Reactions to the College Basketball AP Top 25 Poll for Week 15

The order of the top seven teams in the latest AP Top 25 poll changed from last week and there’s a nearly unanimous new No. 1 team in the country after Tennessee lost to Kentucky on Saturday. The ACC and Big Ten both have six teams ranked in the AP poll, which is tied for the most of any conference.

Here are our reactions to the latest AP Top 25 poll.

 

Duke is No. 1 (again)

The Blue Devils earned the No. 1 ranking in the AP Top 25 poll for the seventh week this season and for the first time since the AP poll that was released January 14. They earned 58 of a possible 64 first-place votes with Gonzaga receiving the other six.

Duke is also No. 1 in the NET rankings and No. 1 on kenpom.com on Monday morning, so it was a pretty reasonable decision – if the not the “right” one – by the AP poll voters.

Duke has won nine straight games, including a sweep of Virginia and a road win at Louisville.

As a reminder, the Blue Devils’ only losses were a two-point, neutral-court loss to now-No. 2 Gonzaga and a 95-91 loss at home to Syracuse in which Duke played the entire game without starting forward Cam Reddish and starting point guard Tre Jones played only six minutes before exiting the game with an injury.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if Duke lost again in the regular season. After all, the Blue Devils still have to play North Carolina twice, plus they have road games at Syracuse and Virginia Tech.

But it also wouldn’t be a surprise if they’re ranked No. 1 in the country on Selection Sunday.

[RELATED: Stadium’s Latest NCAA Tournament Bracket Projections]

Tennessee dropped to No. 5

It might be a shock to some college basketball fans to see that former No. 1 Tennessee dropped to No. 5 in the latest AP Top 25 poll after its loss to Kentucky. But if we go through the top of the AP poll team by team, that feels about right, especially when considering how lopsided the Volunteers’ 86-69 loss to the Wildcats felt for most of the game.

We’ve already been over Duke’s impressive resume.

No. 2 Gonzaga is the only team that’s beaten Duke at full strength or in regulation this season. Its only losses were by three points on a neutral court to Tennessee and on the road at North Carolina. Say what you will about the West Coast Conference but five of Gonzaga’s last six wins have come against top-100 opponents. Four of Tennessee’s last six opponents are ranked in the 90s on kenpom.com.

No. 3 Virginia has only lost to Duke. It’s 22-0 against the rest of the country and it’s one of just two teams – along with Duke – that ranks in the top five in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com.

No. 4 Kentucky (21-4) has an overall record that’s two games worse than Tennessee but the Wildcats thoroughly outplayed the Volunteers their last time out. If we treat the AP poll as some sort of hybrid between a team’s overall resume and how a team is playing currently, Kentucky is a much different team than the group that lost by 34 to Duke in early November, to Seton Hall in overtime on a neutral court in December or at Alabama in early January.

Tennessee should still be treated as a top-five team nationally and its final six regular season games – five of which are against projected NCAA Tournament teams – will tell us a lot about how the Volunteers respond to getting punched in the mouth by Kentucky and whether they can maintain their projection for a No. 1 seed.

 

LSU makes the biggest jump of the week

LSU climbed six spots to No. 13 in this week’s AP poll, which is the program’s highest ranking since the 2008-09 season. For perspective, the Tigers have only been ranked in just two of the last 10 seasons for a combined 11 weeks. Eight of those weeks have come this season, which tells you the impact LSU Coach Will Wade has made in Year 2 in Baton Rouge.

In the 2009 season – the first of former LSU Coach Trent Johnson – the Tigers reached No. 12 in the AP Top 25 poll in March with a roster that featured three seniors who went on to play in the NBA: Marcus Thornton, Chris Johnson and Garrett Temple. Those Tigers ultimately earned a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament, lost in the second round and LSU never appeared in the AP Top 25 again during the final three seasons of Johnson’s tenure.

Sure, LSU’s most recent climb in the AP poll wouldn’t have happened – or wouldn’t have been as high – without a road win at Kentucky, where the Tigers benefited from a controversial game-winning basket that appeared to be basket interference. But a win is a win and the Tigers are now tied for first in the SEC, they’re 21-4 overall and they’re projected to share the regular season title with Tennessee, according to kenpom.com.

Stadium’s latest NCAA Tournament bracket projections have the Tigers as a No. 4 seed, which would be the program’s highest seed since 2006. No matter how you break down the 2018-19 Tigers, this is LSU’s best team in at least a decade.

 

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