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How we voted: Blue Devils cling to No. 1 ranking, but Spartans have looked mighty good since early-season loss

Michigan State's Nick Ward (44) shoots in front of Nebraska's Jordy Tshimanga during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis) (Al Goldis / AP)
Michigan State's Nick Ward (44) shoots in front of Nebraska's Jordy Tshimanga during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis) (Al Goldis / AP)

Marvin Bagley III continues to look like a player who could make an impact on most NBA rosters right now and the Duke Blue Devils continue to look like the best college basketball team in the country, no questions asked.

But Tom Izzo has something special brewing at Michigan State and the Spartans have been dominant in six games – including those against teams ranked No. 5 and No. 9 – since their seven-point loss to the Dukies.

Kansas and Villanova have yet to stumble, but it would easy to make a case for MSU as the nation’s No. 2. Chances are, the Spartans will get there anyway.

How we voted

1. Duke (10-0)

2. Kansas (7-0)

3. Villanova (8-0)

4. Michigan State (7-1)

5. Miami (FL) (7-0)

6. Florida (5-1)

7. Kentucky (7-1)

8. Texas A&M (7-0)

9. North Carolina (8-1)

10. Notre Dame (7-1)

11. Minnesota (8-1)

12. Wichita State (6-1)

13. Gonzaga (7-1)

14. Virginia (8-0)

15. Cincinnati (7-1)

16. Xavier (7-1)

17. Creighton (5-1)

18. Baylor (5-2)

19. Arizona State (7-0)

20. TCU (8-0)

21. Louisville (4-2)

22. Seton Hall (7-1)

23. Texas Tech (6-1)

24. Nevada (8-0)

25. Texas (5-2)

*Records as of Sunday night

Five thoughts

1) I’m not so sure I wouldn’t take Sparty in a Michigan State v. Duke rematch. Tom Izzo has his bunch playing as well as anyone in the country, as evidenced by the 20-point win over UConn, the 19-point win over North Carolina and the 18-point win over Notre Dame. With seven cupcakes on deck, I’d be surprised if the Spartans played in a single-digit game before Big Ten play opens.

2) What a time to be a resident of College Station, Texas. The Aggies emptied their pockets to bring Jimbo Fisher to town in hopes of turning Texas A&M football into a top-10 program. Bill Kennedy’s done that for the basketball team and it didn’t even take a 10-year, $75 million deal. At 7-0 and with two top-15 wins under their belt, the Aggies have their last true nonleague test on Tuesday versus Arizona.

3) Xavier bounced back from a bad 16-point loss to Arizona State by knocking off a pair of ranked opponents – No. 16 Baylor and No. 11 Cincinnati. That was good enough for a five-spot bump in our poll and an eight-spot jump in the Top 25. By virtue of the loss, the Bearcats also fell, but not out of the top-20.

4) A one-point home loss to an unranked Rhode Island team is the only obstacle between Seton Hall and a spot in the top-10. That was enough to boot the Pirates out of the rankings for a week, but they redeemed themselves with a trio of wins over Vanderbilt, No. 22 Texas Tech and No. 17 Louisville.

5) Welcome, Nevada. The Wolf Pack got a number of votes last week and made sure they’d sneak in with a couple more wins. They’ve been untested to this point, but that won’t last long with games at Texas Tech and at home versus No. 20 TCU up next.

Perusing the Pac-12

Arizona State – The only thing more impressive than Arizona State is Arizona State’s margin of victory this season. The Sun Devils played a close two-point game against Kansas State, but their other six wins have come by an average of 22 points.

Dropped out

USC – The Trojans fell to No. 25 in the AP poll, but I left them out this time. USC is the only four-win team in the poll and the two losses haven’t been pretty – 75-59 at home to Texas A&M and 72-55 on the road to SMU.

Washington State – There were 64 voters who didn’t think the Cougars were worthy of a Top 25 vote. Of course they weren’t. But that didn’t stop one voter from giving the Cougars a two-spot raise after a 14-point loss to UC Davis in Pullman. And WSU didn’t merely show up at No. 24 or 25 on said person’s ballot – the Cougars were ranked 17th.

Home cooking

After an up close and personal view of Gonzaga on Friday against Creighton, I’m confident the Bulldogs won’t be beat inside the Kennel this season. On Tuesday, they travel to Madison Square Garden to face their second top-10 opponent: No. 4 Villanova. If the Zags pull that one out, I’d also feel pretty good about their chances of bringing a 12-1 record and top-five ranking into WCC play.

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