TOP 25 THIS WEEK: No. 14 Virginia meets 2 top ACC offenses
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) No. 14 Virginia’s traditionally strong defense will get a challenge this week against some of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s best offenses.
The Cavaliers face No. 10 North Carolina and No. 12 Duke in two of the top games in the week ahead for teams in the AP Top 25. And it’s a big pair of critical matchups in a 15-team league with six teams sitting within two games of one another at the top.
The Cavaliers (18-6, 8-4) first host the Blue Devils (20-5, 8-4) on Wednesday night, then visit the Tar Heels (21-5, 9-3) on Saturday night.
Virginia – coming off a double-overtime loss at Virginia Tech – comes into the week ranked third by KenPom.com’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings by holding teams to 87.5 points per 100 possessions.
That defense will be tested first against the Blue Devils, who started the week 12th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency rankings (118.8 points per 100 possessions). Then come the Tar Heels, ranked sixth (121.8).
”We use the saying, `The defense never rests,”’ Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. ”You can’t assume, `Oh, we’ve got it defensively so therefore we’ll just be right.’ It’s such a continuous evolving thing, it takes constant work, it takes constant mental preparation and anticipation. … There’s just that kind of individual talent and aggressiveness that can make you pay if you’re not right or they can make plays when people are in position.”
ANOTHER BIG 12 THROWDOWN: Ready for Round 2 of No. 3 Kansas and No. 4 Baylor?
The Jayhawks (23-3, 11-2) visit the Bears (22-4, 9-4) on Wednesday night, a rematch of Kansas’ 73-68 win at home on Feb. 1. Kansas also had a top-10 matchup to start the week, making a wild comeback from 14 down in the final three minutes of regulation to beat No. 9 West Virginia 84-80 in overtime Monday.
Baylor, meanwhile, lost to Texas Tech 84-78 on Monday night.
MARYLAND’S CHALLENGE: The No. 23 Terrapins (21-4, 9-3) will have a challenging week, too. Their weekend trip to No. 11 Wisconsin (21-4, 10-2) is the only other game involving two ranked teams this week, and it comes days after they visit Northwestern (19-6, 8-4) – which was ranked two weeks ago.
ZAGS STILL UNBEATEN: Top-ranked Gonzaga has cleared what might have been its biggest remaining hurdle to complete an unbeaten regular season.
The Bulldogs (26-0, 14-0 West Coast Conference) beat then-No. 20 St. Mary’s over the weekend. They return to action Thursday at home against San Francisco, then host Pacific two days later.
Gonzaga stayed at No. 1 with Monday’s latest poll release for the third straight week.
ACC STILL ON TOP: The ACC has six teams in the AP Top 25 – No. 8 Louisville, No. 17 Florida State and No. 25 Notre Dame round out the list – to give the conference at least double the number of any other league.
The Big 12 and Pac-12 each have three top-10 teams, while the Big East and Southeastern conferences also have three.
WATCH LIST: Wichita State is rolling, and now the Shockers are on the edge of joining the poll.
Wichita State (23-4, 13-1 Missouri Valley Conference) has won 14 of 15 games to lead the list of ”Others Receiving Votes” behind the Fighting Irish. The Shockers travel to Southern Illinois on Wednesday then host Northern Iowa on Saturday.
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