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A week ago Kansas and Oklahoma gave us the measuring stick for every other college basketball game we want to refer to as “great”.

Let’s see if another Big 12 Conference tilt – this, too, involving the now-No. 1-ranked Jayhawks in the latest Power 16 – can approach it for sheer joyous entertainment value.

Coach Bill Self’s team will be in Morgantown Tuesday night to take on the host and No. 6-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers of Coach Bob Huggins.

The Virginia Cavaliers dropped a couple of road ACC games last week to tumble from No. 6 all of the way out the Power 16. How long will it take for Coach Tony Bennett’s team to move into the ratings? Well, the Cavs can make a nice start of it when they play host to No. 7 Miami Tuesday night.

And, in a USC-UCLA clash that will possibly have more impact on the eventual outcome of the Pac 12 Conference race than any of them have in a long time, the Trojans (14-3 overall and 3-1 in conference) visit Westwood Wednesday night to face the Bruins (11-6 and 2-2).
 

Rank (Last week’s rank)
Record
Comment
1. Kansas (2)
14-1
It’s been darn-near two months (Nov. 18, in Chicago and to Michigan State) since the Jayhawks lost.
2. Michigan St. (3)
16-1
Denzel Valentine’s 23-minute Sunday at Penn State (10 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals) offered just a sniff of what is in store for the rest of the Big Ten now that he is off the injured list.
3. Oklahoma (1)
13-1
The Sooners vs. Jayhawks in Lawrence on Jan. 4 – well beyond an “instant classic”, for sure. And Buddy Hield’s performance in the game was nothing short of classical.
4. North Carolina (4)
15-2
Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson are proving to be quite the 1-2, inside-out senior punch for the Tar Heels.
5. Maryland (5)
15-1
Melo Trimble dropped a 3-point hammer on the Badgers with 1.2 seconds to go in Madison Saturday.
6. West Virginia (8)
14-1
Tuesday night in Morgantown the Mountaineers can help Michigan State move into next week’s No. 1 slot.
7. Miami (9)
13-1
The ‘Canes are a buzzer-beating jumper against Northeastern (Nov. 27) away from being unbeaten right now.
8. Villanova (12)
14-2
Two of the Wildcats’ four Big East wins (without a loss) have come in hostile arenas in Omaha and Indianapolis vs. Creighton and Butler, respectively.
9. Xavier (13)
13-1
Three of their next four Big East games will be played in Cincinnati.
10.  SMU (14)
15-0
Attrition has left the Mustangs with seven scholarship players.
11. Kentucky (15)
14-2
Collectively, at least, these may be the best guards John Calipari has had while in Lexington.
12. Duke (16)
14-2
Since losing to Utah in Madison Square Garden on Dec. 19 the Blue Devils have won five games in a row by an average margin of 23.6 points.
13. Providence (7)
14-2
Senior Kris Dunn will be the consensus All-American but sophomore Ben Bentil has been every pit as critical to the Friars’ success.
14.  Iowa St. (11)
12-3
The Cyclones have lost twice in Ames – go figure.
15. Texas A&M (NR)
13-2
Earning consecutive SEC wins in Starkville and Knoxville speaks volumes about this team’s focus and ability to execute in harsh surroundings.
16. South Carolina (NR)
15-0
The Gamecocks didn’t face the most challenging of non-SEC schedules. But it’s tough to quibble with 15-zip, isn’t it?

ON THE CUSP: Arizona 13-3, Arkansas-Little Rock 14-1, Baylor 12-3, Butler 12-4, Cincinnati 12-5, Connecticut 11-4, Gonzaga 13-3, Houston 13-2, Indiana 14-3, Iowa 12-3, Louisville 13-3, Pittsburgh 14-1, Purdue 14-3, USC 14-3, Utah 12-4 and Virginia 12-3.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK (Jan. 4-10)

*Bryce Alford (UCLA): The son of Bruins’ coach Steve Alford averaged 21.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists to help the team edge Arizona and Arizona in Pauley Pavilion as the Bruins improved to 2-2 in Pac 12 play. Alford, who hit 8 of 16 from behind the arc in the two games, hit the winning 3-pointer to trim the Wildcats Thursday night.

*Alex Caruso (Texas A&M): The Aggies pulled out a couple of road SEC victories over Mississippi State and Tennessee as the 6-5 senior point guard averaged 12.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 2.5 steals and just 2.0 turnovers in an average of 37 minutes.

*Buddy Hield (Oklahoma): In, arguably, the best individual performance of the season Hield scored 46 points (hitting eight of 15 shots from behind the arc) with eight rebounds and seven assists as the Sooners fell to host Kansas last Monday night, 109-106 in 3OT, for their first loss of the season. Five days later he went for 31, eight and five as the Sooners knocked off visiting Kansas State.

*Brice Johnson (North Carolina): He went for a head-shaking 39 points (on 14 of 16 from the field) and grabbed 23 rebounds in an ACC win at Florida State last Monday night. He followed that effort with 16 points, four rebounds and eight assists in another conference victory at Syracuse Saturday.

*Fred VanVleet (Wichita State): The 6-foot senior point guard averaged 11.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 2.5 steals and only 1.5 turnovers as the Shockers defeated Evansville and Southern Illinois to improve to 4-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Follow Frank on twitter @FrankieBur. Also make sure to follow his website at www.burlisononbasketball.com. College coaching staffs interested in Burlison’s scouting service should contact him at [email protected]

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