Power 16: Expert Lists
The ESPN.com Power 16 is compiled each week by a panel of ESPN experts and ESPN.com's college basketball editor. These individual lists help create the final rankings each week.
Here is how ESPN.com's experts ranked the top teams in the country.
(Through Wednesday's games)
|ESPN.com Experts' Top 16s|
3. North Carolina
4. Ohio State
7. Wichita State
11. Oklahoma State
14. Texas A&M
15. Missouri State
UCLA and Pitt continue to impress. This week, the snapshot of North Carolina beating Ohio State and Kentucky was good enough to put the Heels at No. 3, and Ohio State's close call in Chapel Hill and then the look of the Buckeyes with Greg Oden was enough to convince me that they're a top seed for this week.
Arizona, Alabama, Wichita State and Butler continue to roll. Can you even imagine if this keeps up and Butler and Wichita State actually made it to the No. 2-seed line? How great would that be? Kansas and Florida are top-line talented but are still inconsistent enough to slide down to the No. 3 line.
Oklahoma State and Nevada, which had a huge win over Cal, are showing enough to be at the bottom of that line for now. LSU, which hadn't looked good until knocking off Texas A&M, played well enough to stand next to the Aggies on the fourth line, while it was a close call to give Missouri State and Oregon the last two spots for this week.
The Ducks' win at Georgetown was enough for me, while Missouri State's only loss is to the Cowboys. Notable omissions are Duke, UConn, Gonzaga (after losing at Washington State on Tuesday night, which may turn out to be a "good loss" if the Cougars continue to win), Marquette, Wisconsin, Memphis, Maryland and Washington. That's based on comparing how a team looks right now plus the competition it has played.
Any rankings this early in the season are more speculation than determination. However, we can point to at least a few seemingly true observations: (1) Some of the preseason elite are even better than we thought (UCLA, Pitt, Ohio State); (2) Some are just as good as we thought (Florida, North Carolina, Kansas); and (3) There are several unexpected members of the elite (Wichita State, Butler, Gonzaga). We also can say the BCS got the right matchup, but in the wrong sport. The game everybody really wants is Florida vs. Ohio State -- and it's being played Dec. 23 in Gainesville. And, if a rematch occurs in March (or April), no one will vote against it.
UCLA remains my No. 1 team, but the Bruins have to realize that Arizona is going to be a tough challenge in the Pac-10. Duke has not been that impressive but still remains a top-10 team. Also on the rise is Wichita State; Mark Turgeon's team has wins at LSU and Syracuse this season.
3. North Carolina
5. Ohio State
9. Wichita State
12. Texas A&M
15. Oklahoma State
This has been the strangest trip through November and early December that I can recall. We have had some true upsets (Vermont over Boston College and Oral Roberts over Kansas), some mild upsets (Wichita State over LSU and Syracuse, and Missouri State over Wisconsin), and some very inconsistent results that leave us with a pit of uncertainty in our stomachs. I think it is great. Youthful big shots, experienced underdogs and the 3-point shot are giving us a great roller-coaster ride. There are a dozen other teams that are capable of being ranked in the top 16, but I am sticking with these (until next week, that is).
I was really impressed by Oklahoma State's tenacious defense and the tandem of JamesOn Curry and Mario Boggan. The Cowboys are well-coached, play hard and are very athletic. Sean Sutton's team remains unbeaten and cracks my 16. I also loved Arizona's frontcourt. Ivan Radenovic is flying under the radar nationally. UCLA remains No. 1, but this weekend's test against a hungry Texas A&M club, coming off a loss to LSU, will be a challenge for Ben Howland and Co.
I didn't put Duke or UConn in for two very separate reasons. UConn already has clinched a share of the Connecticut state championship, beating every in-state school it has faced. Really, it's hard to measure how good this young team is until it gets to mid-January.
Duke, on the other hand, has been about as unimpressive as any Duke team in recent history at this point in the year -- and without a tremendous amount of defensive quickness and athleticism, the Blue Devils' inability to score is kind of alarming considering who they've played. It should be noted that they do have a good win over Air Force, but outside of that, a fairly weak nonconference schedule leaves me wondering how good the Blue Devils really are at this point.
If we go purely based on what you have done so far, Wichita State and Butler have the two most impressive dossiers; so with that in mind, they're in my top 10, with Wichita State at No. 2 after wins at Syracuse and LSU.
Alabama could be the most under-the-radar No. 5 team in recent memory. Wichita State deserves the No. 7 spot based on performance. It's worth noting that Duke beat Indiana (at home) by only three -- a margin less than what Butler won by at Conseco. I wanted to add Air Force to my 16, especially in light of Thursday's The Hidden Truth column, but Wednesday night's scare at home against Texas-Pan American made me back off, for now.
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