Featured image via The Cavalier Daily
This week was absolutely insane for the top 25. FIVE of the top 10 teams lost (with one team not playing at all). What’s even crazier is the process of trying to rank them. I’ve been reading more and more about how this season, it’s not about the eye test (watching teams play) because of the inconsistency that is so prevalent this season; rather using metrics and statistics is a much better way of grasping talent. Therefore, in this edition of Siler’s Selections, I will attempt to make my decisions as data-driven as possible, trying my hardest to eliminate all previous biases I once held. I will try my best to explain every stat I bring up (and I promise a cheat sheet will be on it’s way; I’m a very good procrastinator) in a way that anyone who reads this can understand. However, I am not an expert by any means and there are many statistics and numbers analysts use that I’m very unaware of. With that being said, here are my rankings for week 9 of the college basketball season:
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (14-0)
THIS WEEK: Win vs. Pepperdine 95-70; Win @ Saint Mary’s (CA) 73-59
It doesn’t really matter what numbers you throw out, Gonzaga is the clear number one team. Every week I get increasingly upset that the Gonzaga – Baylor game got canceled; it would have been the best game of the season by far. The games this week looked a lot closer than they were, as Saint Mary’s always plays Gonzaga tough and this year is no different. Gonzaga is so good that they make other teams look bad which actually hurts them. You could look at this and say that Saint Mary’s isn’t good; they’re in the West Coast Conference (WCC), how good can they be? Well for starters, Saint Mary’s has made the NCAA tournament as an at-large bid (those who win their conference tournaments make the NCAA tournament automatically, at-large bids have to be selected) multiple times in the past few years. I digress, there will be more close games for Gonzaga but that’s just college basketball.
Up next for Gonzaga: vs. Pacific 1/23
2. Baylor Bears (12-0)
THIS WEEK: Win @ #15 Texas Tech 68-60
I said this last week and I’ll say it again: I feel bad for Baylor. Unless Gonzaga drops one, Baylor is perpetually at #2 for the rest of the season. Their Strength of Record (SOR; how tough it would be to have the same record, playing the same teams) is second, trailing none other than Gonzaga. The Big 12 is a gauntlet for the Bears, and they still have about two months left before it’s over. If they can somehow come out of conference play unscathed, they have a legitimate argument for number 1. I’ll get to their game against Texas Tech later.
Up next for Baylor: vs. #6 Kansas 1/18
3. Villanova Wildcats (8-1)
THIS WEEK: No games 🙁
Villanova is another team stuck where they are, although this time it’s probably for the best. They haven’t played in almost a month, so they haven’t lost any games but they also haven’t won any games either. If they were in any other spot except third I think they would have moved down. Teams like Clemson and Duke have been very shaky coming off of long breaks, so this game against Seton Hall is going to be a game I would put on my radar for an upset watch.
Up next for Villanova: vs. Seton Hall 1/19
4. Iowa Hawkeyes (12-2)
THIS WEEK: Win @ Northwestern 96-73
If you’re someone who enjoys seeing the ball go into the hoop, Iowa is the team you want to watch. The Hawkeyes average 92 points scored per game, which is absolutely INSANE considering how much of a slaughterhouse the Big 10 is. Northwestern is a good team, that’s for sure, but Iowa is just better. This could also be Iowa kicking Northwestern while they’re down as the Wildcats are on a five game losing streak. If Iowa keeps playing how they’re playing, I see a Big 10 championship glimmering in the future.
Up next for Iowa: vs. Indiana 1/21
5. Texas Longhorns (11-2)
THIS WEEK: Loss vs. #15 Texas Tech 77-79; Win vs. Kansas State 82-67
This might be a bit of a hot take, but Texas is still a top-5 team in the country. Their defense is really good and their offense is even better, but it’s hard to stop a team on fire. Again, I’ll get to Texas Tech later because (spoiler alert) I have them ranked. I definitely still feel like it’s just Texas and Baylor at the top (although it’ll be interesting to see the Baylor-Kansas game) of the Big 12. Texas already bounced back against Kansas State, and they’re playing Iowa State next, so Texas gets a little break before they go through another gauntlet.
