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Thoughts on the AP Poll: Duke men's basketball slides to No. 9

<p>Duke landed at No. 9 in the AP Poll after a 2-1 week.</p>

Duke landed at No. 9 in the AP Poll after a 2-1 week.

On the heels of a busy week in college basketball, it's time for the Blue Zone's thoughts on the latest AP Poll. This week, Duke dropped in the rankings to No. 9:

Blue Devils down and ACC out

Duke enjoyed somewhat of a mixed week, losing on a heartbreaking buzzer-beater against Virginia before dismantling Clemson and Boston College on the road. While the latter two games were more up to speed with what we’ve come to expect from this Blue Devil team, Monday’s defeat once again proved the slight inconsistency it has and the difficulty it has seen in closing out tight games. The mix of unconvincing basketball at points against the Tigers and Eagles and the loss to Virginia meant rising in rankings, or even staying steady, was unlikely, and Duke finds itself a perhaps disappointing No. 9 in this week’s poll.

Mind you, it’s not all bad, as it finally seems like Trevor Keels is back to full strength after an injury absence and Paolo Banchero is getting back to his swashbuckling best, so don’t be surprised if this week’s down ranking is merely a temporary one.

What is and remains bad, however, is the ACC’s representation in the top 25. Any challenger to the Blue Devils’ throne atop the conference seems too inconsistent to realistically place themselves in the NCAA’s upper echelons and that remains the case this week. Aside from Duke, not a single ACC team has cracked into the AP Poll since November, and as the weeks go on it is becoming harder and harder to imagine any team—Virginia and North Carolina included, despite their historical dominance—really threatening the powerhouse teams of the SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 in March.

Baylor, Kansas and Auburn fall after tough losses

After a hectic stretch in which Baylor was pummeled by 23 points against Kansas, the Jayhawks got edged by Texas and Auburn lost just their second game of the season in an overtime thriller versus Arkansas, all three teams came out hungry in the latter half of the week. The Bears took down the Longhorns 80-63 to halt their worrying losing skid that surprisingly didn’t kick them out of the top ten, Kansas beat Oklahoma and the Tigers rebounded to dispel Texas A&M by 17.

The later victories by these three teams made sure none fell further, as the reigning national champion Bears now find themselves ranked No. 7, head coach Bill Self’s Jayhawks sit at No. 6 and Auburn, now No. 2, has been eclipsed once again by head coach Mark Few and Gonzaga. Of course, all three of these teams are incredibly talented and can beat anyone on their day, but each endured a brief rough patch that ended well but didn’t do much for their AP stock. Like many in the top 10 nowadays, the big teams have some big questions to answer.

Gonzaga, Kentucky and Arizona cement themselves at the top

In spite of the inconsistencies and occasional losses by other top-10 heavyweights like Baylor, Duke and Kansas, a few teams have been remarkably consistent and have risen to the top of the AP rankings. Gonzaga perennially occupies the No. 1 spot and once again assumes it this week, with Kentucky’s impressive win against Florida placing them at No. 4 and a resurgent Arizona sitting at No. 3 after a 24-point blowout against Washington.

Importantly, their successes come partially from their own brilliance but also from the failures of their closest competitors. In the SEC, Auburn lost. Preseason top-dog UCLA lost again, this time to USC, in the Pac-12. Though the WCC isn’t a Power Five conference, Gonzaga has steamrolled everyone it has faced and been left uncontested in its dominance. Even Purdue, who has been in and around the top of the rankings for most of this season, dropped a big game to Michigan.

This week saw a lot of top teams get beaten by teams they shouldn't have lost to. It’s starting to seem like it’s clear what the No. 1 seeds in March will be, and the Bulldogs and Wildcats (twice) look like prime candidates.

Complete rankings:

1. Gonzaga

2. Auburn

3. Arizona

4. Kentucky

5. Purdue

6. Kansas

7. Baylor

8. Providence

9. Duke

10. Villanova

11. Texas Tech

12. Illinois

13. UCLA

14. Houston

15. Wisconsin

16. Tennessee

17. Southern California

18. Ohio State

19. Michigan State

20. Texas

21. Murray State

22. Wyoming

23. Arkansas

24. Connecticut

25. Alabama

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