We certainly didn’t plan to give Kentucky the boot so early in the season. But what choice do we have after back-to-back losses, to Notre Dame and Baylor? We haven’t heard the last of Coach Cal’s Wildcats. But for this week, they’ve taken a dramatic tumble and do not appear in our Power Rankings.
1 Indiana Hoosiers 8-0
Since they crushed North Carolina on Nov. 27, the Hoosiers have played only once. (They rolled past Coppin State with ease.) Indiana is averaging 87.8 points per game, which leads the nation, and is shooting 51.1 percent from the field. Next up is Central Connecticut State, which has losses to Fairfield, Saint Peter’s and Hartford.
2 Duke Blue Devils 8-0
Congratulations to Mason Plumlee. It seems he now is Duke’s king of the dunk. Who knew? GoDuke.com, the official website of Duke athletics, that’s who. The site says Plumlee passed Robert Brickey’s career record of 147 dunks during the recent game against Ohio State. Plumlee is at 150 now.
3 Syracuse Orange 6-0 +2
Nobody wants to visit the Carrier Dome. Eastern Michigan showed why. Jim Boeheim’s group defeated Eastern 84-48 for Syracuse’s 48th straight nonconference victory and 26th straight overall at home. Michael Carter-Williams had 11 points and 11 assists in the win. Long Beach State is next for the Orange.
4 Louisville Cardinals 7-1
When the Cardinals satisfy coach Rick Pitino defensively, it is certain to be a tough night for the opposition. Louisville had a season-high 18 steals and forced College of Charleston into 27 turnovers in an 80-38 victory Tuesday night. “It’s the best we’ve looked this year,” Pitino said of the defensive effort. And that was on the road.
5 Michigan Wolverines 8-0 +1
Michigan had lost its previous two meetings with Western Michigan. But that was in another decade and another place in time. Trey Burke continued his outstanding season with 20 points and seven assists as Michigan broke that streak and remained undefeated with a 73-41 rout of the Broncos on Tuesday. Michigan is 8-0 for the first time since 1996-97.
6 Florida Gators 6-0 +2
The Gators have emerged as the top team in the SEC with Kentucky taking a dramatic dive out of the rankings. Pat Young was benched by coach Billy Donovan for his attitude but responded with 10 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three blocks in an 82-49 defeat of Marquette. Florida travels to Tallahassee to play rival Florida State.
7 Ohio State Buckeyes 5-1 -4
The Buckeyes bounced back from their first loss – that 73-68 defeat at Duke – with a 70-43 win over Northern Kentucky. Long Beach State, playing one of the toughest schedules in the country, is next. The 49ers have losses to USC, North Carolina and Arizona, with Syracuse and Ohio State coming up on Thursday and Saturday.
8 Kansas Jayhawks 6-1 +1
Interesting game for Kansas on Saturday when longtime conference foe Colorado visits Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks used to dominate the Buffaloes in Big 8 and Big 12 days before Colorado took off for the Pac-12. Former Kansas point guard Tad Boyle, now Colorado coach, had the Buffs in the rankings until a loss to Wyoming on Dec. 1. In Lawrence, everyone is glad football season is over.
9 Arizona Wildcats 6-0 +2
Coach Sean Miller called it unacceptable. Arizona fans probably called it scary. The Wildcats had a season-high 27 turnovers against Southern Miss Tuesday but still managed to win 63-55. Arizona turned up its defense in the second half and at 6-0, the Wildcats are off to their best start since 1999-2000.
10 Gonzaga Bulldogs 8-0 +3
Redshirt freshman Kyle Dranginis had a coming out part last Thursday against Lewis-Clark State College. Dranginis had 30 pints, seven assists and six rebounds and, oh yeah, was 12 of 16 from the field. The Bulldogs have a big game coming up on Saturday against Illinois.
11 Cincinnati Bearcats 7-0 +4
It was high drama for the Bearcats in the SEC/Big East Challenge. Point guard Cashmere Wright hit a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer for a 58-56 win over Alabama in a battle between previously unbeaten teams. The Bearcats are second in the nation with 82.7 points per game, and a lot of that is due to their work on the boards (averaging 46.7).
