1. SYRACUSE (11-0) (1)
LAST WEEK: Beat NC State (88-72)
THIS WEEK: vs. Bucknell (12/20); vs. Tulane (12/22)
The most consistent battle-cry from those who say Syracuse has no business being No. 1 is that the Orange (once again) haven't played anyone outside of New York. That changed on Saturday when SU went into NC State and quieted a hostile home crowd with a 23-0 first half run that led to an 88-72 victory. As Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician notes, any ripping on Syracuse's road schedule at this point would probably be unfair.
1) Syracuse: 1 road game, 1 road win
2) Ohio State: 2 road games, 1 road win
3) Kentucky: 1 road game, 0 road wins
4) Louisville: 1 road game, 1 road win
5) Duke: 1 road game, 0 road wins
6) North Carolina: 2 road games, 1 road win (Is a road game at UNC-Asheville really a road game for UNC?)
7) Baylor: 2 road games, 2 road wins
8) Missouri: 0 road games, 0 road wins
9) Xavier: 2 road games, 2 road wins
10) Connecticut: 0 road games, 0 road wins
11) Marquette: 1 road game, 1 road win
12) Kansas: 0 road games, 0 road wins
13) Florida: 2 road games, 0 road wins
14) Pittsburgh: 2 road games, 2 road wins
15) Wisconsin: 2 road games, 1 road win
LAST WEEK: Beat USC-Upstate (82-58); Beat South Carolina (74-66)
THIS WEEK: vs. Lamar (12/20); vs. Miami of Ohio (12/22)
If Jared Sullinger's foot injury turns out to be a bigger deal than the folks in Columbus hope, the recent emergence of DeShaun Thomas is going to be an even bigger deal than it seems to be now. Thomas hit 13-of-16 shots and scored a career-high 30 points in OSU's win at South Carolina on Saturday.
3. KENTUCKY (9-1) (3)
LAST WEEK: Beat Chattanooga (87-62)
THIS WEEK: vs. Samford (12/20); vs. Loyola (MD) (12/22)
Few players have had a worse December than Terrence Jones. The preseason first team All-American pulled a complete disappearing act in UK's loss to Indiana, and then dislocated a finger on his left hand during Saturday's blowout of Chattanooga. Jones attempted to play through the pain, but his final stat line was 0-for-3 shooting, zero points, one rebound, one block and one assist. The Wildcats are deep, but they're not so deep that they can afford to get nothing from the guy who was supposed to be their leader and best player.
4. MISSOURI (11-0) (4)
LAST WEEK: Beat Kennesaw State (104-67); Beat William & Mary (94-56)
THIS WEEK: vs. Illinois (12/22)
Missouri, which is 11-0 for the first time since 1991-1992, shot 67.9% from the field in the second half of its 94-56 win over William & Mary. That's really, really good. The Tigers are now second in the country in field goal percentage (52.6%), and the nation's third-highest scoring team (87.9 ppg).
5. NORTH CAROLINA (9-2) (5)
LAST WEEK: Beat Appalachian State (97-82)
THIS WEEK: vs. Nicholls State (12/19); vs. Texas (12/21)
Carolina's win over Appalachian State was pretty much a microcosm for how the Tar Heels' season has gone so far. They led by 29 and were never in any real jeopardy of losing the game, but still inexplicably switched over to cruise control mode and allowed the Mountaineers to cut deeply into their lead. It's time for UNC to start taking some solid strides in the direction of being as good as they should be.
6. LOUISVILLE (10-0) (8)
LAST WEEK: Beat Memphis (95-87)
THIS WEEK: vs. College of Charleston (12/20); vs. Western Kentucky (12/23)
The Cardinals are finally looking both healthy and competent on the offensive end of the floor. After scoring less than 70 points in all but one of their first six games, Louisville eclipsed the 80-point mark for the third straight time in a 95-87 win over old rival Memphis. The emergence of sophomore guard Russ Smith - who scored a career-high 24 points against the Tigers - and the earlier-than-expected return of junior forward Rakeem Buckles have been two extremely pleasant early season surprises for U of L.
7. BAYLOR (9-0) (6)
LAST WEEK: Beat Bethune-Cookman (69-42); Beat BYU (86-83)
THIS WEEK: vs. Paul Quinn (12/19); vs. Saint Mary's (12/22); vs. West Virginia (12/23)
Baylor got just about everything you could want out of their first real test of the season. Potential All-American Perry Jones scored a career-high 28 points and netted the game's biggest basket as the Bears went on the road and knocked off a BYU team that was 48-2 over the course of its last 50 home games. No one in the top 15 will be more busy on Christmas week than BU, as the Bears will face Saint Mary's (12/22) and West Virginia (12/23) on back-to-back nights.
