Thanksgiving may be over, but the appetizing matchups of non-conference play will continue to deliver excitement this week. The headlining event is of course the ACC-Big 10 Challenge, which will pit several ranked teams against each other. There are also a few other noteworthy games, as Atlantis darlings Baylor will play Xavier, while the surging UCLA Bruins will face their toughest test yet. Tournaments such as Maui, Atlantis, and the Paradise Jam create good battles, but they are on neutral sites. This week, the biggest games will take place in home arenas, where hostile atmospheres remind everyone of college basketball’s true, fanatic nature. After last week, the CPP Top 25 experienced a lot of movement. After this week, it is likely more teams will skyrocket up and plummet down our polls. Here’s what the rankings currently look like, per the voting of our writers.
- Kentucky (6-0, LW: 1) Def. Cleveland St. 101-70, Def. UT-Martin 111-76. De’Aaron Fox is averaging over 15 points and 7 assists a contest, pacing a high-powered offense. After the two blowout wins, the Wildcats duel with Arizona St. Monday night, before a major showdown with the UCLA Bruins at Rupp Arena on Saturday.
- North Carolina (7-0, LW: 5) Def. Chaminade 104-61, Def. Oklahoma St. 107-75, Def. Wisconsin 71-56. The winners of Maui, North Carolina can make a strong case for the number one ranking. Joel Berry now looks like a deadly shooter in addition to his passing abilities, and the frontcourt remains lethal. They face a major test with a road game against Indiana coming up as part of the ACC-Big 10 Challenge.
- Duke (6-1, LW: 2) Def. William & Mary 88-67, Def. Appalachian St. 93-58. Luke Kennard has made the most of his extended minutes, and has firmly established himself as a key player once the talented freshmen return from injury. The Blue Devils welcome Michigan St. in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge Tuesday, and will also play Maine on Saturday.
- Villanova (6-0, LW: 3) Def. College of Charleston 63-47. A slow week and an average showing led to the Wildcats dropping a spot. Still, ‘Nova is clearly one of the top teams in the nation at this juncture. A couple of Big 5 teams await them this week, as they play against Penn and St. Joseph’s.
- Kansas (5-1, LW: 6) Def. UAB 83-63, Def. Georgia 65-54, Def. UNC-Asheville 95-57. Kansas won the CBE Classic last week, and then decimated Asheville. Frank Mason remains a front runner for POY, while Josh Jackson is becoming more comfortable. Home games against Long Beach St. and Stanford are on the next slate.
- Virginia (6-0, LW: 10) Def. Grambling 90-34, Def. Iowa 74-41, Def. Providence 63-52. Defense wins championships, and boy, do the Cavs have it. They lead the nation in scoring defense, giving up a paltry 41.3 a game. However, a pair of tough tasks await them this week in an undefeated Ohio St. squad and neighboring rival West Virginia.
- Gonzaga (6-0, LW: 13) Def. Quinnipiac 82-62, Def. Florida 77-72, Def. Iowa St. 73-71. The Zags won the Advocare Title, but they nearly blew a double-digit lead against the Cyclones. Still, Josh Perkins and co. are well positioned for another run at a top-two seed. A major stepping stone in that quest will be their massive battle against Arizona taking place this week. They also play Mississippi Valley St. on Thursday.
- Baylor (6-0, LW: 24) Def. VCU 71-63, Def. Michigan St. 73-58, Def. Louisville 66-63. The Bears were arguably the most impressive team last week, winning the Battle 4 Atlantis. Motley and Lecomte continue to impress. However, a titanic battle with Xavier, preluded by Sam Houston St., will further test Baylor this week.
- UCLA (7-0, LW: 16) Def. Portland 99-77, Def. Nebraska 82-71, Def. Texas A&M 74-67. At 96.9 points a game, UCLA has the number three offense in the NCAA. At 75.3 points allowed, they rank 240th in defense. However, they showed they can win without scoring 100 against both Nebraska and A&M. Hopefully they are indeed finding their defensive identity, because they play Kentucky on Saturday.
- Indiana (4-1, LW: 3) Lost to IPFW 68-71, Def. Mississippi Valley St. 85-52. Tom Crean deserves credit for playing a Summit League team on the road. Unfortunately, the loss to the Mastodons is a major blemish on IU’s early record. Still, it is only November, and the Hoosiers have a gigantic chance to forget all about Fort Wayne when they play UNC in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. Winnable games against SIU-Edwardsville and Southeast Missouri St. will finish their week.
- Xavier (6-0, LW: 11) Def. Northern Iowa 64-42. Xavier beat UNI by 22 instead of 8 this second time playing them. The Musketeers have continued to impress, with J.P. Macura joining Sumner and Bluiett to form a potent trio; all 3 average over 16 points a game. They play North Dakota St. before a major battle against Baylor on Saturday.
- Louisville (5-1, LW: 9) Def. Old Dominion 68-62, Def. Wichita St. 62-52, Lost to Baylor 63-66. The Cards were runners up in the loaded Battle 4 Atlantis, but must now turn their attention to the ACC-Big 10 Challenge, where they will play Purdue on Wednesday. They’ve also got a matchup with Grand Canyon St. approaching.
