After several top-ranked teams battled each other in tournaments this week, the third AP Poll dropped Monday afternoon. As Duke and some of its key competitors drop and rise, the Blue Zone examines this week's poll:
A minor setback
As the Blue Devil faithful all know, Duke suffered its first loss of the Jon Scheyer era this week at the hands of Kansas in the Champions Classic. Luckily for the Blue Devils, they kept it close with the Jayhawks and have otherwise excelled so far. Falling behind by just five points, Duke's overall solid performance through its four games has left it in top-10 consideration, as it only dropped a single spot to No. 8. Its victorious opponent, Kansas, on the other hand, got to take advantage of stumbles by teams in front of it in the rankings and rose to No. 3 this week. Duke will have plenty of chances to improve its ranking during nonconference play, and a key opportunity is this week’s Phil Knight Legacy tournament, where it may potentially play several ranked teams, such as No. 6 Gonzaga. If Duke can leave Portland, Ore., unscathed, fans will undoubtedly see the Blue Devils rise in the poll again, as Thanksgiving week will certainly bring other elite teams losses.
Rise of the Spartans
While Duke floundered in the final minutes of the Champions Classic, a Spartan team that it has consistently played throughout the years certainly did not. Michigan State has once again proved that while Tom Izzo is at the helm, it can compete with anyone. The Spartans began the season as the odd team out of the top 25, but they have deservedly proved that they belong in the ranks. The team has played a demanding nonconference schedule to date, losing by one to then-No. 2 Gonzaga and picking up wins against then-No. 4 Kentucky and then-No. 16 Villanova. The AP Poll has rewarded Izzo and the Spartans for their performance so far, as Michigan State has jumped up to No. 12 in this week’s poll. The Spartans will have a further chance to bolster their resume in a marquee matchup against No. 18 Alabama this week.
Stumbles in the top 10
The first few weeks of the season always feature high-profile matchups, leading to major shakeups in the early polls. This certainly held true this year, as half of the teams that began the year ranked in the top 10 have already suffered a loss. These losses started as high as No. 2, as Gonzaga was beaten 93-74 by the Longhorns. The aforementioned losses that Kentucky and Duke suffered in Indianapolis created two more blemishes to the current top 10, while another blue blood, UCLA, also suffered a loss, falling 79-70 to Illinois. Baylor also suffered a rough 86-79 loss to a Virginia team that looks like it will be a challenge for the ACC.
Other teams in the top 10 have struggled despite being undefeated, as Kansas had a hard time putting Southern Utah down after defeating Duke and the Tar Heels have struggled to put games away against unranked opponents. With these woes accounted for in the poll, Houston slid up to No. 2, Gonzaga fell to No. 6 and both Texas and Virginia shot up as they entered the top 10 at No. 4 and No. 5, respectively. Feast Week will likely cause another seismic shift in the rankings, as multiple top-10 teams will be competing this weekend.
1. North Carolina
12. Michigan State
17. San Diego State
21. Texas Tech
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