Traditional powerhouses, including Kansas at No. 5, dominated the top of the preseason Associated Press college basketball poll released Friday.
Loaded Kentucky, snagging 52 of 65 first-place votes, is ranked first followed by Arizona, Wisconsin, Duke, KU and North Carolina.
The poll, with first-place votes in parentheses and total points:
1 - Kentucky (52)
2 - Arizona (5)
3 - Wisconsin (8)
4 - Duke
5 - Kansas
6 - North Carolina
7 - Florida
8 - Louisville
9 - Virginia
10 - Texas
11 - Wichita State
12 - Villanova
13 - Gonzaga
14 - Iowa State
15 - Virginia Commonwealth
16 - San Diego State
17 - Connecticut
18 - Michigan State
19 - Oklahoma
20 - Ohio State
21 - Nebraska
22 - SMU
23 - Syracuse
24 - Harvard
25 - Utah
Others receiving votes: Stanford 71, Iowa 58, Colorado 57, UCLA 35, Minnesota 34, Kansas State 27, Arkansas 21, Pittsburgh 20, Memphis 15, NC State 14, Louisiana Tech 9, Cincinnati 8, LSU 8, George Washington 7, Notre Dame 6, Oklahoma State 6, Dayton 6, Georgetown 5, Florida State 5, Maryland 3, Illinois 3, UNLV 2, Brigham Young 2, West Virginia 1, Baylor 1, Stephen F. Austin 1, UTEP 1.
The top 25 ballot I sent to AP:
1 - Kentucky: Nine McDonald’s All-Americans, plus Willie Cauley-Stein, an embarrassment of riches.
Remember the 78-76 thriller of a victory against Wichita State in as good a game as was played in the NCAA Tournament? Well, Kentucky has 52 of its 78 points back from that one, in addition to four new McDonald’s All-Americans, including 7-footer Karl Towns, projected top five NBA selection.
Outspoken coach John Calipari has said he will play two platoons of five, subbing all five for the other five to start the season. We’ll see if he sticks with that plan.
2 - Duke: Point guard Tyus Jones and center Jahlil Okafor, two of the nation’s top freshmen, mixed in with steady seniors Quinn Cook in the backcourt and Amile Jefferson in the frontcourt, plus junior guard Rasheed Sulaimon all adds up to a team ready to start the season on a roll that will be tough to slow down.
3 - Kansas: Long on depth and short on height, Kansas will only improve significantly from last season if its point guard play does. If Conner Frankamp, ill-equipped to defend Big 12 point guards, were the answer he would not have transferred.
4 - Arizona: The Pac-12 will have a down year, keeping Arizona from playing a schedule that will make it less tested than most heavyweights in March. Still, there is plenty to like about this team, starting with 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski, former recruiting target of KU. He’s a nice complement to talented forwards Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
5 - Texas: Much of the preseason talk will center on 6-11 freshman sharpshooter Myles Turner, sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor and senior forward Johnathan Holmes, but it’s junior center Cameron Ridley who can turn this team into a monster. A 6-9, 285-pound force, Ridley’s tough to keep off the boards. If he can continue to improve his touch from the free-throw line (.333 as a freshman, .626 as a sophomore) he can become a handful for every Big 12 team.
6 - North Carolina: Marcus Paige, the slender, lefty point guard can score and still has the gift of making everyone on the court with him better. Roy Williams never sends a boring team onto the court and this year’s squad certainly is no exception.
7 - Louisville: Rick Pitino opens the season vs. Minnesota, coached by son Richard on Nov. 14, a made-for-TV matchup with some sizzle. Louisville’s Pitino has a shot at having as smooth an ACC debut as his former boss, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. Forward Montrezl Harrell, an explosive, strong, relentless force underneath, would be one of the best players in any league.
8 - Wichita State: It still hacks me off that the NCAA Tournament committee put two of the nation’s best teams on a crash-course toward each other so early in the tournament. Few coaches know how to turn slights into advantages the way Gregg Marshall can, so look for that to benefit the Shockers, led by cerebral point guard Fred Van Vleet and born scorer Ron Baker. Look for Frankamp to join the lineup second semester next season.
9 - Florida: Just one starter returns, but fear not Billy Donovon will teach long, quick athletes how to play really tough defense and the Gators will exceed preseason expectations.
10 - Michigan State: The Spartans lost a ton from last season, but if underrated forward Branden Dawson can stay healthy, he could be tough to stop.
11 - Wisconsin: You don’t feel great for Badgers coach Bo Ryan making the Final Four for the first time a year ago, you don’t have a heart. The Badgers return 82 percent of their scoring and 85 percent of their rebounding. Frank Kaminsky, a 7-foot three-point threat, leads the way and forward Sam Dekker isn’t far behind. Teams will look to make their seasons by upsetting Wisconsin, a new feeling for the Badgers, who will get everybody’s best shot.
12 - Villanova: Darrun Hilliard scored 14 points in ‘Nova’s 63-59 victory against Kansas in the Bahamas. JayVaughn Pinkston had 13 and Ryan Acridiacono hit the game-winning three-pointer. They’re all back. It felt like an upset at the time but really wasn’t, considering the Wildcats went on to earn a No. 2 seed.
