1. DUKE (8-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat No. 4 Ohio State (73-68); Beat Delaware (88-50)
THIS WEEK: vs. Temple (12/8)
Picking Duke to win the national championship before the season resulted in easily the most "you're an idiot" mail I've received since starting this gig. As I said then, I didn't think the Blue Devils were going to be the best team in the country at the end of the season, I simply thought that this would be a year like 2010 where the fatal flaws catch up to the other top seeds in the NCAA Tournament and Duke's consistently allows it to coast to a title.
I still have significant doubts that this will be college basketball's best team come March or early April (or any other time), but three wins over top five opponents is quite a statement, regardless of the time of year. Coach K has a contender.
2. INDIANA (8-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat No. 14 North Carolina (83-59); Beat Coppin State (87-51)
THIS WEEK: vs. Central Connecticut State (12/8)
The Hoosiers looked like the definitive favorites to cut down the nets in Atlanta for the first time during their trouncing of North Carolina last week. Perhaps more important than the fact that they won going away was that they held UNC - which had entered the game ranked in the top ten in points per game - to just 59 points.
Victor Oladipo might be my biggest man crush in the country this season. Zeller, Watford and Hulls receive the lion's share of the national attention, but against team's with NBA talent and athleticism, Oladipo is always IU's difference maker.
3. FLORIDA (6-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat Marquette (82-49)
THIS WEEK: At Florida State (12/5)
The throttling of Marquette wasn't a fluke, Florida is beating teams by an average of 25.3 points per game, the third highest total in the country. They'll get a good shot from reeling rival Florida State in a game the Seminoles desperately need in order to quell the flames of the dumpster fire that has been the first part of their 2012-13 season.
4. MICHIGAN (7-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat No. 18 NC State (79-72); Beat Bradley (74-66)
THIS WEEK: vs. Western Michigan (12/4); vs. Arkansas (12/8)
You could make a legitimate case for having Nik Stauskas near the top of your Freshman All-American team right now. The Canadian sharp-shooter was huge in Michigan's gritty win at Bradley, hitting 8-15 from the field and 4-5 from beyond the arc. That ran his absurd three-point shooting percentage to 62% (18-29) on the season.
5. SYRACUSE (5-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat Arkansas (91-82)
THIS WEEK: vs. Eastern Michigan (12/3); vs. Long Beach State (12/6); vs. Monmouth (12/8)
Michael Carter-Williams was a trendy "top breakout player" pick for college basketball writers across the country this summer. The sophomore's making a lot of people look smart by leading the country in assists and ranking second in steals after four weeks of play.
LAST WEEK: Beat Lewis & Clark (104-57); Beat Pacific (85-67)
THIS WEEK: At Washington State (12/5); vs. Illinois (12/8)
The Zags firmly established themselves as the favorites in the WCC by throttling a Pacific team that had defeated Saint Mary's by double digits the week before. The Kennel should be rocking for what could be a battle of unbeatens when Illinois comes to town on Saturday.
7. OHIO STATE (5-1)
LAST WEEK: Lost to No. 2 Duke (73-68); Beat Northern Kentucky (70-43)
THIS WEEK: vs. Long Beach State (12/8)
Blowing an 8-point halftime lead to Duke is probably going to sting until the Buckeyes get another shot at making national statement. That day will come on Dec. 22 when No. 9 Kansas steps inside the Value City Arena.
8. LOUISVILLE (6-1)
LAST WEEK: Beat Illinois State (69-66)
THIS WEEK: At College of Charleston (12/4); vs. UMKC (12/8)
Louisville looked like the No. 1 team in the country when a fully healthy team of Cardinals ran Missouri out of the gym in the Battle 4 Atlantis semifinals. Things are different now that star center Gorgui Dieng is out with a broken wrist. Until he's back - not only on the court but in playing shape - it's hard to see U of L as a legitimate top five team.
9. ARIZONA (5-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat Northern Arizona (93-50); Beat Texas Tech (85-57)
THIS WEEK: vs. Southern Miss (12/4); At Clemson (12/8)
The Wildcats haven't been tested yet, but Mark Lyons' growing pains while making the shift to point guard are still an early cause for concern. In five games, the Xavier transfer has handed out 12 assists and turned the ball over 15 times. Still, 'Zona's averaging 85.2 points per game in large part because of the guys they have at other positions who can handle the rock.
10. CINCINNATI (7-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat Alabama (58-56)
THIS WEEK: vs. Arkansas-Little Rock (12/6); vs. UMES (12/8)
Best buzzer-beater of the year so far?
I thought about making a "Cashin' Out" joke here, but realized after 17 attempts that I wasn't cool enough.
Ridin' 'round with that NINA.
11. MISSOURI (6-1)
LAST WEEK: Beat Appalachian State (72-56)
THIS WEEK: vs. Southeast Missouri State (12/4); vs. Tennessee State (12/8)
Laurence Bowers has to be the early favorite for any Comeback Player of the Year award. The senior forward, who missed all of last season with an ACL tear, leads Frank Haith's merry band of transfers in scoring at 15.4 ppg and ranks second in rebounding (6.1 rpg).
12. KANSAS (6-1)
LAST WEEK: Beat San Jose State (70-57); Beat Oregon State (84-78)
THIS WEEK: vs. Colorado (12/8)
Jeff Withey's 16-point, 12-rebound, 12-block performance against San Jose State made him just the second player in Kansas history to record a triple-double. That's insane.
13. VIRGINIA TECH (7-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat Iowa (75-59); Beat No. 15 Oklahoma State (81-71)
THIS WEEK: At West Virginia (12/8)
14. GEORGETOWN (5-1)
LAST WEEK: Beat Tennessee (37-36)
THIS WEEK: vs. Texas (12/4); vs. Towson (12/8)
"I think I was 8. Playing with St. Anthony's. The game ended 13-11." That was John Thomson III's response when asked about the last time he was a part of a game as low scoring as Georgetown's 37-36 win over Tennessee. I'm more impressed that he could remember the score from a game he played in when he was eight than anything else.
LAST WEEK: Lost to Boise State (83-70); Beat Saint Joseph's (80-51)
THIS WEEK: At Nebraska (12/6)
Yep, this is the one inclusion where you have every right to complain and I won't be able to come up with a suitable response. Creighton's 13-point home loss to Boise was worse than the defeats of about a dozen one-loss teams who could have been slotted here. My only defense is that this is a power poll, not a straight ranking based solely on resume. I watched the Bluejays dismantle Saint Joseph's and came away thinking they were better than all the teams ranked behind them here. That's all I can say.
16. MINNESOTA (8-1)
LAST WEEK: Beat Florida State (77-68); Beat North Florida (87-59)
THIS WEEK: vs. South Dakota State (12/4); At USC (12/8)
Dre Hollins has to have the most interesting list of point totals in the country right now: 3, 7, 13, 14, 12, 41, 8, 12, 5. That 41-point outburst against Memphis is the only time he's shot better than 50 percent from the field in a game this season.
ON THE CUSP: New Mexico, San Diego State, Illinois, Wichita State, Alabama, Oregon, Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh