Here’s the new AP Top 25 after an eventful week of hoops:
We’ll start with Michigan and Villanova, the two schools that played one another this week and made the most drastic shifts in the rankings.
Michigan blew the doors off of Villanova and would also go on to beat George Washington and Providence in the span of a few days. The Wolverines are up to No. 9 as a result, and there’s a reasonable argument to be made that they should be higher.
Michigan’s defense is ridiculous. It has the top unit in the country and hasn’t allowed more than 61 points in a game; it allowed 46 to Villanova. In fact, outside of the 61-point game, no team has cracked 50 against the Wolverines this season. Remember when John Beilein was known as an offense-first coach? That may be the side of the floor he’s most passionate about, but Michigan has played outstanding defense the past two seasons. Charles Matthews is one of the best players in the country, and freshman Ignas Brazdeikis has been a revelation. The Wolverines boast plus defenders at all five positions.
Villanova, meanwhile, has some soul-searching to do. The Wildcats also lost to Furman last week and fell all the way out of the rankings.
The Wildcats haven’t gotten the type of production most expected out of their freshmen and Eric Paschall and Phil Booth have been inconsistent. They’ve shown flashes of being capable go-to scorers, but the efficiency isn’t there right now. Booth is shooting 40 percent from the floor; Paschall is at 38.
Villanova will improve. It’s just a matter of how much it will do so. The Wildcats are shooting 32 percent from 3-point range right now. That’s bound to rise, but last season, they shot 40.1 percent from 3. Villanova won’t crack that number this season; the shooters aren’t as good, but part of the problem is that the quality of shot attempts has decreased. That’s part of the cost of losing excellent shot creators like Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo.
But if they can inch up to 36 percent or so, the offense will look much better. If there’s anyone who can get this back on track, it’s Jay Wright.
The Big Ten is coming off a huge week, and that’s reflected in the new rankings. Three new teams entered this week’s poll: No. 20 Iowa, No. 23 Ohio State and No. 25 Wisconsin.
Iowa beat two quality opponents in Oregon and UConn, and it beat them handily. Tyler Cook is balling for the Hawkeyes, averaging 16 points and eight rebounds on 60 percent shooting. Iowa has lived at the free-throw line thus far. They are second in the country in free-throw rate — that’s a great way to produce efficient, consistent offense.
It’s getting to the point where we shouldn’t doubt Chris Holtmann-coached teams, regardless of personnel. The Buckeyes lost five of their top seven scorers from last season and weren’t expected to be much of a player in the Big Ten. A couple of road wins at Cincinnati and Creighton later, and we can scrap that thinking. Holtmann seems to overachieve every season going back to his Butler days.
Wisconsin, meanwhile, looks like it’s poised for a bounce back season. Ethan Happ is almost averaging a triple-double at 18.3 points, 12 rebounds and 7.7 assists per night. The assist number will come down, but he’s a remarkable player capable of stuffing the stat sheet. Opponents simply haven’t had an answer for him. There are a ton of quality Naismith candidates this season (hello, Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett). But Happ is firmly in the hunt for player of the year honors.
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Speaking of conferences, the ACC and the Big Ten are off to nice starts. But the Pac-12 and the Big East are really struggling. There are no Big East teams in the poll after the league got two 1-seeds in last year’s NCAA tournament. It lost a ton of talent in the offseason, but the extent to which it’s struggled is surprising. The ACC, meanwhile, has six teams in the top 16. Virginia Tech and Clemson each jumped three spots this week.
Thanksgiving week is one of the most entertaining on the college hoops calendar. Get ready for a ton of interesting action over the next several days.