The JW Top 25

The JW Top 25
Feb 05, 2007, 07:24 pm
1. Florida (21-2, 8-0; wins over Vanderbilt and Tennessee; NC) The Gators are certainly capable of coasting through stretches, as the first half of the Vandy win showed. But the second half proved why this is the best team in the nation right now. The roster so stacked that it is easy to forget about Lee Humphrey, who just happens to be one of the top 3-point shooters in the country. This week the schedule gets tough, as coasting on the road vs teams like Georgia and Kentucky is probably playing with fire. (2/7 @Georgia, 2/10 @Kentucky)

2. UCLA (20-2, 9-2; wins over Oregon and Oregon State; +2) Ben Howland did to the Ducks what he’s been doing to teams all season, which is slow the game down and play mistake-free defense. There were no late game heroics from Aaron Brooks, and Oregon shot just 37.% from the floor. UCLA has a tough week ahead, with a home game against USC that could end up determining the Pac-10 champion and a late non-conference trip to West Virginia. It should be interesting to see how UCLA defends the Mountaineers, as this is an opponent that can get hot and beat anybody at home. (2/7 USC, 2/10 @West Virginia)

3. North Carolina (20-3, 6-2; win over Miami, loss @NC State; -1) It is pretty clear that North Carolina’s only vulnerability is the tendency to lose defensive focus in the halfcourt. NC State ripped apart the Tar Heel defense for easy basket after easy basket, shooting 60.5% from the field and scoring 83 points in spite of 21 turnovers. Now the pressure is on a bit, with Virginia streaking and the Wednesday trip across town.(2/7 @Duke, 2/10 Wake Forest)

4. Wisconsin (22-2, 8-1; loss @Indiana, 2/3 win over Northwestern, -1) The Badgers finally took one on the chin in the Big Ten, in a game that was far from an upset. Don’t expect very many more slip-ups the rest of the way. This week should be a cakewalk. (2/7 @Penn State, 2/10 Iowa)

5. Texas A&M (19-3, 7-1; wins over Iowa State, @Kansas, +2) The Aggies finally broke through with a huge win, with Acie Law’s clutch heroics leading the way. Law is an incredibly efficient, deadly in the clutch, veteran performer – and the reason Texas A&M should do well in March. Billy Gillispie is already one of the top coaches in the game, and his game management down the stretch was phenomenal. I can’t wait to see what Gillispie comes up with to slow down a certain Mr Durant tonight.(2/5 Texas, 2/10 @Nebraska)

6. Pittsburgh (20-3, 8-1; win @Villanova, NC) Pittsburgh doesn’t always look like a legit 1-2 seed, but they are consistent and mistake free enough to win most of the games they should. The schedule gets tougher down the stretch, so the trip to West Virginia could be an important one in terms of keeping a lock on the Big East crown. (2/7 @West Virginia, 2/10 Providence)

7. Ohio State (20-3, 8-1; wins @Purdue, @Michigan State; +1) The Buckeyes made it through a pair of potentially hazardous road games, and now should get to coast into the 2/25 barnburner against Wisconsin. By the way, we are 9 games into Big Ten play and Mike Conley’s Ast/To ratio is still well above 3/1. (2/7 Michigan, 2/10 Purdue)

8. Kansas (19-4, 6-2; win @Nebraska, loss to Texas A&M; -3) The Jayhawks really should be sitting pretty in the Top 5 and atop the Big XII standings right now. Instead, they found a way to foul things up down the stretch, something that has taken place regularly in conference play. Missed free throws, failing to box out, and a general lack of focus gave Texas A&M the opportunity they needed. Sherron Collins was the only Jayhawk who looked comfortable in his own skin over the final ten minutes, and for some reason Bill Self marginalized his role during crunch time. It doesn’t get any easier this week, with two bitter rivalry games on the slate. (2/7 Kansas State, 2/10 @Missouri)

9. Marquette (20-4, 7-2; win over Providence, +2) This week’s win over Providence was a bit more significant than it may appear at first glance, because the Golden Eagles were able to get a win with Dominic James having an off night. It is hard for me to see Marquette taking down Georgetown on the road with an anything less than spectacular showing from James, but Tom Crean is once again doing a great job in the Big East. (2/7 Rutgers, 2/10 @Georgetown)

10. Washington State (19-4, 8-3; wins @Arizona, @Arizona State; +4) The Cougars are still seriously underrated nationally, with the latest proof coming in the win @Arizona. All the momentum was nearly destroyed in one fell swoop against Arizona State, but the letdown was avoided. Tony Bennett’s team really should be 9-2 and tied for the conference lead right now, if not for the choke against Oregon. The northern California schools are in town this week, continuing a downright brutal Pac-10 slate. (2/8 Stanford, 2/10 California)

11. USC (18-6, 8-3) The Trojans once again prove that they are just about as good as anybody in the conference, completing a season sweep of Oregon. Tim Floyd is going with a shortened rotation, but the defense is getting better every week (7th nationally, according to @UCLA)

12. Nevada (21-2, 9-1) The Wolfpack aren’t exactly playing Top 25-caliber basketball, but are talented enough to turn it around before the end of the season. This week’s trip to Fresno could be a dangerous one. (2/8 @Fresno State)

13. Southern Illinois (19-5, 10-3; wins over Indiana State, @Wichita State; +8) No, the Salukis’ accomplishments last week probably aren’t worth of an eight-spot jump. Nonetheless, the best team in the MVC deserves to be ranked in the Top 15 and Southern Illinois has now proven they can get it done on the road with wins @Creighton and @Wichita State. The schedule gets nasty after this week’s home date with Bradley, so the Salukis will have earned a spot in the JW Top 10 if they manage not to stumble down the stretch. It starts on Saturday at home against Creighton, followed by a three game road trip to Missouri State, Butler, and Indiana State. Ouch. (2/7 Bradley, 2/10 Creighton)

