College Basketball Power Rankings: Kentucky Snags Top Spot From Syracuse

LEXINGTON, KY - JANUARY 21: John Calipari the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats gives instructions to his team during the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Rupp Arena on January 21, 2012 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Thanks to Syracuse's loss to Notre Dame over the weekend, Kentucky becomes the first team in 2012 other than the Orange to lock down the No. 1 spot in SB Nation's college basketball power rankings.

We were delayed a day in getting these out a week ago because of the Martin Luther King holiday, so the "last week" results are actually just from the past six days. After absorbing that news and effectively calming down, feel free to read on.

1. KENTUCKY (19-1, 5-0) (2)

LAST WEEK: Beat Alabama (77-71)

THIS WEEK: At Georgia (1/24); At LSU (1/28)

Everyone in Lexington is happy to see the Cats back on top of both national polls...except John Calipari. The UK head coach said he tried to get ahold of Jim Boeheim after he saw Syracuse lost to Notre Dame because he "was so mad at him."

"It's just an added thing," Calipari said during his weekly media address on Monday. "I just watched Georgia and Vanderbilt, Georgia had Vanderbilt beat at Vandy. I don't know if they need anything added, they are at home against us and it will be sold out."

Kentucky was No. 1 for two weeks in December for losing at Indiana on Christian Watford's buzzer-beater.

2. SYRACUSE (21-1, 8-1) (1)

LAST WEEK: Lost to Notre Dame (67-58); Beat Cincinnati (60-53)

THIS WEEK: vs. West Virginia (1/28)

You wouldn't think the loss of Fab Melo would make that much of a difference, but sometimes when things are rolling the slightest tinkering with team chemistry can mess up everything. Also, let's not underestimate what losing a guy named Mookie Jones can do to a group's morale. I know I wouldn't be playing as hard.

To their credit, the Orange bounced back from Saturday's loss to Notre Dame with a solid seven-point road win over a Cincinnati team that had been playing as well as anyone in the Big East. It was a situation that demanded leadership, and the way Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine rose to the occasion bodes well for SU's prospects going forward.

3. MISSOURI (18-1, 5-1) (4)

LAST WEEK: Beat Baylor (89-88)

THIS WEEK: At Oklahoma State (1/25); vs. Texas Tech (1/28); At Texas (1/30)

We can debate whether or not the Tigers are playing the best basketball in the country, but you'll have a much more difficult time convincing me that there's a team that is more fun to watch than Mizzou. Marcus Denmon will let it fly from anywhere, the Presseys are like college basketball crack (can't give me enough) and Ricardo Ratliffe is an absolute man in the paint.

Also, it seems to me that Frank Haith isn't getting as much as hype as he would be for national coach of the year if so many sportswriters hadn't ripped on his hiring last April. The fact of the matter is this was a team most had pegged around the 25-30 range during the preseason, and that was before Laurence Bowers - then considered the team's lone reliable frontcourt player - went down with a torn ACL in early October. And here the Tigers are with one loss in late January and ranked No. 2/3 in the country.

Regardless of the job the man did at Miami, Haith should be a coach of the year front-runner right now.

Ohio-state-logo_medium 4. OHIO STATE (17-3, 5-2) (5)

LAST WEEK: Beat Nebraska (79-45)

THIS WEEK: vs. Penn State (1/25); vs. Michigan (1/29)

Despite the fact that the Cornhuskers were still riding the high of their historic win over Indiana, Ohio State managed to leave Lincoln with a 34-point victory last Saturday, the largest home loss for Nebraska in more than a century. And it actually might have been UN's worst home loss ever. Their record books show a 37-point loss to Chicago Central in 1905, but no site for the game is listed.

The point I'm getting it is that it was a beatdown. Ohio State defeated Nebraska in the game of basketball with extreme vehemence. That's the general message I'm trying to get across here. I only hope that I've done so effectively, and with a touch of pizazz.

