It’s always sunny in Tempe – or something like that. After a 15-18 finish in 2016-17, former Duke great Bobby Hurley has flipped the switch in year No. 3 at Arizona State. The Sun Devils scored 90-plus for the seventh time this year to knock off second-ranked Kansas at the Allen Fieldhouse. That created some chaos within the Top 10 of this week’s rankings, as well as our own.
1. There was plenty of shakeup inside the Top 10. Five teams lost at least once, including previously unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Duke, and both Kansas and Florida lost twice. Worst loss? Let’s call it a tie between the Gators’ 65-59 defeat to Loyola of Chicago and Notre Dame’s 80-77 home loss to Ball State.
2. So with all the changeup, a new No. 1 emerges. I went with Michigan State (9-1), but the consensus among voters was that Villanova (10-0) is more deserving. Am I just trying to build up some goodwill with MSU fans who might be reading our Holiday Bowl coverage in the coming weeks? Well, that’s one theory. In reality, I still think the Spartans have a better resume, despite the one loss. They also have the best player.
3. The Jayhawks took a big hit on most ballots and one fellow left them off completely. Kansas dropped to 7-2 and 0-2 against the Pac-12 with losses to Arizona State and Washington. Only one of those losses truly looks bad, so I kept them in the Top 10. Perhaps a bit high, but let’s wait and see how the Jayhawks bounce back.
4. I’m still high on Creighton – higher than most, it looks like. With four 100-point games under their belt, the Bluejays can score with just about anyone. They average 90.6 points-per-game and have only lost to No. 21 Baylor at home and No. 12 Gonzaga in the Kennel. They should reach 10-2 easy before visiting Seton Hall after Christmas.
5. Florida State didn’t receive much resistance the first month of the season against a slew of bad opponents. The Florida Gators would be considered a slightly better opponent and the Seminoles crushed them. FSU should cruise through its next three games before facing Duke at Cameron Indoor.
Perusing the Pac-12
Arizona State: The best college basketball team in the country according to a few prognosticators. ASU has passed every test to this point and the Sun Devils should roll through their next three games – against Vanderbilt, Longwood and Pacific – before a highly-anticipated rivalry duel to open Pac-12 play on Dec. 30.
Arizona: In an eight-day, three-game span, Wildcats freshman Deandre Ayton posted 70 points and grabbed 38 rebounds. Sean Miller says there isn’t a better player in America and it’s tough to argue that after the week Ayton just had.
A return to the Final Four always felt like a long shot, but Gonzaga’s 16-point loss to Villanova at Madison Square Garden – a “neutral court” that didn’t feel so neutral – drilled that theory home even further. At least the Zags know they’re still the best the Evergreen State has to offer. As for the Huskies? Perhaps they’re not as close as they thought.
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