At this time last season we started to see an abrupt dropoff from two of the best performing teams in nonconference play. But this year is the opposite.

The sport has two impressive turnaround stories in the making.

Baylor has won six games in a row, with five against NCAA tournament contenders. It’s in first place in the Big 12, and it earned a spot in my Top 25 this week. The Bears still do have two inexplicable losses (Texas Southern and Stephen F. Austin) on their résumé, but they look like a different team today.

South Carolina couldn’t keep up with Tennessee on Tuesday, and the computer metrics don’t at all consider the Gamecocks to be worthy of the Top 25, nor are they expected to keep this up. But USC is still 6-2 in league play. This team had a 5-7 record when the calendar flipped on Jan. 1.

You just never know with this sport.

Back to last year. Oklahoma was a potential Final Four contender after it started 14-2 — but the Sooners went 4-12 the rest of the season. Arizona State also fell flat on its face late, going 1-6 in its final seven games.

So yeah, there’s still plenty of time for new narratives to form.

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My Top 25 rankings this week:

1. Tennessee (last week: 1)

2. Duke (2)

3. Virginia (3)

4. Gonzaga (5)

5. Kentucky (7)

6. Michigan (4)

7. North Carolina (8)

8. Marquette (9)

9. Michigan State (6)

10. Nevada (11)

11. Houston (13)

12. Virginia Tech (14)

13. Kansas (10)

14. Texas Tech (12)

15. Purdue (17)

16. Villanova (15)

17. Iowa State (21)

18. Florida State (16)

19. Louisville (18)

20. Wisconsin (NR)

21. Kansas State (20)

22. Maryland (19)

23. Iowa (NR)

24. Baylor (NR)

25. Mississippi State (24)

Next 10 considered: Minnesota, Buffalo, Syracuse, LSU, Auburn, Cincinnati, Wofford, Washington, NC State, Lipscomb

Dropped out

22. LSU: The Tigers’ 10-game winning streak got snapped at home against Arkansas. LSU is 7-1 in league play, but it has yet to face Tennessee, Kentucky, Auburn or Mississippi State. That’ll change this week.

23. Buffalo: It was assumed the Bulls wouldn’t go undefeated in league play, but they’ve now lost twice in their last four games.

25. Minnesota: I was the only AP voter who ranked the Gophers last week. They blew a big lead at Purdue on Sunday, so they just barely get nudged out. But I suspect they’ll return to my Top 25, even if the computer metrics (and others) don’t think so.


» Washington has won 11 games in a row. It’s 9-0 in the Pac-12, holding a three-game cushion over everyone else. The Huskies do have to travel to Arizona and Arizona State this week, though. If the rest of the league wants to get back into this title race, now is the time.

» Because of Baylor’s rise, I’ve had to reassess how I previously punished a couple of teams for losing to the Bears. Suddenly, that blemish on Iowa State’s résumé doesn’t look so icky. Same goes for Texas Tech.

» Houston’s only loss came on the road against Temple. The Cougars got some revenge with a win over the Owls last week. But at some point, Houston does need to prove itself away from home. Its best victories have all come in its own gym.

» Will more than two Big East teams finish over .500 in league play? Marquette and Villanova will, certainly. But after that? St. John’s probably has the best chance. The Johnnies are 4-5 in conference action — and they still haven’t started their two-game series with Providence or Xavier. They also get Butler, Seton Hall and Villanova at home.