5. KANSAS (17-3, 7-0) (6)

LAST WEEK: Beat Texas (69-66); Beat Texas A&M (64-54)

THIS WEEK: At Iowa State (1/28)

Could the key to big-time winning in college basketball be...Tommy Lasorda? The baseball Hall of Famer/former Los Angeles Dodgers manager attended Kansas' Monday night game against Texas A&M as a guest of KU alumnus Jamie Coulter, and Lasorda's niece, who is married to Coulter.

"I've been to Kentucky games, and they are 3-0 when I've talked to them," Lasorda said afterward.

The Jayhawks topped the Aggies 64-54 to move to 7-0 in the Big 12.

6. BAYLOR (17-2, 4-2) (3)

LAST WEEK: Lost to Missouri (89-88)

THIS WEEK: At Oklahoma (1/24); vs. Texas (1/28)

In a four-game stretch where it faced three ranked teams, we learned what many people had already suspected about Baylor: the Bears are a team with a bevy of young talent who like to score but aren't as keen about rebounding or playing defense. Next up is a four-game stretch against teams that all currently have losing records in the Big 12.

Scott Drew might actually might learn more about his team over the next two weeks than he did during the previous two. If this group is going to improve and mature into a legitimate national title contender, the metamorphosis needs to begin now against a cluster of teams it shouldn't have too much trouble with.

7. DUKE (16-3, 4-1) (7)

LAST WEEK: Beat Wake Forest (91-73); Lost to Florida State (76-73)

THIS WEEK: At Maryland (1/25); vs. St. John's (1/28)

The Blue Devils had the opportunity to get a firm grip around the title of best team in the ACC, but that grip and their nation's-best home winning streak slipped away at the buzzer against Florida State on Saturday. The Blue Devils are still having a bunch of rotation problems and have to get more consistency from talented freshman Austin Rivers as well as at least three or four of the Plumlees on the team.

8. NORTH CAROLINA (16-3, 3-1) (8)

LAST WEEK: Beat Virginia Tech (82-68)

THIS WEEK: vs. NC State (1/26); vs. Georgia Tech (1/29)

Already a team not exactly known for its defense, Carolina lost its best perimeter defender when Dexter Strickland was lost for the season with an ACL injury last week. Strickland, a junior guard who started but also served as a backup to point guard Kendall Marshall, has been replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Reggie Bullock, who is averaging 8.4 ppg. Freshman Stilman White will now be relied upon to play more minutes at the point when Marshall is out of the game.

9. GEORGETOWN (15-3, 5-2) (9)

LAST WEEK: Beat Rutgers (52-50)

THIS WEEK: At Pittsburgh (1/28)

Freshman Otto Porter scored the final six points, including two free throws with 8.5 seconds remaining, in Georgetown's even uglier than usual 52-50 victory over visiting Rutgers on Saturday afternoon. This came just 12 days after Porter mistakenly stepped out-of-bounds with his team down by just two to Cincinnati in the closing seconds of that eventual Hoya loss.

Georgetown shot just 29.3% from the field for the game against Rutgers and tied the mark for lowest field goals made (12) in a winning effort this season.

10. MICHIGAN STATE (16-4, 4-2) (10)

LAST WEEK: Beat Purdue (83-58)

THIS WEEK: vs. Minnesota (1/25)

Tom Izzo is now just one win away from the 440th of his career, but Tom Izzo would like you to know that Tom Izzo does not care.

"The truth is, it does mean nothing to me and I don't say it humbly," Izzo said while mentioning the higher win totals from the likes of Bob Huggins, Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski's "two million."

Ok, Tom Izzo kind of cares.

"It just seems like in the big picture of things, 400 wins is 400 wins. I guess what I'd be proudest about of the 400 wins would be we've done it in a decent period of time. I think, for the most part, we did it playing an incredibly demanding schedule just about every year, and it means there is some consistency."

