As with any year in college basketball, it is right around the middle of December, and the elite are starting to rise to the top of the sport.
Villanova and Kentucky improved with signature wins last week, while Kansas and Texas continued to roll through the opposition. Michigan State and North Carolina? Well, they’ve got some work to do.
And while the top of these Power Rankings should remain just about the same every week from now through Selection Sunday, expect spots 8-20 to fluctuate between about two dozen good teams all year long.
As for this week’s schedule, be sure to check out two major SEC-Big East matchups, when Kentucky and UConn square off Wednesday night, and Syracuse and Florida do battle Thursday.
Alright, enough chit-chat, let’s get to the Power Rankings:
1. Kansas (7-0, 0-0): The Jayhawks trip to UCLA Sunday was supposed to be a matchup between two of college basketball’s best programs. Instead, it turned into another blowout for this year’s top ranked team.
2. Texas (6-0, 0-0): The Longhorns continue to make their case as the second best team in the sport, after two more double digit wins this week. And with games against Long Beach State and Texas San-Antonio coming up, don’t be surprised if I just copy and paste the first sentence of this paragraph into next week’s Power Rankings.
3. Kentucky (8-0, 0-0): John Wall is The Truth (a nickname I gave him myself), as Kentucky wouldn’t have beaten North Carolina without the freshman’s 16 points and seven assists. The Wildcats now have to avoid complacency, as they have an equally tough game against UConn on Wednesday.
4. Villanova (8-0, 0-0): Maryland got frisky with the Wildcats Sunday night, but like the veteran team they are, Villanova held on for a road victory. With two games against city rivals St. Joe’s and Temple coming up, don’t be surprised to see an “L,” in the loss column in next week’s Power Rankings.
5. Purdue (7-0, 0-0): Purdue is undefeated and should remain so until the start of Big 10 play in late December. A tricky road test awaits the Boilermakers at Alabama Saturday.
6. West Virginia (5-0, 0-0): The Mountaineers haven’t played since last Sunday, apparently taking time to soak in all the glory that is, an Anaheim Classic championship. Begrudgingly, they return to the court Wednesday to play Duquesne.
7. Syracuse (8-0, 0-0): The Orange survived gauntlet wins against Maine and Colgate last week, holding on to beat the two by a combined 80 points (Anyone sense a little sarcasm?). It won’t be quite the same cakewalk this weekend, when they play undefeated Florida in St. Petersburg Thursday.
8. Duke (7-1, 0-0): Yes, the Blue Devils lost at Wisconsin, but the Kohl Center isn’t a place many road teams leave victorious. Duke did rebound nicely with a victory over St. John’s Saturday, and now has 10 days off to do whatever it is that Dukies do with free time.
9. Ohio State (7-1, 0-0): This program is nothing if not snake bitten by injuries, as do-it-all superstar Evan Turner (my early Naismith Player of the Year front runner) is out for two months after breaking his back. Yes, breaking…his back. In maybe unrelated story, former Buckeyes superstar Greg Oden was lost for his NBA season to a knee injury. At this point, I’m honestly not sure if the two events are coincidence or not.
10. Florida (8-0, 0-0): Is anyone else starting to notice that this Gators team is starting to take the shape of the selfless, team-first group that won National Championships in 2006 and 2007? They’re not as talented, but Florida currently has eight players averaging between 14 and eight points. The Gators are nothing if not balanced.
11. Tennessee (6-1, 0-0): East Tennessee was the only game on the Vols schedule last week. This week their only game is Middle Tennessee. Who’s on the schedule next week, Western Tennessee? My suggestion to Bruce Pearl? How about scheduling a pickup game with the Tennessee women’s team, just you know, to get a little competition?
12. North Carolina (7-2, 0-0): The knock on North Carolina all year has been whether or not their guards would hold up against good competition. Sixteen turnovers against Kentucky Saturday tells me the issue is far from resolved.
13. UConn (6-1, 0-0): The matchup to watch in Wednesday’s game with No. 4 Kentucky is Kemba Walker guarding Kentucky superstar John “The Truth,” Wall (See what I did there?). The Huskies 5’10 point guard might be the only player in college basketball quick enough to keep up with Kentucky’s leading man.
14. Wisconsin (6-1, 0-0): The Badgers did what they always seem to do in their win over Duke Wednesday: Play good pressure defense, crash the boards and limit turnovers. Now, can they end a two game losing streak to cross-state rival Marquette this coming Saturday?
15. Georgetown (6-0, 0-0): We can build on this! After a 46-45 win over Temple earlier this year that brought us back to the days of the two-hand set shot and super short shorts, the Hoyas have actually looked like a basketball team of late, winning four straight games by double-digits. Now it’s time to see if they’ll continue to take one step forward, or take two steps back, with games against Butler and Washington this weekend.
16. Washington (6-1, 0-0): Speaking of the Huskies, nobody should really be surprised with their first loss of the year to Texas Tech last week. But there’s something that’s just not right with this group, and they better get it fixed in a hurry if they’re going to compete in the Pac-10.
17. UNLV (7-0, 0-0): With wins already over Arizona and Louisville, UNLV gets another chance to impress, when a very good Kansas State team comes to Vegas on Saturday.
18. Texas A&M (7-1, 0-0): The Aggies snuck into the top 20 last week, and will stay there with good, quality wins over Akron and Prairie View. Ok, so maybe the wins weren’t good…or quality, but two wins are two wins, right?
19. Michigan State (6-2, 0-0): After a third embarrassing loss in less than a year to North Carolina, I’m going to say what we’re all thinking: These guys just aren’t that good. Luckily the Spartans are also a team known for peaking late in the season, so we probably shouldn’t give up on them just yet.
20. Georgia Tech (6-1, 0-0): The Yellow Jackets make their triumphant return to the Power Rankings, after five straight double-digit wins. Whether or not one of college basketball’s most talented- but erratic teams- can stay there, is another story.
New to the Rankings: Wisconsin, Georgia Tech
Dropping Out: Gonzaga, Oklahoma State