13 - Iowa State: If Fred Hoiberg were raised in, played college ball in and coached in Washington, D.C. instead of Ames, his nickname would be The President and he would look the part. Players develop under him because he gives them the freedom to shoot and puts them in position to take good shots. Georges Niang, who looks as if he’s lost all of his body fat, is one of the more interesting big men to watch in college basketball because he has such refined passing and shooting skills from the perimeter and is clever in the post as well.
14 - Virginia: Tony Bennett, son of Wisconsin coaching legend Dick Bennett, did more than hoist three-pointers with remarkable accuracy playing for his father at Wisconsin-Green Bay. He also paid attention to how the coach drew the most out of his talent and is doing the same at Virginia. The Cavs won the ACC regular season and post-season titles by playing at a deliberate pace, screening to open shots and playing scrappy defense. Can the Cavs do it again. Their talent level says no, but then again it said the same thing a year ago.
15 - Connecticut: Tied for third in the American Athletic Conference, the Huskies caught fire and won the NCAA Tournament under second-year coach Kevin Ollie. Guard Ryan Boatright is the lone returning starter, so a repeat isn’t likely. But the Huskies will play their hearts out for their coach and exceed expectations.
16 - Virginia Commonwealth: Every year, a school with a longer basketball tradition offers coach Shaka Smart a hefty pay raise and every year he turns it down to stay put. Pretty cool.
17 - Gonzaga: Guard Kevin Pangos, a three-time All-West Coast Conference selection returns for what seems like his 25th season in Spokane, which I’m told is beautiful this time of year.
18 - Nebraska: Andrew White III found a perfect landing spot, but will have to sit out this season before playing for Tim Miles. Just because White wasn’t quite good enough to crack the Kansas rotation, doesn’t mean he won’t become a big-time scorer for Nebraska. Small forward Terran Petteway averaged 3.1 for Texas Tech as a freshman, sat out a year as a transfer, and averaged 18.1 points as a third-year sophomore for the Cornhuskers.
19 - San Diego State: Steve Fisher is the anti-Bo Derek. The actress best known for her role in 10 always had such an interesting, almost exotic look. But she was so boring in interviews. Fisher looks as if he should be boring and then he opens his mouth and out spills humor, insight and candor. If center Skylar Spencer can play as he did in a four-point victory in Allen Fieldhouse (nine points, six rebounds, six blocked shots) on a regular basis, Fisher’s Aztecs will be more interesting than most project them to be at this point.
20 - SMU: Those close to Larry Brown say the former KU coach was big-time bummed when Emmanuel Mudiay, the nation’s top point-guard recruit, decided to play a year professionally in China instead of preparing for the NBA with one season at SMU, but I feel more sorry for Mudiay than for Brown. The teenager could have learned so much about how to play the game from Brown.
“He took eight different teams to the NBA playoffs," ESPN's Jay Bilas said after a recent KU practice. "Who does that? I mean, he’s a tremendous teacher. He played in the Olympics. He’s still the only man who has won an NCAA and NBA title. Played on the Olympic team. I think you could put Larry Brown’s experience in the game up against anybody’s. It’s an incredible, varied experience as a player and a coach.”
In the long run, that could have benefited Mudiay, who already has a game as sweet as tupelo honey, more than all the tea in China.
21 - Ohio State: Freshman guard D’Angelo Russell has the potential to solve the scoring problems the Buckeyes had a year ago. I bet your figured out all by yourself that when I said scoring I meant “scoring the basketball” as so many broadcasters and coaches are fond of saying. It’s the most annoying phrase ever to creep into basketball lexicon. It must stop, but it won’t unless you write your Congressman and encourage your friends, neighbors and relatives to do the same.
22. - Oklahoma: The Sooners await word on whether the NCAA will grant Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas immediate eligibility. A three-year starter at Houston, the forward is a versatile scorer and productive rebounder. Buddy Hield will try to improve on his team-leading totals of 16.7 points per game and 90 three-pointers.
23 - Michigan: The Wolverines have lost so much talent the past two seasons that the logical conclusion is there just isn’t enough talent to make up a Top 25 team. But that disregards the impact of John Bielein, a good guy and great coach. He’ll put enough confident scoring threats around star wing Caris LaVert to give him room to blossom and Michigan will remain a tough out.
24 - Syracuse: Coach Jim Boeheim has whiney expressions and sometimes words. He looks like a grump. And he’s the most underrated college basketball coach in the land. Boeheim lost a lot from last year’s team, but he has a gift for fitting pieces together in the right way and is a master at teaching a 2-3 zone nobody likes facing.
25 - Pittsburgh: Panthers lack star power, but they always know how to frustrate opponents by drawing them into ugly grind-it-out games.
Late Night, with David Letterman, then Conan O’Brien, then Jimmy Fallon, now Seth Meyers, is a show for entertainment purposes only. So is Late Night in the Phog, yet it’s only natural to draw iron-clad basketball conclusions from it because it’s all anybody has to go on at this point.