Up next for Texas: @ Iowa State 1/20
6. Tennessee Volunteers (10-1)
THIS WEEK: Win vs. Vanderbilt 81-61
I’m very wishy-washy on Tennessee. For what it’s worth, they only have one loss to a very good Alabama team (who isn’t ranked this week but has an argument for the top 25) and takes some of the highest-quality shots. According to ShotQuality.com, Tennessee takes the highest quality shots in the NCAA. The math is a little outside of my range, but I can still explain it. In essence, Tennessee takes shots with the highest percentage based on their probability of an offensive rebound and the probability of the shot actually going in. It’s very complicated but Tennessee does it the best out of the 357 teams in the NCAA. Needless to say, their offense is very efficient.
Up next for Tennessee: @ Florida 1/19
7. Houston Cougars (10-1)
THIS WEEK: No games 🙁
Houston lucked out this week with how chaotic the top 10 was. They met the criteria of not losing in order to move up. I definitely think they deserve this rank, but I don’t know if they’ll make it out of the American Athletic Conference (AAC) unscathed. It’s going to be interesting to see how they’re able to do come March.
Up next for Houston: vs. Tulsa 1/20
8. Creighton Bluejays (10-3)
THIS WEEK: Loss @ Butler 66-70
For those still living in 2010, I’m sorry but Butler just isn’t good. Before playing Creighton they were 3-7 and were freefalling in conference play. But for this game against Creighton they played out of their minds. Creighton fans might have the argument of the bad offensive foul near the end, but Creighton shouldn’t have to rely on refs in games against 3-7 teams. They don’t drop out of the top 10, but I think Creighton should definitely look both ways before trying to coast through another Big East win.
Up next for Creighton: vs. Providence 1/20
9. Michigan Wolverines (11-1)
THIS WEEK: Win vs. #9 Wisconsin 77-54; Loss @ #23 Minnesota 57-75
After setting the record for beating three ranked teams in a row by 19+ points, Michigan got a taste of their own medicine. An 18 point loss on the road looks rough until you realize that it was at Minnesota, who is 11-0 at home this season. Michigan couldn’t hit a three to save their lives and it seems like Minnesota doesn’t need a crowd to get themselves pumped up. Michigan is still a top 10 team for sure and their game against Iowa in March is going to be exciting to see.
Up next for Michigan: vs. Maryland 1/19
10. Wisconsin Badgers (11-3)
THIS WEEK: Loss @ #7 Michigan 54-77; Win @ Rutgers 60-54
Wisconsin confuses me. Some games they look like the best team in the Big 10, but then other days Wisconsin doesn’t look like they remember how to play basketball. If they could figure out how to play basketball during every game, then this 10 spot will be justified. If not, I’ll look like an idiot and have to eat my words, which is definitely not my favorite thing to do. Their game at Rutgers is a little concerning because of how hard Rutgers has fallen over the past two weeks, but I’ll cut them some slack because the RAC is very hard to win at.
Up next for Wisconsin: vs. Northwestern 1/20
11. Oregon Ducks (9-2)
THIS WEEK: No games 🙁
Just like Houston, Oregon is moving up out of default for the most part. A good chunk of the teams who lost are still ahead of them, but a few moved past the Ducks. However, Oregon completely deserves this spot. The Pac-12 needs more representation within the top 25. The bottom of the PAC-12 is absolutely terrible, but teams like Oregon, UCLA, and Colorado should be much higher than they currently are, mainly because these teams are overshadowed by Big 10 teams who just end up losing. Right now Oregon’s only conference loss is an away loss to Colorado (Oregon has never beaten Colorado at Colorado).
