The Spokesman-Review’s Theo Lawson explains how he voted in the Associated Press Top 25 with five general thoughts on this week’s poll, a few notes on the Pac-12 and an update on local Top 25 representative Gonzaga.
1. There wasn’t much slippage last week from the team’s occupying the Top 10 after that cluster went just 10-9 in Week 16. They combined to go 15-3 and eight of the 10 skated through the week without a loss. That trend held true for the remaining teams as well. Nos. 11-25 went 23-4 and the pecking order largely went unchanged – which probably means another week of chaos is in store.
2. Just when we thought the Virginia D couldn’t do anything else to wow us, the Cavaliers nearly double up Pitt in a game in which they scored only 66 points. In the 66-37 win for top-ranked UVA, the Panthers were held to 11-of-46 shooting – or 23 percent – and the starters combined to make only two field goals. Virginia conceded just 91 points to Pitt and Georgia Tech and gave itself even more breathing room at the top of the poll.
3. For a seven-game stretch, Texas Tech looked like the top contender out of the tough Big 12 Conference, but the Red Raiders hit two more speed bumps last week, bringing their losing streak to three games (four after a loss to West Vriginia on Monday night). TT has time to recover and the fact that those first three losses came by a combined 12 points should be encouraging for the fans in Lubbock. The Red Raiders can still grab a high NCAA Tournament seed and challenge Kansas in the Big 12 tourney.
4. Michigan State won a Big Ten regular season championship on Sunday, but the best news out of East Lansing over the weekend was not the Spartans’ 68-63 win over Wisconsin. Star forward Miles Bridges was cleared by the NCAA after he was named in a Yahoo! Sports report that alleged his family accepted $400 from an agent. But Sunday’s win over the Badgers showed what the Spartans can be without their preseason All-American: they won despite Bridges shooting 3-of-15 from the field and 0-of-7 from the three-point line.
5. Loyola of Chicago isn’t necessarily a hot Top 25 pick – just six voters have the Ramblers ranked, up four from last week – but the regular-season Missouri Valley Conference champions own one of the nation’s top defensive ratings (7th in total defense at 63.4 ppg) and picked up a quality win over Florida earlier in the year. Joe Lunardi currently has Loyola as a No. 12 seed in his latest bracketology and the Ramblers seem more than capable of pulling a 12 over 5, or 13 over 6 upset in March.
Perusing the Pac-12
Arizona – Well, how far can Deandre Ayton carry these Wildcats? If the freshman sensation can stay eligible through the end of the season – and mind you, that is a big “if” – Arizona, even without a head coach (Sean Miller) and All-American guard (Allonzo Trier), will have a chance to win just about every game it plays in simply because the Wildcats will have the best player on the floor. That’s not a great formula for success, but it’s the best-case scenario for a program currently shoulder-deep in turmoil.
Gonzaga’s resume doesn’t do the Bulldogs any favors this time of year and it’s safe to assume that’s how a 27-win team drops one place in the poll after picking up two quality WCC wins on the road. The Zags won’t care too much about that, though, and should be healthy and rested when they return to the court Saturday for the quarterfinal round of the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas.
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