The scrimmage portion of Late Night is just that, a scrimmage, a glorified pick-up game from which meaningful conclusions can’t really be drawn.
With that in mind, here are a few traps to try to avoid, even though they are easy to fall into by turning what happens during tonight’s for-recruiting-purposes show into rock-solid basketball information:
1 - Don’t study the expressions of the recruits in the building.
Stressed-out basketball junkies will take note that one recruit spent the whole night texting and looked bored. They’ll conclude that means Kansas isn’t getting him.
Another recruit will laugh at the skits, stomp his feet at great dunks and look to be having the time of his life. Again, those are viewed as signs that the recruit will become a Jayhawk.
In reality, both conclusions could be dead wrong. A player with a more understated personality such as Cliff Alexander never is going to look as excited as the extroverted Kelly Oubre.
Now, that doesn’t mean the recruits won’t be swayed by the crowd’s reaction to them. It just means some might not show their appreciation.
2 - Don’t project Brannen Greene’s season based on what happens tonight.
The sophomore has a beautiful three-point jumper, size and the ability to score from anywhere on the floor, which makes him a prime candidate to lead the scrimmage in scoring.
But his playing time will be determined on how well he defends and not a whole lot of defense is played on Late Night. If Greene gets after it defensively in a scrimmage in which most players don’t bring their best in that area, that’s a good sign. If he doesn’t, it’s not conclusive.
3 - Don’t be disappointed if you leave the building saying, “I was hoping to see more from Devonte Graham.”
A good point guard is supposed to make you leave the building talking about how well his teammates played because he delivered the ball to the right guy at the right time. The last thing KU needs is a point guard who monopolizes the ball the way Stephon Marbury did in making numerous NBA teams worse.
Graham has a sweet jumper and for a freshman already seems to do a nice job of keeping the ball moving.
Late Night’s a good night to enjoy the wild skills and athletic gifts of the players, a good night to enjoy watching sub-6-footer Frank Mason reach back to throw one down with authority, a good night to have a good time and leave stress outside in the long line you just put in your rear-view mirror.
The man working the television camera looked to the media relations staff for help and asked for a microphone check. After Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk was asked to say "check" into the mic, he leaned forward over it and softly said, "Boo!" with a little smile.
Nothing about the 17-year-old basketball star from Ukraine suggested he was uncomfortable or in any way overwhelmed.
Whether he brings enough strength, skill and athleticism at such a young age to earn significant playing time on a loaded Kansas team remains to be seen, but if he doesn't, it won't be because he doesn't believe in himself.
Asked what he does best as a basketball player, Mykhailiuk answered with one word: "Everything."
Asked what position he considered himself, he said without hesitation that he's a guard. He will join a crowded field on the perimeter that includes small guards Frank Mason, Devonté Graham and Conner Frankamp and wings Wayne Selden, Kelly Oubre and Brannen Greene.
Kansas coach Bill Self typically likes to play four bigs and five perimeter players, but there is nothing typical about the depth of this team, even by Kansas standards.
Oh well, it's better to have too much depth than not enough.
Question: What is more difficult for a 17-year-old basketball player to achieve: Making the Ukrainian national team or cracking Kansas University’s 2014-2015 perimeter rotation?
Answer: We’ll soon find out.
Former NBA coach and broadcaster Mike Fratello, head coach of Ukraine’s national team, told Kansas coach Bill Self he didn’t see how incoming KU freshman Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk could compete well enough against “men” to make the roster for the FIBA World and expected him to play for the junior national team. Mykhailiuk exceeded Fratello’s expectations and made the roster. Good sign. Great accomplishment.
It will be quite the accomplishment if Mykhailiuk, 17, can earn playing time on KU’s loaded perimeter.
Just for fun, let’s take a look at how the perimeter minutes might get distributed had Mykhailiuk not been recruited to Kansas and then try to make time for him by subtracting minutes elsewhere.
Three perimeter positions times 40 minutes equals 120. Add 10 minutes for when one of the perimeter players slides to the power forward position, meaning 130 minutes are split among the following six players: Small guards Frank Mason, Conner Frankamp and Devonte Graham and big wings Wayne Selden, Kelly Oubre and Brannen Greene.
Obviously, these guesses are all way premature and mean nothing, which doesn’t take the fun out of the exercise. Give 25 minutes to Mason, 15 to Frankamp and 15 to Graham. That leaves 75 minutes for the three big wings. Give 30 minutes to Selden, 30 to Oubre and 15 to Greene.
It’s difficult to picture Mykhailiuk cutting into the minutes of Selden or Oubre.
That leaves Greene, a skilled scorer with a big body and a reputation as an underachiever at the defensive end. Nothing motivates the way playing time does, so if Greene has the maturity to realize how much he must improve his defense in order to play and has it in his body to play much better D, he could become the team’s most improved player. And if a 17-year-old can beat him out, then that 17-year-old is one serious talent. Any way you look at it, KU has tremendous perimeter depth, regardless of how the minutes are distributed.
