Thoughts on the AP Poll: Week 18

With the regular season in the books, the final AP poll before the beginning of the postseason was released Monday afternoon. 

Blue Devils slide to No. 19

For the second straight week, Duke dropped in the rankings, this time falling to No. 19 following a loss to Tobacco Road rival North Carolina. After a challenging stretch to open ACC that saw them drop out of the rankings for the first time since 2007, the Blue Devils made a run up as far as No. 15, capped by a dramatic victory against that same Tar Heels team. But Saturday night, Brice Johnson dominated Duke—collecting 18 points and 21 rebounds—and knocked the Blue Devils down to the fifth seed in this week's ACC tournament. Duke will hope to break out of its 2-3 skid entering postseason as the Blue Devils play their first game Wednesday at 2 p.m. against either 12th-seeded N.C. State or 13th-seeded Wake Forest.

Regular-season champions abound in the top 10

Speaking of North Carolina, the Tar Heels took advantage of Miami's shocking loss at Virginia Tech Saturday afternoon to claim the ACC championship outright. North Carolina's win at Cameron Indoor Stadium was its first since 2012 and the Tar Heels climbed to No. 7 in this week's poll, while the Hurricanes fell four spots to No. 11. Indiana checks in at No. 10 this week after beating new-No. 18 Maryland, 80-62 at home to snatch the Big Ten title and close out about as strong of a conference slate as any team in the nation. The Hoosiers finished undefeated at home in Big Ten play, falling just three times overall and only once to an unranked opponent. No. 8 Oregon took down Southern California on the road 76-66 to grab the first seed in the Pac-12 tournament and Big East champion No. 3 Villanova and reigning Big 12 titleholder No. 1 Kansas finished atop their conferences earlier this week. 

Parity in the middle of the pack

An area that has shown its instability throughout a roller-coaster regular season in college basketball has been pretty much any team outside the top 10. Of the teams ranked 11 through 25 last week, Indiana, Utah, Purdue, Arizona, Texas A&M and Kentucky were the only teams to not lose at least one game. With conference tournaments already underway and more beginning this week, there is still much moving and shaking to be done before the selection committee renders its final decisions and the brackets are released Sunday evening. The teams likely to be seeded anywhere from third to sixth in the upcoming NCAA tournament have all shown their vulnerability at times and could be prime targets for upsets come later this week. Thursday's slate of conference tournament action features a number of enticing matchups, as No. 23 Texas plays No. 22 Baylor, No. 21 Iowa State challenges No. 6 Oklahoma and Duke potentially faces off against Notre Dame if the Blue Devils advance past Wednesday.

Staying power

In a season where no team has managed to hang around at the top for long, the regular season's final week brought little change to the upper echelon of the AP poll, as just one new team—Indiana—entered the top 10. The top six remain unchanged and just three of the nation's 25 best—Villanova, Xavier and Southern Methodist—are from non-Power Five conferences. Although the madness of March is often overrun by talented mid-majors who pop out of the woodwork to prove their worth come tournament time, no squad has yet to shown they have the capability of filling such a role. Although the rankings will mean little going forward—as tournament seeds will be released before week's end—beware of the little engines that could become surprises once the madness ensues.

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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