In Monday's latest AP Top 25 (see below in the left-hand column) a few new names popped up. Getting the biggest boost was Southern Illinois, which debuted at #21, replacing, ostensibly, Notre Dame (though the Irish are without a doubt a better team than Alabama or Arizona). The Salukis have been surging through the Missouri Valley conference into a tie for 1st place with preseason choice Creighton at 10-3.
Southern Ill. won at Creighton back on January 20, but has since won four more straight and are a very respectable 19-5 overall with wins over Wichita State (twice), Virginia Tech and Minnesota to name just a few.
The Salukis have another date with Creighton on Saturday and a road game at Horizon conference leader, #10 Butler the following Saturday. Those games should provide some indication of this team's potential to make madness in March.
Right behind Southern Illinois is Georgetown, at #22 in the poll. The Hoyas have an impressive front line - one of the tallest in the nation - revolving around 7-footer Roy Hibbert. At 16-5 and 6-2 in the Big East, the Hoyas have seemingly hit their best stride. Following consecutive losses to Villanova and Pitt, Georgetown has strung up five straight wins, by an average margin of 16.6.
Losses to Duke and Oregon are still major blemishes, though those losses came at the end of November and beginning of December, and the Hoyas are looking more organized and turning the ball over much less. If Hibbert and forward Jeff Green (24 points vs. St. John's last Thursday) continue to contribute, the Hoyas could go deep in March.
Last night there was but one Top 25 game, and Texas A&M was triumphant again. The Aggies tore through Texas, 100-82, just two days after knocking off Kansas on the road. What was a three-way tie just 3 days ago is now a 1 1/2 game lead for 8-1 A&M in the Big 12. Coach Billy Gillispie has built himself a powerhouse offense around Acie Law and the Aggies are currently #6 in the AP poll. They're 20-3, with the losses at UCLA and LSU and a lone conference loss at Texas Tech.