The question of how to pronounce Mykhailiuk's name no longer is a mystery, but the readiness of his game remains one.
Bill Walton, Sam Bowie, Yao Ming, Greg Oden. The bigger the body, the more susceptible it is to injury, particularly when put through the ringer of ridiculously long NBA seasons.
Walton won an NBA championship, one of the things that sets him apart from the others mentioned, but he also missed three entire seasons and averaged 47 games in the 10 he played.
If the Cleveland Cavaliers want to talk themselves out of selecting Joel Embiid with the first pick in the upcoming NBA draft, they have no shortage of historical data to support that decision. And they'll be cowards destined to spend most of their existence in dank, dreary cellar of the Eastern Conference's Central Division.
Passing on Embiid in the wake of a stress fracture of the back followed by a stress fracture of the right foot certainly represents the safe path for the Cavs to take, but since when is greatness achieved by letting caution overrule courage?
If Embiid falls faster on draft day than Kansas University's national-title hopes did when the smart and talented center suffered his back injury, either the Celtics (sixth) or Lakers (seventh) will do what they do best, walk away with another draft-day steal.
A junior at Indiana State, Larry Bird was chosen sixth in the 1978 draft by Red Auerbach, who paid enough attention to the rules to know that Bird was eligible for selection because he was four years out of high school. Bird originally enrolled at Indiana when Bob Knight was coach. He quickly returned home to French Lick, briefly spent time at a junior college, left and went to work at a city job, performing various duties, including driving a garbage truck. He enrolled at Indiana State and, as a senior, led the Sycamores to a national-title runner-up in 1979, the year Magic Johnson's Michigan State squad won it all.
The Lakers had the courage to think outside of prevailing NBA wisdom in directing the Charlotte Hornets to take Kobe Bryant with the 13th pick of the 1996 draft so that they could trade for him, back when high school picks were considered by most too risky.
Health concerns regarding Embiid certainly have legitimacy. But nobody is without risk. Is Jabari Parker, a very polished offensive player, quick enough to guard small forwards? Will ultra-quick, explosive Andrew Wiggins ever develop enough ball-handling and shooting skills to become a perennial All-Star? A healthy Embiid, armed with Hakeem Olajuwon footwork, stands way above the rest of the class.
Now that the NCAA tournament brackets have been released, not much attention is paid to the season’s final Associated Press college basketball top 25 poll, but it is worth noting one surprise: Iowa State shot past Kansas into ninth place, one spot ahead of KU.
An even bigger stunner: Saint Louis, with six losses, remained ranked, checking in at No. 25.
The AP top 25, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through March 16, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week’s ranking:
Record Pts Prv<
1 - Florida (50) 32-2 1,610 1
2 - Wichita St. (15) 34-0 1,571 2
3 - Virginia 28-6 1,430 6
4 - Arizona 30-4 1,422 4
5 - Louisville 29-5 1,412 5
6 - Villanova 28-4 1,231 3
7 - Michigan 25-8 1,162 8
8 - Duke 26-8 1,121 7
9 - Iowa St. 26-7 1,055 16
10 - Kansas 24-9 1,045 10
11 - Michigan St. 26-8 950 22
12 - Wisconsin 26-7 892 12
13 - San Diego St. 29-4 890 8
14 - Syracuse 27-5 757 11
15 - Cincinnati 27-6 720 13
16 - Creighton 26-7 658 14
17 - New Mexico 27-6 623 20
18 - UConn 26-8 503 21
19 - North Carolina 23-9 424 15
20 - UCLA 26-8 413 NR
21 - Oklahoma 23-9 265 17
22 - Ohio St. 25-9 167 24
23 - Baylor 24-11 148 NR
24 - VCU 26-8 140 23
25 - Saint Louis 26-6 131 18
Others receiving votes: Memphis 101, Gonzaga 83, Kentucky 77, Stephen F. Austin 46, Harvard 30, Saint Joseph’s 14, Texas 13, Oregon 8, Providence 6, UMass 3, Tennessee 2, NC Central 1, W. Michigan 1.
My AP top 25 ballot: (Kenpom.com ranks various statistical categories, including experience and offensive and defensive efficiency. All the statistical team rankings listed below in those categories are from kenpom.com.)
1 - Wichita State: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Cleanthony Early (15.8); Experience Ranking: 101; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 8; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 10.
2 - Florida: McDonald’s All-Americans: Three; Leading Scorer: Casey Prather (14.2); Experience Ranking: 93; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 17; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 5.
3 - Arizona: McDonald’s All-Americans: Three, excluding injured player; Leading Scorer: Nick Johnson (16.2); Experience Ranking: 327; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 35; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 1.
4 - Louisville: McDonald’s All-Americans: One; Leading Scorer: Russ Smith (18.3); Experience Ranking: 123; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 10; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 6.
5 - Virginia: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Malcolm Brogdon (12.6); Experience Ranking: 258; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 25; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 3.
6 - Michigan State: McDonald’s All-Americans: Three; Leading Scorer: Gary Harris (17.1); Experience Ranking: 207; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 11; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 39.
