1. KENTUCKY (8-0) (1)
LAST WEEK: Beat St. John's (81-59); Beat North Carolina (73-72)
THIS WEEK: At Indiana (Dec. 10)
For the third straight year, John Calipari has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal. So what's the biggest difference between this group of Wildcats and the previous two that weren't able to bring a national title back to Lexington? It might be better shot selection.
LAST WEEK: Beat Duke (85-63); Beat UTPA (64-35)
THIS WEEK: At Kansas (Dec. 10)
The Buckeyes gave the performance of the week in their 22-point thrashing of Maui champion Duke and have a legitimate case to be No. 1 in these rankings. If they can handle business at Kansas on Saturday then it's very possible that they'll eventually be the last remaining unbeaten in college basketball.
3. SYRACUSE (8-0) (4)
LAST WEEK: Beat Florida (72-68)
THIS WEEK: vs. Marshall (Dec. 6); vs. George Washington (Dec. 10)
If you watched nothing but the action on the floor, you would have no idea that there was any off-the-court drama surrounding the Syracuse basketball program. The Orange proved their top-five worth in last Friday's 72-68 victory over visiting Florida in the Big East/SEC Challenge. This marks the fourth consecutive season that Jim Boeheim's team has started the year 8-0.
4. NORTH CAROLINA (6-2) (5)
LAST WEEK: Beat Wisconsin (60-57); Lost to Kentucky (73-72)
THIS WEEK: vs. Evansville (Dec. 6); vs. Long Beach State (Dec. 10)
It's important to keep in mind that this is a power poll, not a set of rankings based strictly on resume. If the latter were the case, it would be much more difficult to justify moving the Tar Heels a spot just a couple of days after they took their second loss of the season. Some will argue that Carolina hasn't earned this spot, but if someone put a gun to your head right now and forced you to pick a Final Four, I could probably count the number of you who would exclude UNC on one hand. Now a lot of that is because there are only like seven people reading this, but I think the point still gets across. North Carolina is really good. That's the point.
5. BAYLOR (7-0) (12)
LAST WEEK: Beat Prairie View A&M (90-54); Beat Northwestern (69-41)
THIS WEEK: No Games
The Bears make a seven-spot jump primarily because of the return of player of the year candidate Perry Jones, who has appeared to be in midseason form since returning to the floor last week. Baylor made its loudest statement of the year thus far by hammering previously unbeaten Northwestern by 28 on Saturday.
6. MARQUETTE (7-0) (11)
LAST WEEK: Beat Jacksonville (88-56); Beat Wisconsin (61-54)
THIS WEEK: vs. Washington (Dec. 6); vs. Green Bay (Dec. 10)
The biggest problem with preseason polls is that too often they create a scenario where even if you beat some of the best teams in the country you're not going to climb unless the squads ranked in front of you lose. Obviously, this isn't as much of a concern in basketball as it is in football, where the polls end up helping decide which two teams play a single game for the sport's top prize. Marquette has beaten everyone it was supposed to beat and looked impressive in doing so, and after Saturday's win over Wisconsin they now have a road victory over one of the top teams in the country. There's no reason for the Golden Eagles to be sitting outside the top ten right now.
7. LOUISVILLE (7-0) (6)
LAST WEEK: Beat Long Beach State (79-66); Beat Vanderbilt (62-60, OT)
THIS WEEK: vs. IUPUI (Dec. 7); vs. Fairleigh Dickinson (Dec. 10)
It seems a little unfair to drop the Cardinals a week after they knocked off a pair of probable NCAA Tournament teams, but on top of still being perpetually unhealthy, Louisville does not have a win that stacks up with the signature victories of the teams rated ahead of them. That hasn't kept U of L from being ranked in the top five of both major polls, and folks in the Derby City are already starting to whisper about the possibility of a No. 1 vs. No. 2 Kentucky/Louisville game on New Year's Eve.
