College basketball's AP poll shows just how chaotic this season has been

Yahoo Sports

There are five weeks left in a whirlwind college basketball season that has sent many fans on a rollercoaster of emotions. Schools like Michigan State, Florida and North Carolina were all preseason top-10 teams and now are on the verge of NIT berths. 

Tom Izzo’s Spartans were ranked No. 1 coming into the season and they fell out of the rankings this week after losing three games in a row, including a loss at Michigan last weekend (they rebounded Tuesday night with a road win at Illinois). To go even deeper, there has only been one other No. 1-ranked team to fall out of the Top 25 during the regular season in the past 10 years. It was Kentucky during the 2013-14 season and the team slipped out of the Top 25 after Week 19.

Twelve teams that were ranked at the start of the season are no longer in the Top 25. VCU, Purdue, Arizona, St. Mary’s, Xavier, Ohio State, Utah State, Memphis, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Michigan State are all on the outside looking in. Meanwhile, San Diego State, Dayton, Florida State, Penn State, Colorado, Marquette, Butler, Houston, Iowa, Illinois and Creighton are all in the mix after Week 15. 

We take a look at the top risers and fallers of this college basketball season and how the teams got there. During a year where the NCAA tournament will be wide open, fans should expect plenty of upsets in March.

Michigan State's Tom Izzo and forward Gabe Brown (44) react after a dunk by forward Julius Marble during a game against Northwestern on Jan. 29. (AP)
Michigan State's Tom Izzo and forward Gabe Brown (44) react after a dunk by forward Julius Marble during a game against Northwestern on Jan. 29. (AP)

On the rise 

Baylor Bears

Preseason rank: No. 16

Week 15: No. 1 

After four weeks at No. 1, Baylor has all but solidified a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Bears are undefeated in the Big 12 and have only one loss to Washington in early November. Although Scott Drew and his team have to face defensive powerhouse West Virginia twice and No. 3 Kansas before the end of the season, Baylor is finding ways to win every single night with guards Jared Butler and MaCio Teague both averaging 15 points per game.

San Diego State Aztecs 

Preseason rank: Unranked

Week 15: No. 4

In last week’s early bracket reveal, San Diego State was named as a No. 1 seed by the committee. If it happens on Selection Sunday, it would be the first time in school history the Aztecs would be a top seed in postseason play. The highest ranking in the NCAA tournament prior to this year came in 2011 when Kawhi Leonard was playing and the team got a No. 2 seed. SDSU is the only undefeated team left in college basketball, sitting at 24-0. The Aztecs first cracked the Top 25 during Week 6 and made the biggest jump from No. 13 to No. 7 between Week 8 and Week 9 of the AP polls. Junior transfer guard Malachi Flynn is showing up in early mock drafts thanks to his shifty play in the lane and shooting 40 percent from the field while averaging 16.5 points per game. 

Baylor's Freddie Gillespie shoots over Jericho Sims of the Texas Longhorns on Feb. 10. (Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
Baylor's Freddie Gillespie shoots over Jericho Sims of the Texas Longhorns on Feb. 10. (Chris Covatta/Getty Images)

Penn State Nittany Lions 

Preseason rank: Unranked

Week 15: No. 13

Penn State came out of nowhere this season and has four Top 25 wins so far and only five losses. They entered the Top 25 rankings during Week 7 after a win over No. 4 Maryland. In a Big Ten conference that could send 10 teams to the NCAA tournament, Penn State is second in the conference behind Maryland and was snubbed a No. 4 seed in the early bracket reveal last week. The Nittany Lions are led by senior wing Lamar Stevens, who had a season-high 33 points in a win over Minnesota last weekend. 

Dayton Flyers 

Preseason rank: Unranked

Week 15: No. 6

Dayton entered the Top 25 rankings after Week 5 at No. 19 and have slowly climbed from there. The Flyers are 10-0 in conference and have put up 70 or more points in every game this season. Breakout player of the year Obi Toppin is flying up NBA draft boards thanks to his Anthony Davis-like growth spurt since high school and his 63 percent shooting from the field. Dayton is No. 1 in the country in field goal percentage and second in assists. The Flyers have four players averaging double-digits each game in Toppin, Jalen Crutcher, Ibi Watson and Trey Landers. 

Gonzaga Bulldogs 

Preseason rank: No. 8

Week 15: No. 2

Year after year, Mark Few puts together a team that is consistent throughout the season and a favorite to make a deep run in the tournament. This year is no different. Even when standout forward Killian Tillie went down with an ankle injury, freshman Drew Timme came in and filled the gap, averaging over 18 points in three games. Gonzaga spent four weeks at No. 1 before Baylor took over and could return to No. 1 if Baylor loses any of the remaining games this season. 