7 - Michigan: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Nik Stauskas (17.5); Experience Ranking: 332; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 3; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 104.
8 - Syracuse: McDonald’s All-Americans: One, excluding injured player; Leading Scorer: C.J. Fair (16.7); Experience Ranking: 263; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 34; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 18.
9 - Villanova: McDonald’s All-Americans: One; Leading Scorer: James Bell (14.5); Experience Ranking: 235; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 16; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 14.
10 - San Diego State: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Xavier Thames (16.8); Experience Ranking: 165; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 103; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 7.
11 - Kansas: McDonald’s All-Americans: Three; Leading Scorer: Andrew Wiggins (17.4); Experience Ranking: 348; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 6; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 45.
12 - Duke: McDonald’s All-Americans: Six; Leading Scorer: Jabari Parker (19.3); Experience Ranking: 279; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 2; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 102.
13 - Wisconsin: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Frank Kaminsky (13.6); Experience Ranking: 191; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 5; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 59.
14 - Iowa State: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Melvin Ejim (18.1); Experience Ranking: 236; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 15; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 54.
15 - North Carolina: McDonald’s All-Americans: Four; Leading Scorer: Marcus Paige (17.4); Experience Ranking: 311; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 58; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 22.
16 - Cincinnati: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Sean Kilpatrick (20.7); Experience Ranking: 112; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 109; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 9.
17 - Creighton: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Doug McDermott (26.9); Experience Ranking: 12; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 1; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 126.
18 - UCLA: McDonald’s All-Americans: Two; Leading Scorer: Kyle Anderson (14.9); Experience Ranking: 293; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 14; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 49.
19 - New Mexico: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Cameron Bairstow (20.3); Experience Ranking: 106; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 38; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 38.
20 - Oklahoma: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Buddy Hield (16.8); Experience Ranking: 305; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 13; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 81.
21 - Ohio State: McDonald’s All-Americans: Two; Leading Scorer: LaQuinton Ross (15.4); Experience Ranking: 53; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 122; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 4.
22 - Connecticut: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Shabazz Napier (17.4); Experience Ranking: 67; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 80; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 11.
23 - Kentucky: McDonald’s All-Americans: Seven; Leading Scorer: Julius Randle (15.0); Experience Ranking: 351; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 19; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 35.
24 - Memphis: McDonald’s All-Americans: Two; Leading Scorer: Joe Jackson (14.3); Experience Ranking: 62; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 66; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 53.
25 - VCU: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Treveon Graham (15.7); Experience Ranking: 186; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 106; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 2.
The website www.Bovada.lv, sent an e-mail to me and others in the media with its odds to win remaining men's basketball conference tournaments. The Big 12 basketball tournament gets under way Wednesday night at Sprint Center with two quarterfinal contests.
The odds might surprise some who have reached the conclusion that because Kansas played so poorly for much of its loss at West Virginia without Joel Embiid and will be playing without him throughout the Big 12 tournament, the Jayhawks have no shot at turning the Sprint Center home-court advantage into a conference tournament title.
Kansas has played three full games without Embiid, going 2-1, with home victories against TCU and Texas Tech, the last two finishers in the conference, and a loss at West Virginia.
Bovada.lv odds to win Big 12 tournament:
Iowa State 5/1
Oklahoma State 5/1
Kansas State 16/1
West Virginia 16/1
Texas Tech 250/1
Since 3/2 odds translate to a 40 percent chance, there is no "odds-on-favorite" here, but it is interesting that at least one offshore sports book believes KU to have the best shot of the 10 teams.
The only schools Bovada lists as odds-on-favorites to win remaining conference tourneys are Arizona (2/3), Louisville (2/3) and Florida (2/3), three schools that likely will be the most popular Final Four selections in office bracket pools.
Parity scored another victory last week in college basketball when 17 of the top 25 teams in the Associated Press college basketball poll lost at least once and two schools lost twice.
The rash of winning teams losing games has created a mad scramble for the fourth and final No. 1 seed. At the moment, Villanova appears to have a shaky hold on it, but several remain in contention. Surprisingly, Arizona is not the top-ranked school with the Wildcats' mascot. Villanova jumped Arizona, but the guess here is Sean Miller's team has a more firm hold on a No. 1 seed.
The Kansas loss at West Virginia dropped the Jayhawks two spots in the AP poll, released Monday, which has Kansas at No. 10.
The AP top 25, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through March 9, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week's ranking:
Record Pts Prv
- Florida (50) 29-2 1,610 1
- Wichita St. (15) 34-0 1,574 2
- Villanova 28-3 1,454 6
- Arizona 28-3 1,435 3
- Louisville 26-5 1,237 11
- Virginia 25-6 1,186 5
- Duke 24-7 1,185 4
- Michigan 23-7 1,143 12
- San Diego St. 27-3 1,143 10
- Kansas 23-8 1,087 8
- Syracuse 27-4 1,055 7
- Wisconsin 25-6 973 9
- Cincinnati 26-5 922 15
- Creighton 24-6 752 13
- North Carolina 23-8 709 14
- Iowa St. 23-7 572 16
- Oklahoma 23-8 472 23
- Saint Louis 26-5 433 17
- Memphis 23-8 367 20
- New Mexico 24-6 344 21
- UConn 24-7 330 19
- Michigan St. 23-8 318 22
- VCU 24-7 205 NR
- Ohio St. 23-8 165 NR
- SMU 23-8 152 18
Others receiving votes: Gonzaga 82, Stephen F. Austin 56, Oregon 39, Texas 31, Harvard 27, Kentucky 19, Baylor 18, UCLA 14, Nebraska 8, Iowa 4, Tennessee 2, George Washington 1, NC Central 1.