8. MARQUETTE (10-0) (7)
LAST WEEK: Beat Northern Colorado (93-72)
THIS WEEK: At LSU (12/19); vs. Milwaukee (12/22)
There's a bit of a troubling trend going on with the Golden Eagles. Just two weeks after suspending Junior Cadougan for a night, Buzz Williams sat star guard Darius Johnson-Odom for the Northern Colorado game because of an unspecified violation of team rules. Obviously, their transgressions couldn't have been anything too severe, but still, these are two veteran guys who are supposed to be leading this group.
9. CONNECTICUT (9-1) (13)
LAST WEEK: Beat Holy Cross (77-40)
THIS WEEK: vs. Fairfield (12/22)
For the first time this season, Jim Calhoun attempted to put big men Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi on the floor at the same time. The result was the pair combining for 39 of the Huskies' 77 points in a drubbing of Holy Cross.
"It was definitely an adjustment," Oriakhi said, of learning to play with Drummond. "It was a little shaky in the beginning, but we are getting used to playing with each other. He's a good passer and he found me a couple of times. It's always good play with a big man who can pass and looks for other big men."
10. DUKE (9-1) (10)
LAST WEEK: Idle
THIS WEEK: vs. UNC-Greensboro (12/19)
Duke will take the floor for the first time in nine days when it faces UNC-Greensboro on Monday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It will then take another 11 days off before facing Western Michigan on Dec. 30. Basically, the Blue Devils are done for 2011.
11. FLORIDA (8-2) (14)
LAST WEEK: Beat Texas A&M (84-64)
THIS WEEK: vs. Mississippi Valley State (12/19); vs. Florida State (12/22)
The early return of Erik Murphy - who injured his knee in Florida's loss to Syracuse - is a monster blessing for a Gator squad that has been sorely lacking in post players. The 6-9 forward scored 16 points in UF's 20-point win over Texas A&M.
"We need Erik's ability to shoot the ball, stretch a defense, (his) size, rebounding, he can do some different things offensively," head coach Billy Donovan said. "Will (Yeguete) did a great job in his absence but we've got to get the front court going collectively as a group."
12. WISCONSIN (10-2) (11)
LAST WEEK: Beat Milwaukee (60-54); Beat Savannah State (66-33)
THIS WEEK: vs. Mississippi Valley State (12/23)
The Badgers continue to just suffocate opponents. When Bucky held Savannah State to just 33 points on thursday night, it was the fourth time this season that UW (10-2), which leads the nation in scoring defense at 44.7 points per game, held an opponent to 33 or fewer points.
"We don’t really focus on that number," sophomore guard Josh Gasser said. "But at the same time, it’s a pretty impressive stat we can (hang) our hats on."
13. INDIANA (10-0) (15)
LAST WEEK: Beat Notre Dame (69-58)
THIS WEEK: vs. Howard (12/19); vs. UMBC (12/22)
The Hoosiers avoided a classic letdown loss by holding Notre Dame without a basket for more than 16 minutes. Indiana is now 10-0 for the first time since 1989-90. IU also protected its first Top 25 ranking in more than three years and is poised to make its 500th all-time appearance in this week’s AP poll. Only six schools have been ranked more frequently.
14. KANSAS (7-2) (12)
LAST WEEK: Idle
THIS WEEK: vs. Davidson (12/19); At USC (12/22)
Tyshawn Taylor will reportedly be making his return to the floor Monday night against Davidson. This comes just one week after Bill Self said he would be sidelined for three weeks after undergoing surgery on his right knee.
"He’s going to go up and down a few minutes today, just a few," Self said before practice on Sunday. "He won’t play 30 minutes or anything. If he doesn’t have a setback today, I think he’ll be OK to at least play a little bit tomorrow."
LAST WEEK: Lost to Oral Roberts (64-42)
THIS WEEK: vs. Long Beach State (12/22)
Xavier's placing figures to be the most disputed in any set of rankings this week. Yes, the Musketeers played without three starters on Sunday. Yes, it was the players' own fault that they were forced to watch from the sidelines. And no, there's no reason why X should have lost to Oral Roberts by 22 even without those guys. The result of all of these factors is a fairly severe drop.
16. GEORGETOWN (9-1) (14)
LAST WEEK: Beat American (81-55)
THIS WEEK: vs. Memphis (12/22)
The Hoyas scored 24 points on their first 16 possessions of the second half to turn a five-point halftime lead into a 26-point victory over American on Saturday. Georgetown now gets ready for a big rematch with Memphis, a team they defeated in overtime of the Maui Invitational third-place game.
ON THE CUSP: Michigan State, Murray State, Pittsburgh, Harvard, Mississippi State, UNLV, Illinois, Virginia, Michigan
FELL OUT: None