By Hocine LOUKKAF on 12/31/2018
After Kansas’ loss against Arizona State, all the best teams which have played against other top 7 teams have lost a game. Gonzaga has slipped even more with two losses while Virginia will be tested against the new number one, Duke, pretty soon.
#1 Duke (11-1)
The Blue Devils started December quietly with easy games they won at least by 30 points before the game against then #12 Texas Tech. While Barrett (16pts on 7/22 6tos) and Reddish (8pts on 1/7 6tos) were awful, Williamson (17pts on 4/9 13rbds) and Jones (13pts 6st 5rbds 5as) proved to be the real leaders of the team. With the beginning of ACC play and games against FSU and Virginia within three weeks, Barrett and Reddish really need to wake up or Duke will lose a handful of other games.
Two weeks after their loss against Kansas, the Volunteers were the first triumph against #1 Gonzaga, the reason why I ranked them #2. As usual, Schofield (30pts on 6/10 3pt 6rbds) and Williams (16pts 12rbds 7as) were the men for Tennessee, which bounced back with solid wins against Memphis and Wake Forest. Tennessee seems to be the clear favourite in the SEC, with the next test being Arkansas and Daniel Gafford on January 16.
#3 Michigan (12-0)
Still undefeated, the Wolverines survived 62-60 against Northwestern despite several attempts by the Wildcats in the last two minutes while they were unable to score after Jordan Poole’s decisive dunk. Poole had been hot the previous game against a tough Purdue with 8/9 from the field including 5/5 from three and it was also the case in the last game where he had 18pts on 6/10 from three. Rising freshman Brazdeikis also had 21 and 19 with 6/10 3pt over the last two games as he’s become a potential first rounder. Michigan will be tested against #23 Indiana before playing at Wisconsin on January 19.
#4 Kansas (11-1)
With their first loss against Arizona State despite still leading by 7 five minutes before the final whistle, the Jayhawks slipped to the #4 spot. The Jayhawks may lack a solid guard to handle the clutch time as both Grimes and Doson are freshmen while Vick is still too unconsistent. The return of Azubuike will bring bck easy points in the paint as Kansas will start Big 12 play against #25 Oklahoma.
#5 Virginia (11-0)
Despite being undefeated, Virginia had an easier start than the other top 5 teams with their only ranked opponents being #24 Maryland and #25 Wisconsin. Guy (16.2pts and at least 15pts per game over the last five games) and Jerome (25pts 7as 6rbds against South Carolina) have been solid while the Cavaliers’ best prospect, De’Andre Hunter, has been disappointing (9pts on 1/6 s VCU, 5pts on 2/10 against South Carolina). With FSU, Virginia Tech and Duke coming in the next three weeks, we will know if Virginia is worth its top 5 ranking.
#6 Nevada (13-0)
One of the toughest team to evaluate, Nevada has only played one ranked team, #20 ASU, and may not play any other before the tournament. Caleb Martin has been as inconsistent (33pts 7rbds 4st vs Utah, 15pts on 6/18 and 1/10 from three vs ASU) as Caroline has been consistent despite low FG percentage (between 16pts and 22pts on 40+% FG over the last five games). Nevada will start in the Mountain West where they may end up unbeaten.
#7 Gonzaga (12-2)
Two losses against #7 Tennessee and #12 UNC have swept Gonzaga away from the first place. In both games, the opponent outside scorer has been hot (30pts on 6/10 from three for Schofield, 25pts on 6/8 from three for Cameron Johnson). Gonzaga was also beaten in the rebounding by UNC 42-21 with Luke Maye grabbing 16rbds while scoring 20pts. The Bulldogs will not have any ranked opponents in the weak WCC, which means they will have to be ready when the tournament will start.
#8 Michigan State (11-2)
Despite a second loss in overtime at Louisville, the Spartans have been solid and bounced back with six wins in a row including a 22pts win against #18 Iowa. Winston has been hot over the last three games with 12/19 from three. Inside, Goins (9.2rbds 1.2bl) and rising sophomore Tillman (8.2pts 8.2rbds 1.8bl) are your typical MSU enforcers. There will be plenty of tough games in the Big 10 with probably the biggest tests being in-state archrival Michigan on February 29 and March 9.
#9 Florida State (11-1)
After their only loss against Purdue, FSU had a solid, albeit without any ranked opponent, schedule. The toughest game was against UConn, which was limited to 37% FG by the Seminoles’ stifling defense. Senior Koumadje has averaged 3bl in less than 18min over the last four games while guard Forrest had at least 3st in each of these four games. FSU will play Virginia and Duke in the next two weeks, the opportunity to prove they can be a contender in the ACC.
#10 Texas Tech (11-1)
After the beginning of the season where they played solid albeit not ranked teams like USC, Nebraska and more recently Memphis, Texas Tech had his first real test against Duke. This game proved Techs’s defense was impressive as they limited both Barrett and Reddish under 33% FG with 6tos for each of them but it also exposed the lack of offesnve talent alongside Culver (25pts 4/9 from three 6rbds 4as 6tos), the only Raider with more than 7pts in the game. Texas Tech will start its Big 12 season at WVU.
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