My AP top 25 ballot:
1 - Wichita State: First team to enter NCAA Tournament without a loss (34-0) since UNLV in 1991. Any outlandish talk of Shockers becoming first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 based on fantasy and/or wishful thinking. Shockers have been pounding teams as good or better than a No. 16 seed all season. The second-game (now confusingly called the third round) opponent is the one that will be better than any Shockers have faced since they beat Tennessee by nine points Dec. 14.
2 - Florida: Billy Donovan could join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski as only active coaches to win three national titles. (Coach K has four). Louisville’s Rick Pitino and North Carolina’s Roy Williams also have shot to win a third title.
3 - Arizona: Kenpom.com stats rank Wildcats No. 1 in nation defensively, fourth with opponents shooting 41.2 percent on two-point field goals.
4 - Villanova: Nothing short of winning Big East tournament in Madison Square Garden can land Wildcats a No. 1 seed.
5 - Louisville: Cardinals peaking at right time for another Final Four. Intense defensive pressure No. 1 attribute. Opponents turn it over on 25.1 percent of possessions, second in nation to VCU. Under former Kansas State assistant and first-year coach Brad Underwood, two-loss Stephen F. Austin ranks third in that statistical category.
6 - Virginia: ACC regular-season champions have come a long way since losing by 35 points at Tennessee, but as soon as they positioned themselves to gain serious consideration for a No. 1 seed, the Cavaliers lost at Maryland.
7 - Michigan: Regular-season Big Ten champ Wolverines play strong defense without fouling, don’t take bad shots, don’t turn it over and move the ball so well they get an unusual number of open three-pointers, all of which makes coach John Beilein’s reputation as one of the nation’s finest coaches deserved.
8 - San Diego State: Aztecs 4-1 vs. teams in AP top 25, including victory in Allen Fieldhouse. Favorite statistic in college basketball: Aztecs riding 116-game winning streak when leading with five minutes remaining. So when they took a 44-42 lead with exactly five minutes left against New Mexico, everybody headed for the parking lot, knowing game was in hand. Not really, but they might as well have done so.
9 - Syracuse: First loss started stretch of four in five games, but the way Orange hit the road and pounded Florida State, 74-58, could be indication this team back to being tournament ready.
10 - Kansas: Opponents turn it over on 16.7 percent of possessions, which ranks 283rd in nation. When Joel Embiid not playing, defending the goal also a problem.
11 - Duke: Freshman Jabari Parker saved his best for last, dropping 30 points and 11 rebounds on chief rival North Carolina in regular-season finale.
12 - Wisconsin: Not even making 9 of 20 three-pointers enough to win at Nebraska, which is coming to life so quickly under second-year coach Tim Miles.
13 - North Carolina: If guards truly are key to NCAA Tournament success, look out for UNC. Marcus Paige averaging 22.4 points and shooting .531 from three in past five games.
14 - Cincinnati: Opponents turn it over on 22.6 percent of possessions, 12th in nation, per kenpom.com.
15 - Creighton: Blue Jays bounced back from consecutive road losses to Xavier and Georgetown and Doug McDermott made sure of it. On same day Andrew Wiggins scored 41 points for Kansas, McDermott exploded for 45 on Senior Day in victory vs. Providence. He became eighth Div. I player to reach 3,000-point milestone.
16 - Oklahoma: Sooners are America’s best team that nobody ever mentions.
17 - Michigan State: Keith Appling saying all the right things about his wrist feeling better, but he’s still not scoring at anywhere near the rate he did before he injured it, so it must be bothering him.
18 - Iowa State: The magic this team has doesn’t travel well outside Hilton Coliseum. Went 3-6 on road in league play.
19 - New Mexico: Power forward Cameron Bairstow had 20 of team’s 48 points in three-point loss at New Mexico.
20 - Memphis: Former Missouri Tiger Michael Dixon leads team in three-point percentage (.393), second in scoring (12.2).
21 - Ohio State: They pressure the ball, don’t give teams space to shoot threes and still don’t get abused inside. But do the Buckeyes have enough offensive firepower to do serious damage in the tournament?
22 - Connecticut: Standout point guard Shabazz Napier shot 2 of 13, 1 of 10 from three and had six turnovers at Louisville in 81-48 loss, but that was as much about Louisville as Napier.
