It was another tumultuous week, and if you’re a fan of Kentucky or North Carolina, a sobering experience. The top two squads in last week’s poll both lost, falling to no. 6 and no. 7, respectively. Coming into the season, no freshman was more enigmatic that Lonzo Ball; the lanky point guard played in an unusual high school system, did not have years of AAU scouting reports following him, and has an unorthodox shooting motion. Still, he’s passed every test thrown his way, and hit what proved to be the most critical shot of the game against UK.
The ACC-Big 10 Challenge was won by the ACC, despite the loss by the Tar Heels. It has been discussed ad nauseam, but the Challenge victory was a true indicator of how deep and talented the ACC is this year; it will truly challenge the 08-09 Big East season as the top year of all time for one conference (that Big East had 8 teams in the Big Dance, 3 one seeds, four teams in the Elite 8, and two in the Final Four, if you’re looking for a benchmark of what the ACC could do this year). After the string of big time battles this past week, let’s look at how our writers voted on this week’s edition of the CPP Top 25:
- Villanova (8-0, LW: 4) Def. Penn 82-57, Def. St. Joseph’s 88-57. The Wildcats are the new number one team in the CPP poll. Their fellow Big 5 schools proved to be little competition, and they’ll face another one in La Salle this Tuesday. However, the real test will be a game against Notre Dame on Saturday. Fun fact: The Wildcats have held three of their last four opponents to exactly 57 points.
- Duke (8-1, LW: 3) Def. Michigan St. 78-69, Def. Maine 94-55. Both Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden returned for the game against Maine. Much to college basketball’s chagrin, Duke is rounding towards full strength. A couple of tricky games come up this week, against Florida on Tuesday, and at UNLV on Saturday.
- Kansas (7-1, LW: 5) Def. Long Beach St. 91-61, Def. Stanford 89-74. Stanford did their best, but in the end it was too much Mason, Graham, and Jackson. Reserve guard LaGerald Vick had a career-high 23 against LBSU. The Jayhawks will next play UMKC and former Big 12 opponent Nebraska.
- UCLA (9-0, LW: 9) Def. UC-Riverside 98-56, Def. Kentucky 97-92. What a win. The Bruins took their high-powered offense to Rupp Arena, dropped 97 on the vaunted Wildcats, and came out with the W. Lonzo Ball, questionable shooting form and all, is right now the top guard in the country. Six players average at least eleven points. Home games against Michigan and UC-Santa Barbara are their upcoming contests.
- Baylor (8-0, LW: 8) Def. Sam Houston St. 79-45, Def. Xavier 76-61. The Bears are legitimate; with 11:17 left, Xavier led 51-50. With 3:41 left, Baylor was up 18. Manu Lecomte ignited a ferocious rally that left the Musketeers, one of the nation’s top fifteen teams, helpless. Baylor and its three top-10 wins has something of a reprieve this week; they’ll play SWAC foes Southern and Jackson State.
- Kentucky (7-1, LW: 1) Def. Arizona St. 115-69, Lost to UCLA 92-97. The UCLA loss was tough; it was just Calipari’s fifth loss at Rupp in his UK career. Still, the Wildcats could use the adversity, and do average 95 points a game. An easy week will see them entertain Valpo and Hofstra in home games.
- North Carolina (8-1, LW: 2) Lost to Indiana 67-76, Def. Radford 95-50. Going to Assembly Hall and winning is one of the hardest tasks in the world, as the Tar Heels found out. While they did knock of Radford easily, star guard Joel Berry II injured his ankle. However, it shouldn’t be serious, and Berry is only in danger of missing the Wednesday contest against Davidson. Tennessee is on Sunday, but be warned: Kentucky lurks the week after that.
- Indiana (7-1, LW: 10) Def. North Carolina 76-67, Def. SIU-Edwardsville 83-60, Def. Southeast Missouri St. 83-55. A busy week for the Hoosiers was highlighted by their taking down of a Tar Heel team that had been running on all cylinders. However, they may be without star forward OG Anunoby for an extended period of time after he injured his ankle against UNC. IU plays Houston Baptist on Saturday in their only game this week.
- Gonzaga (8-0, LW: 7) Def. Mississippi Valley St. 97-63, Def. Arizona 69-62. The Zags have a complete and balanced unit, with Perkins and Williams-Goss leading the guards while Williams and Karnowski dominate the interior. They welcome Washington to the Kennel for an Evergreen State battle on Wednesday, then play Akron over the weekend.
- Louisville (7-1, LW: 12) Def. Purdue 71-64, Def. Grand Canyon 79-70. A balanced attack led the Cards over Purdue, as six players scored at least eight points. Donovan Mitchell is averaging twelve points and six boards a game. Louisville has an easy week, with Southern Illinois and Texas Southern on the docket.
- Virginia (7-1, LW: 6) Def. Ohio St. 63-61, Lost to West Virginia 57-66. It was a challenging week for the Cavaliers, as they were beaten at their own game by WVU, turning the ball over 14 times. This team will go as Perrantes goes; the lead guard carried them to a victory against the Buckeyes, but shot just 2-10 in their loss. East Carolina awaits.
- Creighton (8-0, LW: 14) Def. Buffalo 93-72. Def. Akron 82-70. Something special may be brewing in Omaha; Creighton continued to rack up victories last week behind Mo Watson and Marcus Foster, one of the top backcourts in the country. The Jays play a road game against Nebraska and a home contest against Longwood this week.
