In a slow week, Saturday reminded college basketball fans of the reason they stick with the sport through the lulls in the schedule. The Crossroads classic provided a pair of high-profile matches, and resulted in games that were entertaining from start to finish. On top of this, the CBS Sports Classic paired up North Carolina and Kentucky, and the blue bloods did not disappoint. The shootout resulted in a Wildcat victory, and produced an incredible battle between the breathtaking shooting of Malik Monk and the tenacious skill of Justin Jackson. Most other ranked teams had an easy go of it, defeating small local schools and other cupcakes as they make their way towards conference play. As we go into the final full week of non-conference competition, this is what the CPP Top 25 looks like:
- Villanova (11-0, LW: 1) Def. Temple 78-57. Temple does have a win over West Virginia, but Villanova put in a clinical performance to dismantle their fellow Philly school. The victory allowed them to keep a firm grip on the number one ranking, as they were ranked first in nine of our ten writer polls. They’ll play once more against American University before beginning conference play.
- UCLA (12-0, LW: 3) Def. Santa Barbara 102-62, Def. Ohio State 86-73. Are the Bruins a real threat? They certainly continued to look the part, knocking off UCSB and a good Ohio State team over the past seven days. The freshmen, Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf, continue to look like potential one-and-dones. Western Michigan will make the trip out west to be the next opponent for the Bruins.
- Duke (10-1, LW: 2) Duke did not play this past week, meaning that they dropped a spot in our ranking inherently due to their inactivity. This week they play Tennessee State (a game they won 65-55 last night) and Elon. Harry Giles is set to join the rotation this week, and his addition brings the Blue Devils closer towards their dangerous ceiling.
- Kentucky (10-1, LW: 6) Def. North Carolina 103-100. Malik Monk turned in the scoring performance of the season, drilling eight threes, including the go-ahead shot, on his way to forty-seven points and a Wildcats win. Fortunately for college basketball fans, Calipari’s squad has a short break before their next high-profile opponent. They play arch-rival Louisville, in Louisville, this Wednesday in the game of the week.
- Baylor (11-0, LW: 5) Def. Southern 89-59, Def. Jackson St. 82-57, Def. John Brown 107-53. All three opponents for Baylor last week were cupcakes; John Brown isn’t even an NCAA school; they’re NAIA. The Bears continue their soft schedule with a game against SWAC school Texas Southern this week.
- Kansas (10-1, LW: 4) Def. Davidson 89-71. For about thirty minutes, it looked like Davidson would be in contention to pull off a shocking upset. However, behind Josh Jackson, the Jayhawks pulled away for another blowout W. Also, Carlton Bragg came back. KU plays at UNLV on Thursday night.
- Gonzaga 11-0, LW: 9) Def. Tennessee 86-76. The undefeated Zags went to Tennessee and won, getting a big game from Nigel Williams-Goss. The former Washington Husky has been one of the top guards in the country. He and the Bulldogs will play South Dakota this week before beginning conference play.
- North Carolina (10-2, LW: 7) Lost to Kentucky 100-103. In a game which became an instant classic, the Tar Heels were unable to overcome Malik Monk and UK. The high scoring loss saw Justin Jackson pour in 34 points. They’ve got a home contest with Northern Iowa coming up on Wednesday, before Christmas break and the beginning of conference play.
- Louisville (10-1, LW: 11) Def. Eastern Kentucky 87-56. Louisville used a 20-0 run at the end of the game to put away EKU for the victory in their only game over the recent week. They continued to get production from the backcourt, as Donovan Mitchell and Quentin Snider combined for 28. On deck: Kentucky.
- Creighton (11-0, LW: 10) Def. Oral Roberts 66-65. Creighton nearly squandered a double-digit lead, but held on to defeat ORU. The win, behind 22 from Marcus Foster, leaves Creighton one game away from an undefeated OOC slate. That game will be a road test against the Sun Devils of Arizona State.
- Wisconsin (10-2, LW: 13) Def. UW-Green Bay 73-59. With the win over their in-state competitor, Wisconsin moved to 10-2. Ethan Happ had his fifth double-double of the season, and Nigel Hayes led the team with 24 points. The Badgers play once this week, Friday night against Florida A&M.
- Indiana (8-2, LW: 8) Lost to Butler 78-83. The state of Indiana loves its basketball, and the Crossroads Classic is an incredible event to celebrate the rich tradition of the sport. Unfortunately, the Hoosiers losing put a damper on the weekend for many citizens of the state. Still, IU rebounded with a Monday night win, and will also play Austin Peay on Thursday this week prior to the beginning of play in the Big Ten.
