The NCAA was back to ruining all the fun this week when it announced it would be discussing the decorum rules in light of the Monmouth benchwarmers gracing us with their hilarious in-game celebrations. If you don't know what celebrations I'm talking about, see below.
Could the celebrations be obnoxious? Maybe. Do they get the people going? Most definitely. Considering the Monmouth bench has it's own twitter handle with several thousand followers, it's safe to say their shenanigans have been well-received by the masses. However, a concerned do-gooder submitted a request to the NCAA Rules Committee for an interpretation regarding the sportsmanlike-nature of Monmouth's bench celebrations. Seriously? Who was this person and why do they hate fun? I consider ESPN's Jay Bilas as the voice of reason when it comes to all things college hoops, and it should come as no surprise that he fell on the "this is stupid" side with regards to the rule interpretaiton.
Source: NCAA currently discussing rewriting bench decorum rules to curtail celebrations of Monmouth bench. Remember, it's about the kids!— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) December 7, 2015
I understand there needs to be a line drawn between celebration and mocking an opponent, but common sense should win out in these types of situations. Fortunately, the NCAA actually did the right thing for once and approved the bench celebrations. The Hawks have already upset Notre Dame, UCLA, and USC, so let's hope we get to enjoy their bench shenanigans during the tournament.
On to the rankings!
Honorable Mentions: Xavier, SMU, Louisville
No. 11 - Villanova (7-1, LW: 3)
If you're an individual that's drawn to the dark arts of gambling, then you know that you can typically bet on the Wildcats to perform well all regular season, draw a 1 or 2 seed in the tournament, and then bow out on opening weekend. However, Villanova got the disappointment started early this year as they declined to show up for their showdown against Oklahoma in the Pearl Harbor Classic. I mean, they were physically there, but the Wildcats team I watched get blown out by the Sooners was not the one I had seen earlier in the year.
Villanova took 32 three-pointers on Monday, yet only made 28. You don't need to look much further than that to figure out why a Top-10 matchup was so one-sided. The Wildcats entered the Pearl Harbor Classic shooting 30.9% from long distance, so while they had a truly horrendous shooting game, it's not like they should be considered a good 3pt-shooting team. They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, so it's team to find out whether Jay Wright is insane. There is a lot of talent on this squad and a lot of guys who know how to score, they just don't do it from distance. Time to figure something else out before they shoot themselves into oblivion.
No. 10 - Maryland (8-1, LW: 11)
The Twerps collected themselves after their loss to UNC by beating up on poor St. Francis (PA), followed by a win over UConn at the Jimmy V Classic in Madison Square Garden (supposedly the world's most famous arena...but I beg to differ). Freshman standout, Diamond Stone, looked outstanding with 16 points off the bench in Tuesday's game against the Huskies. Maryland is using their deep rotation of big men to overpower teams, and it worked this week. However, I'm still not sold on them being able to use that formula successfully on quicker, more talented teams (hello loss to UNC). My hesitation is probably directly tied to my complete lack of faith in Mark Turgeon's abilities as a coach, but until he proves his in-game acumen can match the talent of his players, I'm staying off the Maryland bandwagon.
No. 9 - Iowa State (7-0, LW: 7)
The Cyclones of Ames are ranked #2 in the coaches poll and #4 in the AP poll. But, the Slippery Power Rankings are all that matter, and here, they're #9. Why? I'm going to use the same argument the Gonzaga naysayers use--they haven't played anyone! Iowa State has only played two teams ranked in KenPom's Top 100: Colorado (#49) and Illinois (#90). Additionally, I'm not sold on the talent outside of Georges Niang to place this team in the elite category. Thus, the committee of two is reserving judgment until Iowa State plays a decent opponent. Fortunately, that wait won't be too long since this week features an in-state clash with the Iowa Hawkeyes followed by another test in two weeks when they take on the Cincinnati Bearcats. Hopefully, we'll have a better idea of how good this team really is by the time conference play rolls around.
No. 8 - Kentucky (8-1, LW: 2)
For those requiring further evidence that this year is wide open in the collegiate hoops landscape, look no further than Kentucky's defeat to UCLA. Yes, the same UCLA that lost to our dear friends at Monmouth earlier in the season. Kentucky appeared to be cruisin' (I'm going to miss those videos) following their strong showing at the Champions Classic in Chicago last month, and no one expected a hiccup at UCLA. But, you can never count out how much motivation can be generated from being mauled in front of a national television audience. If you don't remember what happened between these teams last year, Kentucky took a 24-0 lead to start the game on their way to DISMANTLING UCLA (83-44). And even that may be putting it mildly.
