1. Michigan State Spartans (11-0)
Previous Ranking: 1
Last Week: Beat Maryland-Eastern Shore (78-35); Beat Florida (58-52)
This Week: vs. Northeastern (Saturday)
There are plenty of special things about the way Michigan State has played down the stretch in its five closest games, but topping that list is the Spartans connecting on 30 of their 32 free-throw attempts. This is a team that made the Final Four a season ago despite ranking 336th in Division-I in free-throw percentage, so for them to be connecting on nearly 94 percent of their freebies in the final five minutes of their most important games is a gigantic step forward.
2. Kansas Jayhawks (8-1)
Previous Ranking: 3
Last Week: Beat Holy Cross (92-59); Beat Oregon State (82-67)
This Week: vs. Montana (Saturday)
It feels wrong moving the Jayhawks up after Gary Payton II did this to them last Saturday ...
Fortunately for KU, the officials made the unpopular decision to continue the game and the Jayhawks wound up winning by 15.
3. Oklahoma Sooners (7-0)
Previous Ranking: 8
Last Week: Beat Villanova (78-55); Beat Oral Roberts (96-73)
This Week: vs. Creighton (Saturday)
Despite a post-Villanova letdown in which Oklahoma allowed Oral Roberts to shoot 53 percent from the field in the first half, the Sooners jump five spots to No. 3 this week. OU was rescued by an improved defensive effort after halftime and a 30-point performance by star guard Buddy Hield, who fell just one point short of his career-high.
4. Kentucky Wildcats (9-1)
Previous Ranking: 6
Last Week: Beat Eastern Kentucky (88-67); Beat Arizona State (72-58)
This Week: vs. Ohio State (Saturday)
Even though it got next to nothing from future lottery pick Skal Labissiere, Kentucky may have found itself a little bit in the final 10 minutes against Arizona State. The Wildcats, who were just 1-of-17 outside the paint in the first half against ASU, killed the Sun Devils in transition down the stretch and also connected on five of eight shots from beyond the arc.
It's certainly not time for John Calipari to completely give up on Labissiere yet, but the Arizona State game gave a glimpse into how much more effective the Wildcats are when they're getting up and down and letting the backcourt of Ulis, Briscoe and Murray (who were always going to be the strength of the team anyway) have complete control of the show.
5. Maryland Terrapins (9-1)
Previous Ranking: 4
Last Week: Beat Connecticut (76-66); Beat Maryland-Eastern Shore (77-56)
This Week: vs. Princeton (Saturday)
The Terps were on the verge of what would have been a brutal collapse against Connecticut last week before Kevin Ollie decided that some papers on the scorer's table were looking at him the wrong way.
Ollie said after the game that he "didn't see" the papers, an excuse that didn't erase the technical he was assessed that basically ended any hope of UConn pulling the upset.
6. Duke Blue Devils (8-1)
Previous Ranking: 5
Last Week: No Games
This Week: vs. Georgia Southern (Tuesday); vs. Utah (Saturday)
Per usual, the Blue Devils have taken things pretty easy during finals time, a trend that ends Saturday when they head to Madison Square Garden to face Utah. More concerning than the game against the Utes, however, is the news of senior forward Amile Jefferson being sidelined indefinitely with a right foot injury. If the foot injury affects Jefferson -- who is currently averaging 11.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game -- the same way it affected Ryan Kelly and Kyrie Irving, then Duke's chances at defending their national championship will be drastically diminished.
7. Purdue Boilermakers (11-0)
Previous Ranking: 10
Last Week: Beat IUPUI (80-53); Beat Howard (93-55); Beat Youngstown State (95-64)
This Week: vs. Butler (Saturday)
The computer rankings love the Boilermakers, who continue to slaughter inferior competition in a manner similar to the way the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers used to take care of the lower-tier villains in the first half of their show. A.J. Hammons is the Green Ranger.
