Kansas and Kansas State were the biggest winners after their victories over Ohio State and Florida. Missouri now looks like a solid top 10 team, and Cincinnati has a challenging week ahead. We welcome UNLV back to the rankings and say goodbye to New Mexico and North Carolina.
1 Duke Blue Devils 11-0
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The Blue Devils have been off since a 76-54 victory over Elon on Dec. 20. Next up is Santa Clara on Dec. 29. Duke doesn’t play a ranked team again until traveling to North Carolina State on Jan. 12. 2 Indiana Hoosiers 11-1
One final tuneup before the Big Ten season begins. The Hoosiers host Jacksonville on Dec. 28. Next game against a ranked opponent comes Jan. 12 vs. Minnesota.
3 Michigan Wolverines 12-0 +1
Central Michigan comes calling on Dec. 29 and then the Wolverines can turn their attention to Big Ten action. Michigan starts at Northwestern on Jan. 3 but road games against Ohio State (Jan. 13) and Minnesota (Jan. 17) loom large. 4 Louisville Cardinals 11-1 +1
The Cardinals are waiting for Gorgui Dieng to return to the middle but other than that, Louisville has been rolling along. The Cardinals can crush opponents with defense. Big game Saturday with Kentucky visiting. 5 Kansas Jayhawks 10-1 +3
The Jayhawks went on the road for the first time this season and played an impressive game at Ohio State. Defense is at the core of everything Bill Self’s team does, and the Buckeyes couldn’t score in the second half. Kansas, once again, is the best team in the Big 12.
6 Arizona Wildcats 12-0 +1
The Wildcats established themselves as best in the west, defeating San Diego State in a thrilling championship game in Hawaii. Nick Johnson’s blocked shot against the Aztecs is one of the top plays of the season so far, and Arizona is off to a great start.
7 Syracuse Orange 10-1 -4
Jim Boeheim’s team was exposed in several areas in the loss to Temple at Madison Square Garden. The Orange missed free throws, struggled on the boards and the Owls went over the top to break Syracuse’s press. Just a few things to work on.
8 Cincinnati Bearcats 12-0 +2
The Bearcats continue to rebound and win, but they haven’t been putting teams away completely. Next two games are huge. New Mexico on Dec. 27, then Cincinnati goes to Pittsburgh on Dec. 31 to open Big East play. 9 Missouri Tigers 10-1 +3
Laurence Bowers is making a huge difference for the Tigers, but Missouri’s transfers are going to decide how far this team goes. With Florida and Kentucky struggling, Mizzou might be the favorite to capture the SEC in year one as a conference member.
10 Ohio State Buckeyes 9-2 -4
The Buckeyes have just two losses, and they came to Duke and Kansas, but Thad Matta’s team must be concerned about the lack of offensive options. Right now, Ohio State has some ground to make up on the top teams.
11 Minnesota Golden Gophers 12-1 +2
Michigan State comes into Williams Arena on New Year’s Eve. Tubby Smith’s team last lost Nov. 22 to Duke. Beating a ranked team to begin conference play would be a huge confidence boost.
12 Gonzaga Bulldogs 11-1 +2
The Bulldogs play a tough schedule, and that should pay dividends in March. Gonzaga’s one loss came against Illinois. Baylor stops into The Kennel on Dec. 28, and that will be a big non-conference game for both teams.
13 Creighton Bluejays 11-1 +2
The Bluejays are about to enter conference play in the Missouri Valley, where they will be the heavy favorite. Creighton has won five straight since losing to Boise State, the only slip in non-conference play.
14 Florida Gators 8-2 -5
The Gators slip down after consecutive losses to Arizona and Kansas State. Florida couldn’t finish at Arizona. That happens from time to time. But the Gators seemed to be battling uphill the entire game against K-State. This team should be better than that. 15 Georgetown Hoyas 10-1 +1
The Hoyas have been inconsistent on offense. It will be interesting to see how that translates in Big East play, but defense should keep Georgetown among the top teams in conference play.
16 Illinois Fighting Illini 12-1 -5
The good news for the Illini is that they won’t face too many teams exactly like Missouri. Illinois lost bragging rights to Missouri again, and the physical nature of the game seemed to take a toll. The Illini remain well equipped to challenge in the Big Ten.
17 San Diego State Aztecs 11-2
The Aztecs almost pulled off an enormous victory against Arizona Tuesday night in Hawaii. What a Christmas present that would have been. There is much to like about Steve Fisher’s team.
18 Pittsburgh Panthers 12-1 +5
The only thing holding back the Panthers at this stage has been a soft schedule. Jamie Dixon has an efficient team with good balance, inside and outside. The Big East has been warned.
19 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 12-1 +1
Jack Cooley doesn’t get the national attention he deserves. He is coming off his best game of the season with 24 points and 15 rebounds in a win over Niagara. Experience will carry the Irish through the Big East battles.
20 Michigan State Spartans 11-2
Derrick Nix was simply outstanding with a 25-point, 11-rebound performance in the win over Texas. Michigan State could still contend for the Big Ten title. The Spartans just need to be healthy and find some consistency.
21 UNLV Rebels 11-1 (unranked last week)
We’ve doubted the Rebels a bit when Mike Moser was injured, but UNLV is back in the power rankings for obvious reasons. Freshman Anthony Bennett has been outstanding, and now transfer Khem Birch has been added to the mix.
22 North Carolina State Wolfpack 9-2 -1
Since losing to Michigan, the Wolfpack has won five consecutive games. This isn’t the best the team in the ACC, as many expected, but there’s enough talent in Raleigh to make an impact on the conference race.
23 Oklahoma State Cowboys 10-1 -1
The Cowboys didn’t play in the last week. But between now and Jan. 5, Oklahoma State will host Gonzaga and play at Kansas State. That should allow everyone to make a proper assessment of Oklahoma State.
24 Butler Bulldogs 9-2
The victory over Indiana put Butler back on the national map. Three non-conference games remain before the Atlantic-10 schedule, and now the Bulldogs appear to be the conference favorite. Big game at Vanderbilt on Saturday.
25 Kansas State Wildcats 9-2 (unranked last week)
Bruce Weber and the Wildcats have been spending time getting to know each other. They had victories but needed to make the type of statement they made against Florida. Now everyone can take the Wildcats seriously.