With the first week of college basketball behind us, the Blue Zone is back with our weekly impression of the newly released AP Poll. As always, we'll be here every Monday until March to keep you up to date:
Duke started its 2021-22 campaign against Kentucky, a familiar opening-night opponent, in a top-10 matchup. With both programs looking to make a resurgence after disappointing outings last season, the game delivered, as both teams showed just how far they have already come.
The Blue Devils were rewarded with a two-spot jump to No. 7 in the AP Poll, putting them right in the mix with other national contenders and conference leaders. Respect for Duke was further reflected in Kentucky’s ranking, as the Wildcats only dropped a few spots to No. 13.
With one of the nation’s best opening-week wins, the Blue Devils now have the public’s attention; it is now just a matter of whether they will be able to build off this early momentum and continue to climb higher. They will have that opportunity soon, when they meet No. 1 Gonzaga in Las Vegas Nov. 26. Duke must first maintain its spot, however, before setting its sights on the top.
Clash of the titans
Duke against Kentucky wasn’t the only marquee matchup in college basketball last week, as a pair of top-five clashes headlined an emphatic start to the season. No. 1 Gonzaga proved why they deserved the top spot in the AP Poll with a definitive victory over then-No. 5 Texas—who fell to No. 8—in an 86-74 game. Gonzaga, being in the West Coast Conference, will have to be dominant against top-tier opponents like Duke and UCLA in the coming weeks to maintain that top spot.
The other top-five matchup was a thriller, as No. 2 UCLA proved their merit by edging then-No. 4 Villanova, who fell a single spot in the rankings, in an exciting overtime affair. The continuous back-and-forth demonstrated that both squads could truly hang with one another. If this game was any indication, we should expect the top end of college basketball to be a competitive battleground this season.
The majority of the teams in the preseason rankings handled business against unranked teams throughout the week, but a pair of ACC programs fell flat. Both Florida State and Virginia—previously ranked at No. 20 and No. 25, respectively—suffered deflating losses to unranked teams, thus requiring the AP Poll to reshuffle its assessment of the conference’s elite.
Virginia Tech is now the ACC’s third-highest voting recipient, trailing only No. 18 North Carolina and Duke. The Hokies sit just outside the top 25 with 50 votes, though, as the conference has just two ranked teams, the least in the Power Five. It’s still early, but if this is any indication, Duke could be competing in a surprisingly weak conference.
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18. North Carolina
19. Ohio State
22. St. Bonaventure
25. Southern California