The Biggest Weakness for Every AP Top 25 College Basketball Team

The nature of being a Top 25 team in college basketball suggests that you are one of the best squads in the country and have far more strengths than weaknesses.

That makes picking out weaknesses for the country’s ranked teams a particularly difficult task, so it may be better to look at these as more of early-season concerns than glaring holes. The good news is that it’s only November, so there is plenty of time to get these issues sorted out before March.

With that in mind, here is a look at the biggest area of concern for each Top 25 team in the current Associated Press Poll.

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Ranking the Top 20 Cities That Produce the Best College Basketball Talent

Over the past decade, Chicago has been one of the best cities in the United States when it comes to producing quality college basketball players.

Home to Anthony Davis, Jahlil Okafor, Jabari Parker, Cliff Alexander and Derrick Rose, the Windy City seems to be churning out top-five talent on an annual basisbut it wasn’t quite enough to reach No. 1 on the list.

Still, what an incredibly appropriate cover photo for this list. A product of Chicago (No. 2 on our list), Rose spent his one year of college in Memphis, Tennessee, (No. 3) to play for a coach (John Calipari) who has signed at least one player from virtually every city mentioned.

On the following slide, we’ll look through the thought process and mathematics that went into ranking these 20 cities before listing them out with their scores and noting a few key players who came from each one.

If you live in or near any of these cities, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the next big thing in college hoops.

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10 College Basketball Coaches Currently on the Hot Seat

If you follow college sports, you already know that coaching jobs are one of the least stable professions for an individual to take.

As seen in the cases of Billy Donovan, John Calipari, Tom Izzo, Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino and Bill Self, coaches at the helm of some of the nation’s biggest programs can put together consistent winning seasons and be locks to reach the NCAA tournament every season.

But it’s not as easy for the rest of the coaching population, as they must scratch and claw for the nation’s top recruits, deliver winning seasons and maintain a standard of winning and excellence just to keep their jobs.

Here are the top 10 coaches who are on the hot seat and who might be out the door at the end of this season unless they turn in an NCAA tournament-quality year.

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College Basketball Coaches Facing Most Pressure in 2014-15 Season

The bigger the job, the greater the pressure.

Some of college basketball’s most notable coaching names have a lot of expectations this season, but this isn’t simply a matter of being looked to for lots of wins, a deep tournament run or a national championship. The specific pressures each coach faces is different, based on the job and the situation.

You can’t really compare what one has to deal with to the other, but we can list those who have the most weight on their shoulders in 2014-15 and illustrate just what they have to deal with this season beyond just their opponents.

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College Basketball Rankings 2014-15: Bleacher Report’s Week 3 Top 25

After a week in which they destroyed Kansas and held Montana State to just 28 points in an entire 40-minute game, the Kentucky Wildcats are the unanimous No. 1 team in Bleacher Report’s College Basketball Top 25 for Week 3.

We elected not to do a poll after the first weekend of the season, so this is our first installment since the preseason poll.

Suffice it to say, a lot has changed.

Six teams dropped out of our Top 25including reigning national champs Connecticutwhile teams like West Virginia and Miami are suddenly ranked after failing to sniff anyone’s preseason ballot.

Voting in this poll is conducted by myself, Jason King and C.J. Moore, and not a single one of us had the Huskies in our ballots after their loss to the Mountaineers on Sunday night. It was more than just that one game, though. Connecticut has struggled in every game it has played this season. It might be a while before the Huskies regain our trust.

Teams Dropped from Preseason Rankings: Nebraska (17), Kansas State (18), SMU (21), Connecticut (22), Harvard (24), Iowa (25)

Others Considered: Utah, Providence, Indiana, Baylor, Syracuse, Illinois, Georgetown, Texas A&M

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AP College Basketball Poll 2014: Complete Week 3 Rankings Released

Last year, Kentucky’s preseason No. 1 ranking was exposed as fraudulent by the season’s second week. This time around, it’s the Wildcats who are making other teams look like frauds.

