Luke DeCock

Luke DeCock’s AP Top 25 basketball poll ballot: Week 15

Virginia fans cheer their team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. Virginia Tech won the game 61-60 in overtime.
Virginia fans cheer their team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. Virginia Tech won the game 61-60 in overtime. AP

It will be fascinating to see how the NCAA tournament selection committee’s current top 16 seeds affect this week’s poll balloting. The two shouldn’t have any impact on each other, but the introduction of such a visible new set of data will inevitably factor into the decision-making of some voters, even if only subconsciously.

As it turns out, the committee and I are mostly on the same page. Three of my top four are in its top four; 14 of its top 16 are in my top 16. I think the committee is undervaluing Gonzaga, but anyone who looks beyond RPI does. Rhode Island is the other place the committee and I disagree, although that could just as well be St. Mary’s or Wichita State. (Arizona and Oklahoma are the two teams the committee likes more than I do.)

Five Tar Heels score in double figures and Luke Maye has a career high 33 points while leading UNC to the win over NC State.

Speaking of the Zags: The self-analysis of how I fill out my bracket differently after spending this season as an AP voter is going to be mesmerizing to me, if no one else. I suspect I’ve paid more attention to teams in the 25-40 range than I have in years past, although that’s just conjecture at this point. It does seem like the single-digit seeds are going to be a mishmash without much to separate them, which could lead to false “bad seeding” and “tourney turmoil” narratives if and when the bracket implodes. There isn’t a huge difference, to me, between West Virginia and Butler and St. Mary’s and Nevada, but they could end up seeded on wildly different lines.

As for the No. 1 spot, there’s a pretty good argument to be made based on the season as a whole for leaving last week’s top two in place while moving Michigan State up to third and Xavier to fourth. But it’s tough to put Virginia or Villanova in the No. 1 spot after a home loss to an unranked team on general principles. So Michigan State moves into the top spot with Xavier right behind. But the other two don’t fall any farther than that, because they, like Purdue, still have top-five resumes.

Duke senior guard Grayson Allen talks about Duke’s 80-69 win over Georgia Tech on Sunday Feb. 11, 2018, and starting at point guard for the first time this season.

Texas A&M jumps back into my poll with a bullet; the Aggies went through a dismal patch but they’re going to end up being a 5 seed no one wants to play. I could have kept Oklahoma or Kentucky in the top 25 but I wanted to give a nod to New Mexico State, which is 22-3 with a win over Miami (in Hawaii) and 6-2 in site-adjusted top-100 games, which is pretty good for a school that doesn’t get many opportunities to play those. (N.C. State, before you ask, is 6-7 in those games and behind its New Mexican land-grant counterpart in every relevant metric except BPI, where the Wolfpack is two spots ahead.)

MY TOP 25

1. Michigan State (Last week: 4)

2. Xavier (5)

3. Virginia (1)

4. Villanova (2)

5. Purdue (3)

6. Cincinnati (6)

7. Gonzaga (10)

8. Auburn (7)

9. Texas Tech (9)

10. Duke (8)

11. Ohio State (13)

12. Clemson (14)

13. North Carolina (22)

14. Tennessee (11)

15. Kansas (12)

16. Rhode Island (23)

17. Texas A&M (NR)

18. St Mary’s (15)

19. Arizona (16)

20. Florida (NR)

21. Wichita State (NR)

22. Michigan (19)

23. West Virginia (21)

24. New Mexico State (NR)

25. Creighton (24)

OUT Oklahoma (17), Kentucky (18), Butler (20), Miami (25)

Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, @Luke DeCock

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