AP College Basketball Poll 2014: Complete Week 6 Rankings Released

Each week throughout the season, the Associated Press releases a new set of college basketball rankings. While this week’s poll didn’t feature much change at the top, the ripple effect of losses hurt several teams just outside the Top 10.

Both Utah and Butler suffered losses against Kansas and Tennessee, respectively. Butler’s was more surprising with Tennessee previously 3-3 before the huge win, but both fell in the poll.   

Meanwhile, Kansas continues to prove it’s one of the best teams in the country despite the early loss to Kentucky. The Jayhawks remained in the Top 10 much like the other notable teams ahead in the poll.

Here’s a look at the latest poll, courtesy of the Associated Press.

 

Kentucky remained atop the standings after moving to 11-0, but the Wildcats have some great teams behind them as well.

With Duke continuing its undefeated season as well, the Blue Devils have a stiff test this weekend. As some of the best ACC teams have struggled, such as North Carolina, Duke remains unblemished heading into a showdown with UConn this week.

Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports points out one of the biggest matchups in the game:

Along with the Devils, another team that has been on the rise is Kansas. The Jayhawks were hurt earlier in the season with the blowout loss to Kentucky, but they knocked off previously No. 13 Utah to prove their worth.

SportsCenter points out the win wasn’t an easy one for Kansas:

Conference play is just around the corner for some of the top teams, so there will be plenty of shakeup on the horizon. No team is safe from dropping out of the Top 10, including Kentucky after losing Alex Poythress for the season.

As the season rolls along, the poll will begin to give us a better picture of how the NCAA tournament might look. With Arizona and Duke undefeated for now, both will have huge tests to remain in running for a No. 1 seed at the end of the year.  

 

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AP College Basketball Poll 2014: Complete Week 5 Rankings Released

Early in the 2014 college basketball season, no team looks as dominant as the Kentucky Wildcats. It’s no surprise, then, that John Calipari‘s team of superstars remained atop the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

Behind the Wildcats, mayhem has started—slightly. Multiple Top 10 teams lost since the last poll, including Gonzaga, Wichita State, Texas and even No. 2 Wisconsin in a shocking week across the country.     

As a result, there was quite a bit of shakeup in the poll, with other programs moving up in their places. Among those teams are three surging ACC teams with Duke, Louisville and Virginia all climbing up into the Top Six.

Here’s a look at the latest AP Top 25 and analysis of the release.

 

Analysis

Prior to the 2014-15 season, the AP put Kentucky atop the standings. Unlike years prior, it appears the Wildcats are there to stay after dismantling yet another Top 10 opponent this past week.

Equipped with a cast of two different platoons full of star power, UK has the size and athleticism to take down any team in the country. The Wildcats proved that yet again with a 12-point win over previously No. 6 Texas.

Against the Longhorns, it was Willie Cauley-Stein who starred with 21 points, 12 rebounds and a memorable dunk for the highlight reel. Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv passed along comments from one NBA scout on his ability and future:

Despite the concern for each player not getting to shine in the platoon system, Cauley-Stein proved it can be done. In a season where the Wildcats look unstoppable, every player should get his opportunity in March.

Outside of the SEC, it appears one conference is looking to make a statement at the top. The ACC might have come up short in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, but the top of the conference looks as dominant as any in the country.

Duke jumped Arizona up to No. 2 after taking down Wisconsin and easily looks the part of a program that can make a late March run. Jahlil Okafor may be the star of the class, but freshman Tyus Jones has been outstanding in the backcourt, via Jeff Goodman of ESPN:

Coach Mike Krzyzewski talked to reporters after the game and praised his young nucleus of players.

“When those freshmen see that the upperclassmen are setting the table for them, it helps a lot. They didn’t look like freshmen tonight,” he said.  

Along with the Blue Devils, the Cardinals and defending ACC champion Cavaliers also remained undefeated. Losses by North Carolina and an upset loss for Miami hurt the conference in the poll, but there appears to be a clear top of the crop at this point.

Speaking of shocking upsets, previously No. 17 Michigan’s loss to NJIT has already been heralded as the “upset of the 2014-15 season” by Sam Vecenie of CBSSports.com. Even NJIT coach Jim Engles was left in awe of his team’s accomplishment, per Matt Pargoff of Maize and Blue News:

Even more massive upsets are sure to be on the horizon following a chaotic start to the season. This week alone, UNC has a chance to topple Kentucky in Lexington, Michigan has a chance to rebound against Arizona and Utah will take on Kansas looking to continue to move up the polls.   

