the road), Massachusetts, Houston and Ole Miss. The Wildcats’ schedule is almost absurdly easy until the second week in February, so expect Tubby Smith’s crew to reappear in the media polls sometime soon.

Remember the Terps? – One team that has almost completely fallen of the radar is the Maryland Terrapins. Gary Williams’ group hasn’t played an attention-worthy opponent in almost a month, and plummeted out of the polls after losing to Notre Dame and Boston College in a 7-day span. The wins over Michigan State and Illinois don’t look all that special now, but the Terps still have a chance jump back into the national spotlight this weekend when last-undefeated Clemson is in town. It should be interesting to see who is favored in this one…

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