"Westwood Remembers" was probably UCLA's rallying cry going into this game, and the Wildcats found a team that was ready to take them down a notch. Of course, this year's Kentucky squad is also vastly different than the team that camethisclose to perfection, and the loss to UCLA showed they're currently missing the grit of recent squads. But make no mistake, they are still immensely talented, and the season is still young.
No. 7 - Virginia (8-1, LW: 8)
Tony Bennett is often criticized for Virginia's style of play, and to be honest, the Cavaliers' pace makes turtles look fast. But, you can't deny how well coached his teams are every year, and this year is no different. Despite playing with the fourth-slowest pace in the nation (348 out of 352), Virginia is ranked in the top-10 in both defensive and offensive efficiency. What concerns me though, is the Cavaliers' abysmal rate at which they get to the free throw line. Senior wings Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill are the only guys who can be counted on to get to the line at this point, and they account for 51.3% of the team's total attempts. This is not a sustainable formula for success. If Virginia wants to make a deep run in March, Bennett has to figure out how to get easier points for his team.
No. 6 - Purdue (10-0, LW: 10)
As we're witnessing with the absence of Przemek Karnowski, it really helps to have height in this game. And as I mentioned last week, Purdue has great size in spades. Their top 4 contributors measure 7'2, 7'0, 6'9, and 6'7. But, this team isn't just big. They know how to use that size, parlaying their great length into the second most efficient defense in the country per KenPom (behind only Oklahoma). While they don't have a truly transcendent star, the Boilermakers rely on their defense, ball movement, and depth to wear out opponents over 40 minutes, And, they play in a great conference for their roster construction, as the Big10 has always been known as one of the slower-paced leagues in college basketball. I bet Purdue fans are still leery about putting their eggs in the hoops basket, but this team is legitimately good, and it's time for the fans in whatever part of Indiana Purdue is located to raise their expectations.
No. 5 - Duke (8-1, LW: 6)
Congratulations to Ted Cruz's son, Grayson Allen, on his first career double-double that he notched against Buffalo. I was stunned that Allen never had a dub-dub before until I realized (1) he never played last year because a bunch of NBA players were starting ahead of him; and (2) he's been really busy with his dad's presidential campaign. Also, if you can't stand all things Duke, you won't like what I'm about to write next. In this calendar year, FIVE Duke teams have reached the final fours in their respective sports, with men's basketball and women's soccer reaching the finals. That's disgusting and I resent them even more for their broad success.
No. 4 - North Carolina (7-1, LW: 4)
This team is really humming now that Marcus Paige is back. Even though Paige's numbers this week against Davidson don't jump off the stat sheet, it's clear just how important he is to everything the Tar Heels do. The "North Carolina Break" and their high tempo offense has always relied on excellent point guards to drive the proverbial car, and with Paige back in the fold, we could see UNC start to really get going.
No. 3 - Kansas (7-1, LW: 5)
Kansas is good again! The Jayhawks welcomed the Harvard Crimson to the heartland this week. And while Harvard is having a tough start to the season, they are still well-coached and see all the angles (because they're really smart). However, Kansas proved to be too much as they pulled away late. After Frank Mason saw himself on my not-so-glorious collection of missed dunks last week, he had a man-in-the-mirror moment and vowed to be better. Mason lit up the Crimson and chipped in a solid effort Wednesday night in a blowout of Holy Cross, so you're welcome Jayhawk fans. Let me know if anyone else needs to be motivated/shamed.
No. 2 - Oklahoma (6-0, LW: 9)
Welcome to rarefied air, Sooner Nation! Oklahoma is off to its best start since 2008, when they were led by the Griffin Brothers. Yes, Blake Griffin has a brother; and no, I don't remember his name (something Griffin, I bet). Oklahoma dominated its top-10 matchup against Villanova and rightfully ascends to the second spot in my rankings despite not starting a top-100 recruit on its roster. These guys get overshadowed in football country, but Buddy Hield is a legitimate NPOY candidate and Lon Kruger deserves more credit for the coaching job he's doing down in Norman.
No. 1 - Michigan State (10-0, LW: 1)
The Spartans were in the "lets chill out" portion of their schedule this week as they faced off against two colleges I've never heard of before: Binghamton and Maryland Eastern Shore. Predictably, the #1 ranked team in the country won by 43 points in each game. No, I'm not talking about Binghamton. All is well in East Lansing as KenPom rates Denzel Valentine as the top player in the nation, and their football team clinched a spot in the college football playoff. Coach Tom Izzo declared at the start of this season that this current team was even more talented than the version that reached the Final Four last year. Guess he wasn't lying.