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Thoughts on the AP poll: Duke men's basketball drops to No. 21

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski finds his squad outside of the top 20 as they enter ACC play.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski finds his squad outside of the top 20 as they enter ACC play.

After another week of college basketball filled with game cancellations and head coaches voicing their opinion on if and how the rest of the season should be carried out, the Blue Zone brings you this week’s thoughts on the newly released AP rankings. We’ll be here every Monday noon until March:

Duke free falls to No. 21

After a loss to Michigan State last week, Duke was taken down by Illinois in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in what turned out to be its last non-conference matchup of the regular season. The Blue Devils are still yet to put together a game plan that allows them to compete against top opponents, and with ACC play starting this week, they are going to need to figure something out fast.

Despite the youth of this team being something we knew would not play into Duke’s favor at the beginning of the season, Blue Devil fans have not been hesitant to press the panic button and voice their distaste with how the year has gone so far. 

Dropping all the way to No. 21 is surely something that puts a knot in the stomach of the Duke faithful, especially considering the Blue Devils fell the most spots out of any team this week by quite a margin. Without any more games against low-profile non-conference opponents, Duke is going to have to learn on the run as they being ACC play against Notre Dame on Wednesday.

Blip in the Big Ten

The Big Ten has a lot of people pointing in its direction to answer the question of which conference is the best this season and up until last week, its case was as strong as any. While the Big Ten may still wield the best field of teams, Illinois’ loss to an unranked Missouri team is a bump in the road both for the Fighting Illini and the conference. After being ranked at No. 6 last week, they fell to No. 13 in the latest rankings.

Leading the charge for the Big Ten has been No. 3 Iowa, who has followed the lead of its star big man Luka Garza all year. Garza continued to make his case for national player of the year conversations this past week, as he scored over 30 points while shooting 6-for-7 from 3-point range in Iowa's matchup with Iowa State.

In these latest rankings, the Big Ten has seven teams ranked, two of which are in the top five in Iowa and Michigan State. It is still only December, but the Big Ten needs to be revered this season.

What’s going on in the ACC?

It’s still too early to sound the alarm on the ACC, but this season has not been kind to the conference. Just this past week, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Duke lost, leaving just Florida State, Louisville and Clemson as the only ranked ACC teams without a loss. Virginia Tech’s loss is particularly notable, considering they did lose to an unranked Penn State team and the result was the Hokies' removal from the top-25.

Clemson jumped up to the No. 24 spot after previously being unranked and there are still six ACC teams inside the top 25, but the big three of the conference in Duke, North Carolina and Virginia have already faulted this season.

The Big 12 and Big East are making strong cases for being second and third best conferences behind the Big Ten, and with the ACC’s 6-5 defeat in the ACC/Big Ten challenge this past week, it has some work to do in order for it to reenter the conversation for the premier conference for college basketball this season.

Complete rankings:

1. Gonzaga

2. Baylor

3. Iowa

4. Michigan State

5. Kansas

6. Houston

7. Villanova

8. West Virginia

9. Creighton

10. Tennessee

11. Texas

12. Wisconsin

13. Illinois

14. Texas Tech

15. Florida State

16. Missouri

17. Virginia

18. San Diego State

19. Rutgers

20. Ohio State

21. Duke

22. North Carolina

23. Louisville

24. Clemson

25. Michigan

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