14. Butler (22-2, 10-1; wins @Youngstown State, over Wisconsin-Milwaukee, +3) The Bulldogs are doing what they need to do to earn that fringe Top 10 ranking at the end of the season, and that is winning Horizon games handily. This week’s trip to Wright State should be dangerous, but the Bulldogs did win by 30 at home early in conference play (2/8 @Cleveland State, 2/10 @Wright State)

15. Oregon (19-4, 4-4; losses @UCLA, @USC) This was likely inevitable, considering the late-game magic it had taken to get Oregon to the top of the Pac-10 in the first place. The Ducks should never have been expected to win either game last week, but this spot is probably more indicative of how the Ducks have played on the whole this season. Going 4-3 down the stretch gets Ernie Kent to 11-7, and that is going to earn a rock solid seed. (2/8 Arizona State, 2/10 Arizona)

16. Memphis (19-3, 10-0; wins @Central Florida, over SMU; +2) The Tigers only have one decent win on the season, so Top 10 in the country is downright absurd. But John Calipari has his young team thumping the competition in the C-USA, and an undefeated conference run is very possible. Memphis still has trips to UAB, Tulsa and UTEP, plus a very important showdown with Gonzaga in Spokane. Joey Dorsey is averaging an eye-catching 16.3 rebounds per 40 minutes. (2/8 @UAB, 2/10 Tulane)

17. Duke (18-5, 5-4; losses @Virginia, to Florida State; -8) Coach K could be looking at a sub .500 ACC record very shortly. His Blue Devils blew two games in the final moments, one a shocker at home against Florida State. This team doesn’t have a go-too scorer in the clutch, and the guards aren’t athletic enough to effectively defend the way Coach K wants them to this year. The schedule is so tough that Duke will probably be favored in just three games the rest of the way. Yeah, Wednesday is huge. (2/7 North Carolina, 2/11 @Maryland)

18. Virginia (15-6, 7-2, NR) I understand there were a couple of ugly losses early in the season, but this team ought to be ranked by everybody. Sean Singletary and JR Reynolds are clearly different players than they were before Christmas, and Virginia is clearly a different team. The Cavaliers now have wins over Arizona, Gonzaga, Maryland, Clemson, and Duke. This week is tough, but the rest of the way is surprisingly easy. Don’t be surprised to see a bit more of the Jeckyl-and-Hyde act down the stretch, but it is likely that Virginia ends the regular season as a Top 15 team (@Maryland, @Virginia Tech)

19. Air Force (20-3, 7-2; win over Wyoming, +1) It appears as though the Falcons will have to earn their conference title after all. The schedule now gets really tough, with a dangerous road trip this week and games against both MWC challengers late in the season. Getting out of this week 2-0 would be an accomplishment.(@San Diego State, @New Mexico)

20. Georgetown (16-5, 6-2; win @St John’s, NR) – The last time I jumped the gun on Georgetown, the Hoyas lost at Villanova. This time, they are at Louisville. And I still think they win. The 5-game win streak has come against subpar competition, but all five victories came by at least 14 points. (2/7 @Louisville, 2/10 Marquette)

21. Vanderbilt (16-7, 6-3; loss @Florida, win over Georgia, NR) Call me crazy, but I’m actually going to reward the Commodores for taking a ten point lead into halftime against the defending champs. Vandy also took down a solid Georgia squad. The schedule gets pretty nasty from here on out. (2/10 @Tennessee)

22. Indiana (16-6, 6-3, win over Wisconsin, loss @Iowa) The loss @Iowa is somewhat deflating, but the Hawkeyes certainly aren’t the pushover everybody thought they’d be. Plus, the Hoosiers got the big time win they needed to make a splash on the national radar. DJ White is looking more and more like the player many projected as a first rounder after an impressive freshman season. (2/10 Illinois)

23. Boston College (16-6, 7-2; wins over Hartford, Virginia Tech) The seasons change, Al Skinner loses players, and BC keeps on winning. The 20-point thrashing of Virginia Tech is just the latest example. Jared Dudley has been scintillating as of late. The schedule is nasty down the stretch, so the trip south is very important for the Eagles (2/7 @Miami, 2/11 @Florida state)

24. Creighton (16-7, 10-3) The Bluejays won a pair of road games last week, and that isn’t an easy feat in the MVC. The killer schedule resumes on Saturday, with a trip to Southern Illinois that could very easily decide the conference race. But Creighton still has Northern Iowa, Drexel, Wichita State, and a trip to Illinois State, so the Bluejays keeping this ranking is far from set in stone.

25. Virginia Tech (16-7, 6-3) Talk about a killer week. I might have been able to justify keeping the Hokies a bit higher had they been the least bit competitive against Boston College, but it was a massacre. The reality is that nobody knows what to expect out of this team, and all of a sudden an NCAA berth doesn’t seem so assured. A home win over Virginia would make everything alright, but is that likely, given the way the two teams have played recently? (2/10 Virginia)

Dropped Out: (16) Oklahoma State, (19) Arizona, (22) Stanford, (23) Clemson, (25) Virginia Commonwealth

On the Cusp: Arizona, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Stanford, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Clemson, Missouri State, Virginia Commonwealth, Louisville, Florida State, West Virginia, Winthrop, Akron

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