The Athletic

College basketball top 25: Michigan State, Texas and Illinois rise

We sure had plenty to chew on last week, and especially over the weekend. And we’ve got another feast ahead over the next six days. Here is how things stood on my AP Top 25 nerd Sunday night. Meet ya in the comments section. Please be kind!

Seth Davis’ Top 25 for Monday, Nov. 21

Dropped out: Michigan (18), TCU (19), St. Louis (24)

Almost Famous: Iowa, Miami, St. Louis, TCU, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Xavier

Notes on the votes

• I’ve seen some feeling out there to move Texas to No. 1 following the Longhorns’ 93-74 thrashing of Gonzaga. I say, not so fast. Moving to that top spot usually requires more than just stockpiling wins (or in this case, one good win). It requires losses from the teams ranked above. North Carolina hasn’t looked great, but it also hasn’t lost. Houston looked great its first three games against weak competition and handled Oregon on Sunday, 66-56. And Kansas scored an impressive neutral-court win over Duke. Texas will have plenty of chances to move up, including nonconference games in December against Creighton and Illinois. That No. 1 ranking is prime real estate. It needs to be purchased, not rented.

• Speaking of Kansas, Bill Self returns to the sideline this week for the Jayhawks at the Battle 4 Atlantis. The team went 4-0 while Self was serving his self-imposed suspension, thanks largely to the brilliance of 6-8 junior forward Jalen Wilson, who had back-to-back career-highs last week against Duke (25) and Southern Utah (33). Priority No. 1 for Self will be to develop his bench. KU’s reserves scored just eight points total in the two games.

• Indiana got a terrific win at Xavier, 81-79, on Friday night. (Adam Kunkel is going to see that missed bunny for the rest of his life). Trayce Jackson-Davis was in his usual All-American form (30 points, six rebounds, three blocks, two assists), but I still do not trust this team’s point guard play. Xavier Johnson had 23 points and seven rebounds, but he only had two assists and made some critical mistakes down the stretch. Freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino has potential, but he was a non-factor Friday. That’s why the Hoosiers almost blew a nine-point lead in the last three minutes. I know I’m nitpicking, but this team rightfully has Sweet 16/Final Four aspirations, and this is the type of deficiency that sends a team home early in March.

• Last week was big for Alabama as 6-1 senior point guard Jahvon Quinerly returned after missing the first two games because of the knee injury he suffered in the NCAA Tournament. Quinerly only played four minutes on Tuesday against South Alabama but he had eight assists and zero turnovers in 17 minutes during Friday’s blowout win at home over Jacksonville State. Quinerly’s efficiency and experience is badly needed on this young squad, although 6-9 freshman forward Brandon Miller has been sensational. The Tide will need all hands on deck when it faces a tough and tested Michigan State team at the Phil Knight Invitational on Thursday.

• It’s disappointing that Arizona has gone through the first two weeks of the season without playing a significant game. The Wildcats have built up easy wins over Nicholls State, Southern and Utah Tech. Yes, they’re playing in the Maui Invitational but this is not a vintage Maui field. The highest-ranked team in the bracket is Arkansas, which Arizona would not meet until Wednesday’s championship game, should they both get that far.

• UConn had been “on the stoop” of my previous rankings (as my CBS colleague Clark Kellogg likes to say), but the Huskies walked through the front door by virtue of their 5-0 start. They benefited on Friday from the return of 6-5 sophomore guard Jordan Hawkins, who missed the previous two games because of a concussion and scored a career-high 20 points in a home win over UNC Wilmington. Junior guard Andre Jackson also returned to action after missing the first three games because of a broken pinky he suffered in October. The Huskies have yet to play a top-200 KenPom team, but that will change this week when they had to Portland for the Phil Knight Invitational. They open with Oregon on Thursday.

• I did not have “Maryland enters my ranking on Nov. 21” on my Bingo card a few weeks ago, but after I expressed my deep confidence in Saint Louis last week (in certain TV studios this is what’s known as the “Kiss of Seth”), I wanted to reward the Terps for their 95-67 demolition of the Billikens at Mohegan Sun on Saturday. They followed that up with an 88-70 win over Miami on Sunday. First-year coach Kevin Willard has this group off to a 5-0 start, but Mark Turgeon left him a lot to work with. The Terps are being led by two seniors, 6-7 forward Donta Scott and 6-6 guard Hakim Hart. Willard also brought in two older transfers, 6-2 senior guard Jahmir Young (Charlotte) and 6-5 senior guard Donald Carey (Georgetown), who are off to solid starts. Maryland’s next big test comes on Dec. 2, when it opens Big Ten play at home against Illinois.

• Dayton had a not-so-great loss at UNLV last Tuesday, but I gave the Flyers a half-mulligan because they were still playing without 6-foot sophomore point guard Malachi Smith and 6-6 sophomore guard Kobe Brea, who were both sitting out with lower body injuries. Smith returned for Saturday’s home win over Robert Morris (he had five points and three assists in 21 minutes), and the team hopes Brea will be back in time for the Battle 4 Atlantis this week.

• Texas A&M entered last week at No. 24 in the AP poll, and though I did not vote for the Aggies on either of my first two rankings, I did include them in my Almost Famous. Well, last week was honest and unmerciful for this squad as it lost to Murray State and Colorado in Myrtle Beach, although it did rebound to beat a struggling Loyola Chicago squad on Sunday. The last we heard from Buzz Williams last season, he was spouting conspiracy theories about why the Aggies were left out of the NCAA Tournament. There was a perfectly good case to be made for their inclusion based solely on the facts. The Aggies brought back four starters, but they need to rediscover their defensive identity. In the two losses, their opponents shot a combined 54.1 percent, including 48.1 percent from 3-point range.

• It was a close call whether to leave TCU in my rankings. The Horned Frogs were without their starting backcourt of 6-2 junior Mike Miles (bone bruise) and 6-4 senior Damion Baugh (NCAA suspension), but it’s still hard to rank a team a few days after it lost at home to Northwestern State . The decision to drop Michigan was not a close call after the Wolverines got pulverized in Brooklyn by an Arizona State squad that lost at Texas Southern four days before. The Sun Devils made 11 3s in that game to Michigan’s four. Hard to win games with that kind of discrepancy.

• As for my Almost Famous group, I’m very curious to see what West Virginia shows this week at the Phil Knight Legacy tournament in Portland. The Mountaineers are 4-0 and ranked No. 19 on BartTorvik.com. None of the wins came against top-100 teams, but that will change when Bob Huggins’ group meets Purdue in the quarterfinals on Thursday night. This team has really struggled offensively in recent years, so it was encouraging to see them put up 92 points in a win over Penn on Friday.

(Top photo of Michigan State’s AJ Hoggard: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

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