12 Missouri Tigers 7-1 +4
Lawrence Bowers and Phil Pressey bailed out the Tigers Tuesday night. Bowers scored a career-high 26 and Mizzou rallied from 10-down at halftime to defeat Southeast Missouri State in Columbia. “Glass always half full for me,” Mizzou coach Frank Haith said.
13 Illinois Fighting Illini 9-0 +6
Maybe the Illini were looking ahead to that big game at Gonzaga on Saturday. Or maybe it was just one of those nights when ranked teams struggle to make it out alive. D.J. Richardson and Tracy Abrams came up big in a 72-64 win over Western Carolina Tuesday. This one was tied at 54 with under six minutes to go. The Gonzaga game will be the first against a ranked opponent this season for John Groce’s team.
14 Minnesota Golden Gophers 9-1 +8
The Gophers keep rolling along, with just that loss to Duke. Tubby Smith’s team goes on the road to face the USC Trojans on Saturday. Right now, Minnesota is doing well in all facets of the game.
15 Creighton Bluejays 7-1 -5
The first loss of the season was a shocker for the Bluejays — an 83-70 loss to Boise State on Nov. 28. But the Bluejays, who rank No. 2 in field goal percentage and No. 10 in assists, bounced back to crush Saint Joseph’s 80-51. Big game for state bragging rights coming up at Nebraska on Thursday.
16 Georgetown Hoyas 6-1 +4
Tennessee managed just 36 points against the Hoyas. Texas fared a little better in the Jimmy V Classic, scoring 41. “I think they had to work for everything, and that’s what we want them to do,” coach John Thompson III said after the Texas win. “We want them to earn their baskets.”
17 UNLV Rebels 6-1 +1
Continuing the theme from Tuesday night, UNLV had to rally to defeat Portland. The Rebels trailed 28-22 at halftime. UNLV star Mike Moser missed out on his homecoming to Portland with a hip injury. Moser had requested tickets for 130 family and friends. He argued with team trainers. “They won the argument,” Moser said. 18 San Diego State Aztecs 6-1 +5
Steve Fisher’s team added to UCLA’s misery with a 78-69 win on the road last weekend. The Aztecs still have just one loss, and that was to Syracuse in the season opener. They don’t play another ranked team until meeting UNLV on Jan. 16.
19 New Mexico Lobos 8-0 (unranked last week)
Steve Alford’s team has finally convinced us. The Lobos head into a Wednesday night game against USC with an 8-0 record. Their best win came over Connecticut in the Paradise Jam. New Mexico went on the road and defeated Indiana State 77-68 in overtime. Guard Kendall Williams leads the Lobos in points and assists.
20 Michigan State Spartans 6-2 -8
The loss at Miami in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge was disturbing, but the Spartans bounced back to destroy Nicholls State 84-39. The hectic schedule hasn’t been easy, but Tom Izzo never backs down from challenges. “We needed a game like this,” Izzo said after the win. “This one-day prep thing has been a joke.”
21 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 7-1 +3
What can you say about the way Notre Dame played Kentucky? These are good times in South Bend. Mike Brey’s team stole a little thunder from the football team with the huge victory over the Wildcats. Junior guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant were sensational. “I didn’t have to do a lot of coaching,” Brey said.
22 North Carolina State Wolfpack 5-2 -5
It was a touching moment at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night as the Wolfpack honored the late Jim Valvano with a hard-fought victory over UConn. If Richard Howell continues to play the way he played in the second half, N.C. State could start living up to those lofty expectations.
23 Oklahoma State Cowboys 5-1 -9
The Cowboys seemed to have so much going for them. But they can’t seem to get past Virginia Tech. The 81-71 loss in Blacksburg Saturday was the fourth loss to the Hokies in the last three seasons. Like everyone else, the Cowboys couldn’t stop Tech guard Erick Green. 24 Wichita State Shockers 8-0 (unranked last week)
Welcome the Shockers to the power rankings. Wichita State takes an 8-0 record into Saturday’s game against Northern Colorado. With an early season win over VCU, the Shockers built the confidence to knock off DePaul, Iowa, Tulsa and Air Force Academy the past four games. 25 North Carolina Tar Heels 6-2
The Tar Heels were warned after their loss to Indiana. They are close to falling from the rankings. But a 6-2 record and a bounce-back 102-84 win over UAB is good enough for now. Next up: East Tennessee State.