Fox’s Top Ten: Everyone is Beatable6 min read
We technically knew everyone was beatable before last week since no one was undefeated, but three teams seemed like they may never lose again. Villanova was blitzing everyone with an best offense in the country. Virginia was doing the same, but with defense. Purdue hadn’t lost a single game in America, surrounding a mammoth of a human with dead-eye shooters.
Last week, all three lost.
Every team has flaws, but some are easier to exploit than others. If anything, last week showed us that even the supposed “great” teams have issues of which others can take advantage. Despite the losses, all three teams stay in the top ten. Auburn and St. Mary’s saw their abbreviated stays come to an end, replaced by two teams you would expect to see in the football edition of these rankings. Let’s get into it.
10. Clemson (Last Week: Not Ranked)
Virginia is the only thing between Clemson and an ACC title, which is wild. After a string of agonizingly close losses to ranked teams over the years, Brad Brownell has finally broken through and his Tigers should be a top three seed when the bracket is officially released. The schedule does get a little easier after this week, but first Clemson has to deal with a trip to Florida State and a visit from Duke.
9. Purdue (Last Week: 3)
Facing their toughest competition since November, Purdue failed what some were referring to as a LITMUS TEST WEEK.
Litmus Test Week begins tonight for Purdue at Mackey Arena against Ohio State. Only lock NCAA team Boilers have played in Big Ten is Michigan. At Michigan State on Saturday.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 7, 2018
Ok it was only one person, but still. Purdue was only six points away from winning both games, but thanks to the heroics of Keita Bates-Diop and Miles Bridges the Boilermakers came up just short in both games. Rebounding is still an issue, and it puzzles me to no end that a team this big has such a hard time in that department. Against Ohio State, Isaac Haas had one (1) more rebound than Andrew Dakich.
One last gripe: if Michigan State is a three seed, I don’t understand how Purdue is a one. There is no reason there should be two seed lines of difference between these teams.
8. Ohio State (Last Week: Not Ranked)
If you had told me during the November 29 Ohio State/Clemson game that this was a top ten matchup, I would have laughed in your face. But that is the world we are living in. Keita Bates-Diop is the best player in the Big Ten, Chris Holtmann is the national coach of the year, and seemingly every member of the roster is improving. With four games to go, the Buckeyes incredibly sit alone in first place in the Big Ten. First up will be a potential revenge game at Penn State.
7. Virginia (Last Week: 2)
Virginia’s defensive brilliance has deservedly garnered all the attention, but it’s finally time to mention that the Cavaliers simply aren’t very good on offense. The Hoos played 45 minutes of “basketball” against Virginia Tech and scored just 60 points. It doesn’t happen often, but when teams are hitting shots like the Hokies were (57 percent from the floor and behind the arc in the first half), Virginia simply does not have the firepower to keep up. Interestingly enough, Virginia was undone by Tech jamming the middle (not unlike the pack-line defense) and forcing Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome to hoist up a combined 24 threes–only making four. There is clearly no contingency plan for how Virginia can win games if opponents are hitting shots, and that is a bit worrisome with March on the horizon.
6. Villanova (Last Week: 1)
To take Rothstein’s Villanova/Fortune 500 company metaphor a step further, the Wildcats really let down their shareholders against St. John’s. You can make excuses if you want–no Phil Booth or Eric Paschall, Shamorie Ponds has been playing out of his mind–but the fact of the matter is Villanova lost to an 0-11 Big East team at home. The Wildcats are like Virginia in that if one thing is not going there way, they will really struggle to win games. For Villanova that thing is hitting jump shots. Outside of Collin Gillespie, no one could get a shot to fall against St. John’s (excluding Gillespie they shot just 4-27 from distance). Historically, Villanova has settled for jump shots to a fault–and that will be a trend to keep an eye on going forward. Huge game on Saturday at Xavier, but the undercard at Providence on Wednesday will no be easy, either.
5. Gonzaga (Last Week: 10)
As I said in the Weekend Guide, Gonzaga-St. Mary’s would hinge on Gonzaga’s effectiveness in defending Jock Landale. Saturday’s performance cannot be classified as anything less than a complete success. Landale was immediately doubled every time he touched the ball and managed just four shots. The Zags also closed out extremely well when Landale would kick it out, holding one of the best shooting teams in America to just 5-20 shooting from distance.
As an aside, it was completely bogus that Gonzaga was left off the committee’s current top 16 teams. Apparently last year changed nothing about the consistent undervaluing of this team.
4. Texas Tech (Last Week: 7)
It is February and someone not named Kansas is alone in first in the Big 12. Up until now this season has followed the pattern it has every season during Kansas’ reign of terror, but this is now uncharted territory. West Virginia is the only other team besides Texas Tech and Kansas that even has a winning record in conference, so it’s pretty much a two team race at this point. The formula for the Red Raiders hasn’t changed: let Keenan Evans do most of the heavy lifting on offense, completely shut down the opposing team, and win comfortably. Oklahoma on Tuesday presents a great chance for Texas Tech to show just how good its defense really is.
3. Cincinnati (Last Week: 6)
A team playing in the AAC who keeps winning but whose schedule keeps being questioned….where have I seen this before? The schedule does get a bit tougher this week with a trip to Houston and a game against Wichita State, but it’s hard to criticize what Cincinnati has been doing so far. As I said on the podcast, it feels like the Bearcats are playing like Virginia but better. While the competition in the AAC is not on the same level as the ACC, the consistent margin of victory every game shows how good Cincinnati has been.
2. Xavier (Last Week: 5)
Another week, another close call. The Musketeers were the beneficiaries of some shaky officiating late against Creighton, and by getting that win now have sole possession of first place in the Big East. For that to still be true this time next week, Xavier will have to get past Seton Hall and Villanova. Sean O’Mara and Kerem Kanter have both been playing well lately, but will need to find an extra gear to stop Angel Delgado.
1. Michigan State (Last Week: 2)
The committee would have you believe this team is a three seed. Dan Dakich would have you believe that Miles Bridges has no game. Despite the myriad of off-the-court issues surrounding the team and Michigan State’s entire campus, the on-court product is still extremely good. The Purdue win was especially important because the Spartans’ overall resume has not exactly aged well, and there are no more opportunities for great wins the rest of the way. I will say this, though: there is only one team in America that ranks in the top ten on both sides of the ball, and it plays in East Lansing.