1. KENTUCKY (6-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat Radford (88-40); Beat Portland (87-63)
THIS WEEK: vs. St. John's (Dec. 1 ); vs. North Carolina (Dec. 3)
North Carolina's loss to UNLV took a little bit of the luster off Saturday's game between the Wildcats and Tar Heels in Lexington, but I'm pretty sure Big Blue Nation will take being the nation's new No. 1 as an acceptable consolation prize. Also, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist may or may not be extremely athletic.
LAST WEEK: Beat North Florida (85-50); Beat VMI (107-74); Beat Valparaiso (80-47)
THIS WEEK: vs. Duke (Nov. 29); vs. UTPA (Dec. 3)
The Buckeyes' sensational performance against Florida on Nov. 15 was largely overshadowed by the Duke/Michigan State (pretty sure Krzyzewski set some sort of record) and Kentucky/Kansas games that were taking place at the same time. Sharing the national spotlight won't be an issue on Tuesday when the Blue Devils come to the Schottenstein Center for what should be a showdown of top undefeated top five teams. The game also gives Jared Sullinger his first real opportunity to put some early distance between himself and the field in the race for national player of the year.
3. DUKE (7-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat Tennessee (77-67); Beat Michigan (82-75); Beat Kansas (68-61)
THIS WEEK: At Ohio State (Nov. 29)
Winning in Maui has become so automatic for Duke that there's sort of a temptation to not give them as much credit for pulling off three impressive wins in as many days as you should. The Blue Devils certainly have their weaknesses - the most glaring of which will likely be exposed early and often against Ohio State - but they are the only team in college basketball right now with at least four victories over likely NCAA Tournament teams. For now, they belong in this spot.
4. SYRACUSE (7-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat Virginia Tech (69-58); Beat Stanford (69-63)
THIS WEEK: vs. Eastern Michigan (Nov. 29); vs. Florida (Dec. 2)
Despite a host of off-the-court distractions, the Orange managed to capture the NIT Season Tip-Off title by fending off tough efforts from Virginia Tech and Stanford inside Madison Square Garden. The bad news is that the distractions don't appear to be going anywhere and a top ten opponent in Florida is coming to the Carrier Dome on Friday.
5. NORTH CAROLINA (5-1)
LAST WEEK: Beat South Carolina (87-62); Lost to UNLV (90-80)
THIS WEEK: vs. Wisconsin (Nov. 30); At Kentucky (Dec. 3)
As a friend who once lived in the city recently told me: "Vegas basketball fans are fickle, but they can create one of the toughest environments in the country for big games." North Carolina's loss to UNLV in the championship game of the Las Vegas Invitational wasn't technically a road game, but when 4/5 of the arena ends up storming the court after the final horn sounds, it's safe to say that there was a substantial crowd favorite. Not that this is any excuse for the Tar Heels consistently refusing to guard the perimeter against a Runnin' Rebel squad that was obviously willing and able to shoot the three. Still, I'm not sure there's anyone who follows the sport and doesn't believe that UNC is still one of the two or three favorites to cut down the nets in April. Wins over Wisconsin and Kentucky this week would make the upset in Vegas loss seem like it happened in the summer.
6. LOUISVILLE (5-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat Arkansas State (54-27); Beat Ohio (59-54)
THIS WEEK: vs. Long Beach State (Nov. 28); vs. Vanderbilt (Dec. 2)
The Cardinals are still a difficult team to rank because they're perpetually injured or on the road back to health. Junior point guard Peyton Siva returned to the lineup for Saturday's tough win over Ohio after missing the two previous games with a sprained ankle. We'll know far more about whether or not U of L deserves this ranking after they get visits from Long Beach State and Vanderbilt this week.
7. FLORIDA (4-1)
LAST WEEK: Beat Wright State (78-65); Beat Jacksonville (107-62)
THIS WEEK: vs. Stetson (Nov 28); At Syracuse (Dec. 2)
Billy Donovan's talented guard quartet has continued to light up lesser opponents ever since that seven-point loss at Ohio State on Nov. 15. The Gators will face Stetson on Monday before a six-game stretch that will include four contests against ranked opponents (Syracuse, Arizona, Texas A&M, Florida St.).
