In the first Examiner top 25 poll of the new year, the race for the top spot is as tight as ever. Kansas, Texas and Kentucky all received at least one first place vote, while Purdue used a convincing victory over West Virginia to move to their highest ranking of the season. Here’s my personal ballot from this week:
1. Kansas (–)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 1
Because of the play of freshman Xavier Henry and sophomore Marcus Morris, it’s very possible that Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich each miss out on any postseason awards and accolades.
2. Texas (–)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 2
First year forward Jordan Hamilton looks ready to make his mark on the Big 12. The 6’7″ freshman set career-highs in points (17), assists (7) and three pointers made (3) against Texas A&M-CC over the weekend.
3. Purdue (+1)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 4
A win over a previously undefeated WVU squad is enough motivation for me to move Purdue up a spot this week. JaJuan Johnson, who has always been brimming with potential, is finally playing like a top ten pick.
4. Kentucky (-1)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 3
The Wildcats probably don’t deserve to move backwards after a solid victory over in-state rival Louisville, but this is still a team with some flaws that need to be worked out. DeMarcus Cousins has really started to pick up steam as of late.
5. Duke (+3)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 5
Ho-hum, it’s been business as usual for Mike Krzyzewski and his Blue Devils through the first half of the season. It’s very interesting that an unofficial torch has been passed from Kyle Singler to Jon Scheyer as the team’s go-to option on offense.
6. Villanova (+1)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 6
The Wildcats waited around patiently for one of the remaining undefeated schools to lose, and this week it finally happened as Syracuse d West Virginia went down. Nova has one of the easiest Big East schedules in the early going of any team in the conference, so expect Jay Wright’s crew to keep on rolling.
7. West Virginia (-1)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 9
Although they were given a lesson in defense by Purdue last week, West Virginia still checks in as a top seven school as far as I’m concerned. I have no doubt that they will come back hungry and end up turning this loss into a string of Big East victories.
8. Michigan State (+2)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 12
The Spartans are the only team with three losses in the top ten, but it’s easy to look past those considering that one was a neutral court defeat to Florida and the other two were road losses to Texas and North Carolina.
9. Syracuse (-4)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 7
The Orange really struggled against Seton Hall, and were completely frustrated by Pittsburgh’s defense on Saturday. Wesley Johnson’s numbers are still great and I’ve got him on my early POY list, but you get the feeling that he’s not going to be enough to win games for these guys against teams like Villanova, Cincinnati and Connecticut.
10. Georgetown (+1)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 10
Plenty of people talk about West Virginia and Purdue’s “Big Three”, but Georgetown’s Chris Wright, Greg Monroe and Austin Freeman are averaging a combined 43 points, 16 rebounds and 9 assists per game.
11. North Carolina (+1)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 8
The Heels lost to College of Charleston last night, dropping Roy Williams’ squad to 10-4 on the season. With Virginia Tech, Clemson and Georgia Tech up next, is it possible that UNC falls out of the top 25 in the coming weeks?
12. Kansas State (+2)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 11
Junior guard Jacob Pullen has a 3.3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in his past three games. The Wildcats desperately need him to continue to make proper decisions with the basketball as conference play kicks off. The Big 12 is the deepest non-16 team conference in college hoops this year, so KSU will have their hands full over the next two months.
13. Connecticut (-3)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 13
The Huskies fell to Cincinnati early last week, but that’s just life in the Big East. There’s no doubt that Jim Calhoun’s team is among the most talented in the country. Jerome Dyson’s court vision has been the biggest difference in my opinion. He and Kemba Walker give Connecticut two combo guards who can switch on and off the ball.
14. Florida State (+3)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 18
Looking solely at the resume until this point, Florida State belongs in the discussion as a top 15 team. Their two losses both came on the road, the first to a red hot Florida team, and the second to an Ohio State squad that was playing with Evan Turner. The spark over their current eight game winning streak has been sophomore Deividas Dulkys, a 6’5″ guard from Lithuania.
