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Thoughts on the AP poll: Duke men’s basketball’s rivals find their way back into the national spotlight

<p>R.J. Barrett and the Blue Devils remain the top-ranked team in the ACC.</p>

R.J. Barrett and the Blue Devils remain the top-ranked team in the ACC.

With nearly a month of conference play in the books, things are starting to shape up across college basketball, as seen in the latest AP poll:  

Kentucky and North Carolina rise after big wins

Early season struggles from the Tar Heels and Wildcats pushed the two blue bloods out of the national title conversation per most pundits, but a confidence building week from both squads has them right back up with the elite teams in the country. North Carolina was faced with a short week when they hosted then No. 10 Virginia Tech on Big Monday, and they delivered, blasting the Hokies with 16 three pointers in their first 100-point performance since beating No. 4 Gonzaga. The win put the Tar Heels back in the top 10 for the first time in five weeks, checking in at No. 9. Later in the week, it was Kentucky’s turn, as they faced off in primetime against then-No. 9 Kansas and held the Jayhawks off late, pushing John Calipari’s squad to No. 7 in the latest poll.

Top five holds steady

The past week was far from chaotic, as the only teams in the top 12 with losses in Week 12 came against other teams in the leading dozen. Both Virginia and Michigan, ranked 3rd and 6th respectively, bounced back from losses last week to go 2-0 on the week, and the top two teams, Tennessee, with 48 first place votes, and Duke, with 12 votes for the top spot, survived slow starts to hold their spots.

Maryland takes a big fall

Mark Turgeon’s team was not on the radar for many coming into this season, but after playing Virginia close early on and racking up wins, the Terrapins rocketed into the top 15 as they prepared to face Michigan State this past week with a chance to prove themselves. It was unfortunately too much for Maryland to handle, and to add insult to injury, the Terrapins were knocked off by Big Ten bottom feeder Illinois later in the week. Maryland now sits at No. 21 in the latest rankings, needing a big win to get them back near the top of the polls.

Complete rankings:

  1. Tennessee
  2. Duke
  3. Virginia
  4. Gonzaga
  5. Michigan
  6. Michigan State
  7. Kentucky
  8. Nevada
  9. North Carolina
  10. Marquette
  11. Kansas
  12. Virginia Tech
  13. Houston
  14. Villanova
  15. Louisville
  16. Texas Tech
  17. Purdue
  18. Buffalo
  19. LSU
  20. Iowa State
  21. Maryland
  22. Mississippi State
  23. North Carolina State
  24. Wisconsin
  25. Florida State