It’s time to start paying attention to college basketball again! Now that the football regular season is almost over, we move our power ranking concentration toward basketball. A lot of the old guard in the basketball establishment populate the top of our first rankings with some recently revived programs (Kansas State, Missouri) thrown into the mix. And you better get used to seeing Coach K and Duke in the top spot.
1. Duke (8-0)
It’s hard to argue against the Blue Devils right now. They’re playing the kind of basketball that makes you think the only team that can beat the Blue Devils are the Blue Devils. And after handling two top 10 teams in Michigan State and Kansas State, it might be awhile before Coach K loses this season.
2. Ohio State (6-0)
The Buckeyes have dominated all of their games but with just one of them (at No. 10 Florida) being any good, no one is talking about them. People better start because Jared Sullinger is ready for a Greg Oden-like freshman campaign.
3. Pittsburgh (9-0)
The Panthers can rebound the ball (third in the country) and move it around well (third in the country in assists). Opponents will be hard pressed to get a lot of touches against them this season. Could this finally be the year they reach the Final Four?
4. Connecticut (7-0)
The Huskies went and beat No. 7 Michigan State and No. 9 Kentucky on back-to-back days at the Maui Invitational after starting the year unranked. Not a bad way to start the season. Oh, and Kemba Walker is leading the nation by averaging nearly 30 PPG. We’re already looking ahead to that Dec. 27 showdown with No. 3 Pitt.
5. Georgetown (8-0)
Well, we know the Hoyas can score if they need to. That 111-spot on Missouri probably looks scary to Georgetown’s next few opponents: Temple, Appalachian State and Loyola Marymount. Austin Freeman is playing at an All-American level right now.
6. Kansas (7-0)
This is the best shooting team in the country right now and after getting a gift foul call that propelled them over UCLA last week, the Jayhawks will face a huge test against Memphis on Tuesday in New York City.
7. Kansas State (7-1)
Duke embarrassed the Wildcats but, then again, Duke has embarrassed just about everyone this early in the season. And yes, head coach Frank Martin is as scary as you remember. If K-State can find on a reliable point guard to replace Denis Clemente, a trip to the Final Four is in the cards.
8. Michigan State (6-2)
Give the Spartans credit; they don’t run away from competition. They’ve already played Connecticut and Washington in tournament play and went to Duke. They have Syracuse Tuesday night.
9. Syracuse (8-0)
Back-to-back three-point wins over William & Mary and Michigan might be a sign this team isn’t clicking quite yet. Michigan State on Tuesday will be a good barometer of where the Orange stand.
10. Missouri (6-1)
The Tigers’ lone game against a ranked team (No. 14 Georgetown) turned into a track meet that they lost in heart-breaking fashion. Giving up 111 points is never fun. They should win their next four, though.
11. Baylor (6-0)
The Bears are off to a fine start but haven’t really played anyone good. A Dec. 18 game with No. 24 Gonzaga will be the first real test for a team dreaming of a Final Four trip to nearby Houston after playing their Elite Eight contest with Duke in the same location last March.
12. Tennessee (6-0)
Enjoy this non-conference season Vols fans, including that win over Villanova, because not having Bruce Pearl on the sidelines for eight conference games could get ugly. We’re psyched for Tennessee’s next game: No. 3 Pitt.
13. Kentucky (5-2)
Losses to Connecticut and North Carolina probably mean this team is a little more rough around the edges than last season’s squad. Still a very athletic team.
14. Villanova (6-1)
The Wildcats have’t played many games and their lone loss came to No. 24 Tennessee, the toughest team on their schedule so far. Adjusting to life without Scottie Reynolds will take awhile for the Wildcats.
15. Minnesota (7-1)
The loss to Virginia at home was an upset but the Cavaliers just went on the road and beat a tough Virginia Tech team and also defeated North Carolina. So that loss may not look too bad at the end of the year.
16. Memphis (7-0)
Early returns indicate that this program won’t have much of a drop off following the departure of John Calipari two years ago. The Tigers have a battle ahead of them on Tuesday against Kansas in what should be a competitive game.
17. Purdue (7-1)
No Robbie Hummel? No problem so far. Outside of a misstep against Richmond back on Nov. 27, this Boilermaker team has done well. Don’t be surprised if they enter the Big Ten season with just one loss.
18. San Diego State (8-0)
One of our picks to be this year’s Butler has played well to open the season, including an early 79-76 win over No. 12 Gonzaga in the second game of the season. Keep an eye on Steve Fisher’s team come tournament time.
19. Illinois (8-1)
Wins over North Carolina and Gonzaga prove that this team has a shot at a Big Ten title, and losing to Texas in overtime is nothing to be ashamed of. If Demetri McCamey can be more consistent, watch out.
20. BYU (8-0)
How can you not cheer for a team with a guy named Jimmer Fredette on it? The Cougars have started 8-0 and face a stiff test in Arizona on Saturday.