15. Tennessee (–)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 14
The Vols are 10-2, and their biggest victory of the year was a seven-point win over Memphis on New Year’s Eve. That’s not a good thing for a team that is supposed to compete for a national title. Thankfully we should find out everything we need know about Bruce Pearl’s team on Sunday when they face Kansas.
16. Gonzaga (+5)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 19
The Zags followed up their disastrous loss to Duke with impressive victories over Eastern Washington, Oklahoma and Illinois. Matt Bouldin and company look poised to plow through the WCC regular season like they always do.
17. Georgia Tech (+6)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 21
It’s simply amazing how many impact freshmen are playing prominent roles on top 25 teams right now in college hoops. The Jackets would be in serious trouble without first year studs Derrick Favors and Mfon Udofia filling out the boxscores. Favors could wind up being a top five pick in June if he can stay consistent throughout ACC play.
18. Mississippi (–)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 16
Four of Mississippi’s first six SEC games are on the road, so leading scorer Chris Warren needs to find a way to get his shot back in a hurry. The senior guard has scored 30 points in his last three games after dropping 32 against UTEP back on December 16th.
19. New Mexico (–)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 15
That loss to Oral Roberts looks like a blip on the radar screen after the Lobos beat Texas Tech and Dayton over the past week. The MWC is fairly deep this year, but I see no reason why New Mexico can’t end up winning 27-28 games.
20. Wisconsin (NR)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 17
The Badgers are on a six game winning streak and make an appearance in my top 25 for the first time this season. Unfortunately, these guys play Michigan State and Purdue over the next week. Don’t be surprised to see Wisconsin at 2-2 by next Monday.
21. Pittsburgh (NR)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 24
The hottest team in college basketball? Look no further. Pitt has knocked off Cincy and Syracuse on the road in their last two. A third road win against Connecticut this week would instantly put these guys in the top 15 nationally.
22. Washington (-9)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: 22
The struggles of second year guard Isaiah Thomas continue. Thomas went 6-17 in a loss to Oregon on Saturday, and is now shooting just 32.6% over his past four games. The Huskies could be in serious trouble if he can’t turn things around.
23. Cincinnati (+1)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: NR
Cincy’s loss to Pittsburgh doesn’t look nearly as bad now that the Panthers have established themselves as a top 25 program. The Bearcats still have that win over Connecticut to hang their hats on, and the schedule sets up favorably for Cincinnati to have at least seven wins in their first ten conference games.
24. Butler (NR)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: NR
The Bulldogs are 3-0 in conference play already, and nobody seems capable of challenging them for the Horizon League crown at the moment. The toughest part of the schedule is already over. Expect easy sailing from here on out with a postseason bid to follow.
25. Baylor (NR)
Examiner Overall Week 8 Ranking: NR
The Bears remain one of the most dangerous schools in the country, but many are content letting them fly under the radar until their first Big 12 test rolls around. Scoring guard LaceDarius Dunn reminds me of a miniature version of Kevin Durant.
Dropped Out: Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame
Schimri Yoyo, VIllanova Wildcats
Ben Shlesinger, Maryland Terrapins
Andrew Hardison, Kentucky Wildcats
Matt Lindberg, Kansas Jayhawks
Eric Janzen, Kansas State Wildcats
Ryan Horne, Saint Joseph’s Hawks
Dennis Farmer, Tennessee Volunteers
Dave Ryan, National College Basketball
Gregory Smith, Black College Sports
Eric Fiddleman, North Carolina Tar Heels
Lew Wright, Washington State Cougars
Kim Anderson, Fresno State Bulldogs
Brian Neuberger, Marquette Golden Eagles
Jordan Goetzke, Butler Bulldogs
Ari Bluestein, Drexel Dragons
Brian Gates, New Mexico Lobos
Jeffrey Lendvay, Florida Gators
Scott Coffman, Penn Quakers
Jake Curtis, Stanford Cardinal
Chip Rouse, Kansas City Sports
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For more info: 2009-10 men’s college basketball rankings: Jan. 4