The next AP Top 25 poll should probably just start at No. 2.
In a chaotic, upset-riddled season with lots of good teams but no great ones, it’s abundantly clear nobody is worthy of the No. 1 spot.
Oklahoma became the latest top-ranked team to fall on Saturday night when the Sooners lost 80-69 on the road against a Kansas State that had previously won only two conference games. Second-ranked North Carolina also lost about an hour later, suffering an 80-76 upset at Notre Dame five days after it also lost to Louisville.
The back-to-back losses from the Sooners and Tar Heels marked only the seventh time in NCAA history that No. 1 and No. 2 fell against unranked opponents on the same day. The last time it happened was Jan. 21, 2006 when Duke lost at Georgetown and Florida lost at Tennessee.
It’s highly likely a new team will replace Oklahoma atop the polls next week, but good luck predicting who that will be.
One option is third-ranked Villanova, which improved to 18-3 on Saturday by beating No. 11 Providence to avenge its lone Big East loss this season. Another option is fourth-ranked Maryland, which continued its mastery in close games on Saturday by outscoring 18th-ranked Purdue 25-10 during the final six minutes. Big Ten-leading Iowa and Big East contender Xavier also merit consideration.
Whichever one of that quartet inherits the top spot from Oklahoma will become the sixth team to be ranked No. 1 already this season. North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan State and Kansas have also each been No. 1 at some point since mid-November.
Oklahoma already retained the No. 1 spot despite a previous loss last month, but the Sooners didn’t play nearly well enough on Saturday to inspire such generosity from the voters this time around. They allowed Kansas State to shoot 52.9 percent from the field and get to the foul line 30 times.
Twenty-three points from Buddy Hield kept Oklahoma competitive, but the Sooners trailed for the final 13 minutes. Their final push ended when Kansas State forward Dean Wade sank an open jumper to extend the lead to seven with 1:17 to go and then Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins lost control of his emotions.
After Wesley Iwundu stripped Hield on the ensuing possession, Cousins went for a steal and got called for a foul that he didn’t think should have been whistled. He drop-kicked the ball, leading to a technical foul that sent Kansas State to the foul line for four free throws and drained any remaining drama from the game.
North Carolina didn’t have a memorable late-game meltdown, but the Tar Heels were no better defensively than the Sooners were. Notre Dame rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit by erupting for 50 second-half points, many of which came at the foul line.
Oklahoma’s loss drops the Sooners into a second-place tie in the Big 12 with Kansas and Texas, one-half game behind first-place West Virginia. North Carolina’s loss leaves the Tar Heels tied for first place in the ACC with Louisville and only a half game in front of surging Virginia.
But in addition to tightening a pair of conference races, the upsets also reinforce the one rule this season that has held true from start to finish.
In a year with no elite teams, chaos is the only certainty.
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