11. UNLV (18-3, 2-1) (12)

LAST WEEK: Beat TCU (101-78); Beat New Mexico (80-63)

THIS WEEK: At Boise State (1/25); At Air Force (1/28)

With both Stacey Augmon and Dave Rice on staff, the Rebs aren't quite running like they were in the early '90s, but they're as close as they've been in a long time. William C. Rhoden of The New York Times has a great piece on the link between the past and the present in Vegas.

After a recent practice, Augmon was making a point and he looked around. The players were hanging on every word.

"It was a little weird at first, but I enjoy the communication," he said. "I think they respect the fact that where I've been is where some of them want to go. I can give them the benefit of my experiences, and I really enjoy working with them."

The challenge for Rice and his staff as they begin a new era of U.N.L.V. basketball is to build out from under Tarkanian's shadow.

Rice wants his team to run like Tark's teams, wants it to defend like Tark's teams, wants to be a unifying force like those teams were before Tarkanian's battles with the N.C.A.A. became all-consuming.

"I remember the championship parade my junior year," Rice said. "It was overwhelming, looking at thousands of people cheering. They weren't just fans; the entire community rallied around Runnin' Rebels basketball. That's what we want to try recapture. I think that people want that feeling again. That's what we want to build."

Without the baggage.

Muryst_medium12. MURRAY STATE (20-0, 8-0) (15)

LAST WEEK: Beat Morehead State (66-60); Beat SIU-Edwardsville (82-65)

THIS WEEK: vs. Eastern Illinois (1/28)

In a classic case of the rich getting richer, the nation's only undefeated team is expected to get leading rebounder Ivan Aska back this week. The 6-foot-7 starting forward missed Murray State's last six games after suffering a broken right hand in the first half of a victory over Eastern Illinois on Dec. 30. The Racers were outrebounded in four of the six games Aska missed.

13. SAN DIEGO STATE (17-2, 3-0) (16)

LAST WEEK: Beat New Mexico (75-70); Beat Air Force (57-44)

THIS WEEK: At Wyoming (1/24); At Colorado State (1/28)

A snowstorm is about the only thing that can stop the Aztecs these days. It can also apparently produce some of the wittiest, most hilarious and incredibly insightful tweeting ever seen from college athletes.

"We stuck!!!!!" guard Xavier Thames tweeted.

SDSU faces 16-3 Wyoming in Laramie on Tuesday night.

12011914. CREIGHTON (18-2, 8-1) (NR)

LAST WEEK: Beat Missouri State (66-65); Beat Indiana State (75-49)

THIS WEEK: At Drake (1/25); vs. Bradley (1/28)

Creighton had no player score more than 12 points on Saturday against Indiana State, and the Bluejays still cruised to a 75-49 win over the defending MVC tournament champs. Creighton is off to an 18-2 start for just the third time in the program's lengthy history.

15. INDIANA (16-4, 4-4) (11)

LAST WEEK: Lost to Nebraska (70-69); Beat Penn State (73-54)

THIS WEEK: At Wisconsin (1/26); vs. Iowa (1/29)

Those wins over Kentucky and Ohio State are still there, but their shoulders are only so broad. How the Hoosiers handle a schedule over the next two weeks that includes trips to Wisconsin, Purdue and Michigan will go a long way in determining whether or not IU is a legitimate contender to finish in the top four of the conference and earn a first round bye in the league tournament.

Resized image16. SAINT MARY'S (19-2, 8-0) (NR)

LAST WEEK: Beat Pepperdine (61-47); Beat Santa Clara (93-77)

THIS WEEK: At Loyola Marymount (1/26); At BYU (1/28)

The Gales held serve against Gonzaga and BYU at home, but three of their next four games will come against the other WCC powers (the Bulldogs, Cougars and Loyola Marymount) on the road. It's going to be extremely difficult to make it through that stretch unscathed, but if Saint Mary's does it will be a handful of spots higher in these rankings come mid-February, not to mention poised to earn a sparklingly low seed in the NCAA Tournament.

DROPPED OUT: Virginia (13), Connecticut (14)

ON THE CUSP: Florida, Marquette, Virginia, Mississippi State, Michigan, Kansas State, Florida State.

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