Well, that didn’t take long. One week into conference play, and chaos has made its presence known. Both UNC and Duke lost to unranked teams (although Virginia Tech will certainly be ranked this week. The same cannot be said for Tar Heel beater Georgia Tech). Indiana suffered two losses; one on a neutral court to Louisville, is forgivable. Losing in Assembly Hall to the Nebraska Cornhuskers, however, is not a recipe for making the third weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, three undefeated teams fell; both USC and UCLA were vanquished by Oregon, and Creighton lost a tough game against the undefeated Villanova Wildcats. The Wildcats, over the course of the 2016 calendar year, went 38-3. Not bad.
Our writers had fun devising polls for this week, as the recent stretch of games provided ample excitement, especially when compared to the previous stretches in December marred by Finals and Holidays. Now, with the calendar turning to 2017, conference play will bring exciting clashes on a near-daily basis. After getting a taste of this excitement, here is how our writers currently rank the top 25 teams in college basketball:
- Villanova (14-0, LW: 1) Def. DePaul 68-65, Def. Creighton 80-70. Ironically, the tougher of ‘Nova’s two games last week was against DePaul. However, Creighton still kept the game tight until the end, and had even been up by more than a few early against the Wildcats. But, Jay Wright’s squad battled back, and in the second half asserted themselves and showed everyone why they are the number one team in the country. A major test is coming up on Wednesday in the form of a road game against Butler. After that will be a home game against Marquette on Saturday.
- Baylor (13-0, LW: 4) Def. Oklahoma 76-50. The still-undefeated Bears reach their highest point ever in the CPP rankings this week. This should not be surprising, as they’ve been excellent all year and are coming off a blowout victory, on the road, against an admittedly shorthanded Oklahoma team. The Bears will host Iowa State and Oklahoma State this week.
- Kentucky (11-2, LW: 5) Def. Ole Miss 99-76. Coach Calipari watched his team easily win on the road over Ole Miss to open SEC play. Isaiah Briscoe notched a triple-double in the contest, joining De’Aaron Fox as Wildcats who have accomplished the feat this season. UK returns home for games with Texas A&M and Arkansas next.
- Kansas (12-1, LW: 6) Def. TCU 86-80. Frank Mason III is one of the frontrunners for National Player of the Year for good reason. His 22 points lifted the Jayhawks over an upstart TCU squad that kept the game close the entire way. It makes twelve in a row for KU, and they’ll look to continue that streak against rival Kansas State and Texas Tech in a pair of home games.
- Gonzaga (14-0, LW: 7) Def. Pepperdine 92-62, Def. Pacific 81-61. As CPP writer Noah Holley stated in a weekend article, the Zags have the best chance of anyone to go undefeated. Not only is the WCC on the whole much weaker than the Big East or Big 12, but the Bulldogs are really, really Pepperdine and Pacific learned how good this past week, losing by a combined fifty points. Don’t expect the Zags to be challenged this week either, as they’ve got San Francisco and Portland in road games.
- UCLA (14-1, LW: 2) Lost to Oregon 87-89, Def. Oregon State 76-63. Lonzo Ball and co. were finally defeated, but it took an amazing shot from Dillon Brooks to deal them the blow. UCLA also knocked off Oregon State with relative ease this past week. The Bruins will return home to battle California and Stanford in their next slate of games.
- Louisville (LW: 8) Lost to Virginia 53-61, Def. Indiana 77-62. Louisville went even in their tough week of ranked opponents, falling at home to Virginia before defeating Indiana in a neutral court game. The impressive win over the Hoosiers was led by a career-high 23 from Donovan Mitchell. A couple of road games against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech await Coach Pitino this week.
- Duke (12-2, LW: 3) Lost to Virginia Tech 75-89. Another week, another Grayson Allen saga: Coach K has now stripped him of his captaincy. To make matters worse, Duke was throttled on the road by Virginia Tech. However, they seem to hit a soft spot in their loaded ACC schedule at the right time, as home games against Georgia Tech and Boston College should allow them to get back on the winning track.
- Wisconsin (12-2, LW: 11) Def. Rutgers 72-52. Wisconsin opened Big Ten play by slapping Rutgers around behind Nigel Hayes in an easy win. This week, however, will reveal a lot about the true character of the Badgers. They will go on the road and play the two Indiana teams, the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall on Tuesday, and Purdue on Sunday. Winning both will go a long way for the Badger’s hopes for a high seed come March.
- Virginia (11-2, LW: 16) Def. Louisville 61-53, Lost to Florida State 58-60. Virginia had an eventful week. Their impressive victory over Louisville on the road was more than able to cancel out their close loss to the surging Seminoles. A road game against Pitt and a home game against Wake Forest are next on the docket.
- Creighton (13-1, LW: 10) Def. Seton Hall 89-75, Lost to Villanova 70-80. The loss to Nova was tough. Creighton had even pushed their lead to double digits at one point in the first half before Josh Hart and co. came storming back. Still, the Jays did knock off Seton Hall, a team CPP had ranked last week. They now turn their attention east, with road games against St. John’s and Providence approaching.
- Butler (12-2, LW: 13) Lost to St. John’s 73-76, Def. Providence 78-61. Butler’s road loss to St. John’s was shocking, but there is no reason to see that game as anything other than an anomaly. The Bulldogs have been impressive most of the year, and showed as such in their Sunday win over Providence. Up next, a major test in the form of visiting Villanova. Butler will also play on the road against Georgetown this weekend.