8. MISSOURI (7-0) (10)
LAST WEEK: Beat Northwestern State (90-56)
THIS WEEK: vs. Villanova (Dec. 6); vs. Navy (Dec. 10)
The Tigers just keep destroying people. They have now outscored opponents in their seven victories by an average of 27.9 points. They'll get a test on Tuesday when they face Villanova inside Madison Square Garden.
9. DUKE (7-1) (3)
LAST WEEK: Lost to Ohio State (85-63)
THIS WEEK: vs. Colorado State (Dec. 7); vs. Washington (Dec. 10)
Not only did the Blue Devils get blown out by Ohio State, but they're Maui Invitational championship run took a hit in credibility when Michigan lost to Virginia and Tennessee was beaten by both Oakland and Pittsburgh.
LAST WEEK: Beat Vanderbilt (82-70, OT); Beat Purdue (66-63)
THIS WEEK: At Butler (Dec. 7); vs. Cincinnati (Dec. 10)
Tu Holloway spearheaded a pair of remarkable Musketeer comebacks in victories over Vanderbilt and Purdue. They've got another giant week on tap with a trip to Hinkle to face Butler on Wednesday and then the Crosstown Shootout against rival Cincinnati three days later.
11. FLORIDA (5-2) (7)
LAST WEEK: Beat Stetson (96-70); Lost to Syracuse (72-68)
THIS WEEK: vs. Arizona (Dec. 7); vs. Rider (Dec. 9)
It wasn't surprising that the Gators went on the road and lost to one of the top five teams in the country, but the fact that Billy Donovan's talented quartet of guards couldn't hit the 70-point mark against a team that plays nothing but zone was at least a bit disconcerting.
12. WISCONSIN (6-2) (8)
LAST WEEK: Lost to North Carolina (60-57); Lost to Marquette (61-54)
THIS WEEK: vs. Green Bay (Dec. 7); vs. UNLV (Dec. 10)
Bucky should be able to snap its two-game losing streak on Wednesday against Green Bay before a big game against UNLV on Saturday. The streaky Badgers shot an uncharacteristically low 32% from the field in their home loss to in-state rival Marquette.
13. KANSAS (5-2) (15)
LAST WEEK: Beat Florida Atlantic (77-54); Beat South Florida (70-42)
THIS WEEK: vs. Long Beach State (Dec. 6); vs. Ohio State (Dec. 10)
It's another monster week for the battle-tested Jayhawks who will face Long Beach State on Tuesday before a showdown with second-ranked Ohio State on Saturday. That Maui-opening victory over Georgetown just keeps looking better and better.
14. GEORGETOWN (7-1) (NR)
LAST WEEK: Beat IUPUI (81-58); Beat Alabama (57-55); Beat NJIT (84-44)
THIS WEEK: vs. Howard (Dec. 10)
The Hoyas proved their Maui success wasn't a fluke with a huge win at Alabama in the Big East/SEC Challenge. Hollis Thompson played hero in that game with a game-winner from beyond the arc, an area where he is shooting just above 58% for the season.
LAST WEEK: Beat San Diego State (85-83); Beat Nebraska (76-66)
THIS WEEK: At Saint Joseph's (Dec. 10)
The Jays notched perhaps their two biggest wins of their season by beating San Diego State and Nebraska in the same week. Doug McDermott, the nation's fifth-leading scorer at 23.7 ppg, has the No. 1 offensive rating in the first installment of stat guru Ken Pomeroy's player ratings.
LAST WEEK: Beat West Virginia (75-62)
THIS WEEK: vs. Troy (Dec. 10)
MSU continued its stellar run since losing at home to Akron in the second game of the season by dominating West Virginia in the final game of the Big East/SEC Challenge. Junior forward Arnett Moultrie (16.7 points, 11.1 rebounds) is having one of the better under-the-radar seasons in the country.
ON THE CUSP: Harvard, Connecticut, Illinois, Alabama, Pittsburgh
FELL OUT: UNLV (9), Alabama (13), Harvard (16).