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Thoughts on the AP Poll: Duke men's basketball stagnant in the rankings for the first time this season

Junior forward Wendell Moore Jr. leads the 10-1 Blue Devils in scoring and assists entering conference play.
Junior forward Wendell Moore Jr. leads the 10-1 Blue Devils in scoring and assists entering conference play.

Another week of college basketball is in the rear view, meaning that it's time for another installment of the Blue Zone's thoughts on the latest AP Poll. This week, Duke's three wins held them in place as the No. 2 team in the nation as teams around the country gear up for conference play.

Nowhere to move for Duke

No. 2 Duke comfortably handled its business last week to finish off its nonconference play in dominating fashion. Coming off a two-week intermission there were no signs of rust, as the Blue Devils rolled through South Carolina State, Appalachian State, and Elon by a combined 97 points. Only one team stands between Duke and reestablishing itself atop the national rankings, the defending national champions Baylor. 

However, with the Ohio State blunder still sticking out in the loss column and the Bears remaining unscathed—in spite of a tough road test against Oregon—the Blue Devils have no room to climb. Additionally, with the ACC’s struggles, a potentially weak conference slate for them would mean a lot of opportunities to fumble but very few to impress. Duke will likely only move up if Baylor, any team to leap-frog over it, falters, but could slip simply due to teams behind it continuing to rack up hallmark wins in more competitive conferences.

The undefeated stand tall—for now

With only six undefeated teams left in the nation, they are beginning to separate themselves as the feat becomes more and more impressive to maintain. All six—No. 1 Baylor, No. 6 Arizona, No. 8 USC, No. 9 Iowa State, No. 17 LSU and No. 21 Colorado State—were previously ranked, but continue to soar week-to-week. Four ranked teams falling last week affirm how impressive maintaining that zero in the loss column is. No. 10 Alabama and No. 23 Villanova dropped after brutal losses to Memphis and Creighton, respectively, while UConn's loss to Providence and Arkansas's defeat at the hands of Hofstra dropped them from the rankings completely.

The ACC's underwhelming year continues into conference play

For the fourth straight week, Duke is the ACC’s sole representative in the top 25. 

Before the meat of the conference play has even commenced, all but two teams have already lost at least three games. Wake Forest only dropped one, but it was against the only competitive team the Demon Deacons have faced in LSU, thus warranting little respect from voters. North Carolina had the greatest opportunity to climb back into the rankings last week with a scheduled game against UCLA. The game, like many others, was canceled due to COVID-19. However, No. 20 Kentucky was the Tar Heels' newly scheduled opponent, and they got blown out 98-69. The latest North Carolina loss adds to the growing narrative that even the top teams in the conference can’t compete in marquee matchups. It’s now safe to say that, outside of Duke, the ACC is the weakest of the major conferences in college basketball.

Complete rankings:

1. Baylor

2. Duke

3. Purdue

4. Gonzaga

5. UCLA

6. Arizona

7. Kansas

8. USC

9. Iowa State

10. Alabama

11. Michigan State

12. Auburn

13. Houston

14. Ohio State

15. Seton Hall

16. Texas

17. LSU

18. Xavier

19. Tennessee

20. Kentucky

21. Colorado State

22. Providence

23. Villanova

24. Wisconsin

25. Texas Tech

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