Needless to say, the fun is just beginning in the long college basketball season. Myriad changes have already taken place, but the Week 6 rankings will undoubtedly have a completely different look.

 

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AP College Basketball Poll 2014: Complete Week 4 Rankings Released

When The Associated Press released its preseason rankings, it appears it hit a home run with the nation’s top four teams. Everywhere else? Still very much a work in progress.

For the fourth consecutive week, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Arizona and Duke comprise the nation’s early favorites. John Calipari‘s Wildcats, fresh off a couple more thrashings of overmatched opponents, remain unchallenged at No. 1. The Badgers hold their narrow lead at the No. 2 spot, with Arizona, Duke and newcomer Louisville rounding out the Top Five.      

Here is a quick look at how the entire Top 25 played out:

Atop the standings, there wasn’t all that much excitement. Wisconsin took the Battle 4 Atlantis championship with three straight wins by an average margin of 15 points, Arizona toppled a game San Diego State team to win the Maui Invitational and Duke and Kentucky stayed home for the holidays to take down a pair of cupcakes.

The real excitement for each of the nation’s best begins this week. Wisconsin hosts Duke on Wednesday night in what could be an early candidate for game of the year. Blue Devils freshman Jahlil Okafor will face his toughest challenge yet in Frank Kaminsky, who has scored at least 15 points in six of the Badgers’ seven games.

Okafor, the nation’s top-ranked recruit coming out of high school, is one of three freshmen leading the charge for Duke. The 6’11″ big man is averaging 17.7 points and 7.9 rebounds so far, with point guard Tyus Jones and swingman Justise Winslow also contributing in a big way. Their emergence has helped Duke maintain one of the nation’s deepest rotations, with 10 players receiving at least 10 minutes per game.

“They’re ahead,” coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters of his freshmen. “They’re just ahead. So much of it has to do with what they’ve done not just in their high school programs—[they] have been so involved with USA Basketball.”

A largely veteran-laden Wisconsin group should provide Duke with its biggest test of the young season. The Badgers keep a tighter rotation and don’t have a single freshman receiving even five minutes per game.

The same obviously cannot be said for Kentucky, which, again, boasts a deep freshman class filled to the brim with 5-star talent. The Wildcats are yet to allow a team to come closer than 19 points, though that may change when Texas takes a trip to Lexington on Friday.

The Longhorns have emerged as one of the nation’s fiercest defensive teams. No opponent has topped 57 points against them, and Ken Pomeroy’s metrics have Texas fourth nationally in defensive efficiency. Freshman forward Myles Turner is one of the nation’s most exciting rim protectors, averaging three blocks per game while playing under 20 minutes per game.

Of course, that may change in Lexington’s high-pressure climate. Kentucky has throttled opponents on both ends of the floor, heading into the week as the only top-five team on offense and defense, per Pomeroy. Calipari has continued to shuffle players on and off the court in hockey-like rotations, with 10 players averaging at least 15 minutes a night. That level of depth is good, but Kentucky is yet to establish its go-to five when the game is on the line. 

“What we need is just a hand-to-hand kind of game,” Calipari told Jerry Tipton of the Lexington Herald-Leader. “Where a team is not afraid of us. That they make plays and they continue to make them throughout.”

Those games are just a couple of a plethora of Top 25 matchups on the docket. Arizona hosts No. 9 Gonzaga on Saturday, Louisville has Ohio State on Tuesday and Virginia travels to a Maryland team that’s raced out to a 7-0 start.

The Terrapins’ biggest win came last Tuesday against Iowa State, but it also featured their biggest loss. Senior guard Dez Wells will miss at least four weeks after suffering a broken wrist against the Cyclones, wiping his 16.2 points and team-high 2.6 assists off the board. With the team playing in its first Big Ten season and looking for its first NCAA tournament appearance under Mark Turgeon, Wells’ absence could prevent Maryland from getting its second big win of 2014-15.

Speaking of big wins, Butler’s upset of North Carolina at the Battle 4 Atlantis helps provide one of the biggest changes in the Top 25. The Tar Heels were held to 38.6 percent shooting and turned the ball over 19 times in the 74-66 loss, which sent them to No. 12 from No. 5. They recovered to take down UCLA and Florida in short order but are still very much a work in progress.

The Gators’ loss dropped them to 3-3 on the season. Ranked seventh before their opening struggles, Billy Donovan’s team has already been moved outside the Top 25.

“Right now, the truth is slammed in our face, which I think is great,” Donovan told reporters. “A lot of times in your non-conference scheduling, when you don’t play against high-level competition it’s hard to get to a truth.”