Up next for Oregon: vs. Oregon State 1/23
12. Virginia Cavaliers (9-2)
THIS WEEK: Win vs. Notre Dame 80-68; Win @ #12 Clemson 85-50
Virginia fans have this running joke that their offense is bad, but this season Virginia has only scored less than 70 points in three games. Tony Bennett is really turning this team in the right direction, and if Virginia keeps playing the way they are, there’s going to be another ACC championship trophy in their case. They kept Clemson to 17 points in the first half, and it really should have been about 10 because Clemson scored 7 in the final three minutes of the half to not look completely incompetent. Virginia started that game on a 20-3 run and never looked back. Just complete dominance on both sides of the court. Fun fact: Clemson is averaging less points per game against Virginia in basketball (52 points) than they are in football (53 points)!
Up next for Virginia: vs. NC State 1/20
13. Kansas Jayhawks (10-3)
THIS WEEK: Loss @ Oklahoma State 70-75
Well, Kansas lost, but they are definitely improving. Their strength of schedule (SoS; cumulative toughness of the teams on their schedule) is number 1 in the country, and they have a winning record against Q1 teams, so they have that going for them. The Big 12 is not going to give them any “easy” games outside of Iowa State and maybe Kansas State. They’re just going to have to keep on grinding and winning those big games.
Up next for Kansas: @ #2 Baylor 1/18
14. Texas Tech Red Raiders (11-4)
THIS WEEK: Win @ #4 Texas 79-77; Loss vs #2 Baylor 60-68
Well, this is the team I’ve been dreading to talk about. I admit it: I was wrong about this Texas Tech team. I told myself that they were deserving of a rank if they beat either Texas or Baylor, and that’s exactly what they did. They went out and beat Texas and they kept it really close with Baylor. I’m not sure if they’re “legit” yet, but they have proven themselves worthy of a top-15 spot with their incredible defense. Their game against Texas might have been a fluke because they almost hit 80 points for the first time since they played Iowa State and Kansas State, the two worst teams in the Big 12. Good for Texas Tech.
Up next for Texas Tech: @ TCU 1/20
15. Virginia Tech Hokies (10-2)
THIS WEEK: Win vs. #19 Duke 74-67; Win @ Wake Forest 64-60
Virginia Tech did it! They beat Duke! It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but finally someone beat Duke (apologies to all my Duke fans out there, I think everyone needed an excuse to not rank them). Anyways, Virginia Tech is a dark horse in the ACC title race, as they haven’t had the most attention on them because the blue bloods aren’t doing well. However, I noticed them. Virginia Tech has shown they can beat the best and that their loss to Penn State was a fluke.
Up next for Virginia Tech: vs. Boston College 1/20
16. West Virginia Mountaineers (9-4)
THIS WEEK: No games 🙁
West Virginia didn’t have any games this week, so their 9-4 record still stands. It’s going to be interesting to see how West Virginia plays without Oscar Tschiebwe and without a game for a few weeks. Some teams can come back no problem, but others have struggled (see: Duke). I’m not sure how they’ll do, but they have a few easy games before they get challenged again.
Up next for West Virginia: vs. Kansas State 1/23
17. Clemson Tigers (9-2)
THIS WEEK: Loss vs. #18 Virginia 50-85
I could talk about the Virginia game for hours and not get tired, but for the few Clemson basketball fans out there, all I can say is I’m sure you’ll bounce back. Clemson’s defensive efficiency is still crazy, but again without playing for so long it’s hard to really gauge how good this team is. The ACC is wide open, and Clemson could have chance to snag it if they can learn from this game and move on.
Up next for Clemson: @ Georgia Tech 1/20
18. UCLA Bruins (11-2)
THIS WEEK: Win vs. Washington State 91-61; Win vs. Washington 81-76
Like I said earlier, the PAC-12 needs more representation in the polls. I’m not sure why they aren’t getting the same recognition as other conferences, but one thing is for sure: this UCLA team is good. For the first time in almost 30 years, UCLA is 7-0 to start conference play, and their losses aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. The only aspect of this team that’s a little scary is their close win over a one-win Washington team. Other than that I’m not too worried about the rest of the season for this UCLA team.
