Thoughts on the AP poll: Duke up to No. 16, Florida Atlantic soars into the top 10 amid Big East drama

After a marquee win against Baylor, Duke rises to No. 16 in the AP top 25.
After a marquee win against Baylor, Duke rises to No. 16 in the AP top 25.

Duke improved to No. 16 in the AP poll following a victory against Baylor. After another eventful week of college basketball, the Blue Zone is here to break down the Christmas edition of the poll: 

Bears down, Devils up

Christmas came early for Duke fans, as the Blue Devils got a 78-70 victory against then-No. 10 Baylor Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. The arena nicknamed “Cameron North” was energized by a career night from freshman guard Jared McCain, who shot 7-of-11 with 21 points to lead the way for the Blue Devils. Duke held tough throughout the game, and battled to a seven-point lead with four minutes to play after trailing most of the second half. With the win, Duke bumped up five spots in this week’s poll to No. 16, just one above the Bears, who dropped seven places to No. 17.  The Blue Devils will face one more test in 2023, a home matchup against Queens University Dec. 30. 

First loss for the Sooners

Wednesday saw another high-profile matchup as then-No. 11 North Carolina faced off against undefeated then-No. 7 Oklahoma at the Jumpman Classic in Charlotte. From the jump it was all Tar Heels, who got out to a 12-2 lead and held on for a 81-69 win, giving the Sooners their first loss of the year. Senior guard RJ Davis continued an impressive campaign with a 23-point performance in the win, and North Carolina moved into the top 10 at No. 9 in this week’s poll. Oklahoma fell five spots to No. 12, and left just three undefeated teams: No. 3 Houston, No. 20 James Madison and No. 24 Ole Miss. 

Florida Atlantic defeats Arizona in thriller

In a candidate for game of the year, then-No. 14 Florida Atlantic took down No. 4 Arizona 96-95 in a double-overtime thriller. It was the Owls’ first win over a top-10 team in school history, one which vaulted them to No. 7 in the AP poll. The Wildcats remained at No. 4 in an unchanged top five from last week’s poll. Florida Atlantic was down 19-5 late in the first half before going on a massive run to cut the deficit to 37-31 at the break. Arizona’s fast-paced offense was slowed by the Owls, who also dominated second half shooting. The game remained back-and-forth to the end, before Wildcat star Caleb Love — who shot 8-for-25 from the field — missed a three to give Florida Atlantic the win. Both teams begin conference play shortly and will be looking to make deep runs in March. 

Bedlam in the Big East

This week also kicked off the Big East conference season for some teams, three of whom were upset. Unranked Providence knocked off then-No. 6 Marquette at home Tuesday in a big 72-57 victory. The Friars then beat Butler Saturday, and the perfect week saw them enter the poll at No. 25 this week. The Golden Eagles bounced back with a 30-point win against Georgetown, but they still fell four places to No. 10 in this week’s poll. Seton Hall also got a strong win to open its conference slate, defeating No. 5 UConn 75-60 at home. The unranked Pirates joined fellow unranked squad Villanova in getting top-25 upsets; the Wildcats went on the road and narrowly defeated then-No. 12 Creighton 68-66 Wednesday.  The Huskies then got a win over St. John’s to remain at No. 5, but the Blue Jays’ loss dropped them all the way to No. 22. 

Full Rankings 

  1. Purdue
  2. Kansas
  3. Houston
  4. Arizona
  5. UConn
  6. Tennessee 
  7. Florida Atlantic
  8. Kentucky 
  9. North Carolina
  10. Marquette 
  11. Illinois 
  12. Oklahoma
  13. Gonzaga
  14. BYU
  15. Colorado State
  16. Duke
  17. Baylor
  18. Clemson
  19. Memphis
  20. James Madison
  21. Texas
  22. Creighton
  23. Wisconsin 
  24. Ole Miss
  25. Providence


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