There's been a lot of moving and shaking in the 8-16 area over the past couple of weeks, but not so much in the upper half of the rankings. That could change over the next seven days as a number of the top teams in the country will face major tests...or they could all win and things will continue to stay the same.
My blue "PaperMate" pen matches the pajama pants I'm wearing. That's why my opening paragraph is so, you know, insightful, professional and on the money.
1. KENTUCKY (23-1, 9-0) (1)
LAST WEEK: Beat Tennessee (69-44); Beat South Carolina (86-52)
THIS WEEK: vs. Florida (2/7); At Vanderbilt (2/11)
The Wildcats have won 15 straight and own the nation's longest home winning streak, but they haven't faced a ranked opponent since their New Year's Eve victory over Louisville. That changes on Tuesday when No. 8 Florida comes to Rupp Arena. UK then heads to Nashville on Saturday for another test against a Vanderbilt team that was ranked before Monday.
2. SYRACUSE (23-1, 10-1) (2)
LAST WEEK: Beat St. John's (95-70)
THIS WEEK: vs. Georgetown (2/8); vs. Connecticut (2/11)
Digger Phelps called "Fab Melo" "Thad Matta" on ESPN Monday night. This doesn't really have any bearing on the Syracuse basketball team, but it happened, and the sad thing is that zero people were surprised. He receives a large paycheck for his work.
LAST WEEK: Beat Wisconsin (58-52)
THIS WEEK: vs. Purdue (2/7); vs. Michigan State (2/11)
OSU got its first road win over a ranked opponent last weekend, and it came in Madison where the Buckeyes hadn't won since 2000. Ohio State now gets a pair of games at the Schottenstein Center, where they've won 38 straight and are 16-0 this season.
4. NORTH CAROLINA (20-3, 7-1) (7)
LAST WEEK: Beat Wake Forest (68-53); Beat Maryland (83-74)
THIS WEEK: vs. Duke (2/8); vs. Virginia (2/11)
I finally did it. I finally jumped North Carolina to the spot where the world knows they should be despite a pair of performances that make the leap appear unjustified. This only guarantees that Duke will beat them by double digits in the Smith Center.
Duke's not going to beat them by double digits in the Smith Center.
5. MISSOURI (22-2, 9-2) (4)
LAST WEEK: Beat Kansas (74-71); Beat Oklahoma (71-68)
THIS WEEK: vs. Baylor (2/11)
I love watching the Tigers play as much as the next fan, but let's be real: they didn't deserve that game against Kansas and a similar effort won't get them a win in Lawrence. Mizzou then narrowly avoided a disastrous - for their Big 12 title hopes at least - letdown loss against Oklahoma Monday night.
6. KANSAS (18-5, 8-2) (5)
LAST WEEK: Beat Oklahoma (84-62); Lost to Missouri (74-71)
THIS WEEK: At Baylor (2/8); vs. Oklahoma State (2/11)
The Jayhawks lost out on a key opportunity to gain a stranglehold on the Big 12 title race by blowing an eight-point lead in the final two minutes at Missouri. There's no time to sulk, however, as they hit the road again for another major matchup on Wednesday night against Baylor.
7. BAYLOR (21-2, 8-2) (6)
LAST WEEK: Beat Texas A&M (63-60); Beat Oklahoma State (64-60)
THIS WEEK: vs. Kansas (2/8); At Missouri State (2/11); vs. Iowa State (2/13)
Baylor successfully, if not impressively, made it through a four-game stretch against unranked Big 12 foes they were expected to defeat. Now the Kansas/Missouri/Iowa State gauntlet is officially upon the Bears.
8. MICHIGAN STATE (17-4, 6-2) (9)
LAST WEEK: Lost to Illinois (42-41); Beat Michigan (64-54)
THIS WEEK: vs. Penn State (2/8); At Ohio State (2/11)
It feels wrong moving the Spartans up a spot the week after they lost a game to Illinois in which they scored 41 points, but Draymond Green was in foul trouble and then hurt, and the rest of the competition for this spot is incredibly average.
9. FLORIDA (19-4, 7-1) (14)
LAST WEEK: Beat South Carolina (74-66); Beat Vanderbilt (73-65)
THIS WEEK: At Kentucky (2/7); vs. Tennessee (2/11)
LAST WEEK: Beat Southeast Missouri State (81-73); Beat Tennessee-Martin (65-58)
THIS WEEK: vs. Tennessee State (2/9); vs. Austin Peay (2/11)
The Racers didn't look especially impressive in a pair of wins against SEMO St. and Tennessee-Martin, two teams with a combined overall record of 15-33 (to be fair to the Redhawks, UT-Martin is 3-22). I don't think there's any question that the perfect season is completely lodged in the mind of each Murray player, and I'll be shocked if they make it into March unscathed.
11. DUKE (18-3, 5-1) (8)
LAST WEEK: Beat Virginia Tech (75-60); Lost to Miami (78-74 OT)
THIS WEEK: At North Carolina (2/8); vs. Maryland (2/11)
Hey look, Duke got exploited inside again. They'll give a great effort against North Carolina (even if they don't win), and everyone will once again cast all their deficiencies to the side. Then those same people will be stunned (STUNNED!) when they bow out in the round of 32 or Sweet 16 to a "worse" team with more size and athleticism.
12. SAINT MARY'S (22-2, 11-0) (13)
LAST WEEK: Beat San Diego (84-73)
THIS WEEK: At Gonzaga (2/9); vs. Santa Clara (2/11)
Thursday night's game at Gonzaga appears to be the only major roadblock standing in the way of the Gaels' quest to run the table in the West Coast conference. It would be an impressive feat in any year, but especially in one when many had the WCC pegged as the best mid-major conference in the country.
13. GEORGETOWN (18-4, 8-3) (15)
LAST WEEK: Beat Connecticut (58-44); Beat South Florida (75-45)
THIS WEEK: At Syracuse (2/8); vs. St. John's (2/12)
A rivalry win over Syracuse on Tuesday and all of the sudden the Hoyas have a legitimate shot at the Big East title.
14. FLORIDA STATE (16-6, 7-1) (NR)
LAST WEEK: Beat Georgia Tech (68-54); Beat Virginia (58-55)
THIS WEEK: At Boston College (2/8); vs. Miami (2/11)
The turnovers are down, the shots are falling, the defense is still there, and all of the sudden a Seminole squad that didn't appear capable of scoring 55 points in December is the hottest team in college basketball. Balance has been the key to the turnaround for FSU, which in its eight ACC game has been led in scoring by six different players.
LAST WEEK: Beat Illinois State (102-74); Lost to Northern Iowa (65-62)
THIS WEEK: At Evansville (2/7); vs. Wichita State (2/11)
The hot debate in the Midwest after Creighton's 102-74 drubbing of Ilinois State was whether or not the Bluejays were the best Missouri Valley team of the past 20 years. Then this happened at Northern Iowa:
The Valley's still the Valley.
16. UNLV (21-4, 5-2) (11)
LAST WEEK: Beat Colorado State (82-63); Lost to Wyoming (68-66)
THIS WEEK: vs. San Diego State (2/11)
I know it seems like San Diego State should be in this spot since they own the better MWC record and have, you know, already beaten UNLV. My only defense here is the classic "well this other team is better, just wait and see." Is that a classic line? I'm going to say it is.
Anyway, if the Rebels don't beat the Aztecs this week I'll issue a full apology in the space SDSU occupies.
DROPPED OUT: Marquette (16)
ON THE CUSP: San Diego State, Virginia, Marquette, Mississippi State, Harvard, Louisville, Wisconsin.