- Arizona (5-1, LW: 8) Def. Northern Colorado 71-55, Def. Santa Clara 69-61, Lost to Butler 65-69. After a couple of lackluster victories, the Wildcats fell in the Las Vegas Invitational final. However, you can’t blame the play of freshman and potential lottery pick Lauri Markkanen. They play a colossal tilt against Gonzaga this week, in what seems to have become a frequent occurrence. Thank the college basketball gods.
- Creighton (6-0, LW: 17) Def. Ole Miss 86-77, Def. Loyola (MD) 82-52. The win over Ole Miss clinched the Paradise Jam title for Creighton. Coach McDermott’s squad is officially no longer under the radar. Expect the Jays to continue winning this week, when they play MAC squads Buffalo and Akron.
- Wisconsin (5-2, LW: 12) Def. Tennessee 74-62, Def. Georgetown 73-57, Lost to North Carolina 56-71, Def. Prairie View A&M 95-50. The loss to UNC was tough, as the skilled Badgers were thoroughly outplayed. However, their busy schedule chugs on, with games against Syracuse, as part of the ACC-Big 10 Challenge, and Oklahoma on the docket for this week.
- Purdue (5-1, LW: 20) Def. Utah St. 85-64, Def. Auburn 96-71, Def. NJIT 79-68. Ironically, Purdue’s easy campus game in the Cancun Challenge was closer than either contest in Mexico, as the Boilermakers easily won the title. An ACC-Big 10 Challenge game against Louisville gives Purdue a shot to pick up a marquee win.
- Oregon (4-2, LW: 7) Lost to Georgetown 61-65, Def. Tennessee 69-65, Def. UConn 79-69. While Dillon Brooks may be back, Oregon has not looked particularly elite. After the loss to a good Hoya squad, they had an underwhelming victory against Tennessee and allowed a poor UConn team to nearly make a comeback. They play 3 times this week, most notably against Boise State.
- Saint Mary’s (5-0, LW: 19) Def. San Jose St. 81-64, Def. UAB 76-63. The Gaels took care of business this week, beating weaker opponents behind Australians Jock Lockdale and Emmett Naar. A tricky road game against Stanford await the Gaels this week, where a win is a necessity if they wish to further assert themselves on the national radar.
- Iowa State (5-1, LW: 22) Def. Indiana St. 73-71, Def. Miami 73-56, Lost to Gonzaga 71-73. A valiant comeback in the Advocare Invitational final fell short, but the Cyclones still had a productive week in Orlando. Their convincing victory over Miami is a high quality win, and Morris is one of the top guards in the nation. They’ve got Cincy this week.
- Butler (6-0, LW: NR) Def. Norfolk St. 91-55, Def. Vanderbilt 76-66, Def. Arizona 69-65. Winning a pseudo-road game against Arizona was magnificent for Butler, and they are rewarded with a spot in the rankings. Kelan Martin is a POY threat in the Big East, but first, the Bulldogs will play Utah and Central Arkansas in their next non-con portion.
- West Virginia (4-1, LW: 15) Def. Illinois 89-57, Lost to Temple 77-81. The Mountaineers followed up a stellar outing against the Illini with a tough loss to the Owls in the preseason NIT final. Still, an upcoming clash with Virginia will give them a chance to reassert themselves as an elite unit.
- Syracuse (4-1, LW: 14) Def. South Carolina St. 101-59, Lost to South Carolina 50-64. The loss to South Carolina was unexpected, but the Gamecocks are undefeated on the young season. ‘Cuse has a chance to rebound nicely, as they play at Wisconsin as part of the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. They’ll also entertain North Florida on Saturday.
- Rhode Island (5-1, LW: 23) Def. Belmont 82-73. Rhody played just once this past week, and knocked off their opponents with little trouble, behind 31 points from Hassan Martin. The senior is now averaging 16.5 a game to go along with 4.5 blocks a contest. The Rams tango with a pair of tough road games against Valpo and Providence next.
- Maryland (7-0, LW: NR) Def. Stony Brook 77-63, Def. Richmond 88-82, Def. Kansas St. 69-68. The Terps are living dangerously by underperforming against teams with less talent, but Melo Trimble is looking a lot like 14-15 Melo instead of 15-16 Melo. Home games against Pitt (ACC-Big 10 Challenge) and Oklahoma St. await the Terrapins next.
- Michigan State (4-3, LW: 18) Def. St. John’s 73-62, Lost to Baylor 58-73, Def. Wichita St. 77-72. The Spartans were able to pick up a pair of wins in Atlantis, but their grueling gauntlet of a schedule continues with a game against Duke this week in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. They also play Oral Roberts on Saturday.
Just Missed the Cut: South Carolina, Notre Dame, Miami, Cincinnati, TCU
Arguably, the slate of ranked games this week will exceed what we saw last week with the tournaments. Already, several expected juggernauts have taken unexpected losses, and teams that had been flying under the radar have made themselves known on the national scene. While it is too early to form a clear image of the college basketball landscape here in late November, one thing is explicit: this season of college basketball will be electric.