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Thoughts on the AP Poll: Duke rises to No. 6 in latest rankings

<p>Duke scored wins against Wake Forest and N.C. State to boost its ranking to No. 6.</p>

Duke scored wins against Wake Forest and N.C. State to boost its ranking to No. 6.

With another week of college basketball in the rearview mirror, it's time for another installment of the Blue Zone's thoughts on the latest AP Poll. This week, Duke's pair of strong ACC wins and a few top-five losses helped the Blue Devils rise to No. 6:

Duke improves from last week

Duke, which checks in this week at No. 6, has been getting back into form after rusty performances against Georgia Tech and Miami. It’s obvious that the Blue Devils’ time off due to COVID-19 made an initial impact on the program, with the first games back full of turnovers, stagnant offense and inefficient defense. However, head coach Mike Krzyzewski's team took care of business in last week's ACC matchups against Wake Forest and N.C. State with Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin and Mark Williams acting as the impact players. This recent success was definitely influenced by Griffin's move to the starting lineup, with the freshman giving the Blue Devils more size.

Duke’s ability to recuperate definitely played a role in this week's rise in the AP Poll, but the main reason for that rise is a handful of top-five losses. Given that the ACC is the only Power Five conference without multiple teams in the top 25, the Blue Devils lack opportunities to impress in their remaining conference games. This means that Duke will continue to depend on the misfortune of higher-ranked teams in order to rise, but another loss in a surprisingly weak ACC could cause Krzyzewski's team to drop meaningfully.  

Struggles from last week’s top five

With five top-five losses, it was a crazy week in college basketball. Two of those losses came from head coach Scott Drew’s then-No. 1 Baylor team, which fell to then-No. 19 Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. The fact that both of these losses were at home doesn’t look good for the Bears, but it’s obvious that they are still a dominant team, which explains their new No. 5 ranking. 

There were many surprises last week in the Pac-12, as an unranked Oregon squad took down two other programs from last week’s top five against UCLA and USC, previously ranked No. 3 and No. 5, respectively. The Bruins and Trojans both fell from last week's position, and as it turns out, USC suffered another loss last week to Stanford, which further justifies its fall to No. 16. This type of top-five volatility is definitely out of the norm, and it’s the last thing that these powerhouse programs want as we move closer to March.

Memphis continues to disappoint

For yet another week, Memphis finds itself out of the top 25, this time after suffering two AAC losses to East Carolina and UCF. Penny Hardaway and the Tigers haven’t been fulfilling expectations given their unexpected 9-7 record, despite having potential lottery picks Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren. 

Memphis’ struggles may impact these players’ draft stock, which could potentially boost a few Blue Devils in mock drafts. A handful of projections have five Duke players being selected in the NBA draft's first round: Banchero, Griffin, Williams, Wendell Moore Jr. and Trevor Keels. Given Memphis’ recent struggles, it will be interesting to see where Bates and Duren end up being drafted in relation to those Blue Devils.

Complete rankings:

1. Gonzaga

2. Auburn

3. Arizona

4. Purdue

5. Baylor

6. Duke

7. Kansas

8. Wisconsin


10. Houston

11. Villanova

12. Kentucky

13. LSU

14. Michigan State

15. Iowa State

16. Southern California

17. Illinois

18. Texas Tech

19. Ohio State

20. Xavier

21. Providence

22. Loyola Chicago

23. Texas 

24. Tennessee

25. Connecticut


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