It’s conference tournament time in college basketball, meaning the regular season has finished up and the final AP Poll of the regular season is here. This week, Duke dropped to No. 7:
Duke drops, North Carolina enters poll
It's safe to say that not many were expecting a Duke team that had just beaten Syracuse by 25 points and Pittsburgh by 30 to get outplayed in head coach Mike Krzyzewski's final game on the sidelines at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Still, it happened, and despite the two beatdowns it dished out prior to Saturday’s historic date, Duke once again found itself with a red arrow next to its name, finishing the regular season ranked No. 7. Though Saturday's defeat to the Tar Heels will certainly sting, the sheer firepower the Blue Devils have at their disposal—including recently named ACC Freshman of the Year Paolo Banchero and ACC Defensive Player of the Year Mark Williams—means they are still amongst the country’s best.
Duke’s projected seeding for the NCAA tournament, however, remains unchanged. ESPN bracket expert Joe Lunardi had Krzyzewski’s squad as a No. 2 seed before Saturday’s loss, and they are still a No. 2 seed heading into the ACC tournament alongside Kentucky, Auburn and Wisconsin.
North Carolina registered a convincing win against the Blue Devils to spoil Krzyzewski’s going-away party behind monstrous 20-plus point games from Brady Manek, Armando Bacot, Caleb Love and RJ Davis. As a result, the Tar Heels find themselves at No. 25, with the remainder of the ACC absent. Saturday's game marked five straight wins for the Tar Heels, who enter the ACC tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y., in perhaps the conference’s best form. Despite this, there was not one ranked matchup between any two ACC teams all year, meaning this conference season may live on as one of the most dour in the conference’s storied history.
Shakeup in the Big 10
It has been extremely tight at the top of the Big 10 table for a while now, with Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue and Iowa all battling for the top spot at various points. A shocking one-point loss to bottom-dwelling Nebraska took the outright title away from the Badgers as Kofi Cockburn and the Fighting Illini took down the Hawkeyes by two points to seize their first regular-season conference title since 2005. The Big 10’s crazy weekend sent Wisconsin and Iowa down to No. 12 and No. 24, respectively, while Illinois’ important win put them up to No. 16.
That’s not to mention Purdue, Ohio State or Michigan State, either. The Boilermakers saw themselves as the nation’s top dog early in the season, but a recent slide has seen that impenetrability falter and now has them as a No. 3 seed in Lunardi’s bracket, though they fall just one spot in the AP Poll this week to No. 9. The Buckeyes sat at No. 23 last week but now find themselves outside the poll after a crushing six-point loss to Michigan, while the Spartans remain unranked despite a win that saw head coach Tom Izzo become the winningest in conference history.
Big 12 and SEC cement their dominance
Despite the threat that Duke poses and the consistency exhibited by the likes of Wisconsin and Illinois, nobody compares to the Big 12 and SEC right now.
The former had an important weekend as No. 6 Kansas edged then-No. 21 Texas in Lawrence, Kan., by seven points in a thrilling overtime battle. The result puts the two teams at No. 6 and No. 22, respectively, while a resurgent and dangerous Baylor holds its spot at No. 3 after a convincing win again Iowa State, which itself has nine Quad-1 wins to its name.
In the SEC, Auburn clinched the conference title outright behind strong performances from Wendell Green Jr., Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler in a win against South Carolina, moving its national ranking up to No. 4. Kentucky resumed business as usual with a win against Florida while Tennessee and a hot Arkansas team played out a nailbiter that the Volunteers eked out by four. The weekend’s results bring the three teams to No. 5, No. 9 and No. 15, respectively, giving Tennessee its first top-10 mark of the season.
14. Texas Tech
17. Saint Mary’s
19. Murray State
21. Southern California
23. Colorado State
25. North Carolina
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