Florida isn’t the only team having “truth” slammed in its face. VCU was routed by Villanova and upset by Old Dominion in the last seven days, sending the Commodores spiraling from No. 14 all the way to the outside looking in. Their formidable defense struggled mightily in both contests, and it appears they don’t have the half-court scoring to atone for cracks in their defensive armor.

VCU and Florida lead the charge of five teams dropping from the rankings this week. Also sent packing were Connecticut, Creighton and UCLA, all of which were holding on by a thread coming into this week. 

Taking their place are the aforementioned No. 21 Maryland and No. 23 Butler, along with Oklahoma, Illinois and Utah. Oklahoma and Utah were previously in the poll before being ousted. 

Chief among the biggest drops in Week 4 are North Carolina and Iowa State, each moving back seven spots from its previous perch. West Virginia, which rose to No. 16, has the biggest cause for celebration among Top 25 teams.

 

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Memphis Grizzlies: Most Complete Roster in Franchise History

For anyone doubting the 12-2 Memphis Grizzlies, think again. Fresh off crushing Western Conference foes Houston Rockets 119-93 and L.A. Clippers 107-91, the Grizz are feeling good about themselves. In fact, the Grizzlies are 7 points away from being undefeated. It seems as if the only thing that can slow this team down is the flu. Are the Grizzlies just hot? Or is this the real team we should expect for the rest of the season? After a few games, I would have said they were just hot. But 14 games into the season and showing no signs of slowing down leads me to believe this is just the way this team plays. They really are that good.
The Grizzlies recently in action vs the Celtics
What separates this year’s team from previous seasons? Finally, the Grizzlies solved the issues restraining them from breaking through these past few seasons. Primarily, I’m talking about the role players on the wings. The Grizzlies finally have what they need: consistent, efficient shooters. These players are crucial in the

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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.   

 

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AP College Basketball Poll 2014: Complete Week 2 Rankings Released

After most of the nation’s best started their seasons with win-padding games against overmatched cupcakes, not many changes were expected in the Week 2 Associated Press poll. 

Kentucky, Arizona and Wisconsin remain the three best teams in the land after each went 2-0 over the weekend. The Wildcats of Kentucky, who opened at No. 1 for the second straight season, were first on 49 of 65 ballots. That’s down four from their preseason total of 52 first-place votes.

The Arizona Wildcats and Badgers were at the top of four and seven ballots, respectively, with Duke adding four first-place votes after receiving zero in the preseason.   

Kansas rounds out the Top Five. Here is a look at how the second slate of rankings played out:

While the win now looks fine from the final scoreline, Kentucky received a scare Sunday from visiting Buffalo. The Bulls outscored their 5-star opponents 38-33 in the first half, which included a meme-ifying dunk from Justin Moss on UK’s Willie Cauley-Stein. Kentucky righted the ship in a dominant second half, though, holding Buffalo to 14 points en route to a 71-52 victory.

Boasting perhaps the deepest team of this century, John Calipari has made hay keeping his players fresh. No Wildcat has played more than 26 minutes in either of the first two games, and the second half against Buffalo saw him go long stretches of high-priority minutes with all-bench units on the floor. Ten Kentucky players are averaging at least 16 minutes per game so far.

“They substitute a lot of guys,” Buffalo forward Moss said, per Rick Bozich of WDRB.com. “They get fresh, [but] they don’t really get into a rhythm. 

“I felt like us being on the court and our substitution scheme helped us get better rhythm. They got fresh legs so that allowed them to run up and down. Me personally, I wouldn’t like that.”

Kentucky doesn’t have any more time to waste getting into a rhythm. The Wildcats’ real tests begin Tuesday when they face No. 5 Kansas as part of the State Farm Champions Classic.

Kansas will be well-rested having not played since its season-opening win over UC Santa Barbara. The underdog Gauchos kept themselves in the game throughout thanks to a 22-point, 13-rebound game from Alan Williams, but a strong 14-point outing from Devonte Graham off the bench helped the Jayhawks open their season with a win.

“It’s a great barometer,” Kansas coach Bill Self told Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star on the matchup with Kentucky. “But the thing that will be interesting for us: There’s a whole different level we’ve got to play.”

The State Farm Champions Classic, hosted in Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse, will also see fourth-ranked Duke take on No. 19 Michigan State.

The Blue Devils are off to a rip-roaring offensive start, averaging 111 points across two wins against Presbyterian and Fairfield. Freshman All-American Jahlil Okafor has proven himself worthy of the hype thus far, missing just three of his 20 shot attempts and averaging 18 points per game.

