We have a change at the top of the power rankings for the first time this season. Of course, some would say we had the wrong team at the top to begin the season.
Right now, Indiana and Duke have been the most impressive teams in college basketball. Duke has built an outstanding resume, including a victory over our preseason No. 1 Louisville in the Bahamas. But the Hoosiers are our new No. 1. Tom Crean’s team convinced us with the demolition of North Carolina.
1. Indiana -– The Hoosiers used the ACC/Big Ten Challenge to send a message Tuesday night. Indiana was impressive from start to finish on the way to an 83-59 victory over North Carolina. Cody Zeller dunking on run-outs became a nightmare for the Tar Heels. Indiana is solid at every position but guard Jordan Hulls was sensational with 13 points, three three-pointers, eight assists and two steals.
2. Duke -– The Blue Devils have a pretty convincing case for being No. 1, based on their overall body of work. Duke has victories over Kentucky, Minnesota, Virginia Commonwealth and Louisville. The final three wins, including the classic 76-71 victory over Louisville, came on consecutive days in the Battle 4 Atlantis. The challenges keep on coming, with Ohio State visiting Cameron Indoor Stadium Wednesday night.
3. Ohio State –- Coach Thad Matta has prepared his Buckeyes for the Cameron Crazies by playing loud crowd noise during practice this week. The pregame chatter will be about last year’s meeting between these two, which Ohio State won 85-63. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called it a butt-kicking, saying, “Tonight my butt’s sore.” Can the Blue Devils return the favor this time around?
4. Louisville -- The Cardinals defeated Missouri in impressive fashion before losing to Duke. But junior center Gorgui Dieng broke his left wrist in the game and now is expected to miss four to six weeks. That’s a big setback. Guards Russ Smith and Peyton Siva are playing at an extremely high level, however.
5. Syracuse -– There may be some good gained by Colgate in playing upstate New York rival Syracuse, but it doesn’t come on the court. The Orange have won 47 straight against Colgate after an 87-51 win on Sunday. Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland just keep getting better.
6. Michigan –- The Wolverines have put together consecutive wins over Pittsburgh, Kansas State and North Carolina State. That’s an impressive streak for guard Trey Burke and his teammates. Burke had 18 points, a career-high 11 assists and no turnovers against the Wolfpack.
7. Kentucky -– John Calipari’s team crushed a good LIU Brooklyn squad 104-75 in Lexington. The Wildcats have a big challenge at Notre Dame Thursday night and follow that up with a game against talented, but struggling, Baylor.
8. Florida –- The Gators have had six days off and now play Marquette (5-1) in the SEC/Big East Challenge on Thursday. Senior guard Kenny Boynton leads Florida with a 16.2 points per game scoring average through five games.
9. Kansas –- Coach Bill Self said the Jayhawks “sucked” in a 70-57 victory over San Jose State Monday night. They did -– with the exception of senior center Jeff Withey, who had 16 points, 12 rebounds and a school-record 12 blocks for only the second triple-double in Kansas history. Withey is playing at a very high level right now.
10. Creighton –- How can anyone stop Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott? If he isn’t shooting the three well, he goes inside to play the post and either scores or gets fouled. The Bluejays won the Las Vegas Invitational championship.
11. Arizona –- The Wildcats are ready to kick things into gear. Arizona hasn’t played since a 22-point win over Long Beach State on Nov. 19. Four games between Wednesday and Dec. 8 will change that.
12. Michigan State –- The Spartans get another test in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Wednesday night at Miami. That should be a good wake-up call for Tom Izzo’s team after a sloppy 63-60 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette.
13. Gonzaga –- The Bulldogs really have been one of the most impressive teams in the early season. Senior forward Elias Harris leads Gonzaga in scoring and rebounding. Next victim? Lewis Clark State. It could get ugly.
14. Oklahoma State -– The Cowboys got everyone’s attention with that 20-point destruction of North Carolina State. With other teams in the power rankings tumbling, Oklahoma State benefits and moves up six spots from last week.
15. Cincinnati –- The Bearcats lead the nation in rebounds per game (49.2) and that will help any team win games. Cincinnati is also good at sharing the ball, averaging 16.7 assists per game. Sean Kilpatrick is averaging 21 points heading into a big test against Alabama.
16. Missouri -– The competition in the Battle 4 Atlantis was as good as any tournament so far this season. The Tigers really struggled against Louisville’s pressure, committing 23 turnovers in an 84-61 loss. But Mizzou bounced back with a 68-65 win over VCU.
17. North Carolina State -– The Wolfpack lost again Tuesday night, falling 79-72 at Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Give NC State credit for putting together a 10-0 run late, after trailing 73-58. That had to give coach Mark Gottfried some encouragement.
18. UNLV -– The Rebels drop a couple of spots after losing to Oregon 83-79, but they bounced back with an 82-70 win over Iowa State. Coach Dave Rice understands the growing pains. Freshman Anthony Bennett is averaging 19.5 points for UNLV.
19. Illinois –- We welcome the Illini into the power rankings for the first time this season. Illinois got past USC, Chaminade and Butler to win the Maui Invitational. “Anyone who thinks that’s a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team, I would argue with them,” said Butler coach Brad Stevens.
20. Georgetown –- The Hoyas also make their power rankings debut after beating UCLA, losing to Indiana in overtime and then routing Mount St. Mary’s. With sophomore forward Otto Porter on the floor, Georgetown could make noise in the Big East.
21. Colorado -– Perhaps those wins over Baylor and Murray State went to the heads of the Buffaloes. Last time out, Colorado needed double overtime to hold off Texas Southern. Coach Tad Boyle said his team was fortunate to win.
22. Minnesota -– Coach Tubby Smith’s team has only one loss, and that came at the hands of Duke. The Gophers played their fourth game in six days Tuesday but scored a convincing 77-68 win over Florida State -– in Tallahassee. This is another good Big Ten team.
23. San Diego State –- The Aztecs have won four straight since losing to Syracuse in their season opener. Steve Fisher’s team went on the road and defeated USC. The Aztecs have won 10 straight against Pac-12 teams. Struggling UCLA is next on the schedule.
24. Notre Dame -– The Fighting Irish take a four-game winning streak into Thursday’s SEC/Big East Challenge game against mighty Kentucky. Senior Jack Cooley and his Notre Dame teammates would love to school young Wildcats. It’s an interesting challenge for Notre Dame.
25. North Carolina -– It was tempting to drop the Tar Heels out of the power rankings after North Carolina was dominated by Indiana. The Heels have an identity problem right now. And P.J. Hairston’s sprained left knee isn’t helping. A 12-point drop in the rankings seems sufficient punishment.