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 how 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. For the third straight week, no changes in the top four: Tennessee, Duke, Virginia and Gonzaga – teams that have lost a combined six games – will hold down those spots for at least seven more days. Which one will drop first? The top-ranked Volunteers probably won’t be challenged in their next three SEC games (Missouri, Florida, South Carolina), but run into Kentucky after that. Duke and Virginia battle Saturday in Charlottesville, and while a third loss might knock the Blue Devils out of the top four, a second loss probably wouldn’t drop the Cavaliers out.
2. Outside of the Michigan schools, it was an unbeaten week for the top 10. But John Beilein’s Wolverines dropped a Big Ten game to Iowa, which helped vault the Hawkeyes from unranked to No. 20, and Tom Izzo’s Spartans lost by four points to Indiana. Purdue has now caught up to both teams in the Big Ten standings, and four other teams are within striking distance. Of the Power Five leagues, the Big Ten might be the one to focus on coming down the stretch.
3. A slow slide for Kansas continued after another Big 12 Conference split, the Jayhawks’ third in as many weeks. Bill Self’s team has lost three of its past five games, but the Jayhawks have been able to avoid a major pitfall by slipping in some quality wins, over then-No. 24 Iowa State and No. 16 Texas Tech. Kansas, now No. 13, has fallen five times since being the nation’s No. 1 team; the Jayhawks have now dropped three weeks in a row.
Perusing the Pac-12
Washington: Can the Huskies go unbeaten through the remaining nine Pac-12 games and take an 18-0 record into the conference tournament? It’s unlikely. But with a three-game lead on the conference’s next-best team, it also seems unlikely UW will concede first place at any point over the next month, even if big man Noah Dickerson is out for an extended period of time. In a Pac-12 where nine teams are giving up at least 74 points per game, the Huskies have given up 70 just once.
As for UW’s return to the Top 25? If the Huskies can pick up a road sweep against the Arizona schools, the poll’s top “receiving votes”-getter should be back in by this time next week.
The West Coast Conference standings are shaping up a lot like those in the Pac-12 midway through the season – a Washington-based team on top and everyone else scrapping for second place. Gonzaga hasn’t been challenged through eight games, having already played two that some thought might offer a test – at San Francisco and at BYU. The Zags have played stellar defense at times, but it still pales in comparison to GU’s head-turning offense. Consider this: BYU is scoring 80 points per game – good enough for 37th in the country – and stand 10 points per game behind the Bulldogs, who average 91.2 ppg and are the only team in the country above 90.
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