MEMPHIS, Tenn. — CLAYTON'S WEEK 15 AP TOP 25 BALLOT:
ALMOST IN — Marquette, Iowa, Boise State, Wyoming, San Diego State, Alabama, Colorado State, Rutgers
ENTERED — UConn (21), Saint Mary's (22), Davidson (25)
DROPPED OUT —Wyoming (21), Marquette (23), Colorado State (25)
THE RANKING — Gonzaga extended their win streak to 16 games but has a challenging week to close out their conference slate with road games at San Francisco and Saint Mary's.
Arizona climbs to No. 2 in my ballot with Auburn and Kentucky taking losses. The Tigers suffered their second unranked loss in as many weeks, but are still 13-3 in Quad 1 and 2 games. All three losses were Quad 1 situations.
Kentucky settles for a split series with Tennessee, and No. 6 this week, after taking a 76-63 loss in Knoxville. Then, without their starting backcourt, the Wildcats topped Alabama 90-81. They'll go for a series split with LSU Wednesday night at Rupp Arena.
Kansas elevates to No. 3 with wins over Oklahoma State and West Virginia. The Jayhawks have more Quad 1 wins (10) than any other team in the country.
Spots 5-10 were a crowded field this week. Purdue gets the edge at No. 5 after a 2-0 week. The Boilermakers get the free-falling Michigan State in East Lansing on Saturday.
Texas Tech jumps to No. 7 this week after wins over Baylor and Texas. The Bears are right behind at No. 8, with Kansas on deck on Saturday.
Villanova re-established themselves as the top team in the Big East with Tuesday's win over Providence. The Wildcats are at UConn. The Friars will have their chance at redemption on Tuesday March 1 against 'Nova. For this week they hang in at No. 10.
Duke boasted a strong week with wins over Wake Forest and Florida State, checking in at No. 11.
Illinois becomes the latest victim of Rutgers, but tops Michigan State in an up and down week. I drop the Fighting Illini two spots to No. 12 with Ohio State on deck Thursday night. The Scarlet Knights are a case study in voting for the Top 25 resumes, or the Top 25 teams right now. Their 10-losses kept them out of my poll next week, but another win over Wisconsin on Saturday may put them over the top on my ballot.
Despite the postgame dust-up with Juwan Howard, the Badgers came away with a 2-0 week. The wins over Indiana and Michigan had them staying pat at No. 13 in my poll.
Houston and UCLA elevate one spot after Michigan State plummets nine spots to No. 24 in my poll. Had there been stronger cases for Top 25 teams, MSU would have been off of my ballot. Instead, they'll likely need to beat Purdue on Saturday to remain in my rankings come next week. The same goes for Ohio State, who get Indiana tonight and Illinois Thursday.
Tennessee rode the high of Tuesday's win over Kentucky a little too long, suffering a 10-point setback at Arkansas on Saturday. The Vols check in at No. 16 this week, and get Auburn on Saturday in Knoxville.
With another 2-0 week, Murray State has now won 16 straight games. The Racers are 26-2 on the year, and my No. 17 team this week.
Chris Beard stomached a sweep at the hands of his old program in Texas Tech after beating Oklahoma. In a chaotic few weeks for Top 25 teams, the Longhorns have had their share of losses. But all three setbacks have been to Top 15 teams (Texas Tech twice, Baylor). In that same time, they've beaten Tennessee, Kansas, Iowa State and the Sooners. Texas is my No. 18 team this week.
Arkansas continues to be one of the hottest teams in college basketball, adding a home upset of Tennessee to their resume. The Razorbacks have now won 11 of their last 12 games, and are up to No. 19 in my poll.
USC topped Washington and Washington State last week, climbing to No. 20 in my poll with Oregon State and Oregon on deck.
UConn rejoins my ranking at No. 21 after an impressive couple victories over Seton Hall and Xavier. The Huskies have a monumental task Tuesday against Villanova.
Saint Mary's also returns to my ballot at No. 22 thanks to wins over San Francisco and BYU. The Gaels get a rematch with Gonzaga on Saturday.
As mentioned, No. 23-25 was a challenge. Rutgers, Marquette, Iowa and others all received consideration, but ultimately the 22-4 Davidson Wildcats got the nod for me this week.
Wyoming falls out of my ballot after the loss to New Mexico. Marquette drops out after Sunday's loss at Creighton, as does Colorado State after the loss to UNLV.