Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Duke consolidates top spot in Top 25 after Champions Classic
By DAVE SKRETTA
Duke proved on a national stage at the Champions Classic last week why so many voters had the Blue Devils atop their Top 25 ballot before the season began.
Now, even more voters have them there.
The Blue Devils, who beat then-No. 2 Michigan State 88-81 in Chicago, pulled in 54 of 65 first-place votes from a national media panel in the AP Top 25 released Monday. That was an increase of 20 first-place votes over the first regular-season poll released last week.
Arizona was the only other team to receive a No. 1 nod, getting 11 first-place votes and taking the Spartans’ place at No. 2. Kansas moved up to third after topping then-No. 7 Kentucky in the other game at the Champions Classic, while Michigan State and Villanova rounded out the top 5.
Wichita State remained at No. 6, while Florida and Kentucky flip-flopped their spots. North Carolina was ninth and Southern California rounded out the top 10.
The Blue Devils got 37 points from Grayson Allen in knocking off the Spartans in the Champions Classic, an impressive performance against one of the toughest teams on their schedule. It certainly left a bigger impression on voters than a ragged 78-61 victory over Southern, arguably the weakest opponent on their schedule, that included 15 turnovers and 4-for-20 shooting from the arc.
“We’ve got to take every game seriously,” the Blue Devils’ Wendell Carter Jr. said.
Well, maybe not this week. Duke faces Furman on Monday night and Portland State on Thursday.
Arizona has won each of its first three games by at least 25 points, but gets a stiffer test against undefeated North Carolina State on Wednesday night, while the Jayhawks cruised to No. 3 thanks to their win over the Wildcats and a laugher over South Dakota State.
Kentucky continued is slow slide, but not so much because of its nip-and-tuck loss to Kansas on a neutral floor. Rather, the Wildcats sleepwalked through a 78-61 victory over East Tennessee State on Friday night in what was a 6-point game at halftime.
“I knew we would have a let-down after Kansas,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “But it just shows, they’re just — they’re not mature enough to figure all this out and that every game matters and you’re being evaluated personally and us as a team every game we play.”
BEST OF THE REST
Miami was No. 11, followed by Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Minnesota and Xavier — all of them staying right where they were last week. Texas A&M and Gonzaga were next, while Purdue and Louisville moved up one spot apiece and Seton Hall jumped to No. 20.
Saint Mary’s, Baylor, UCLA, West Virginia and newcomer Alabama rounded out the Top 25, while Northwestern was the only team to drop from the poll after getting trounced by Texas Tech.
ON THE DOCKET
Several major tournaments this week could produce some high-profile matchups and a reshaping of the Top 25. Villanova and Arizona could meet in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, while Wichita State and Notre Dame could likewise at the Maui Invitational. UCLA and Baylor are in the Hall of Fame Classic, while Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State, Gonzaga and Florida are among the teams in the inaugural, two-bracket Phil Knight Invitational in Oregon.
Alabama broke into the Top 25 after three wins over weak opposition, but the Tide will have to earn their spot now. They face BYU on Friday night in New York before getting No. 14 Minnesota in the premier Saturday matchup of the Barclays Center Classic.
ON THE DOORSTEP
Virginia was the top team outside the Top 25 to receive votes, appearing on 28 of 65 ballots, and Texas Tech moved just outside the rankings after its woodshed win over Northwestern. That gave the Red Raiders the title of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Tournament in Connecticut.
AP TOP 25
2. Arizona (3-0)
3. Kansas (3-0)
4. Michigan State (2-1)
5. Villanova (3-0)
6. Wichita State (2-0)
7. Florida (3-0)
8. Kentucky (3-1)
9. North Carolina (3-0)
10. Southern Cal (3-0)
11. Miami (3-0)
12. Cincinnati (3-0).
13. Notre Dame (3-0)
14. Minnesota (4-0)
15. Xavier (3-0)
16. Texas A&M (2-0)
17. Gonzaga (3-0)
18. Purdue (4-0)
19. Louisville (2-0)
20. Seton Hall (4-0)
21. Saint Mary’s (4-0)
22 Baylor (3-0)
23. West Virginia (2-1)
23. UCLA (3-0)
25. Alabama (3-0)
Others receiving votes: Virginia 93, Texas Tech 81, TCU 36, Northwestern 20, Nevada 19, Providence 11, Maryland 9, Michigan 9, Texas 7, Creighton 6, Oklahoma 5, Temple 4, Oregon 4, Arkansas 3, Texas Arlington 2, Rhode Island 1, Belmont 1, Stephen F Austin 1.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.