Duke Blue devils and Wichita State Shockers were the two biggest movers in the latest updated Associate Press poll. Duke Devils moved from 4th to 3rd while Wichita jumped 3 places to be 8th as the teams build on momentum going into the next few weeks. The stability of The Associated Press Top 25 these past several weeks blew up during a tumultuous week of big victories and upsets. There’s only some days left until the final poll on March 16, but with the conference tournaments coming up, quite a few more changes could be on the way.
Devil of a run
Duke Blue devils not unlike the shockers have enjoyed success over the last stretch of games. The Devils enjoy a 27-3 record overall as they have lost just once in their last 12 games, the last loss 77-73 coming to Notre Dam on 28th Jan. Devils have won 10 in a row now as they comprehensively rolled past 94-51 to Wake Forest in their latest matchup. Freshman Grayson Allen scored a season-best 27 points, and No. 3 Duke routed Wake Forest 94-51 on Mar 4 for its 10th straight win. Matt Jones added 17 points for the Blue Devils (27-3, 14-3), who shot 58 percent and forced 19 turnovers in locking up the No. 2 seed in next week’s Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Duke had a double-figure lead before the Demon Deacons managed their first basket, scoring the first 12 points and rolling to their 16th straight home victory in the ACC’s oldest series. The Blue Devils’ 15 points allowed in the first half was a season best. While Allen finished with four 3-pointers and hit 9 of 11 shots.
Wichita leapfrog into top 10
Similar story for the Shockers as they just lost one game in the past 11 to move big and jump into the top 10 at 8th place, their last loss 70-54 coming to Northern Iowa on 31st Jan. Again similar to the Devils, the shockers maintain a 27-3 overall record. The Shockers dominated Iowa in the reversal game as they beat them 74-60 to clinch Missouri Valley Title. Playing in front of a spirited crowd in one of the biggest home games in school history, Wichita State responded. Ron Baker scored 17 points and Fred Van Vleet added 13 to help the then 11th-ranked Shockers beat No. 10 Northern Iowa 74-60 on 28 Feb and win the Missouri Valley Conference regular season title for a second straight season. The Shockers have won 32 straight home games, fourth longest active streak nationally. Wichita State avoided a regular-season sweep after their win against Iowa.
Virginia Commonwealth Rams dropped out of Associated Press poll top 25 in the latest updated rankings after a mixed run of games. Ever since Briante Weber left the team after his injury against Richmond VCU’s form has dropped considerably. His injury on January 31st led to Richmond pulling off a 64-55 upset win over then no 14 ranked VCU. His activity as a defender in both the full and half court is what makes the VCU defense so difficult for many opponents to crack. Given the impact Weber has on both ends of the floor, this was a huge loss for the Rams.
With his headband, perpetual smile and uncommon quickness and instincts, the 6-foot-2 Weber was arguably college basketball’s most disruptive perimeter defender. He was a mere 12 steals shy of the NCAA Division I career record set by Providence’s John Linehan, and he brought an unbridled joy to the court that affected all who watched him, especially teammates and coaches.
Briante Weber in Action – Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Coach Shaka Smart and his staff assembled a talented and young team and instilled in them a calculated-yet-chaotic defensive approach and built a model program. Losing a key player of your team which helped the team to achieve so much is a lot to take on. It was immediately clear during the match that Weber’s injury was likely to be serious from the way his knee bent and from how long he remained on the floor. Weber left the game with 3:18 remaining after injuring his right knee on a jump stop on the lane and was helped to the locker room and returned to the VCU bench for the last couple minutes of the game on crutches. Shaka Smart said he’s as curious as everyone else to see how his team will respond without guard Briante Weber.
VCU rams have a 21-8 record overall but that didn’t stop them to being ousted from AP poll top 25 after a dismal run of games as of late. Losing Weber is a huge blow to a VCU team that relies on his distributing ability on offense and his ball-hawking instincts defensively. The squad has gone 4-3 since Weber tore his ACL, MCL, and meniscus against Richmond which led to them dropping out of the top 25 of AP poll but continues to reign over first place in the Atlantic 10.
Briante Weber Injured
The biggest challenge for Coach Shaka Smart would be to revaluate his team’s strategy as they get ready to face Davidson and GMU in upcoming matches. They need a good run of games to instill in them a sense of belief and purpose to look ahead in the future without a key component of their workings.