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
6. Wichita State
9. Oklahoma State
11. Notre Dame
12. Air Force
We're starting to get a bit of normalcy at the top, with UCLA, Pitt, North Carolina and Ohio State starting to look like four potential No. 1 seeds as Florida and Kansas attempt to stay with them. Kansas got dropped down a few pegs in my poll because of its erratic play and simply the better games recently by teams like Wichita State, Arizona, Wisconsin, Oklahoma State, Gonzaga, Notre Dame and Air Force. The Irish make their first appearance in the poll because of their wins over Maryland and Alabama. Air Force continues to clobber opponents, with the only loss being against Duke (the Falcons took a half to realize the Blue Devils are mortal). Butler slid out for the loss at Indiana State. If the Bulldogs had lost at one of the MVC favorites, they may not have dropped out. Remember, this is my snapshot of the recent week-plus. I still say Kansas will be in the mix for a top seed when the season is over.
So much for Butler -- or any other team, for that matter -- completing a perfect regular season. The nation's remaining unbeatens are UCLA, Wichita State, Pitt, Clemson, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Southern Mississippi and Connecticut. We can immediately eliminate Clemson, Oklahoma State and Oregon from the list of possibilities, as no reasonable person expects any of these overachieving clubs to run the table in their respective conferences. We can also eliminate Southern Miss, which has played just four Division I opponents so far and is on this list only by accident. UConn is undefeated against the No. 299 schedule, so I eliminate the Huskies on cowardice alone. This leaves UCLA, Wichita State and Pitt, and it says here that only the Panthers have even one chance in 10 to remain perfect. UCLA and especially Wichita State each have too many difficult road games to stay undefeated. Pitt, on the other hand, has the fewest remaining true road games and should be favored in every one if its Big East games until late-season visits to Georgetown and Marquette. The main obstacle may be this Saturday at Wisconsin; if the Panthers win that one, we'll revisit the topic next week.
Going underground for a while could be good for the Gators, but that will change when the Buckeyes come to town. Positive or negative, the Shockers and the rest of the Missouri Valley Conference could never be able to pay for the pub they are getting. Is there a more underrated player in the country right now than Arizona's Ivan Radenovic? Will the Jayhawks be new and improved after 10 days of practice? Bryce Taylor is back and will be on the national radar soon. He's the straw that stirs the Ducks' drink.
A quiet week early for the top teams thanks to final exams, though it will pick up this weekend. Texas A&M bounced back from a pair of losses to beat Fordham. It will be interesting to see how Connecticut does against tougher competition in January.
1. North Carolina
3. Ohio State
9. Wichita State
12. Texas A&M
14. Oklahoma State
OK, here's the deal. I have been struggling with the idea of the Power 16 for some time. Is this supposed to be some kind of weekly reward system that fluctuates based upon how a team is playing at the time, or is it my rankings of the teams that I really think are the best teams? It is probably a combination of both, but I prefer to term this as a ranking of the teams, in order of how good I think they are. If the best team plays at home against the second best team and wins by one, why should the second best team be dropped several spots? So, I plan on ranking the best teams as I see it, and the games they play will provide me with more evidence to chew upon. I will, however, reserve the 16th spot for a weekly reward, to give a spotlight to an underrated team, or just for some fun. These rankings do not reflect or imply a belief that the top-ranked teams cannot and should not be beaten on a given night. There is not, right now anyway, a great team out there. There are a lot of really good teams and several that can be considered among the favorites. But there is not one team that can be considered as the favorite like I considered North Carolina in 2005, UConn in 2004 or Kansas in 2003, all of whom I called the best teams all season long.
Not much going on early this week with a lot of schools taking final exams. Keep an eye on the Oregon Ducks, one of the handful of unbeatens remaining. They crack my top 16. Coach Mark Turgeon's Wichita State team has been a shocker this season with wins over LSU and Syracuse.
I agree with Jamie Dixon's comment in the Daily Word -- it is tough to win at Buffalo, and if the Panthers beat Wisconsin and Oklahoma State, they will be my No. 1 team, hands down. Even if Pitt splits those two games they should not drop out of the top five.
The same logic should hold true for Butler. Sure, the Bulldogs lost at Indiana State, but they became the Sycamores' marquee home game with their early-season wins. This is the most difficult hill to climb for the mid-majors. Whereas Marquette beats Duke but loses at home to North Dakota State, and is still ranked, Butler is not in the coaches' top 15 after a road loss to ISU.
Speaking of Wisconsin, the Badgers seem to have righted their ship after struggling against Missouri State in their only loss. Alando Tucker is such a perfect fit for what they want to do offensively, it is scary. He is too strong down low for players his size and he is too quick outside for big men to guard.
Don't look now, but the Pac-10 has quietly become a player in the "best conference in America" conversation. Washington got thumped at Gonzaga, but the Huskies are still a talented, young team, like Texas -- and with Oregon creeping into the discussion with Arizona and current No. 1 UCLA, the West Coast is back among the elite.
Not too much to change in the 16 this week, but the Badgers move up and Butler and A&M move down. Duke breaks in, even though the Devils' No. 6 national ranking is, in my opinion, too high at this point. I'll give Pitt a small pass -- I know it's hard to win in places like Buffalo, but a 3-point come-from-behind win is not impressive for the Big East favorite.