8. Iowa State Cyclones (9-0)
Previous Ranking: 9
Last Week: Beat Buffalo (84-63); Beat Iowa (83-82); Beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff (78-64)
This Week: vs. Northern Iowa (Saturday)
The succeeding debate over court storming overshadowed the fact that Iowa State pulled off what should stand as one of the most impressive comebacks of the season, erasing a 20-point second half deficit to stun rival Iowa in the final seconds. Of course it also overshadowed questions about why the Cylcones were facing a 20-point second half deficit against Iowa in the first place.
9. Xavier Musketeers (10-0)
Previous Ranking: 12
Last Week: Beat Wright State (90-55); Beat Cincinnati (65-55)
This Week: vs. Auburn (Saturday)
We're only a month into the season, but the Musketeers' play already has some longtime Xavier fans wondering aloud if this is the best team X has ever fielded.
10. North Carolina Tar Heels (7-2)
Previous Ranking: 2
Last Week: Lost to Texas (84-82)
This Week: vs. Tulane (Wednesday); vs. UCLA (Saturday)
I'm still not 100 percent convinced that the ball was completely off his hands at the buzzer, but regardless, UNC had no business being in that position.
The Heels are going to be right there once the end of the season rolls around, but they're just not quite as far along as we thought they were this time last week.
11. Virginia Cavaliers (8-1)
Previous Ranking: 11
Last Week: Beat West Virginia (70-54)
This Week: vs. Villanova (Saturday)
It seems wrong not moving the Cavaliers up after such an impressive win over a West Virginia team that also appeared in the rankings last week, but sometimes that's just the way things shake out in the fast-paced world of college basketball power rankings. Deserving teams get forced to stand in place a week longer than they should. Just know that we were all impressed, UVA.
12. Villanova Wildcats (8-1)
Previous Ranking: 7
Last Week: Lost to Oklahoma (78-55); Beat La Salle (76-47)
This Week: At Virginia (Saturday)
Either make more three-pointers or shoot fewer three-pointers. Those are your two options. I mean I guess "keep doing what you're doing and lose to Virginia" is a third option, but I have no idea why you'd choose that one.
13. Louisville Cardinals (7-1)
Previous Ranking: 14
Last Week: Beat Eastern Michigan (86-53)
This Week: vs. Kennesaw State (Wednesday); vs. Western Kentucky (Saturday)
If the Cardinals are 11-1 heading into their Dec. 26 showdown at Kentucky (which they should be), it will be the fourth straight season that Louisville has held that record after its opening 12 games.
14. Arizona Wildcats (9-1)
Previous Ranking: 13
Last Week: Beat Fresno State (85-72); Beat Missouri (88-52)
This Week: vs. Northern Arizona (Wednesday); vs. UNLV (Saturday)
If Allonzo Trier is as good as he's looked the past couple of weeks, then Sean Miller might have a better shot at getting over the hump and into the Final Four for the first time than anyone thought. The freshman guard from Seattle picked up Pac-12 Player of the Week honors after averaging 21.0 points on 72 percent (13-of-18) shooting, including 63 percent (5-of-8) behind the arc.
15. Providence Friars (10-1)
Previous Ranking: 15
Last Week: Beat Boston College (66-51); Beat Bryant (74-67)
This Week: vs. Rider (Saturday)
I'm not sure what the teams of note from the Northeast are eating that is making them all sick, but they need to stop eating it. Providence's struggle against Bryant showed just how much they need Kris Dunn to not miss any more games with stomach bugs ... or any other type of bug.
16. Miami Hurricanes (8-1)
Previous Ranking: NR
Last Week: Beat Florida (66-55)
This Week: vs. Charleston (Saturday)
With no more games scheduled in the series, Miami could own bragging rights over their in-state rivals from Florida for a long time after last week's 66-55 victory, the Hurricanes' second straight over the Gators.
West Virginia (16)
THE NEXT 10:
20. West Virginia
21. George Washington
23. Texas A&M
24. Wichita State
25. South Carolina
26. Arkansas-Little Rock
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SB Nation presents: Kerwin Roach with the dunk of the year