Louisville basketball was rewarded for their impressive week, moving up into the top two of the AP Poll.
Without a doubt, the Louisville basketball team has staked its claim as one of the nation’s top teams, but there is a reason to believe that the Cardinals could have catapulted into the top spot in this week’s Associated Press Top 25.
After Kentucky’s debacle at home vs Evansville earlier in the week, the rest of the top five was licking its chops attempting to put together performances of being placed in the newly vacant number one spot.
With Louisville being ranked as the fourth-best team in the country last week, the odds of them being moved up over no.3 Michigan State and no. 2 Duke were slim, especially considering the lack of quality opponents.
However, the performance from Louisville in their games against Indiana State and NC Central, two quality low-to-mid-major programs measured up as they looked like the best team in the country. The Cards won both games by a combined 58 point margin, displaying one of the best scoring offenses in the entire country in the process.
So where did that leave others with a path to the throne?
Let’s start with no. 2 Duke:
The Blue Devils had a less than flattering week, as they narrowly eclipsed Georgia State by 11 Friday. However, I do think the 51-point shellacking of Central Arkansas last Tuesday helped secure the top spot.
Then there was no. 3 Michigan State:
The Spartans had an impressive win on Thursday night, surviving no. 12 Seton Hall on the road 76-73 on a controversial final possession making a strong case to be the number one team again, despite losing to Kentucky last week.
After losing to unranked Evansville (who was picked to finish EIGHTH in the Missouri Valley Conference) Kentucky fell to ninth, allowing for Duke to move into the no. 1 spot, with Louisville and Michigan State following them in the two and three spots.
This is the highest Louisville basketball has been ranked during the season since being ranked no. 1 overall back in 2012-2013.
Duke received 52 first place votes, while Louisville received eight, Michigan State received four, and no. 7 Virginia received one, respectively.
After last week’s poll was released, the entire planet was aware of the fact that only one team other than Kentucky received a number one vote in last week’s poll. That team was Louisville. So it’s not a major surprise to see the Cardinals earn more nods to get the top spot in this week’s poll.
Also, though I think Duke’s season-opening win vs Kansas was going to be on the minds of AP voters, I think the eye test of Chris Mack’s squad has sparked at least some debate as to who would corral the top ranking. Louisville jumping from number four to number two, but not to number one in the AP Poll makes perfect sense.
I say that because there really hasn’t been much to sweat about in each of Louisville’s wins so far. The same can’t really be said for Duke, but a win over an elite team like Kansas was surely the trump card.
As far as Michigan State goes, I couldn’t really see a one loss team being voted above a Louisville team that has been supremely dominant so far this season. Not to mention, the Cards are missing two key contributors in Malik Williams and David Johnson, though both are seemingly available at this point.
Another angle to consider is that the AP Poll is revered as a prestigious institution of the college basketball season. That level of prestige is derived from the collective order that these teams form as each weekly top 25.
Kentucky’s embarrassing loss at home last week had to serve as a reminder that sometimes the name on the front should not elude to entitlement to hold the top spot. But Duke’s resume so far is tough to argue with.
If you ask me, I wish Louisville could be no.15 all year long no matter what. That way it diminishes any level of distraction and removes the target off of your back.
But I’m old school. I think of Louisville basketball as the dark horse charging on the rail in the homestretch. But being #2 in the country has a nice ring to it.