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Ballot breakdown | Houston rises to No. 1

Feb. 26—Sign up for our daily Illini basketball newsletter here

Illinois beat writer Scott Richey is in his ninth season as an AP Top 25 voter. Here's how his ballot shook out this week:

1. Houston 3

2. Connecticut 1

3. Purdue 2

4. Tennessee 5

5. Marquette 7

6. North Carolina 8

7. Kansas 9

8. Iowa State 6

9. Arizona 4

10. Auburn 14

11. Duke 10

12. Creighton 18

13. Dayton 11

14. Illinois 12

15. Alabama 15

16. Washington State 16

17. South Carolina 17

18. Saint Mary's 20

19. Utah State 23

20. Baylor 13

21. San Diego State 19

22. Nevada 24

23. Clemson 25

24. Wake Forest NR

25. Brigham Young NR

Who's up

The NET — and its complementary quadrant system — was the NCAA's answer to replacing the RPI. The NET isn't flawless, but is considered a more effective metric than its predecessor. The quadrant system could probably use some tweaking. It's not easily understood by the casual college basketball fan, and what was a Quad I win (that's good) one day might not the next. Houston found that out the hard way this weekend. The Cougars arguably had the best week of any team in the country, beating Iowa State and Baylor in a pair of AP Top 25 matchups that landed them at the top of my ballot. That also got Houston to 10 Quad I wins by Saturday night. The most of any team in the country. Then the NET updated Sunday morning, Utah, Texas Tech and Texas A&M all slipped in the rankings and the Cougars lost three of their Quad I wins.

Who's down

I've been all in on the Mountain West Conference the majority of the season. For good reason. The league's top teams handled their business in the nonconference portion of the schedule, turning league games into résumé builders for everyone because of where the top tier teams wound up in the NET. Quad I victories for everyone! Literally. No team in the Mountain West has made it through conference play unscathed, and the top teams keep beating each other. It's made for a fun league season and helped the Mountain West likely nab six berths in the NCAA tournament. But all those good vibes didn't save New Mexico from falling off my ballot this week. The Lobos knocked off Colorado State — one of two for the Rams that also cost them a spot on my ballot — but followed up that good win by losing at home to Air Force. Not ideal.

Who to watch

While there are some good matchups early in the week, they're all just the undercard for a main event Saturday. Four ranked-on-ranked matchups highlight the schedule starting with South Carolina hosting Florida at 11 a.m. (ESPN). The SEC boasts another high profile showdown at the end of the day with Tennessee hitting the road to play Alabama (7 p.m.). All four teams are at the top of the SEC standings with the Volunteers and Crimson Tide sharing the No. 1 spot but with just a two-game lead separating first and fifth in the conference. The Big 12 and Big East get in on the Saturday fun, too, with Kansas playing at Baylor (noon, ABC) and Creighton hosting Marquette (1:30 p.m., Fox). Less is on the line in those matchups other than good basketball. Kansas trails Houston by two games in the Big 12, and everyone in the Big East is still chasing Connecticut, which has a 2 1/2-game lead on Marquette.