Tate: Top 10 Brings Midseason Madness

Last week’s record-breaking number of top-10, nationally ranked teams that all lost during the same week headlined college basketball news. That included both participating teams from last year’s national championship game in Villanova and North Carolina (losing to unranked programs Marquette and Miami, both on the road).
Furthermore, national powers Duke and Kentucky suffered losses as well. Duke on it’s home floor of Cameron Indoor Stadium to a very average North Carolina State ballclub led by phenomenal freshman Dennis Smith Jr. (32 points) and just barely escaping Wake Forest on the road shortly after, both by a two-point deficit. Kentucky fell by single digits to both foes, first between the checkerboard baselines to a mediocre-at-best Tennessee Vols team and second, a rare home loss and it’s second of the season to fellow blue-blood Kansas.
Speaking of Kansas, rock chalk traveled to Morgantown to meet with Huggie-Bear who was 16 points better on that night giving KU it’s second loss on the season. UCLA continued its most recent struggles as in-city rival Southern California exposed flaws and created the blueprint of defeat on a team that had previously been arguably the most impressive nationally.
Florida State entering the week was viewed by many as the most improved team in the country until consecutive road losses to the nation’s and conference’s most surprising team Georgia Tech and most disappointing team Syracuse which stormed the court after the win (for some strange reason).
Then there’s the Oregon Ducks. A program that was preseason ranked its highest in program history before nearly dropping from the top 25 in the season’s first few weeks thanks to early losses. The Ducks would climb all the way back into the top 10 after 17 consecutive wins before a single-digit road loss to the unranked Buffaloes of Colorado, who are no pushover to conference foes at home.
Now there’s a whole new list of my own personal top-25 rankings released and why they’re most deserving of their ranking:
(1)Gonzaga Bulldogs
Tate’s Take: Maybe the Zags haven’t played the toughest non-conference (nor in-conference) slate as the others but one cannot argue that they deserve to be here because they’ve played everyone on their schedule the same as everyone else and haven’t lost a single game.. something no other team can say with a straight face.
Sure the WCC is weaker than watered down pop (or soda), but Florida, Iowa State, Arizona and Tennessee aren’t exactly Coppin State, Presbyterian College, sisters of the poor and school for the blind. Although, Pepperdine, Pacific and Portland isn’t too far from.
(2)Kansas Jayhawks
Tate’s Take: Most people’s front-runners to cut down the nets in Phoenix, and they’re well overdue as one of the most successful programs since cutting down the nets last in 2008. Walking out of Rupp Arena over the weekend in a rematch of the 2012 national championship game, KU was nothing less than impressive.
Adding one more loss than Baylor so why are they ranked above the Bears? After both teams fell from number one at West Virginia, the Jayhawks are only working on tying UCLA’s legendary coach, John Wooden’s consecutive regular season conference championships (13)
(3)Baylor Bears
Tate’s Take: Scott Drew and company could be the most questionable team in the nation ranked in the top 25 not named Gonzaga but with wins on their resume vs Oregon, VCU, Michigan State, Louisville, Xavier and every Big 12 opponent scheduled thus far besides West Virginia. It’s tough to argue a lower ranking than third.
(4)Villanova Wildcats
Tate’s Take: The defending national champs aren’t as talented as last year but are experienced with solid role players, a winning pedigree, an elite coach, a legit system, chemistry and the best player in the country on both ends of the floor from every aspect of the game (Josh Hart).
(5)Arizona Wildcats
Tate’s Take: Big time freshmen play-makers Kobi Simmons and Lauri Markkanen are going to dictate how the Cats’ future success. Kobi’s health and Lauri’s outside shooting performances & defensive prowess will either make or break Zona. As the best team in the west? Perhaps. We will learn a lot this weekend in Eugene, Oregon.
(6)Louisville Cardinals
Tate’s Take: UofL has improved in recent weeks scoring the basketball but still struggle most during key stretches of games. Quentin Snider’s recent injury has ignited a scoring match inside Donovan Mitchell as shown in a 25-point home win vs NC State (28 points) and a 55-point road win at Pitt (29 points). The Cards rank in the top 15 nationally in scoring defense and top 10 in rebounds.
(7)UCLA Bruins
Tate’s Take: My personal opinion of the best team on the west coast, UCLA (in addition to Kansas) has all the tools to win a national title: experience, talent, front-court presence, leadership, outstanding guard play, slashers and most noticeably.. scoring. Averaging 92 points per game (2nd in the nation) and 22 assists per game (1st in the nation), Westwood hasn’t performed nearly as well recently and if it continues, head coach Steve Alford will likely be the reason.
(8)Kentucky Wildcats
Tate’s Take: At one point Kentucky looked to be the best team in the nation but opponents made adjustments to the typical playing style of athleticism and take full advantage of the youthful inexperience that is UK. That said, its far from time for Big Blue Nation to press the panic button but is time to begin thinking about how deep down the bench it will be able to go moving forward after two straight losses.
Biggest question is if De’Aaron Fox is held to a decent game at best, Malik Monk isn’t shooting the ball well and Derek Willis cannot come to the aid as a fill-in shooter and free-throws aren’t falling (which is a strong possibility), who will Coach Cal rely on? We may not see that instance very much in SEC play but keep your eyes open during the big dance.
(9)West Virginia Mountaineers
Tate’s Take:  The good: ‘Press Virginia’ led by their stellar defense has defeated the top 2 teams in the Big 12 conference and a battle of the best defensive teams in the country earlier this season (Virginia). WV isn’t all defense either, they’re also ranked in the top 10 nationally in assists and scoring.
The bad: A loss to Temple won’t help a top two seed entering the 3-week tournament and neither will losing 3 conference games thus far.. which one happens to the team with the worst record in conference, Oklahoma.
(10)Wisconsin Badgers
Tate’s Take: The most fundamentally sound team in the nation (not named Virginia) and San Antonio Spurs of the sport can never ever be counted out of rugged and competitive play. You know exactly what you’re going to get and won’t back down from a challenge nor force them to play your band of ball.
Wisky lives and dies with who they are. Lately, those pesky Badgers are tied with Maryland for team with the best record in the Big Ten and on a five game winning streak, ranked in the top 5 in scoring defense. Ethan Happ has shown to be a solid contributor and the pair of Vitto Brown and Khalil Iverson are among the most underappreciated in the conference and nation.
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