On the day after college basketball "blue bloods" Kansas, Duke, and Kentucky all lost - and not only lost, but lost to non- "blue bloods" in the process - I couldn't help but think is there a "changing of the guard" in college basketball? I think it comes down to how you measure that.
This week's Top 25 is likely to have some major changes once again this week, but there are some familiar patterns still at play. First, the Power 5 schools are still dominating the poll with only 7 of the Top 25 coming from outside the Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, ACC or PAC-12. Those seven though, include three teams in the top 10 - including No.1 Villanova, No.5 Xavier, and No.7 Cincinnati. Of those seven, they are spread across four conferences: the Big East (Villanova, Xavier), American Athletic Conference (Cincinnati, Wichita State), and the West Coast Conference (Gonzaga, St. Mary's) and Rhode Island representing the Atlantic-10. The Big East also had other representatives including Creighton and Seton Hall in the rankings most of the season while Houston is just on the outside looking in.
But even more surprising is that the mix of Power 5 representatives is not who you would expect year in and year out. The Big Ten does have Michigan State and Michigan in the rankings, but No.3 Purdue's resurgence and Ohio State's No.13 rankings are the real stories of the Big Ten. Don't look now, but Nebraska is also making a strong case in conference too!
In the "blue blood central" ACC, Duke is in their usual Top 5 placement, but they are only the second best as No.2 Virginia is leading the pack. The Blue Devils Tobacco Road neighbor Tarheels have fallen from the Top 5 to just barely hanging in at No.23. Meantime, Clemson is another surprise team after topping UNC this week and Florida State and Miami both saw some time in the Top 25 too.
The Big 12's strength this year has been another surprise. It has usually been the Jayhawks and then everyone else. Well, They have a lot of company this year as West Virginia has outpolled Kansas much of the season. Oklahoma, usually a top 25 stalwart, currently sits at No.12, but Texas Tech has outgunned the Sooners and currently sits at No.10. Meanwhile, Kansas State and TCU have pulled some upsets and visited the Top 25 and Texas is creeping up too.
The Pac-12 has historically been paced by Arizona and UCLA. While the Wildcats are still near the top, the rest of the conference has been turned upside down. UCLA has imploded with the LiAngelo Ball saga and lost three key players. Bobby Hurley Jr. has seen his Sun Devils as high as the Top 10 this season and emerge as a force in the conference. Washington is likely to make their Top 25 debut this week and Stanford is also hovering.
The biggest surprise though may be the strength of the SEC. One-and-done superstars have usually paced Kentucky, but the Wildcats have not been as dominant this year as in past years. Florida is still hanging on, but Auburn and Tennessee might be the dominant forces in the conferences this year. Don't look now, but with Alabama's upset of the Gators, they will likely supplant them in this week's poll.
Overall, it leaves the Top 25 almost meaningless this season! But, it has been a great shake up to see a top 5 that includes the "new guard" of Villanova, Virginia, Purdue and Xavier! It will be a great month of February as more shake ups are certain. But, the NCAA Tournament committee will have a really interesting job to do this season!