We have another new No. 1 as undefeated Arizona climbs to the top of the power rankings. Michigan State slides down to No. 5 after a poor performance at home against North Carolina, the most difficult team to understand in college basketball this season. Our biggest loser this week is Kansas, which was No. 2 two weeks ago and now sits at No. 24. Bill Self started four freshmen against Florida and the sloppy Jayhawks need to find a leader.
1 Arizona Wildcats 10-0 +1
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Michigan State’s loss to North Carolina left the No. 1 door open for the Wildcats and Arizona settled into the top spot with a come-from-behind victory over UNLV. The Wildcats might decide to stay a while.
2 Syracuse Orange 9-0 +1
Jim Boeheim has some extraordinary young talent, but there’s no replacement for senior leadership and talent. C.J. Fair provides that for the Orange, while averaging 17.8 points and 5.3 rebounds through the first nine games.
3 Ohio State Buckeyes 9-0 +4
The Buckeyes are currently feasting on smaller programs from New England. They beat Central Connecticut, 74-56. Next up is Bryant on Wednesday night. The schedule doesn’t get any tougher until a Dec. 21 appointment with Notre Dame.
4 Louisville Cardinals 8-1 +2
The Cardinals have slipped up only once, falling to North Carolina on a neutral floor at the Mohegan Sun. Rick Pitino’s team should take a six-game winning streak into the Kentucky game Dec. 28.
5 Michigan State Spartans 7-1 -4
The Spartans really didn’t look like a Tom Izzo team as they lost to North Carolina in a shocker at the Breslin Center. Never seen the Michigan State coach quite that disappointed in one of his teams.
6 Wisconsin Badgers 11-0 +2
The Badgers don’t function well on offense, but Wisconsin should still be undefeated heading into a Jan. 5 conference showdown with Iowa. Wisconsin has to be focused for Northwestern on Jan. 2.
7 Oklahoma State Cowboys 8-1 +2
Marcus Smart has been in a bit of an offensive slump but the Cowboys will be fine once they make it through final exams and resume a regular schedule.
8 Connecticut Huskies 9-0 +2
Second-year coach Kevin Ollie can pick up his 30th coaching victory when the Huskies play Stanford on Dec. 18. UConn opens its first season in The American with a Dec. 31 game at Houston. 9 Villanova Wildcats 9-0 +6
Jay Wright’s squad appears to be way ahead of schedule. Nova fans must be loving the 9-0 record, which includes wins over Kansas, Penn and St. Joe’s.
10 Wichita State Shockers 9-0 +1
It’s entirely possible that the Shockers are better than last year’s team, which went to the Final Four. Tennessee visits Wichita State on Saturday, and that should provide more data.
11 Duke Blue Devils 7-2 +1
It’s hard to believe that the Blue Devils rank close to last in any NCAA category — but that’s the case with rebounding. Duke is No. 301 in the country, averaging 32.6. The Devils might be working on that during final exams.
12 Kentucky Wildcats 8-2 -8
Coach Cal’s Cats fell to Baylor in last week’s Midnight Special of the Big 12/SEC Challenge. That made the Rupp Arena crowd a little anxious Tuesday night, but Kentucky pulled away to beat a good Boise State team, 70-55.
13 Oregon Ducks 8-0
The Ducks played only once last week and needed 52 points in the second half and 26 more in overtime to top Marshall Henderson and Ole Miss, 115-105. “We were so happy we were scoring we forgot to guard,” Ducks coach Dana Altman said.
14 Iowa State Cyclones 7-0
Huge game coming up in Hilton Coliseum Friday night when the Cyclones invite Iowa over to play for state bragging rights. Iowa State leads the nation in scoring and is second in assists. 15 Memphis Tigers 6-1 +1
The Tigers have one more big test before moving into conference play in the American. That comes against Florida on Dec. 17. Joe Jackson leads Memphis in scoring.
16 Florida Gators 7-2 +4
Billy Donovan couldn’t have been happier to see Scottie Wilbekin back on the floor. Wilbekin, coming off an ankle injury against UConn, scored a career-high 18 points as the Gators chomped down on Kansas in a 67-61 victory.
17 Baylor Bears 8-1 +2
Big Isaac Austin made his presence felt in Baylor’s 67-62 victory over Kentucky. Austin had 13 points, six rebounds, two assists and five blocks as the Bears made a statement against the Wildcats. 18 North Carolina Tar Heels 6-2 (unraked last week)
Roy Williams and the Tar Heels are on a Top 25 string, in one week and out the next. North Carolina has two of the biggest wins this season – against Louisville and Michigan State. Kentucky visits the Smith Center on Saturday.
19 Iowa Hawkeyes 10-1 +2
The only loss for the Hawkeyes came against Villanova in the Battle 4 Atlantis title game. Iowa heads to Iowa State ranked sixth in the nation in scoring and ninth in assists.
20 Massachusetts Minutemen 8-0 -2
The Minutemen are off to their best start since winning their first 26 games in 1995-96. There’s no doubt UMass can score after a 105-96 victory over BYU in Springfield, Mass. 21 Colorado Buffaloes 9-1 (unranked last week)
One way to enter the rankings is by beating a highly rated rival for the first time in 20 tries. Askia Booker’s buzzer-beater against Kansas made that happen for the Buffs. Booker’s long three triggered a court-storming in Boulder.
22 Missouri Tigers 9-0 (unranked last week)
The Tigers needed a resume-building victory and they got it Saturday with an 80-71 upset of UCLA. That knocked the Bruins out of our power rankings after they held the No. 17 spot last week. Mizzou has won 24 straight at home.
23 Gonzaga Bulldogs 9-1 -1
Give the Bulldogs credit. They travel. They don’t hesitate to play in difficult buildings on the road. It almost cost them in Morgantown, W.Va., Tuesday night, but they rallied and beat the Mountaineers 80-76.
24 Kansas Jayhawks 6-3 -19
There is symbolism in this placement of the Jayhawks. In a 67-61 loss (it wasn’t anywhere near that close) at Florida, Kansas had 11 assists on 19 baskets — and 24 turnovers. The Jayhawks have lost three of their last four and haven’t played at Allen Fieldhouse since Nov. 22.
25 San Diego State Aztecs 7-1 -1
The Aztecs have wins over Creighton and Marquette and their only loss came Nov. 14 to now No. 1 Arizona. San Diego State’s next big challenge comes at Kansas on Jan. 5.