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Thoughts on the AP Poll: Duke men's basketball continues to climb, cracks top five in latest rankings

Another undefeated week pushed Duke up to No. 5 in the latest AP Poll.
Another undefeated week pushed Duke up to No. 5 in the latest AP Poll.

Another week of college basketball has come and gone, meaning that it's time for another installment of the Blue Zone's thoughts on the latest AP Poll. This week, Duke crept up a few spots to set up a top-five matchup Friday night:

Duke boosted upwards again

While the Blue Devils did go undefeated in their two games over the past week, those wins—against Gardner-Webb and Lafayette—wouldn’t otherwise do much to bolster their resume. But with the madness beginning as a result of the early-season tournaments and other events, top teams are beginning to fall, leaving teams like Duke as the ultimate beneficiaries of the latest rankings. 

With Michigan’s two unranked losses and the battle between Villanova and Purdue Sunday, the Blue Devils moved up two spots for the second consecutive week to start the season. Sure, head coach Mike Krzyzewski has a very talented squad, but it’s likely many didn’t expect the upcoming Gonzaga matchup to be a top-five battle. Rankings at this point of the season matter little, but the spectacle of a No. 1 versus No. 5 matchup in Las Vegas should get everyone tuning in Friday night.

5 ranked teams falter

This week saw a plethora of interesting matchups, with many between programs from major conferences as part of the Thanksgiving week tournament frenzy. Among the ranked teams that participated in these events and other nonconference games, five of last week’s top 25 fell to unranked opponents. Illinois narrowly lost to Marquette, Oregon was blown out by BYU, Ohio State lost against Xavier and Maryland dropped one to George Mason. 

However, no team was as big of a disappointment this past week as Michigan, an early-season national championship contender. The Wolverines, ranked No. 4 last week, lost two of three, including an 18-point loss to Arizona in the Roman Main Event. Voters took note, sending each of the aforementioned losers tumbling, but none further than Michigan, which dropped all the way to No. 20.

ACC stumbles again

The ACC has been an enigma at the start of this season, with few teams other than Duke really cruising through their nonconference slates. Florida State dropped its first game prior to last week’s rankings and North Carolina fell out of the rankings this week with losses to Purdue and Tennessee in the Cheez-It Hall of Fame Tip-Off. That leaves just four undefeated teams: Duke, Notre Dame, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech. 

So far this season, Virginia Tech has not had the top-tier matchups that both Duke and North Carolina have had, but it is showing its strength by dominating the teams it is expected to defeat handily. In spite of receiving the most votes of any unranked team last week, the 5-0 Hokies find themselves on the outside looking in once again. That leaves the ACC with only one ranked team, though that may change by the time Duke meets Virginia Tech next month.

Complete rankings:

1. Gonzaga

2. UCLA

3. Purdue

4. Kansas

5. Duke

6. Baylor

7. Villanova

8. Texas

9. Memphis

T-10. Kentucky

T-10. Alabama

12. Houston

13. Arkansas

14. Illinois

15. Tennessee 

16. St. Bonaventure

17. Arizona

18. BYU

19. Auburn

20. Michigan

21. Seton Hall

22. Connecticut

23. Florida

24. Southern California

25. Xavier

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