23 - Oregon: Will the real Ducks please waddle up. Talented bunch started regular season 13-0, finished it 7-0 and went 2-8 in between. Good luck trying to catch up to Ducks by fouling late in games. They shoot .772 from the line and .390 from three. Three-point percentages of three leading scorers: Joseph Young (.406), Mike Moser (.379), Jason Calliste (.517).
24 - Saint Louis: Billikens rebounded from three-game losing streak with two-point victory at UMass.
25 - VCU: Non-stop defensive pressure makes Rams different and different can go a long way in March.
Florida, Wichita State and Arizona are pulling away from a crowded pack in the race for No. 1 seeds and it’s a tough call getting tougher by the day for the fourth one.
This is one of those years in which the difference between the No. 4-ranked team in the nation and a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament is slight. The way it looks now, plenty of round of Sweet 16 games could light up the tournament with buzzer-beaters and overtime battles.
For now, let’s focus on the field in contention for the fourth No. 1 seed, ranked in order of where I would seed them at the moment, with the understanding that plenty can change during the final two weekends leading up to Selection Sunday, March 16.
1 - Virginia: The NCAA Tournament selection committee does not look at conference standings, in part because of imbalanced schedules and the Cavaliers did benefit from their ACC slate. Still, Virginia has been smoking good teams for the majority of conference play, putting a shaky nonconference season in the distance.
The Cavs have gone 16-1 in ACC play, won 11 of those games by double figures and seven by 19 points or more. The lone conference loss came at Duke by four points, which is about the margin of home-court advantage. Other losses: Virginia Commonwealth by three, Wisconsin by 10, at Wisconsin-Green By by three, at Tennessee by 35.
2 - Kansas: None of the seven losses could be characterized as bad ones. Don’t forget, the three-point loss at Colorado came when the Buffs had Spencer Dinwiddie, lost for the season five weeks later.
The most impressive nonconference victories came against Duke in Chicago by 11 points and vs. New Mexico in Sprint Center by 17. Sweeping Iowa State and Oklahoma won’t hurt.
3 - Wisconsin: No team in the country has more big-time victories, but a stretch of five losses in six games hurts the Badgers’ cause. Three of the losses — at Indiana and Minnesota, and at home vs. Northwestern — don’t look good.
Badgers won vs. Florida, at Virginia, vs. Michigan State, at Michigan and swept Iowa.
4 - Villanova: On the rare occasions Villanova loses, it gets slaughtered, but the Wildcats win all their close ones. Three losses — to Creighton twice and to Syracuse — came by a combined 65 points. Victories against Kansas and Iowa in the Bahamas remain Nova’s best lines on a shaky resume for a No. 1 seed.
5 - Syracuse: Orange have completely collapsed. Did somebody figure out how to attack the zone and everybody else copy it? More likely, Syracuse's lack of scoring depth has been the main cause of the unraveling. The Orange have lost four of last five games, including a home setback to Georgia Tech.
6 - Duke: Like Kansas, Duke has seven losses. Unlike Kansas, some bad ones are in the mix. Blue Devils have lost ACC road games to Notre Dame, Clemson and Wake Forest. They rely too heavily on perimeter shooters because Jabari Parker, a threat from anywhere on the court, is the only reliable inside scorer.
7 - Michigan: The Big Ten champion has lost seven times, but only three in a competitive conference. Lost to Charlotte early in the season. Only shot at gaining consideration for a No. 1 seed lies in winning the regular-season finale vs. Indiana and taking the conference tournament title.
8 - North Carolina: included here as much because of the opportunities in front of the Tar Heels to leapfrog schools in front of them by winning at Duke on Saturday and then winning three games to take the ACC conference tournament title. That would give UNC 16 victories in a row and seven losses on the season. The Heels already have victories vs. Louisville, Michigan State, Kentucky and Duke.
If KU were to land the fourth No. 1 seed, the tournament selection committee might send Florida to Memphis, with Arizona going to Anaheim, Wichita State to Indianapolis and KU to New York. As a No. 2 seed, KU could go to Indianapolis, setting up a potential Elite Eight game with the Shockers.
Kansas had plenty of elite company in losing. Six of the eight teams ranked from No. 4 through No. 11 lost Saturday.
How did that happen?
All but one of the losses happened in road games, another reminder that parity places even greater importance on a game’s location.
Somewhat surprisingly given all the losing going on near the top, KU’s loss at Oklahoma State dropped the Jayhawks three spots in the Associated Press college basketball poll released Monday.
