College Basketball Talk’s Top 25: Kentucky, Duke a cut above the rest
While there are still far too many teams playing buy games with overmatched mid-majors funding their athletic departments by getting their tails kicked for profit, we also had what will likely end up being the best week of the season when it comes to high-profile matchups.
No. 2 Duke paid a visit to No. 4 Wisconsin in a battle of the two best big men in the country. No. 5 Gonzaga paid a visit to No. 3 Arizona in a battle of the two best teams on the west coast. And No. 6 Texas took a trip to Lexington for a battle of the two best front lines in the country.
All six of the top six teams in the country played another top six team this week, and all three of the games were terrific. Duke-Wisconsin was the most aesthetic, Arizona-Gonzaga was the most exciting and Kentucky-Texas was the most physical. It may only be in limited doses, but we really are starting to get some great early-season college basketball games.
But those three games are also the reason that the same six teams remain in my top six. If we want teams to test themselves early, than we shouldn’t punish them in the rankings for losing to a top three team.
Anyway, here is the top 25 ... :
1. Kentucky (9-0, LW: No. 1): Nothing changes with Kentucky, as they beat Texas in Rupp Arena before easily handling Eastern Kentucky in the same building. Texas is probably going to end up being the best team that the Wildcats play until the tournament given their size, although going into the Yum! Center to take on Louisville will not be easy. Three-point shooting is become a serious issue, however. The Wildcats are hitting just 30.1 percent from beyond the arc on the season, they are 6-for-32 in the last three games and Aaron Harrison, who was supposed to be their sharpshooter, is knocking them down as a 22.2 percent clip.
2. Duke (8-0, LW: No. 3): Duke jumps Wisconsin in our rankings because ... they beat Wisconsin. At Wisconsin. Duke’s ability to spread the floor with talented perimeter players around Jahlil Okafor is so tough to defend, and the willingness of veterans to play their roles -- Quinn Cook, Amile Jefferson, Rasheed Sulaimon -- is so important.
3. Arizona (8-0, LW: No. 4): There is a clear-cut top two right now, and even then, I’d be surprised to see Duke getting any first place votes. Arizona may not be the best of the rest -- they beat Gonzaga in overtime at home, which is a win but which also isn’t exactly convincing -- but they deserve to be ranked third at this point. Like Kentucky, perimeter shooting is an issue, but the bigger concern right now is probably Stanley Johnson’s decision-making. He needs to be better than he has been, and he’s actually been pretty good.
4. Wisconsin (8-1, LW: No. 2): The Badgers lost to Duke on a night that they actually played pretty well and then picked up a road win against arch-rival Marquette. The biggest concern for them right now? The health of Sam Dekker’s ankle.
5. Gonzaga (7-1, LW: No. 5): Gonzaga should be ticked about the way that they lost against Arizona on Saturday afternoon. Kevin Pangos had two critical turnovers down the stretch and had another ball get stripped out of his hands that turned into a jump-ball. Domas Sabonis got crushed on a would-be tip-in at the buzzer during regulation. Byron Wesley missed three free throws at the very end of overtime. The Zags had their chances to come out of the McKale Center with a statement win over Arizona.
6. Texas (7-1, LW: No. 6): The Longhorns lost to Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Friday night, but they certainly proved to anyone that watched the game that they are for real. Texas’ front line dominated Kentucky’s in the first half, and while the Wildcats made their run early in the second half, things could have been different if Texas had their best shot creator (Isaiah Taylor) healthy.
7. Virginia (9-0, LW: No. 9): The Cavaliers won at Maryland and followed that up by winning at VCU. You may not find a week this season where one team puts together two wins that are that impressive.
8. Louisville (7-0, LW: No. 7): The Cardinals did beat Ohio State in Louisville on Tuesday night. And it was one of the ugliest games we’ll see this season. Louisville will get much better when Chris Jones starts taking fewer shots.
9. Villanova (8-0, LW: No. 8): The Wildcats picked up a pair of Big 5 wins last week, knocking off La Salle and St. Joe’s. They’ll take on Illinois next week in a good gauge game for both teams. Villanova’s wins over Michigan and VCU are looking less and less impressive.
10. Kansas (6-1, LW: No. 12): The Jayhawks are back in the top ten after coming from 18 down to beat Florida at Phog Allen on Friday night. It’s only a matter of time before it starts to click for Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander. Alexander is much closer right now, and it was good to see Wayne Selden finally wake up as well.
11. Wichita State (5-1, LW: No. 11)
12. Iowa State (5-1, LW: No. 14)
13. Oklahoma (5-2, LW: No. 15)
14. Ohio State (6-1, LW: No. 18)
15. Georgetown (5-2, LW: No. 21)
16. Notre Dame (8-1, LW: UR)
17. Washington (7-0, LW: UR)
18. North Carolina (6-2, LW: No. 10)
19. Maryland (8-1, LW: No. 22)
20. Utah (6-1, LW: UR)
21. Butler (7-1, LW: No. 24)
22. Miami (8-1, LW: No. 19)
23. Colorado State (8-0, LW: UR)
24. St. John’s (6-1, LW: UR)
25. Michigan State (5-3, LW: 17)
Dropped Out: No. 13 San Diego State, No. 16 Michigan, No. 20 West Virginia, No. 23 Providence, No. 25 VCU