Another No. 1 team fell on Sunday as Tennessee upset top-ranked Gonzaga in Phoenix in a game that will likely go down as one of the best matchups of the regular season. It could also have significant seeding implications for the NCAA tournament given that both teams could contend for a No. 1 seed in March.
The most interesting part of Monday’s AP poll will be to see how the voters rank Tennessee, Gonzaga and Duke, which each have one loss to a fellow top-10 team, and the trio of undefeated teams of Virginia, Michigan and Nevada, which were sandwiched between Duke and Tennessee in last week’s poll.
Here’s how we predict the college basketball AP Top 25 poll will look on Monday.
1. Kansas (8-0): The Jayhawks haven’t necessarily played like the best team in the country. After surviving a scare against New Mexico State 63-60 and needing overtime to beat Stanford at home on December 1, the Jayhawks have been nearly taken down. But Kansas, the preseason No. 1 team, is undefeated and its wins over Tennessee and Marquette look better after the Vols beat No. 1 Gonzaga and the Golden Eagles knocked off No. 12 Wisconsin over the weekend.
2. Tennessee (7-1): The Volunteers picked up their biggest win of the season — and arguably one that could prove to be among the biggest for any team in the country — on Sunday, when they beat Gonzaga 76-73. Tennessee led 34-33 at halftime, then fell behind by nine with just over six minutes left before making a furious rally to win. Admiral Schofield had one of the most impressive individual performances so far this year with 30 points, including a pair of deep 3s that gave Tennessee the win.
3. Gonzaga (9-1): The Bulldogs’ undefeated record, which could have continued well into the New Year if Gonzaga had beaten Tennessee and then North Carolina, came to an end Sunday in Phoenix, where the Volunteers won 76-73 in one of the best games of the season. Gonzaga doesn’t play again until Saturday in a true road game in Chapel Hill. A win there would give the Zags a non-conference resume featuring wins over Duke (neutral), North Carolina (road), Creighton (road), Arizona (neutral), Washington (home) and Texas A&M (home).
4. Duke (9-1): The Blue Devils won a pair of home games against Hartford and Yale by 30-plus points this week. They have nine days off before wrapping up their non-conference schedule with a home game against Princeton, followed by a neutral-site contest with Texas Tech. That should be a good barometer for both teams given the Red Raiders’ undefeated record and No. 2-ranked defense in adjusted efficiency.
5. Virginia (9-0): The Cavaliers had their own scare against an unranked opponent over the weekend when VCU led Virginia 43-40 with six and a half minutes to play. But Virginia found another gear and finished the game on a 17-6 run as the Cavaliers’ backcourt of Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy combined for 29 points in an ugly game in which both teams shot 29 percent from the field.
6. Michigan (10-0): After No. 1 Gonzaga’s loss on Sunday, Michigan has the chance to potentially improve on its AP Top 25 poll ranking for the fifth consecutive week. The Wolverines are one of the few teams in the country that are 10-0. Their best win since the release of the last AP poll was a 62-60 road win at Northwestern and they’ll finish their non-conference schedule with games against Western Michigan, Air Force and Binghampton.
7. Nevada (10-0): The Wolf Pack were victorious in both of their games since the last AP poll was released but they’ve flirted with a loss in each game. Nevada beat No. 20 Arizona State 72-66 in Los Angeles on Friday, then held off Grand Canyon 74-66 in Phoenix on Sunday. The experience of playing respectable opponents — Arizona State is obviously more than respectable — away from home should benefit Nevada in the long run. The Wolf Pack now have four wins over opponents ranked in the top 100 on kenpom.com and six wins away from home.
8. Auburn (8-1): Depending on where you want to make the cutoff, Auburn rounds out the top tier of college basketball teams through the first month of the season. These top eight teams are undefeated or have only suffered one loss, each of which came in a competitive game against another team in the top eight. The Tigers’ trip to North Carolina State on December 19 is their biggest non-conference game remaining.
9. Michigan State (8-2): The Spartans had arguably their most productive week of the season in Week 5 when they beat Iowa 90-68 and traveled south for a 63-59 win at Florida. Both opponents are ranked in the top 40 on kenpom.com and the win in Gainesville gives Michigan State a true road win as part of its non-conference resume.
10. Florida State (8-1): The Seminoles have nine days off after beating UConn in Newark, New Jersey, in the Never Forget Tribute Classic. Their resume features three wins over teams ranked in the top 50 on kenpom.com (Florida, LSU and Purdue) and their only loss was to Villanova on a neutral court, so this had been a productive fall and winter for Florida State. It opens ACC play at Virginia on January 5.
11. Texas Tech (8-0): In Texas Tech’s only game of the week, the Red Raiders beat Arkansas Pine Bluff 65-47, giving them nearly a week off before their next game against Northwestern State on Wednesday, December 12. Their neutral-site showdown against Duke is their only remaining opportunity for a marquee non-conference win until Texas Tech hosts Arkansas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge in late January.
