Northwestern was picked last in the Big Ten — not in the bottom half, not near the bottom, but absolutely dead last. And the Wildcats might still finish there. It remains early and the Big Ten is loaded — evidence being that 13 of the league’s 14 teams are in the top 55 at KenPom.
But, all that said, look at Northwestern!
The Wildcats beat Ohio State 71-70 on Saturday to improve to 6-1 overall, 3-0 in the Big Ten. They also own wins over Michigan State and Indiana. Their lone loss is a one-point loss to Pitt. They are, at this moment, alone atop the Big Ten standings.
“We’re not really looking for rankings,” said Northwestern guard Boo Buie, who finished with 14 points and five assists against Ohio State. “We’re just looking to win games.”
That’s fine. But here’s the thing: If you win enough games against the right opponents, a ranking usually follows whether you’re looking for it or not. And that time has arrived for Northwestern, which is No. 17 in Sunday morning’s updated CBS Sports Top 25 And 1 daily college basketball rankings.
Are the Wildcats really the 17th-best team in the nation? I’m not sure. But they have three top-35 KenPom wins — and nobody I have ranked below them can match those wins right now.
Virginia was removed from the Top 25 And 1 after Saturday’s 98-75 loss to Gonzaga. The Cavaliers have no good wins and two losses — one of which was a total blowout from start to finish, the other to a San Francisco team that’s already lost three times to unranked opponents. So Virginia no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt. The Cavaliers will need to win their way back into the Top 25 And 1.
You might’ve noticed that I also removed LSU from the Top 25 And 1 even though LSU beat Nicholls State 86-80 on Saturday. Let me explain: When I moved LSU into the Top 25 And 1, I justified it by noting that LSU’s lone loss was a single-digit loss to an undefeated Saint Louis team I had ranked higher. Then Saint Louis lost at Minnesota last Sunday, at which point I removed the Billikens from the Top 25 And 1 because that was, at the time, a loss to an unranked team. But Minnesota followed up that win over Saint Louis with a win over Iowa, at which point I moved the Golden Gophers into the Top 25 And 1. Consequently, Saint Louis’ body of work is now clearly better than LSU’s body of work.
Simply put, if I’m not currently ranking Saint Louis, it would make no sense to continue ranking an LSU team with an inferior body of work that includes a loss to Saint Louis, especially the morning after LSU struggled with a Nicholls State team that ranks outside of the top 200 at KenPom. So LSU is out of the Top 25 And 1. The Tigers were replaced by Louisville, which beat Kentucky 62-59 on Saturday.