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Thoughts on the AP Poll: Duke men's basketball heading in the right direction again

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has a long gap between games to get his team on the right track.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has a long gap between games to get his team on the right track.

Conference play finally began and it was a week filled with unexpected victories for unranked teams. Catch up on the latest AP rankings with the Blue Zone:

Duke rewarded for strong showing

After taking care of business in Southbend, Ind., last week against Notre Dame, Duke was rewarded with a single-spot jump in this week’s rankings. The Blue Devils showed some definite positives in their last matchup, but it wasn’t enough to propel them back into the conversation of a top-ten team.

The No. 20 rank is respectable, and the forecast of this team is much sunnier than it was a week ago. There are several questions looming around Duke that need to be answered sooner rather than later, but overall the win against Notre Dame is something Blue Devil fans can be optimistic about. Jaemyn Brakefield, Jeremy Roach and DJ Steward went a combined 15-for-25 from the field and accounted for seven of the team's eight 3-pointers — play that needs to continue as long as Jalen Johnson is sidelined for an unknown period of time with his foot injury.

Duke does not play again until Dec. 29 against Pittsburgh, so it will have time to continue fixing some of the issues that have plagued the team thus far. 

Go Gonzaga go

At this point in the season, it does not look like anybody can compete with No. 1-ranked Gonzaga. The Bulldogs have three wins versus top-10 opponents and put an exclamation mark on their resume with their 11-point victory over a very good Iowa team this past week. Gonzaga’s freshman guard, Jalen Suggs, is everything he was anticipated to be and if the team can continue to shoot at their current clip, it’s hard to see anyone stopping them.

The downside of Gonzaga being in the West Coast Conference is the mediocrity of the rest of the conference teams, but with what the Bulldogs have shown so far, the No. 1 spot will be theirs to lose going through the rest of the season. 

Big Ten still boomin’

It’s looked like the Big Ten is the premier conference in college basketball this season and with every week, the conference continues to build its case. Illinois, who was ranked No. 13 last week, dropped to No. 18 after losing to Rutgers, but Rutgers is not a team to be slept on. Rutgers jumped from No. 19 to No. 11 after its win and the upset does not indicate Illinois is overrated; it more so tells the country that Rutgers is another legitimate Big Ten team this year.

Michigan State had been off to the races this year until the Spartans suffered a crushing loss to an unranked Northwestern team on Sunday night. They dropped all the way down to No. 12, but they have a loaded conference schedule coming up that will offer plenty of opportunities to add quality wins to their portfolio. 

The unranked Purdue boilermakers even snuck up on Ohio State for an early conference upset as well. The Buckeyes fell to No. 23 and it is painstakingly clear that Big Ten teams need to be ready to play every game because the entire conference is packed with talented teams this year. 

Complete Rankings:

1. Gonzaga

2. Baylor

3. Kansas

4. Iowa

5. Villanova

6. Houston

7. West Virginia

8. Tennesse

9. Wisconsin

10. Texas

11. Rutgers

12. Michigan State

13. Creighton

14. Missouri

15. Texas Tech

16. Virginia

17.  North Carolina

18. Illinois

19. Michigan

20. Duke

21. Florida State

22. Xavier

23. Ohio State

24. Virginia Tech

25. Oregon

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