1. SYRACUSE (13-0) (1)
LAST WEEK: Beat Bucknell (80-61); Beat Tulane (80-61)
THIS WEEK: vs. Seton Hall (12/28); At DePaul (1/1)
A whopping ten players are averaging 12 minutes per game or more for the Orange, which completed a perfect run through non-conference play last week. Reserve forward C.J. Fair is second on the team in minutes played, while sixth man Dion Waiters ranks fourth. Because so many players are averaging so many minutes, Syracuse - which averages a leaguet-best 80.6 points per game - has no one who ranks among the Big East's top 15 scorers.
2. KENTUCKY (11-1) (3)
LAST WEEK: Beat Samford (82-50); Beat Loyola (Md.) (87-63)
THIS WEEK: vs. Lamar (12/28); vs. Louisville (12/31)
- Without question, the subject of most of his ire was Twany Beckham. He spent a good deal of today's practice letting know Beckham know how and when he was screwing up and was very frustrated at Beckham's attempts to talk back to him. After a couple of negative plays and excuses, Calipari said "why don't you just tell me what is correct since you know everything?" That led to Ryan Harrow telling his teammate the quote of the year (informing him he needed to pay attention) and begat a soliloquy from Calipari in which he talked about complaints from players that they needed to play more, with some being "delusional" as to their abilities. It was all aimed at Beckham and was a harsh critique.
Even if Beckham has a noticeable impact on Kentucky's season, it likely won't happen right away.
LAST WEEK: Beat Lamar (70-50); Beat Miami of Ohio (69-40)
THIS WEEK: vs. Northwestern (12/28); At Indiana (12/31)
Jared Sullinger's early struggles with a foot injury certainly haven't cost him a shot at national player of the year, but they have kept him from putting any sort of distance between himself and the field. The Buckeyes begin their Big Ten title defense on Wednesday against Northwestern before a monster showdown with unbeaten Indiana on Saturday.
4. NORTH CAROLINA (11-2) (5)
LAST WEEK: Beat Nicholls State (99-49); Beat Texas (82-63)
THIS WEEK: vs. Elon (12/29); vs. Monmouth (1/1)
The same sort of criticism that defined the first half of Harrison Barnes' freshman season is beginning to blanket the opening semester of his second. This despite the fact that the preseason All-American is averaging a team-leading 16.8 points, plus 4.8 rebounds. Barnes says he'd give himself a B-minus so far.
"Thirteen games in, I would like to rebound more and have higher assists; those are the biggest things that jump out to me,'' said Barnes, who is averaging fewer than 1 assist per game. "You can't really control points; points ... depends on the game. But rebounding is simply effort. If you put forth that effort -- the ball is going to come off of the rim. Are you going to have enough determination to get the ball or not?
"And assists ... are about making the smarter play. You can make the easy play; you don't always have to make the home run play. Just a simple basic pass, and that will improve your assist to turnover ratio."
5. MISSOURI (12-0) (4)
LAST WEEK: Beat Illinois (78-74)
THIS WEEK: At Old Dominion (12/30)
Missouri/Illinois may not get as much notoriety as some of college basketball's other top rivalries, but last week's braggin' rights game featured as festive an environment as any we've seen this season. The game itself - which included Mizzou remaining unbeaten by holding off a furious Illini rally - was also pretty good. After viewing that, it's hard to believe that Missouri and Kansas won't be able to make their own series survive after the Tigers bolt for the SEC.
6. LOUISVILLE (12-0) (6)
LAST WEEK: Beat College of Charleston (69-62); Beat Western Kentucky (70-60)
THIS WEEK: vs. Georgetown (12/28); At Kentucky (12/31)
Louisville certainly did not look like a top five teams in its dicey victories over Charleston and Western Kentucky on Christmas week. Point guard Peyton Siva had twice as many turnovers (10) as points (5) in those two games, and head coach Rick Pitino said after the WKU victory that that junior isn't focused on basketball right now. That has to change for U of L to have any shot at beating Georgetown or Kentucky this week.
7. BAYLOR (12-0) (7)
LAST WEEK: Beat Paul Quinn (95-54); Beat Saint Mary's (72-59); Beat West Virginia (83-81, OT)
THIS WEEK: vs. Mississippi State (12/28)
The Bears have now defeated five teams - West Virginia, St. Mary's, Brigham Young, Northwestern and San Diego State - that have a legitimate shot to make the NCAA Tournament. Still, their toughest test of the season may come Wednesday night against Mississippi State.