Falling

Michigan State Spartans 

Preseason rank: No. 1

Week 15: Unranked

Michigan State barely got by No. 22 Illinois on Tuesday night when Xavier Tillman had the game-winning dunk with six seconds left in the game. MSU is only the second team in the last 10 years to fall completely out of the Top 25 after being ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll. The win over Illinois breaks the Spartans’ three-game losing streak but MSU still has to face No. 9 Maryland twice and No. 13 Penn State before the end of the regular season. 

North Carolina Tar Heels

Preseason rank: No. 9

Week 15: Unranked

UNC lost Coby White to the NBA last year but gained the No. 1 point guard in the country, Cole Anthony. Anthony set an ACC record for the most points by a freshman in his college debut with 34 against Notre Dame. Unfortunately, Anthony was sidelined for six weeks with a knee injury and North Carolina has been struggling ever since. UNC was ranked as high as No. 5 in Week 3 and fell completely out of the rankings in Week 7. This is Roy Williams’ worst season in his 17 years as North Carolina’s head coach. The Tar Heels lost to Wake Forest on Tuesday night, putting them at 10-14 overall and tied for last place in the ACC. 

North Carolina's Roy Williams looks on during a game against the Duke Blue Devils on Feb. 08. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
North Carolina's Roy Williams looks on during a game against the Duke Blue Devils on Feb. 08. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Florida Gators 

Preseason rank: No. 6

Week 15: Unranked

The Gators were a preseason Final Four favorite thanks to the highly touted recruiting class coming in and key transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. who chose Florida over Kentucky. This is a case of all the pieces looking good on paper but not transferring to wins on the hardwood. Freshmen guards Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann were McDonald’s All-Americans who are seeing minimal minutes and not putting up the numbers a lot of fans expected them to. Lewis is averaging eight points per game while Mann is only averaging five points per game. The Gators are 6-4 in conference with the only Top 25 wins coming against No. 18 Xavier and No. 4 Auburn. Florida only spent three weeks in the rankings, falling out after Week 4. 

Virginia Cavaliers

Preseason rank: No. 11

Week 15: Unranked

The defending national champions lost four players to the NBA or graduation last year but brought in four new freshmen, including top-50 guard Casey Morsell, and returned key players Braxton Key and Mamadi Diakite. Virginia went as high as No. 5 in Week 5 and dropped out of the rankings Week 11 after losing three straight to Boston College, Syracuse and Florida State. The Cavaliers barely squeaked by Notre Dame on Tuesday in a 50-49 OT win and will play Duke and Louisville before the end of the season. 

Memphis Tigers 

Preseason rank: No. 14

Week 15: Unranked 

Head coach Penny Hardaway and assistant coach Mike Miller put together the No. 1 recruiting class coming into the season, including the No. 1 ranked player in the country, James Wiseman, and five-star Precious Achiuwa. Wiseman played three games before the NCAA suspended him for 12 games due to a recruiting violation. The potential No. 1 draft pick left the team in December and hired an agent to prepare for the NBA draft. Soon afterwards, the Tigers’ season started to dwindle. Memphis went 3-7 during the month of January and fell out of the Top 25 in Week 13. To close out the season, the Tigers will face No. 20 Houston twice, a tough Cincinnati squad and a solid Wichita State team. 

Staying Power

Kansas Jayhawks

Preseason rank: No. 3

Week 15: No. 3

The Jayhawks are one of the most consistent teams this year, with the lowest ranking coming at Week 11 when the team dropped to No. 6 after a loss to Baylor. Bill Self and his squad spent only one week at No. 1 in December before losing to Villanova and being taken over by Gonzaga. Kansas has won every game this season when the team has scored 60 or more points in the game. Despite the dark stain surrounding the fight with Kansas State that spilled into the stands in January, Kansas has remained focused in games and continued to win big conference games. 

Louisville Cardinals

Preseason rank: No. 5

Week 15: No. 5

Similar to Kansas, Louisville spent two weeks at No. 1 before steadily falling to No. 13 and climbing its way back up to No. 5 over the course of the season. Chris Mack’s team is in first place in the ACC with a 12-1 in-conference record and junior forward Jordan Nwora has been a force for the Cardinals all season long, averaging 19.5 points per game including a season-high 37 points in a win over Boston College. 

Maryland Terrapins

Preseason rank: No. 7

Week 15: No. 9

This is the most talented Maryland team under head coach Mark Turgeon. The Terrapins are led by senior point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. and sophomore center Jalen Smith. Smith, at 6-foot-10, hit four threes and finished with 29 points in a win over Indiana in January. Both Smith and Cowan Jr. were named to the John R. Wooden Award top-20 list earlier this week. The lowest the Terrapins have dropped this season is No. 17 in Week 11 after losing two straight games to Iowa and Wisconsin. Maryland is 10-3 in conference and in first place in a very competitive Big Ten conference. 

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