- North Carolina (12-3, LW: 9) Def. Monmouth 102-74, Lost to Georgia Tech 63-75In arguably the most surprising result of the weekend, UNC fell on the road against Georgia Tech, and by double digits. Their easy win over Monmouth did little to offset this surprising result. Now, UNC has to face two more quality teams this week in Clemson and NC State. So is life in the loaded ACC.
- Arizona (13-2, LW: 18) Def. Cal 67-62, Def. Stanford 91-52. Arizona had a strong week in the vineyards of Northern California, knocking off Ivan Rabb and Cal in an ugly game before demolishing Stanford on New Year’s Day. Arizona has a chance to rack up wins this week in home contests against Utah and Colorado.
- West Virginia (12-1, LW: 14) Def. Oklahoma State 92-75. Oklahoma State is a team with a similar high-octane, high pressure style. However, the Mountaineers had no trouble winning in Stillwater. The backcourt of Jevon Cater and Daxter Miles is one of the most underrated in the country. WVU has got a road game against Texas Tech and a home clash against TCU next.
- Xavier (LW: 17) Def. Providence 82-56, Def. Georgetown 81-76. Xavier opened Big East play with a pair of wins, the latter coming in a road contest against Georgetown. It seems like Xavier has fallen a bit off the national radar since they lost to Baylor, but do not count the Musketeers out. They host St. John’s this week in their quest to go 3-0 in conference play.
- Oregon (13-2, LW: 20) Def. UCLA 89-87, Def. USC 84-61. Both undefeated Los Angeles teams went deep in the woods looking for victory, and came up empty. Dillon Brooks hit a remarkable game winner against the Bruins that you have probably seen several times now, before spearheading a beat down of the Trojans. Now fully healthy, expect Oregon to march back up the rankings and climb towards their high potential. A trip to the Evergreen State, and games with Washington and Washington State, await the Ducks next.
- Purdue (12-3, LW: 15) Def. Iowa 89-67, Lost to Minnesota 82-91. Purdue opened Big Ten play off on the right foot in their trouncing of Iowa, but then lost a tough overtime contest to an underrated bunch from Minnesota. They’ll look to resume their winning ways with a trip to Columbus to play the Buckeyes, and a massive Sunday game against Wisconsin.
- Florida State (14-1, LW: 21) Def. Wake Forest 88-72, Def. Virginia 60-58. It was an impressive week for Florida State, as they beat Wake Forest at home before traveling to John Paul Jones Arena and knocking off Virginia on their own floor. Dwayne Bacon’s late three and overall uber-impressive performance have the Seminoles firing on all cylinders at the right time: they play Virginia Tech this week to start off a stretch of tough games.
- St. Mary’s (12-1, LW: 19) Def. Loyola Marymount 72-60, Def. San Diego 72-60. By identical scores, the Gaels finished 2016 strong and started off their conference slate on the right foot. While a game with Gonzaga is looming on January 14th, the Gaels would be smart to not look past BYU this week. They also have a road game against San Francisco.
- Cincinnati (12-2, LW: 22) Def. Temple 56-50, Def. Tulane 92-56. The Bearcats won a tough road game at Temple before thoroughly dismantling Tulane. Still, they expected a better season from lead guard Troy Caupain. He’ll have another chance to step up when Coach Cronin takes his team to Houston for what will be a difficult road game.
- Indiana (10-4, LW: 12) Lost to Nebraska 83-87, Lost to Louisville 62-77. The loss to Louisville was acceptable; the Cards have a talented team from the top tier of the ACC. The home loss to Nebraska, on the other hand, was unacceptable. There is too much talent on Indiana’s roster to drop games like that. Rebounding from this two loss week right away will be difficult, as a highly-rated Wisconsin team comes to Bloomington in their next game. Indiana will also dance with Illinois in a home game this weekend.
- Clemson (11-2, LW: NR) Def. UNC-Wilmington 87-73, Def. Wake Forest 73-68. Not just a football school, Jaron Blossomgame has got Clemson basketball back on the national scene. They capped an unbeaten December by knocking off Wake Forest in their ACC opener. They host the North Carolina Tar Heels before traveling to South Bend to take on Notre Dame this week.
- Florida (10-3, LW: NR) Def. Arkansas 81-72. The Gators are back in the rankings after beating Arkansas by nine on the road. Four Gators got into double figures, led by standout guard KeVaughn Allen’s 21. The Gators will look to win their next two games with ease; they’ve got Ole Miss and Tennessee trekking to Gainesville.
- Virginia Tech (12-1, LW: NR) Def. UMBC 87-70, Def. Duke 89-75. The Hokies break into our poll after their drubbing of a Duke team that did not have Grayson Allen on the floor. Still, the Hokies have been good all year, and the Duke win will give them the national respect they deserve. NC State will host them in a road game before Virginia Tech heads to Tallahassee.
Just Missed the Cut: Notre Dame, Kansas State, USC, Oklahoma State
Big games are a weekly occurrence from here on out, starting tonight with Wisconsin-Indiana and North Carolina-Clemson. As we enter the New Year, fans should be excited for the uptick in competitive conference games that will be coming in rapid succession. Buckle up people, because next week’s rankings will likely look entirely different.