It’s always fun to wake up on Monday and know that the new AP rankings are coming out soon. In the past couple seasons, there’s been no one dominant program, and the rankings can shake up considerably each week. With March fast approaching, the Top 25 teams are now jockeying for higher seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
Here’s an analysis of some of the teams that have risen — and fallen — in Week 17.
On the rise
No. 12 Texas A&M Aggies
The Aggies are vying for a four-seed or higher so they can host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. They helped their cause with wins over the Georgia Bulldogs and Auburn Tigers last week. They looked especially good against the Tigers in what was a 30-point blowout led by Chennedy Carter’s 23 points.
N’dea Jones deserves a lot of credit for keeping the team afloat during Carter’s one-month absence due to an ankle injury. This week, the Aggies — who went 4-3 without Carter — got into a groove in their effort to make up for the three losses they suffered while their star player was out. The wins, plus luck in the form of upsets to higher-ranked teams, moved them up four spots.
Texas A&M didn’t face a Top 25 opponent but they played great basketball in what was a sloppy week for the mid-section of the poll.
Four major upsets on Feb. 23
Then-No. 8 UCLA Bruins lost to the Washington Huskies, 74-68
The No. 9 Bruins went 2-1 last week with wins over the No. 17 Oregon State Beavers and the Washington State Cougars. The win over the Beavers counts as a quality win but the loss to the Huskies (13-14, 5-11 Pac-12) was the worst for any ranked team last week.
Then-No. 9 Mississippi State Bulldogs lost to the Alabama Crimson Tide, 66-64
The No. 10 Bulldogs only beat Auburn by seven points and then proceeded to lose a thriller to the Crimson Tide (16-11, 6-8 SEC). This has been an up-and-down season for Mississippi State, but their potential remains very high. The Bulldogs are still contenders to go deep in the tournament but the loss to Alabama will hurt their seeding.
Then-No. 11 Arizona Wildcats lost to the Colorado Buffaloes, 50-38
The No. 13 Wildcats put up just 38 points without Aari McDonald (leg injury), who had scored in double figures in 62-straight games. The loss to the Buffaloes (16-11, 5-11 Pac-12) doesn’t seem as bad if you consider McDonald being out but it takes away momentum. From Jan. 17 to Feb. 21, the Wildcats’ only loss came to the No. 3 Oregon Ducks. They beat the No. 24 Arizona State Sun Devils, No. 9 UCLA and No. 17 Oregon State.
Then-No. 12 DePaul Blue Demons lost to Villanova Wildcats, 76-58
The No. 16 Blue Demons were caught in Big East cruise control and suffered their second conference loss of the season. The first came against the Creighton Blue Jays (17-10, 9-7 Big East) on Jan. 31. The team then won six games in a row before falling to the Wildcats (16-11, 10-6 Big East) on Sunday.
DePaul is talented enough that they could have gone undefeated in the Big East this year. Although they didn’t stay perfect in conference play, they will be a dangerous team in March.
Movement caused by the upsets
The losses by UCLA and Mississippi State allowed the NC State Wolfpack — who defeated a struggling Miami Hurricanes team last week by just two points — to climb two spots to No. 8. A higher rise was impossible given perfect weeks for the seven teams ranked above them.
The No. 11 Gonzaga Bulldogs benefited from the upsets as well, moving up two spots. Gonzaga and Texas A&M passed Arizona and DePaul while the No. 14 Northwestern Wildcats passed the Blue Demons as part of their four-spot rise. Last week, Northwestern beat a solid Rutgers team and Wisconsin.
On the decline
No. 17 Oregon State Beavers
The Beavers fell two spots this week after losses to UCLA and Stanford. The toughness of the Pac-12 was inevitably going to creep up on a team and the Beavers have become that team. Despite their extreme talent, Oregon State lost four close games, consecutively, from Feb. 7 to Feb. 21. Three of those games were against Top 25 teams.
Oregon State (20-8, 8-8 Pac-12) wishes it could have back the Feb. 14 loss to the unranked USC Trojans (14-13, 6-10 Pac-12) but the Trojans sneaked up and beat UCLA this season also — proving that even the bottom half of the conference has some talent. To get back in the win column, the Beavers took care of the California Golden Bears (10-17, 2-14 Pac-12) on Sunday.
The Beavers will be a team nobody wants to face in the Pac-12 Tournament. If they win it, they’ll probably move beyond a four-seed and become a two or three given how well-respected the Pac-12 is right now. But if they don’t go far in the Pac-12 Tournament, the Beavers could miss out on hosting the first two rounds of the Big Dance, which would be disappointing for a team that has been ranked as high as No. 3 this year.