1. SYRACUSE (17-0, 2-0) (1)
LAST WEEK: Beat Providence (87-73); Beat Marquette (73-66)
THIS WEEK: At Villanova (1/11); vs. Providence (1/14)
Though it may still be viewed by many as an "underdog" as far as winning the national championship is concerned, there's no question that Syracuse deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country right now. This may be the deepest and most balanced Orange team Jim Boeheim has ever had.
2. KENTUCKY (15-1, 1-0) (2)
LAST WEEK: Beat UALR (73-51); Beat South Carolina (79-64)
THIS WEEK: At Auburn (1/11); At Tennessee (1/14)
Since its loss to Indiana, Kentucky has jumped from No. 183 in the nation in free-throw shooting to No. 100. The biggest improvement has come from freshman center Anthony Davis who has gone from 59% at the stripe to just above 66%. He hit 12-of-13 freebies in the Cats' the win over Louisville on New Year's Eve.
3. NORTH CAROLINA (13-2) (4)
LAST WEEK: Beat Boston College
THIS WEEK: vs. Miami (1/10); At Florida State (1/14)
Harrison Barnes is finally playing like a potential national player of the year, scoring 20 points or more in each of UNC's past three games. A lack of focus and/or intensity appears to be the only thing that can hold Barnes back or keep the Heels out of New Orleans.
4. BAYLOR (15-0, 2-0) (6)
LAST WEEK: Beat Texas A&M (61-52); Beat Texas Tech (73-60)
THIS WEEK: At Kansas State (1/10); vs. Oklahoma State (1/14)
With five players averaging double figures, BU doesn't allow opponents to hone in on one player without being burned by another.
All-American candidate Perry Jones III paces the team in both scoring (13.0 ppg.) and rebounding (7.2 rpg.). Senior Quincy Acy is averaging 12.1 points on 56.2 percent shooting with a team-tying 7.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, while junior college transfer Pierre Jackson adds 12.1 points on and a team-high 4.5 assists and 1.7 steals per game. Forward Quincy Miller is a leading candidate for Big 12 Freshman of the Year as he averages 11.2 points and 5.6 rebounds, while Boston College transfer Brady Heslip paces the squad with 44 3-pointers to go with a 10.5 points per game.
Scott Drew's 15-0 Bears will face their toughest toughest test to date when they enter Kansas State's Bramlage Coliseum Tuesday night.
LAST WEEK: Beat Nebraska (71-40); Beat Iowa (76-47)
THIS WEEK: At Illinois (1/10); vs. Indiana (1/15)
Jared Sullinger has stepped his game up since the start of Big Ten play, shooting 66.0 percent while averaging 19.8 points and 10.8 rebounds. Both of those are up from his non-conference numbers of 16.2 and 9.2, respectively. Sullinger will receiver his biggest league play test in the post to date when he squares off against Illinois sophomore Meyers Leonard Tuesday night.
6. INDIANA (15-1, 3-1) (10)
LAST WEEK: Beat Michigan (73-71); Beat Penn State (88-82)
THIS WEEK: vs. Minnesota (1/12); At Ohio State (1/15)
For the first time since 2008, the Indiana Hoosiers will take the floor as a top ten team (No. 7/No. 8) when they host Minnesota on Thursday night. Whether or not they retain that status might depend on the outcome of their rematch with Ohio State on Sunday. IU nipped the Buckeyes by four in Assembly Hall on Dec. 31.
7. MICHIGAN STATE (14-2, 3-0) (11)
LAST WEEK: Beat Wisconsin (63-60, OT)
THIS WEEK: vs. Iowa (1/10); At Northwestern (1/14)
The Spartans, winners of 14 straight, are the only team in the country with two road wins over ranked opponents. Michigan State has won at both Wisconsin and Gonzaga.
8. MISSOURI (14-1, 1-1) (5)
LAST WEEK: Beat Oklahoma (87-49); Lost to Kansas State (75-59)
THIS WEEK: At Iowa State (1/11); vs. Texas (1/14)
Missouri's 16-point loss at Kansas State last Saturday raised eyebrows all over the country, but it probably just felt like deja vu for Tiger fans. Mizzou is 5-11 in Big 12 road games over the past two seasons, including a 1-7 mark a year ago.
