Three questions regarding the latest AP Men’s Basketball Rankings
How good is UNLV?
The answer? UNLV is really good. Lost in the shuffle is how UNLV went and defeated North Carolina 90-80 way back on November 26th. UNLV deserved respect after that game—the Rebels held Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and Harrison Barnes to a combined 12-of-34 from the field. Looking at the UNLV losses, the Rebels dropped games at now-ranked Wichita State, at then-No. 16 Wisconsin and at then-No. 22 San Diego State. While a loss at Wyoming is a blemish on their record, a victory in Illinois against the then-No. 19 Fighting Illini more than makes up for it. UNLV is battle tested and has shown they are a legitimate team come March. With no more ranked teams on the docket for the Rebels, they could find themselves in the Top 10 sooner rather than later.
How far can Michigan State rise?
There are very few teams who have had a schedule as daunting at Tom Izzo’s Spartan club. They started their season with back-to-back games against North Carolina and Duke, dropping both. Since, they’ve proceeded to knock off now-ranked Florida State, then-No. 22 Gonzaga on the road, then-No. 15 Indiana, then-No. 19 Wisconsin on the road, then-No. 22 Michigan and then-No. 3 Ohio State in Columbus. That’s not all, though. Michigan State still has to contend with Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio State one more time apiece. The Spartans have passed test after test, but can they really expect to knock off all three of the ranked teams for a second time? Ohio State will be out for blood and the Indiana game will be played on the road. Even if Michigan State drops one of those games, they will still be in position to have a Top 10 ranking. If they manage to win out, they might even contend for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Which of the small schools will stick in the Top 25?
This week both Creighton and Harvard fell out of the Top 25, while Murray State and Saint Mary’s suffered losses as well. Creighton has hit a hard stretch in particular, dropping their last three contests. With just four games left and none against top teams, the Blue Jays may be out of the Top 25 for the remainder of the regular season. Harvard took a hard loss to Princeton, losing 70-62 on the road. The Crimson have just fellow Ivy Leaguers left this regular season, making it hard for them to make a statement as well. Saint Mary’s slid to No. 22 after dropping a game to now-ranked Gonzaga. Murray State suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of Tennessee State, at home no less. Should Murray State prevail on Saturday when the two teams face off, Saint Mary’s might be jettisoned from the Top 25 altogether. A Saint Mary’s win would put Murray State in peril, but they should hang on to a spot. So, if you are one of those fans who like to see the underdogs prevail, hope for a Saint Mary’s win such that these two small programs can survive yet another week in the Top 25.
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