The Spokesman-Review’s Theo Lawson is one of 65 national media members voting in the Associated Press Top 25 basketball poll this season. Every week throughout the 2018-19 campaign, he’ll break down he voted, offering three thoughts on the latest edition of the poll, an update on the Pac-12’s ranked teams and a look at local Top 25 representative Gonzaga.
1. We’ll visit the Gonzaga part of the equation below, but North Carolina’s 103-90 win over the Bulldogs in Chapel Hill was more than significant for a Tar Heels team that had blown a big chance at a Top 25 win about a week earlier against Michigan. UNC’s Roy Williams was critical of his coaching efforts in a game that saw the Heels score just 67 points on 39 percent shooting and 33 percent from the 3-point line. UNC evidently made some tweaks before hosting Gonzaga, because Williams’ club beat Mark Few’s by shooting 54 percent from the field and 52 percent from distance.
2. There wasn’t much carnage this week for teams in the Top 25. That’s in part because four teams were off and only four others had multiple games. Just two games this week – No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 17 Villanova and No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 12 North Carolina – pitted Top 25 teams against one another. There’s a few more of those this week, beginning with Texas Tech-Duke on Thursday, followed by Buffalo-Marquette Friday and Kentucky-North Carolina/Arizona State-Kansas on Saturday.
3. The defending national champions looked vulnerable early in the season, dropping consecutive games to Michigan and Furman, before reeling off six wins in a row. Nobody’s counting Villanova’s Saturday’s four-point defeat to Kansas in Lawrence a bad loss, but the Wildcats were punished by pollsters for what happened a few days earlier – a 78-75 loss to Penn that marked Nova’s first loss in 25 tries against one of its four Philadelphia rivals: Penn, Temple, St. Joseph’s and La Salle.
Perusing the Pac-12
No. 18 Arizona State – The Pac-12 could’ve been without a Top 25 team for the first time in a long time had Bobby Hurley’s Sun Devils not wiped out an 18-point deficit to beat Georgia 76-74 in Athens, Georgia. Remy Martin scored 21 points to help ASU outscore the Bulldogs 43-27 in the second half and avoid a second straight defeat. After UCLA’s loss to Belmont, there isn’t another Pac-12 team even on the fringe of Top 25 consideration. The Sun Devils could be the only representative for awhile and that isn’t even a sure thing, considering they lost to Vanderbilt on Monday night and host Kansas later this week.
After consecutive losses to Tennessee and North Carolina, Gonzaga may have to run the WCC table to snatch a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Strong as the Bulldogs’nonconference schedule looked at the outset of the season, GU could finish the year with only one win against a ranked opponent – Duke. Beating either the Volunteers or the Tar Heels would’ve given the Zags some breathing room, perhaps allowing them to take a loss in conference play. But, taking into account some of GU’s defensive displays as of late, that should be the top priority for a team that’s scoring plenty of its own points but, in many cases, giving up almost just as many.
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