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Thoughts on the AP poll: Week 17

The final rankings from the regular season were released Monday, featuring six teams from the ACC.

ACC madness

The ACC showed once again last week that almost every team in the conference is good enough to beat anybody. Starting at the top, No. 5 North Carolina lost to a skidding No. 23 Virginia Monday but came back to beat rival No. 17 Duke Saturday. But the Blue Devils—who were coming off two close losses to Syracuse and Miami—stopped their slide earlier in the week with a solid Senior Night victory against No. 15 Florida State Tuesday. 

No. 25 Miami, which had just entered the rankings last week because of wins against Virginia and Duke, suffered losses to unranked Virginia Tech and the Seminoles. No. 8 Louisville also took a loss on the road, victimized by unranked bubble team Wake Forest Wednesday. Nonetheless, needing a victory to clinch a double-bye in the ACC Tournament, the Cardinals defeated No. 19 Notre Dame at home Saturday.

With all this mania in the ACC, the new rankings have six teams from the league in the top 25. The Tar Heels lead the pack coming in at No. 6, and No. 10 Louisville, No. 14 Duke, No. 16 Florida State, 21st-ranked Virginia and No. 22 Notre Dame follow close behind. In a league with the top teams so close together and the unranked competition not far behind, this week's ACC tournament will be wide open.

Kentucky closes out the SEC again

Almost every year, head coach John Calipari’s inexperienced Kentucky squad struggles in the middle of the season, and questions are raised about its ability to play as a team. With three losses in four games in late January and early February, including a 22-point drubbing by Florida, the Gators looked like the team to beat in the SEC. 

However, with an astonishing comeback for a 73-67 win against Vanderbilt Tuesday—a game the Commodores led by as many as 19—No. 9 Kentucky secured a share of the regular season title. On the last day of the SEC's regular season Saturday, the Wildcats’ 71-63 defeat of Texas A&M and No. 13 Florida’s narrow 73-71 loss to the Commodores helped Kentucky wrap up an outright title.

Kentucky moved up to No. 8, but Florida fell to No. 17 as result of this week’s contests.

Pac-12 Regular Season Closes Without Drama

Entering the week, the Pac-12 had three teams ranked in the top 10, the most of any league, with Nos. 3, 6 and 7 in the AP Poll in UCLA, Oregon and Arizona. In a tight three-way race for the regular season title, none of the trio tripped up this week. In the "Civil War," Oregon defeated Oregon State 80-59, and Arizona beat Arizona State 73-60 in the “Territorial Cup” Saturday. UCLA beat Washington and Washington State, but the Ducks and Wildcats shared the conference title.

With the calm week, all three teams remained relatively steady in the rankings, with UCLA, Oregon, and Arizona closing the regular season at Nos. 3, 5 and 7.

An Oddly Quiet Week

In a season marked with many upsets and a fluid top 25, the final week of the regular season proved to starkly uneventful. Aside from the typical bloodbath in the ACC and Florida’s loss to Vanderbilt, most of the top 25 teams were able to close the regular season strong and avoid bad losses, but there were a couple others that tripped up. 

No. 13 Butler, riding a four-game winning streak, including a victory against then-No. 2 Villanova, suffered a 70-64 loss to unranked Seton Hall. Despite 19 points from forward Kelan Martin, the Bulldogs coughed up a halftime lead to the Pirates due to 28.6 percent shooting from downtown and an 11-board deficit in the rebound battle. This can hardly be considered a bad loss, however, as Seton Hall is a 20-win team that was desperate for a win to solidify its NCAA tournament resume. Butler fell to No. 18 following the loss.

No. 22 Wisconsin, which was ranked 11th two weeks ago, continued its slide with a 79-77 loss to Iowa. The Hawkeyes ended the game on a 7-0 run, capped by Jordan Bohannon’s triple with nine seconds remaining. Despite the loss, the Badgers ended the season Sunday on “Senior Night” with a 66-49 victory against Minnesota, overcoming a three-point halftime deficit. Senior guard Bronson Koenig, who leads the team in scoring at 14.1 points per game, hit five shot from deep on his way to a 17-point performance. 

The Gophers are a solid 23-win team that is a lock for the NCAA tournament and just missed entering the rankings last week. Wisconsin ended its regular season ranked 24th, but will look to build off its latest victory in the Big 10 tournament.

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