We finally have actual college basketball games to base our assessments, rankings and predictions, which is why every spot but two in the latest AP Top 25 poll features a new team this week.
Here are our reactions to the newest AP poll.
Duke is No. 1 and it’s hard to argue with the voters’ decision
Kansas was ranked No. 1 in the preseason AP Top 25 poll and all the Jayhawks did in their season opener was beat a top-10 Michigan State team on a neutral floor. However, Kansas was upstaged by Duke in Indianapolis over the course of the next two hours as the Blue Devils ran Kentucky off the floor in their 118-84 win.
Duke was challenged more at home by Army on Sunday (it was a six-point game with 12 minutes left) than it was by the Wildcats but it still pulled away for a 94-72 win. The phrase “Big Three” is overused in basketball discussions but the trio of R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish seems worthy of the moniker after combining for 83 points against Kentucky, then 75 against Army.
Looking ahead at the Blue Devils’ schedule, if they win the Maui Invitational (more on this later), there’s a good chance they can hold their top ranking until at least mid-January, when they play No. 19 Clemson, at Wake Forest, at No. 14 Florida State, No. 15 Syracuse and No. 4 Virginia in a five-game stretch in ACC play.
With its latest No. 1 ranking, Duke passes UCLA for the most weeks spent atop the AP poll with 135 appearances, according to the AP.
West Virginia, Kentucky suffer significant drops
It’s not worth losing sleep over an AP Top 25 ranking on November 12 but West Virginia and Kentucky both experienced significant drops in the poll after playing just one and two games, respectively.
West Virginia dropped from its No. 13 preseason ranking to the first team among others receiving votes after the Mountaineers lost to Buffalo 99-94 in overtime in their home opener. West Virginia led by 13 with 7:21 to play but Buffalo guard CJ Massinburg scored 43 points on 22 shots, including the game-tying three to force overtime.
The Bulls are now ranked one spot, No. 25, ahead of the Mountaineers.
Kentucky dropped eight spots to No. 10 after its loss to Duke. Even if the Blue Devils are that good and they’re capable of blowing out a top-10 team on a neutral court in the first game of the season, the Wildcats didn’t provide much confidence in a 71-59 win at home over Southern Illinois.
Kentucky didn’t take the lead for the first time until there was 5:21 left in the first half and it was a seven-point game with just over three minutes left. The Wildcats are shooting just 8-of-31 (.258) from three through two games.
Big Ten teams are knocking on the door
Only three Big Ten teams are ranked this week: No. 11 Michigan State, No. 18 Michigan and No. 23 Purdue.
That’s fewer than the ACC (7) and SEC (5).
But if you were to extend the AP poll beyond 25 teams into the “Others receiving votes section,” Indiana is No. 27, Nebraska is No. 28, Wisconsin is No. 29, Maryland is No. 31 and Ohio State is No. 34. In other words, the national media is essentially telling the Big Ten’s upper-middle tier of teams “We think you might be pretty good but we need more evidence.”
The conference will get that chance this week if has a good showing in this week’s Gavitt Tipoff Games against the Big East.
The Maui Invitational should be good, like really good
This year’s Maui Invitational has been billed as the strongest field ever because of the teams that are competing in it but also because the mainland tournament will feature eight DI teams for the first time ever, rather than including usual DII host Chaminade.
The hype for the tournament seems deserved.
Duke is No. 1, Gonzaga is No. 3 and Auburn is No. 9 in the latest AP Top 25. Iowa State, Arizona and Xavier all received votes in this week’s poll.
There should be some incredible basketball in the country’s 50th state during Thanksgiving week.