9. UNLV (16-2) (13)
LAST WEEK: Beat Cal State Bakersfield (89-57)
THIS WEEK: At San Diego State (1/14)
The Runnin' Rebels will have had eight days off before they take the floor at No. 22 San Diego State to open Mountain West play on Saturday.
10. DUKE (13-2, 1-0) (7)
LAST WEEK: Lost to Temple (78-73); Beat Georgia Tech (81-74)
THIS WEEK: vs. Virginia (1/12); At Clemson (1/15)
Duke is giving up an ACC-worst 69.4 points per game and allowing opponents to shoot an ACC-high 44.3 percent from the field. Temple hit 56% of its shots in a 78-73 upset of the Blue Devils last week.
11. KANSAS (12-3, 2-0) (14)
LAST WEEK: Beat Kansas State (67-49); Beat Oklahoma (72-61)
THIS WEEK: At Texas Tech (1/11); vs. Iowa State (1/14)
Senior point guard Tyshawn Taylor's leadership ability was called into question again last week after he angrily responded to critical fans on Twitter. In tweets which have since been deleted, Taylor said:
If half that talk about ball could actually ball ... I'd appreciate y'all comments and criticism more but y'all can't do (so you're) stuck to being a fan.
Once again I repeat ... If you can't go out there and lace 'em up.. I'll accept the constructive criticism..but since y'all can't well..yeah.
12. VIRGINIA (14-1, 1-0) (NR)
LAST WEEK: Beat LSU (57-52); Beat Miami (52-51)
THIS WEEK: At Duke (1/12)
They certainly don't win in the most impressive of fashions, but Virginia is allowing fewer points per game (50.5) than all but one team in the nation and is allowing opponents to shoot just 38 percent from the field. The Cavaliers are also allowing opponents to tally just 6.7 assists per game. No team in the nation has been better this season at limiting opposing assists.
LAST WEEK: Beat Connecticut (75-63); Beat Providence (66-57)
THIS WEEK: vs. DePaul (1/10); At South Florida (1/13)
Herb Pope ranks second in the Big East in scoring and rebounding, but it's been the play of two lesser known names that has spearheaded the Pirates' recent hot streak. Sophomore forward Fuquan Edwin tallied a career-high 24 points, nine rebounds and five steals in a win over Providence on Saturday, and senior point guard Jordan Theodore has averaged 17.0 points per game to go with a conference-best 9.3 assists per game and 3.7 steals per game in the Hall's last three games.
14. KANSAS STATE (12-2, 1-1) (NR)
LAST WEEK: Lost to Kansas (67-49); Beat Missouri (75-59)
THIS WEEK: vs. Baylor (1/10); At Oklahoma (1/14)
The Wildcats encapsulated the rollercoaster ride that is conference play by starting last week with an embarrassing loss to rival Kansas and then ending it with a similar beatdown of previously unbeaten Missouri. The ride continues for K-State on Tuesday when it hosts unbeaten and 4th-ranked Baylor.
LAST WEEK: Beat Eastern Kentucky (76-67); Beat Austin Peay (87-75)
THIS WEEK: vs. Jacksonville State (1/12); vs. Tennessee Tech (1/14)
You can almost sense that the unbeaten season is getting into the heads of the Racers, who have looked a bit shaky in each of their past two wins. I'll be surprised if Murray makes it into February with an unblemished record.
16. GEORGETOWN (13-3, 3-2) (9)
LAST WEEK: Beat Marquette (73-70); Lost to West Virginia (74-62); Lost to Cincinnati (68-64)
THIS WEEK: At St. John's (1/15)
ON THE CUSP: Connecticut, Michigan, Louisville, San Diego State, Gonzaga, Creighton, Mississippi State, Saint Mary's.
FELL OUT: Connecticut (8), Louisville (12), Mississippi State (15), Florida (16).