Up next for UCLA: @ California 1/21
19. Colorado Buffaloes (11-3)
THIS WEEK: Win @ Utah 65-58; Win vs. California 89-60; Win vs. Stanford 77-64
I’ve said it twice and I’ll say it a third time: The PAC-12 needs more representation. I know that they don’t get much airtime because the PAC-12 Network is carried by basically no one, but it doesn’t change the fact that this Colorado team is good. They’re currently on a four-game winning streak, including a win against Oregon. I’m excited to see how this team plays for the rest of the season.
Up next for Colorado: @ Washington 1/20
20. Minnesota Golden Gophers (11-4)
THIS WEEK: Win vs. #7 Michigan 75-57
The narrative for Minnesota this season will be if they can win outside of The Barn (Minnesota’s home court). So far they’re 11-0 at home and 0-4 on the road, granted those 4 teams were all conference opponents, but the numbers are still there. I understand Pitino didn’t want to play any road games in his out of conference schedule for health reasons, however I find it weird that he would still play out of conference games because the other team still had to travel. I digress, this Minnesota team is very good and I’m sure they’ll do well in conference play but until they can win an away game I’m not completely sold.
Up next for Minnesota: @ Nebraska 1/20
21. Saint Louis Billikens (7-1)
THIS WEEK: No games 🙁
There isn’t much to say about this Billikens team, mainly because they haven’t played in almost a month. My biggest concern for them right now is to come back and not miss a beat which is easier said than done. Saint Louis will earn my 100% respect if they can come out and play like a normal basketball team. This season is just so weird.
Up next for Saint Louis: @ Massachusetts 1/20
22. Ohio State Buckeyes (11-3)
THIS WEEK: Win vs. Northwestern 81-71; Win @ #14 Illinois
I’m not sure how I feel about this Ohio State team yet. They only have three losses thus far which is excellent, but they’re beating up on teams who are already down like Northwestern and Illinois (who, spoiler alert, isn’t even ranked this week). They’ve had to come from behind against Notre Dame and needed a comeback against Rutgers too. Right now the luck is in their favor but how long will it last? I’m not sure.
Up next for Ohio State: vs. Purdue 1/19
23. Florida State Seminoles (7-2)
THIS WEEK: Win vs. NC State 105-73; Win vs. North Carolina 82-75
Well there were some questions about how good Florida State would be coming out of a long quarantine. I hope they were answered. 105 points is insane in any game, but in a conference game? After 15 days of not playing? Whack. I still have them a tad low because both wins were at home (and against lesser ACC opponents) but if they could beat Louisville this week, I would have no problem giving them a top-20 or even a top-15 spot if necessary. Good for Florida State, that’s how a team comes back.
Up next for Florida State: @ #16 Louisville 1/18
24. Louisville Cardinals (9-2)
THIS WEEK: Win @ Wake Forest 77-65; Loss @ Miami (FL) 72-78
After some good poll inertia, Louisville had another misstep. This time, it was in the form of an upset against none other than Miami. I can’t say I blame Louisville, Miami is a seriously good team who needs more recognition than they receive. I’m pretty sure that Miami’s best player (Chris Lykes) was out for this game too. Louisville still deserves to be ranked because they are still playing at the level of a ranked team, but they definitely deserve to be this low at the moment. They are another dark horse for the ACC tournament in March.
Up next for Louisville: vs. Florida State 1/18
25. Drake Bulldogs (13-0)
THIS WEEK: No games 🙁
Well, it’s a little sad to end on a team who hasn’t played in a week, but alas here we are. Drake is a good team who has handily beaten power-6 opponents. They are dominating the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) this season and look to take home the conference title in March. I’m excited to see how it turns out.