- Wisconsin (7-2, LW: 15) Def. Syracuse 77-60, Def. Oklahoma 90-70. The Badgers managed to pull away from two quality sides, while Nigel Hayes flirted with a triple-double against ‘Cuse before netting 28 points against Oklahoma. Coach Gard’s team has a home game against Idaho St. this week before playing at Marquette in a rivalry game that is always tough to call.
- St. Mary’s (6-0, LW: 18) Def. Stanford 66-51. The Gaels were unfazed during their road encounter with the Cardinal, dominating the second half en route to victory. Both they and Gonzaga could conceivably be undefeated going into their showdown on January 14th. Coach Bennett has UT-Arlington and UC-Irvine scheduled next.
- Xavier (7-1, LW: 11) Def. North Dakota St. 85-55, Lost to Baylor 61-76. Xavier actually led Baylor at halftime before losing control of the game. Make no mistake; the tough loss is indicative of Baylor’s talent, not Xavier’s lack of it. The Musketeers still have three players averaging over 15 a game. Pac-12 foes Colorado and Utah await them on Wednesday and Saturday, respectively, with the Colorado game on the road.
- Butler (8-0, LW: 20) Def. Utah 68-59, Def. Central Arkansas 82-58. The undefeated Bulldogs have been a pleasant surprise this year, led by Kelan Martin and his 18 points a game. A road game against the Sycamores of Indiana State awaits Butler this week, before hosting Cincinnati in what will be an intense contest on Saturday.
- West Virginia (6-1, LW: 21) Def. Manhattan 108-61, Def. Virginia 66-57. What a win for the Mountaineers; going to Charlottesville and knocking off UVA is a major statement to the rest of the landscape. WVU now has a chance to rack up the wins before the start of Big 12 play; they’ve got Western Carolina and VMI this week.
- Purdue (6-2, LW: 16) Lost to Louisville 64-71, Def. Morehead St. 91-56. Purdue lost a very difficult road game to Louisville, before nailing eleven three-pointers against Morehead State in a blowout. Swanigan is averaging a double-double on the year, at 17.5 PPG and 11.5 RPG. Home contests with Arizona St. and Cleveland St. are next.
- Arizona (6-2, LW: 13) Def. Texas Southern 85-63, Lost to Gonzaga 62-69. Still no Allonzo Trier for the Wildcats, and they could’ve used him against the stellar Gonzaga guards. If the loss to Gonzaga made anything clearer, it’s that Lauri Markkanen will be a first round pick in the 2017 draft; he continues to impress. ‘Zona plays the Anteaters of UC-Irvine on Tuesday, and at Missouri on Saturday.
- Oregon (7-2, LW: 17) Def. Boise St. 68-63, Def. Western Oregon 93-54, Def. Savannah St. 128-59. Oregon won three games, yet fell three spots in the poll. In the drubbing of Savannah St., Tyler Dorsey shot 12-16, and as a team Oregon was at 60%. A tricky Sunday contest against Alabama is all they have on the upcoming slate.
- South Carolina (8-0, LW: NR) Def. Vermont 68-50, Def. Florida International 70-54. On the backs of a defense only allowing 55.5 points a game, Frank Martin has the Gamecocks undefeated. However, the indefinite suspension of Sindarius Thornwell could limit their ceiling. The Gamecocks are off completely this week.
- Notre Dame (8-0, LW: NR) Def. Iowa 92-78, Def. North Carolina A&T 107-53. Breaking into the polls at an undefeated 8-0, the Irish appear to be back on the national radar. Their ACC-B1G Challenge win over Iowa is nothing to scoff at, but the number one team in the country awaits them on Saturday: The Villanova Wildcats.
- Syracuse (5-2, LW: 22) Lost to Wisconsin 60-77, Def. North Florida 77-71. The Orange ran into a hungry Wisconsin team at the wrong time, and then allowed the Ospreys to nearly crawl back from a 20-point lead. Still, grad transfer Andrew White has been terrific at 17 a game. The masses will flock to the Mecca for Syracuse-UConn on Monday night, before the Orange play Boston University on Saturday.
- Cincinnati (7-1, LW: NR) Def. Iowa St. 55-54, Def. Bowling Green 85-56. In typical Bearcat fashion, Cincy braved Hilton magic and knocked off the Cyclones in an ugly, yet beautiful overtime win. NC State transfer Kyle Washington has played tremendously. They face a major test this week, going to Butler in their only contest.
- Florida (7-1, LW: NR) Def. North Florida 91-60. The Gators are ranked for the first time in the CPP poll, and are coming off a road win against UNF (the O’Connell Center is still being renovated, leading to road and neutral-site games for UF early in the season). However, this will be the week that sets the true tone for the year: Florida plays against Duke on Tuesday in the Jimmy V Classic at MSG, before traveling to take on rival Florida State on Sunday.
Just Missed the Cut: Iowa State, TCU, Valparaiso, Virginia Tech, USC
The next few weeks will be a bit slower, as teams take time off for final exams and face easier parts of their schedule in preparation for conference play. Still, this week, there are some good games, including Florida-Duke and Butler-Cincinnati. More importantly, this is also Jimmy V Week. Led by Dick Vitale, ESPN always does a fantastic job of bringing cancer awareness to the forefront, and raising a great amount of money for a great cause. Cancer has affected virtually every person in some way; the effort put into this fight by the V Foundation and its supporters is more than admirable; it is an effort that would make the great coach, Jim Valvano himself, proud.