“One of our main things is sharing the ball,” Okafor told reporters. “Everybody’s eating right now.”

Five Duke players are averaging double figures, four of whom are freshmen. Justise Winslow is second on the team at 15.5 points per game, Grayson Allen is nearly averaging a point per minute and Tyus Jones has been the unselfish leader of the offense. 

Like his counterpart in Lexington, Mike Krzyzewski has been able to rely heavily on depth. Ten Blue Devils are averaging 15 minutes per game, though it’s likely we’ll see some major alterations to the rotation against Michigan State.

The Spartans, having lost a number of players from last year’s Elite Eight outfit, are nowhere near Duke’s level of depth. Their season-opening win against Navy saw six players receive 20-plus minutes of action as the Midshipmen surprisingly pushed them to the brink. Travis Trice scored 25 points, adding five rebounds and five assists, to be Tom Izzo’s offensive savior.

“It’s not about me right now. It’s about the team,” Trice told reporters after the game. “We’ve got to figure out what we’re doing wrong. That’s not how we want to play.”

Another early tournament campaign gets underway at the Maui Invitational, which starts its campus-site opening games this week. No. 16 San Diego State and No. 25 Utah will get their first taste of Top 25 action against one another after opening with strong victories.

The Aztecs forced 17 turnovers and had four double-figure scorers in their 79-58 victory over Cal State Northridge. Brandon Taylor scored a team-high 19 points as one of four starters in double figures for the Utes, who took down Ball State 90-72 at home.

The only other game scheduled between Top 25 opponents will take place late Monday, when No. 13 Gonzaga and No. 22 SMU meet in Spokane. The Bulldogs are coming off a 104-58 blowout win over Sacramento State. Larry Brown’s SMU team is coming off an equally impressive 93-54 win against Lamar.

For the most part, though, teams are still holding tight against cupcakes as they look to get into an early-season rhythm. More high-intensity games will start trickling onto the schedule next week, as the typical barrage of high-profile games around the Thanksgiving holiday start coming around.

For now, we’ll have to settle for the handful of good scraps around a pretty dreary dinner table. Let’s hope they’re worth it.

 

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Florida Basketball: Complete Roster, Season Preview for 2014-15 Gators

After a successful season led by senior stars, the Florida Gators are in the process of reloading for the 2014-15 season. 

Young players from last year’s squad, a few transfers and incoming freshmen will help Billy Donovan’s team compete with Kentucky in the SEC once again. That task may be tough, but with a coach like Donovan anything is possible. 

Continue reading on for a look at how the Gators’ season will pan out. 

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Gonzaga Basketball: Complete Roster, Season Preview for 2014-15 Bulldogs

If I told you that Gonzaga could lose just one game this season, would you believe me?

Probably not when you consider that the Bulldogs enter this season after a series of letdowns with a roster of players that have never been past the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

This year’s team, however, is incredibly talented and, more importantly, incredibly deep.

Led by a senior-laden backcourt that features Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. and a dynamic frontcourt that could lead the nation in scoring, Gonzaga is primed for a deep run in March.

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Beck/Bucher Debate: Who Is the NBA’s Most Complete Point Guard?

The NBA has an influx of top-tier point guards who demonstrate varying skills and talents.

While the position may have shifted from a pass-first mindset to a get-to-the-hoop mindset, a few floor leaders still have the ability to win while exhibiting the quintessential traits of a point guard.

Who is the most complete 1 in the NBA? 

Find out as Adam Lefkoe goes in-depth with Howard Beck and Ric Bucher, who give their answers in the video above.

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Indiana Basketball: Complete Roster, Season Preview for 2014-15 Hoosiers

The Indiana Hoosiers, for decades one of the most iconic basketball programs in the country, will begin the upcoming season under a veil of scrutiny, facing many questions about discipline, leadership and judgement in Bloomington.

The past week has not been kind to the program, with head coach Tom Crean announcing four-game suspensions—two exhibition, two regular-season games—for sophomores Stanford Robinson and Troy Williams, each for failing drug tests.

An additional four-game suspension was also doled out to incoming freshman Emmitt Holt for his role in a Nov. 1 car accident which left teammate Devin Davis hospitalized with a head injury.

Davis, who was later found by police to be mostly at fault for jumping in front of Holt’s car, has no timetable for return from the accident in which alcohol was a factor.

That’s no way to start a season, and particularly for a team that seems middle of the road.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s get right to it. This is your complete 2014-15 season preview for the embattled Indiana Hoosiers.

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