8. WISCONSIN (6-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat Bradley (66-43); Beat BYU (73-56)
THIS WEEK: At North Carolina (Nov. 30); vs. Marquette (Dec. 3)
It's a bit hard to believe given his extended run of sustained success, but Wisconsin is 6-0 under Bo Ryan for the very first time. Not only are the Badgers unbeaten, but they've defeated their six opponents by a very un-Wisconsin average of 33.8 points per game. Jordan Taylor gets a chance to launch his player of the year campaign this week as the world will be watching Bucky against UNC on Wednesday and then equally unbeaten in-state rival Marquette three days later.
9. UNLV (7-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat USC (66-55); Beat North Carolina (90-80)
THIS WEEK: At UC-Santa Barbara (Nov. 30)
A fast pre-New Year's start highlighted by a signature win over a highly-ranked opponent is something we've seen multiple times from UNLV over the past handful of years. On each previous occasion, the Rebs have faded after the calendar change. This year's team appears to have the talent and experience to buck that trend, but a road game at a dangerous UCSB squad on Wednesday does present an immediate opportunity for a letdown.
10. MISSOURI (6-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat Notre Dame (87-58); Beat California (92-53); Beat Binghamton (88-59)
THIS WEEK: vs. Northwestern State (Dec. 2)
There was a lot of concern when Laurence Bowers down with a torn ACL in early October, but Frank Haith's first Tiger team has used a utilized a high-pressure attack to absolutely embarrass all six opponents they've faced in November. A quick glance at the schedule reveals that Mizzou is unlikely to be an underdog in a game until deep into January. Once the Tigers obtain a single-digit ranking they might not relinquish it for quite some time.
11. MARQUETTE (5-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat Norfolk State (59-57)
THIS WEEK: vs. Jacksonville (Nov. 28); At Wisconsin (Dec. 3)
The Golden Eagles captured the Paradise Jam title with a closer-than-expected 59-57 win over Norfolk State last Monday. Not closer-than-expected because Marquette is more highly-regarded or because they'd rolled each of their previous four opponents by 22 points or better, closer-than-expected because MU had beaten that same Norfolk State team by 31 exactly one week earlier. They'll tangle with Jacksonville on Monday night before fully embracing Badger hate week.
12. BAYLOR (5-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat South Carolina State (70-50); Beat Texas-Arlington (76-65)
THIS WEEK: Prairie View A&M (Nov. 29)
The talented Bears still haven't really been tested (and won't be for some time), although San Diego State's stellar 7-1 start is making a ten-point win over the Aztecs look more impressive than it seemed at the time. The most surprising thing about Scott Drew's young team thus far is that they've mostly won with defense, having not allowed any opponent to hit the 70-point mark.
13. ALABAMA (7-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat Alabama A&M (82-45); Beat VCU (72-64)
THIS WEEK: vs. Georgetown (Dec. 1)
It's apparent after three weeks of play that 'Bama belongs in the SEC contenders discussion with Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt. Unfortunately, it's going to take until after the BCS title game in January for folks in Tuscaloosa to take notice.
LAST WEEK: Beat Georgia (70-56)
THIS WEEK: At Vanderbilt (Nov. 28); vs. Purdue (Dec. 3)
The Musketeers have taken things relatively slow for the first three weeks of the season, but no more. Monday's game at Vanderbilt begins a seven-game stretch where X will face nothing but teams with a legitimate chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.
15. KANSAS (4-2)
LAST WEEK: Beat Georgetown (67-63); Beat UCLA (72-56); Lost to Duke (68-61)
THIS WEEK: vs. Florida Atlantic (Nov. 30); vs. South Florida (Dec. 3)
All the talk surrounding Bill Self's squad is still that it isn't a "typical Kansas team." That may prove to be accurate, but to this point the Jayhawks have beaten the teams they were supposed to beat and been competitive in a pair of losses to top five squads.
LAST WEEK: Beat Utah (75-47); Beat Florida State (46-41); Beat Central Florida (59-49)
THIS WEEK: vs. Vermont (Dec. 1)
Scoff all you want, but the champions of the Battle 4 Atlantis have now put themselves in a position to earn a sub-8/9 death game seed in the NCAA Tournament (the goal of any legitimate mid-major squad). A Dec. 8 tilt at Connecticut is potentially the only game left on the Crimson's schedule where they won't be favored.