John Calipari‘s team retained its top billing in the latest Associated Press poll, building its resume on the back of five straight muscle-flexing victories. Equally impressive has been Wisconsin, which moves up to tie Arizona at No. 2 after four straight wins of 24 or more points. No. 4 Duke and No. 5 North Carolina round out the Top Five.    

Here is a look at how the remainder played out:

Kentucky’s impressive start, which included an 86-28 embarrassment of Montana State on Sunday, was affirmed with its throttling of Kansas on Tuesday. The Wildcats held Bill Self’s team to 12 second-half points, forced them to shoot 19.6 percent overall and blocked as many shots as the Jayhawks made (11). The 72-40 domination featured only two double-digit scorers (Dakari Johnson and Andrew Harrison), as no player received more than 21 minutes.

While unconventional, Calipari has found success by subbing his players in and out almost like hockey rotations. Willie Cauley-Stein’s 22.4 minutes per game are a team high. Ten Wildcats are averaging at least 16 minutes per game and an 11th, Dominique Hawkins, is nearly in double figures (9.5).

“But it’s starting to develop the roles. The reason I’m not fully defining the roles is they’re going to develop,” Calipari told reporters after Kentucky’s mauling of Montana State. “Let’s see what these guys truly can do and then they will flow into roles.”

Nicole Auerbach of USA Today weighed in on Calipari’s approach:

The two-pronged attack, the two platoons, allow Kentucky’s bigs to go all-out for their limited minutes. Calipari praised his players multiple times Tuesday night, saying he’s blessed to have players so selfless that they’re willing to play hard but only play half a game. Indeed, no player played more than 21 minutes against Kansas.

The platoon stuff could certainly change as the season wears on. There could be injuries, egos, or anything in between that might derail this harmonious balance Calipari currently enjoys.

But for now, players have bought in. They speak about trusting their coaches, trusting each other. ‘If you’re winning, it makes it a lot better,’ Willie Cauley-Stein said. Freshman Karl-Anthony Towns explained that players can go all out in limited time frames.

It’s a lethal combo. Size, length and tirelessness. Any Kentucky foe will have to deal with all three if it hopes to beat the Wildcats this season, or at least come closer than Kansas did.

Wisconsin, which plays Duke on Dec. 3, arguably looks like the best two-way team in the nation. Frank Kaminsky is averaging 19.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game on 63.3 percent shooting thus far, while Nigel Hayes is also around a double-double. The Badgers have averaged 83.7 points per game over their last three contests and are third nationally in offensive efficiency behind Duke and Kentucky, per Ken Pomeroy.

Those Blue Devils got a leg up on the national scale by winning the 2014 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Duke defeated Temple and Stanford with ease in successive days. Touted freshman Jahlil Okafor is averaging 15.8 points and 8.0 rebounds, while senior Quinn Cook has become the clear vocal leader. Cook had 19 points and six assists in the Blue Devils’ 81-71 victory over Michigan State in the State Farm Champions Classic. 

“Coach wants me the shoot the ball,” Cook, who has moved to shooting guard this season to accommodate freshman floor general Tyus Jones, told reporters. “He knows I’m one of the best shooters on the team. He gets on me when I pass up shots. When I have space, he wants me to shoot.”

Duke’s defeat of Michigan State was one of a select few losses from Top 25 teams over the last seven days. For the most part, teams around the nation are still getting their sea legs. In college basketball, that means pounding unsuspecting smaller schools that travel from Chapel Hill to Lawrence to Los Angeles to receive program-floating checks in exchange for a massive blowout.

The best team North Carolina has played so far is Davidson. Arizona’s top opponent is probably UC Irvine, but it’s much closer to “unidentifiable.” Louisville defeated Minnesota to start its season but doesn’t have a real test until it plays Ohio State on Dec. 2.

These cupcake games are not necessarily resume killers. There are more games than in college football, and therefore more opportunities to make those easy wins seem like a figment of the committee’s imagination come March. 

But these games do create a bit of a lull at the beginning of the schedule and make Top 25 losses all the more surprising. Larry Brown’s SMU outfit has gone from No. 22 to basically irrelevant in the span of a week. Gonzaga throttled the Mustangs in Spokane, and three days later, Indiana earned a home win to knock SMU down to 1-2 at the time.

Nebraska’s overtime loss to Rhode Island sent the Huskers packing from the national stage. Same goes for Iowa, which dropped two straight against Texas and Syracuse at the 2K Classic. These losses will be utterly indistinguishable when they’re happening on a weekly basis during conference play, but they’re more magnified early in the season because they are so few and far between.

In all, only four teams with one loss (Kansas, Florida, Michigan State and Connecticut) are ranked inside the Top 25. Kansas and Michigan State each lost to a ranked compatriot. Florida fell by two points to a Miami team that’s moved into the rankings this week, and Connecticut shared a similar fate against West Virginia.

As for everyone else, it appears we’ll have to wait a few more weeks before they stand a true test. For now, we’ll just appreciate the few good scraps of games we get at the Thanksgiving dinner table.   

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Winners and Losers from the AP College Basketball Top 25 Rankings in Week 3

Though the first three days of the 2014-15 college basketball season were relatively uneventful, the past seven days were rife with big games and shocking upsets, leading to a ton of winners and losers in the Associated Press Top 25 rankings for Week 3.

After dismantling Kansas in the Champions Classic and beating Montana State so badly that its head coach said after the game, “You feel helpless because you don’t know what to attack,” Kentucky remains the No. 1 team in the country. The Wildcats received 49 of 64 first-place votes last week but saw that number rise to 62 of 65 in this poll.

Wisconsin received the other three first-place votes, but the real action was at the other end of the poll.

Of the nine teams that were ranked No. 17-25 last Monday, seven suffered at least one loss. As a result, there was a ton of shakeup in the bottom third of the poll.

If you thought there was a lot of movement in this week’s poll, just wait until next week after 15 more early-season tournaments have been played. If nothing else, we know either North Carolina or Wisconsin (or both?) will suffer at least one loss in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though, because there are plenty of winners and losers from this week’s AP poll to discuss.

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Stock Watch for College Basketball Stars After 1st Few Games of 2014-15

It’s still early in the 2014-15 college basketball season, so it’s unreasonable to expect everyone to have the kinks worked out. Still, change is the only constant in collegiate sports, from changing rosters to changing roles, and some of the game’s stars appear to be handling what’s new better than others.

The following 10 players carried some burden of expectation into the new season, and for every one whose play is trending upward, there’s another who’s showing signs of struggle.

Which players are we bullish on at this preliminary stage, and which ones face a bear market?

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Stock Watch for College Basketball Stars After First Few Games of 2014-15

It’s still early in the 2014-15 college basketball season, so it’s unreasonable to expect everyone to have the kinks worked out. Still, change is the only constant in collegiate sports, from changing rosters to changing roles, and some of the game’s stars appear to be handling what’s new better than others.

The following 10 players carried some burden of expectation into the new season, and for every one whose play is trending upward, there’s another who’s showing signs of struggle.

Which players are we bullish on at this preliminary stage, and which ones face a bear market?

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Instant Grades for Top College Basketball Freshmen Through 1 Week

What kind of week did the freshmen have?

With Jahlil Okafor dominating veterans and Kentucky starting something like 725 McDonald’s All-Americans (and where’s the NCAA when you need them), all eyes are on the new guys here in college basketball’s opening stretch. 

But when you look at the nation’s best, there has been some inconsistency. Probably to be expected, given the newness. Here are grades for the nation’s 10 top freshmen after their first game or three at the next level.

For structure’s sake, we’ll use the top-10 list of the country’s most dynamic freshmen, set forth a couple weeks ago by my Bleacher Report contemporary Kerry Miller. The goal today is not to set up a new ranking, but to evaluate what the top guys did in their first week.

Also, national team rankings are courtesy of ESPN.

Got it? That’s great. Here we go, then.

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