8. CONNECTICUT (10-1) (9)
LAST WEEK: Beat Fairfield (79-71)
THIS WEEK: At South Florida (12/28); vs. St. John's (12/31)
The Huskies will play their first three games of Big East play without head coach Jim Calhoun, who must serve an NCAA punishment for recruiting violations. The good news is UConn opens with the relatively manageable trio of South Florida, St. John's and Seton Hall.
9. DUKE (10-1) (10)
LAST WEEK: Beat UNC-Greensboro (90-63)
THIS WEEK: vs. Western Michigan (12/30); vs. Pennsylvania (1/1)
Best Christmas gift ever given:
Mason Plumlee: "Hopefully she won't read this beforehand, but this year I did a good job. I got a video from China that I made my mom with my flip video camera."
Michael Gbinije: "This tattoo on my left shoulder for my dad (Frank)."
Seth Curry: "Once in a while, I hand draw some cards for my family. Any time you can put that much effort into something, it's special."
Ryan Kelly: "I'm a giver. I give away so many gifts, I can't remember which one of the best gift. I just try to make people happy."
Of course you are, Ryan Kelly.
10. INDIANA (12-0) (13)
LAST WEEK: Beat Howard (107-50); Beat UMBC (89-47)
THIS WEEK: At Michigan State (12/28); vs. Ohio State (12/31)
The Hoosiers rolled over a pair of hapless opponents on Christmas week, but they need top reserves Derek Elston (nose) and Will Sheehey (left ankle) healthy for a big week that includes showdowns with Sparty and Ohio State. Both Elston and Sheehey sat out the UMBC game.
11. GEORGETOWN (10-1) (16)
LAST WEEK: Beat Memphis (70-59)
THIS WEEK: At Louisville (12/28); vs. Providence (12/31)
Perhaps the surprise of the season thus far, Georgetown will get a chance to notch a signature road win on Wednesday against a Louisville team that might be looking ahead to its tussle with Kentucky on New Year's Eve.
12. FLORIDA (10-2) (11)
LAST WEEK: Beat Mississippi Valley State (82-54); Beat Florida State (82-64)
THIS WEEK: At Rutgers (12/29); vs. Yale (12/31)
Patric Young has done some bad things this season, but his block on Florida State's Bernard James has to have been the baddest yet.
13. WISCONSIN (11-2) (12)
LAST WEEK: Beat Mississippi Valley State (79-45)
THIS WEEK: At Nebraska (12/27); vs. Iowa (12/31)
Preseason All-American Jordan Taylor appears to have broken out of his shooting slump. First he hit a clutch 3-pointer late in a win over UW-Milwaukee, and then he produced back-to-back 5-for-9 outings from the field in wins over Savannah State and Mississippi Valley State.
14. MARQUETTE (11-1) (8)
LAST WEEK: Lost to LSU (67-59); Beat Milwaukee (64-50)
THIS WEEK: vs. Vanderbilt (12/29); vs. Villanova (1/1)
After a handful of injuries as well as a pair of mysterious one-game suspensions to veterans Junior Cadougan and Darius Johnson-Odom, it wasn't especially difficult to predict the loss at LSU. The Golden Eagles responded nicely with a 14-point win over Milwaukee, but the level of competition takes another step up this week with Vanderbilt and Villanova both coming to the Bradley Center.
15. Mississippi State (12-1) (NR)
LAST WEEK: Beat Detroit (80-75); Beat Northwestern State (82-67)
THIS WEEK: vs. Baylor (12/28); vs. Utah State (12/31)
The Bulldogs will have the opportunity to prove they're a legitimate top 15 team on Wednesday in a neutral court battle with Baylor.
16. UNLV (13-2) (NR)
LAST WEEK: Beat Louisiana-Monroe (81-63); Beat California (85-68)
THIS WEEK: vs. Central Arkansas (12/28); At Hawaii (12/31)
The Rebs should take care of their final three non-conference opponents - Central Arkansas, Hawaii and Cal State Bakersfield - before a Jan. 14 clash at San Diego State to open Mountain West play.
ON THE CUSP: Michigan State, Murray State, Kansas, Harvard, Michigan, Creighton, Virginia.
FELL OUT: Kansas (14), Xavier (15)