- West Virginia (9-1, LW: 14) Def. UMKC 112-67. Coach Bob Huggins picked up career win number 800 as the Mountaineers routed the Kangaroos. It’s an incredible milestone for a coach who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as other elites. West Virginia prepares for two more cupcakes this week before starting conference play.
- Virginia (9-1, LW: 12) Def. Robert Morris 79-39. The Cavs played Sunday and held yet another opponent under forty points. There is nothing left to say about their defense; it is absolutely incredible. However, the real tests begin now, as they play on the road against Ivan Rabb and Cal this weekend before starting ACC play.
- Butler (10-1, LW: 18) Def. Indiana 83-78. A week after picking up a nice win over Cincy, the Bulldogs topped Indiana in a high-level contest at the Crossroads Classic. Add those two to the win over then-no. 8 Arizona, and Butler has the quality wins to far outweigh their road loss to Indiana State. They host Vermont on Wednesday night.
- Purdue (9-2, LW: 16) Def. Notre Dame 86-81. Despite being down double digits at halftime, the Boilermakers rallied for a dramatic victory over the Fighting Irish, winning the opening game of the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis with a 48-29 second half scoring advantage. Purdue also won Monday night over Western Illinois, and has a game against Norfolk State scheduled for Wednesday.
- Xavier (9-2, LW: 15) Def. Wake Forest 69-65. Xavier was played to the final buzzer by the Demon Deacons, in a game they arguably should’ve coasted through. Trevon Bluiett’s twenty points ensured there would be no upset. A home game against Eastern Washington is the next matchup for Chris Mack’s team.
- Arizona (10-2, LW: 17) Def. Grand Canyon 64-54, Def. Texas A&M 67-63. The Wildcats continued to look a little shaky this past week, as they were unable to step on the throat of either opponent, and couldn’t produce a blowout. Allonzo Trier’s situation remains unclear, but if he is able to play, Arizona’s ceiling skyrockets. They host New Mexico Tuesday night.
- St. Mary’s (8-1, LW: 20) Def. Western Kentucky 73-51. The Gaels easily toppled the Hilltoppers of WKU, who are waiting patiently for next year and Mitchell Robinson. Meanwhile, for St. Mary’s, games against cupcakes Texas A&M-CC and South Carolina St. are next on the docket.
- Oregon (10-2, LW: 21) Def. Montana 81-67, Def. UNLV 83-63. Oregon continued to grind out wins this past week, knocking off the Grizzlies and the Rebels. Chris Boucher missed the UNLV game due to injury, but should be back for conference play after sitting out the next game for Oregon against Fresno State.
- Florida State (11-1, LW: 22) Def. Manhattan 83-67. The Seminoles continued to win after knocking off Florida last Sunday, defeating their visitors from the Empire State. Dwayne Bacon led the way, as he continues to perform at a high level. They played Samford last night, and won by eight, in their only game this week.
- South Carolina (9-1, LW: 19) Lost to Seton Hall 64-67, Def. South Florida 77-66. The loss to the Pirates is not a bad one, as the 9-2 Big East side is receiving votes in our poll and should challenge for a tournament berth. However, the Gamecocks were able to go on the road and pick up a victory over USF. Next up for them is a rivalry clash with Clemson.
- Cincinnati (9-2, LW: 24) Def. Texas Southern 96-58, Def. Farleigh Dickinson 119-68. Easy week for the Bearcats, who are averaging over 81 points a game as a unit. They’ve got one more non-conference game left to play before Christmas and the start of conference play, and that is against Manhattan College on Thursday.
- Notre Dame (9-2, LW: 23) Lost to Purdue 81-86. In the hotly contested interstate showdown, the Irish led for much of the way before faltering. Still, they got an incredible showing from Matt Farrell. Rex Pflueger kept his insane streak of not turning the ball over this season. The Irish defeated Colgate last night in their only battle.
- USC (10-0, LW: NR) Def. Troy 82-77. In a game that was tied with under a minute left, the Trojans prevailed over Troy (of all schools) to keep their undefeated record alive. The reward for them is finally breaking into the CPP rankings. Jordan McLaughlin and co. battle with Cornell and Missouri St. to wrap up their OOC this week.
Just Missed the Cut: Clemson, Florida, Oklahoma State, Seton Hall, Minnesota
The headliner for this coming week is clearly Louisville and Kentucky. The Battle of the Bluegrass will pit two legendary coaches against each other, and give fans a chance to see how the two elite teams stack up. Other then that, this is a week about racking up easy victories prior to the beginning of conference play, where deadly gauntlets against established rivals will test the mental tenacity of every team in the country. With the dearth of college basketball this week, perhaps there will be time for last second Christmas shopping!