The top 25 teams in the AP poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through March 2 and total points, based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week’s ranking:
Record Pts Prv
- Florida (46) 27-2 1,606 1
- Wichita St. (14) 31-0 1,555 2
- Arizona (5) 27-2 1,514 3
- Duke 23-6 1,364 6
- Virginia 25-5 1,304 12
- Villanova 26-3 1,292 8
- Syracuse 26-3 1,240 4
- Kansas 22-7 1,200 5
- Wisconsin 24-5 1,075 14
- San Diego St. 25-3 995 13
- Louisville 24-5 959 7
- Michigan 21-7 899 16
- Creighton 23-5 892 9
- North Carolina 22-7 755 19
- Cincinnati 24-5 737 11
- Iowa St. 22-6 613 15
- Saint Louis 25-4 539 10
- SMU 23-6 427 23
- UConn 23-6 423 NR
- Memphis 22-7 364 21
- New Mexico 23-5 338 25
- Michigan St. 22-7 322 18
- Oklahoma 21-8 183 NR
- Iowa 20-9 94 20
- Kentucky 21-8 92 17
Others receiving votes: Texas 70, VCU 58, UCLA 45, Gonzaga 38, Stephen F. Austin 38, Kansas St. 19, Saint Joseph’s 19, Ohio St. 17, Green Bay 13, Harvard 7, Arizona St. 5, UMass 5, Colorado 2, Pittsburgh 2, Xavier 2, NC Central 1, Oklahoma St. 1, Southern Miss. 1.
My AP top 25 ballot:
1 - Wichita State: In the eyes of some, not even a 31-0 regular season, nonconference victories at Saint Louis and Alabama, a home victory vs. Tennessee and attempts to schedule schools that wanted no part of the Shockers are enough to make believers out of some national college basketball analysts. Too bad. No way Wichita State doesn’t earn a No. 1 seed if it wins the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
2 - Florida: Projecting high school point guards is more difficult than any other position. For example, Florida senior Scottie Wilbekin, from Gainesville, was offered scholarships from Liberty, Nevada and his hometown university. He’s averaging 13.4 points, shooting .388 from three, .754 from the line and has nearly as many steals as turnovers.
3 - Arizona: Since starting power forward Brandon Ashley suffered a season-ending injury, Wildcats have gone 6-1 and freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has averaged 10.9 points and six rebounds.
4 - Virginia: No more operating under the radar for the Cavaliers. Not now that they have won their first outright ACC regular-season championship in 33 years, Ralph Sampson’s sophomore year.
5 - Kansas: Jayhawks clinched the Big 12 because they are only ones with winning record (5-3) on the road. Oklahoma (4-4) is next best.
6 - Duke: Freshman Jabari Parker leads Blue Devils in scoring (18.8), rebounds (8.9) and blocked shots (1.4).
7 - Syracuse: Has lost 3 of 4, including 75-56 at Virginia on Saturday when Cavaliers closed on a 33-14 run.
8 - Villanova: Three losses have come by a combined margin of 65 points, but they really know how to close close ones. Wildcats are 4-0 in overtime. Won last two games by combined 36 points.
9 - Creighton: Not even 27 points and 10 rebounds from Doug McDermott, nation’s leading scorer, could ride Blue Jays to victory Saturday at Xavier.
10 - San Diego State: Aztecs have reached 25 victories five times in past six seasons, the five highest victory totals in school history.
11 - Michigan: Wolverines clinched at least a share of Big Ten title Saturday, an amazing feat considering Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. are in the NBA and Mitch McGary is sideline by back surgery.
12 - Wisconsin: More consistent teams can be found throughout country, but nobody has a more impressive six-pack of victories than Badgers: Florida, Saint Louis, at Virginia, Iowa twice, Michigan State, at Michigan.
13 - North Carolina: Another impressive list of victories: Lousiville, at Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke twice.
14 - Cincinnati: Feisty coach Mick Cronin got into ref Ted Valentine’s face, was restrained by a few players and then shoved assistant coach Larry Davis. All in all, not a great day for Cronin during loss to Connecticut.
15 - Louisville: Cardinals swept in season series with Memphis. Next up: Wednesday battle of coaching legends Rick Pitino and Larry Brown at SMU. Pitino won the first one, 71-63, in Louisville.
16 - Michigan State: Banged-up Spartans on two-game losing streak, including a 53-46 loss to Illinois.
17 - Iowa State: Terrific at home, Cyclones only 3-5 on road in Big 12. Even 30 points and 16 rebounds from Melvin Ejim couldn’t get the job done in Manhattan.
18 - Oklahoma: Sooners have good shot to break from three-way tie to finish second alone, which would make Lon Kruger favorite to win Big 12 Coach of the Year honors.
19 - Texas: Three losses in past four games, which in Big 12 lingo is another way of saying three of the past four games have been on the road.
20 - SMU: Winners of 7 of 8, Mustangs staring at a tough week with home game Wednesday vs. Louisville and Saturday road trip to Memphis.
21 -New Mexico: Lobos could do wonders for their seeding with victory Saturday night at San Diego State.
22 - Connecticut: Shabazz Muhammad has appeared in 22 games for Minnesota Timberwolves and averaged seven minutes and three points. Senior Shabazz Napier averaging 17.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists for Huskies. Muhammad making more money. Napier having more fun.
23 - Memphis: Two leading scorers, Joe Jackson and Shaq Goodwin, combined for eight points on 2 of 18 shooting and Tigers still defeated Louisville. Great sign.
24 - Saint Louis: Billikens doubled season loss total in one week, losing at home to Duquesne and at Virginia Commonwealth.
25 - Harvard: Tommy Amaker has coached Harvard to its third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. Pre-Amaker, the school had made one appearance and that was in 1946.