12. North Carolina (7-2): North Carolina bounced back from its road loss at Michigan with a 97-69 win against UNC Wilmington on Wednesday. Now the Tar Heels enter a critical four-game stretch of games against opponents ranked in the top 100 on kenpom.com: Gonzaga, Kentucky, Davidson and Harvard. They play Kentucky on a neutral court in Chicago but the other three games are at home, giving North Carolina the chance for several resume-boosting wins.
13. Virginia Tech (8-1): The Hokies played two teams ranked outside of the top 320 on kenpom.com in Week 5, VMI and South Carolina State, but they won by 21 and 37, respectively. Their next game is a neutral-site contest against Washington on Saturday, which would represent Virginia Tech’s second-best win during non-conference play.
14. Wisconsin (8-2): The Badgers held off Rutgers in their Big Ten home opener, 69-64, but they lost in overtime in a rivalry game at Marquette, 74-69. It’s been a productive opening month for Wisconsin with wins over North Carolina State, Oklahoma, Iowa, Xavier, Stanford and Rutgers, especially considering the Badgers were 4-7 on December 9 of last year.
15. Buffalo (9-0): The Bulls are good. They’re 9-0 with true road wins at West Virginia and Southern Illinois, as well as a neutral-site win against San Francisco. Each of those opponents is ranked in the top 100 on kenpom.com. But we’ll learn just how good Buffalo is in the next two weeks. After hosting Southern Illinois on Saturday, it travels to Syracuse then Marquette. Splitting those road games would potentially give Buffalo a non-conference resume that could earn the Bulls an at-large big the NCAA tournament if they don’t win the MAC’s auto-bid.
16. Ohio State (8-1): The Buckeyes won their first two conference games after suffering their first loss of the season at home to Syracuse in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. They beat Minnesota at home by 20, then knocked off Illinois by 10 at the United Center. Ohio State’s biggest remaining non-conference game is also in Chicago where it’ll play UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic on December 22.
17. Villanova (8-2): The Wildcats have won six straight games since dropping back-to-back home games to Michigan and Furman. Villanova beat Temple by 10 and Saint Joseph’s by 12 as it asserted its dominance on the other Big 5 schools in Philly. A win at Kansas next Saturday would completely change the resume of and narrative surrounding Villanova.
18. Arizona State (7-1): The Sun Devils nearly accomplished something that no other team has done this season: beat Nevada. Arizona State fell 72-66 despite leading by 12 at halftime. Freshman guard Luguentz Dort had another huge game with game-high 24 points on 9-of-19 shooting but only one other play, Zylan Cheatham, scored more than eight points. Arizona State will travel to Georgia for a game Saturday before it plays Vanderbilt and Kansas the following week.
19. Mississippi State (8-1): The Bulldogs beat Clemson 82-71 on a neutral court in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday, which is their best non-conference win of the season, according to kenpom.com. Mississippi State has also beaten Saint Mary’s on a neutral floor and Dayton on the road, giving the Bulldogs three top-100 wins away from home. They host Cincinnati on Saturday, giving them another opportunity for a marquee win before the start of SEC play.
20. Iowa (7-2): There’s no shame in the Hawkeyes’ pair of losses — at home to Wisconsin and at Michigan State — although Iowa’s 22-point loss in East Lansing might cause some voters to not rank the Hawkeyes this week. But they bounced back with a home win over Iowa State, which is a top-20 team on kenpom.com through Sunday.
21. Marquette (8-2): For the second Saturday in a row, Marquette beat a ranked opponent at home. First, it was Kansas State on December 1. Then, the Golden Eagles knocked off in-state rival Wisconsin 74-69 in overtime over the weekend. They’ll get another chance to beat a ranked opponent in their non-conference schedule when currently undefeated Buffalo travels west for a game on December 21.
22. St. John’s (9-0): The Red Storm are undefeated with wins over Georgia Tech and VCU. Overall, St. John’s has a relatively light non-conference schedule with the aforementioned pair of teams as the only opponents that rank in the top 100 on kenpom.com, but it has won every game on its schedule thus far thanks in large part due to a top-35 offense and a potential All-American in junior guard Shamorie Ponds.
23. Syracuse (7-2): The Orange have won five straight, including wins over Ohio State and Georgetown, since losing both games in its trip to the 2K Sports Classic. Syracuse beat the Hoyas 72-71 on Saturday on Tyus Battle’s game-winner, which should propel the Orange back into the AP Top 25. The team’s next game is at home on Saturday against Old Dominion.
24. Kentucky (7-2): It wouldn’t be a surprise for the Wildcats to drop out of AP Top 25 poll entirely after losing to Seton Hall in overtime inside Madison Square Garden over the weekend. But they were ranked No. 9 last week and they still have a solid record (although when you look closer at their wins and losses, you can argue their resume isn’t worthy of a team that’s ranked), so it might be asking a lot of the AP poll voters to collectively decide to not rank Kentucky.
25. Furman (10-0): The Paladins added wins over Elon (No. 287 on kenpom.com) and USC Upstate (No. 326), which don’t necessarily move the needle nationally, but they are undefeated with five true road wins, including victories at Loyola Chicago and Villanova. Furman hosts Charleston Southern and UNC Wilmington this week before traveling to LSU and East Tennessee State later in December.