The calendar flips to a new year in a few days, but the same teams are on top again. Still, conference play is beginning and things should get interesting soon.

bgcolor="#ffffff"> middle #cccccc bordercolorlight="#000033">8. Missouri (13) bordercolorlight="#000033"> center class="text">12-1 #000033 class="text">This team is starting to really come together. On last check, there was no word of whether Tony Mitchell would be eligible this season. That continues to weigh on how high the Tigers can go, but for right now, Missouri can sit happy after stunning Illinois in the Braggin’ Rights matchup. This team boasts just the right mix of experience and talent to content for a Final Four bid. bgcolor="#cccccc"> bordercolorlight="#000033"> class="text">9. San Diego State (7) bordercolorlight="#000033"> class="text">14-0 class="text">Sometimes, teams can fall without losing. There’s no good reason IUPUI, a Summit League team with a 7-8 record, should be able to play San Diego State, a team from a tougher conference with a perfect record and a top-10 ranking, within two points. bgcolor="#cccccc"> bordercolorlight="#000033"> class="text">10. Villanova (9) bordercolorlight="#000033"> class="text">10-1 class="text">It’s tough to move Villanova any higher or lower right now. A Dec. 30 matchup against Temple will be huge in determining just how good the Wildcats really are, as they’ve faced a pedestrian nonconference schedule. bgcolor="#ffffff"> bordercolorlight="#000033"> class="text">11. Kentucky (14) bordercolorlight="#000033"> class="text">9-2 class="text">The Wildcats are going to be favored in every game from now until the NCAA Tournament, which puts them in excellent position, particularly in contrast to the five Big East teams and two Big 12 teams ranked ahead of them. [Player: Terrence Jones is putting up a good run against Jared Sullinger for the title of nation’s best freshman, and he’s pushed himself into the discussion of who will be the top pick in the draft.
Rank (Last Week)
1. Duke (1)
Duke’s next opponent is 0-11 UNC-Greensboro, so we can assume the Blue Devils will begin ACC play unbeaten. They won’t get a real challenge until going to Florida State on Jan. 12, and even then, Duke is heads and shoulders above the rest of the ACC this season. The league has struggled in nonconference play, and it’s entirely possible Duke will only lose once or twice in the regular season. Unbeaten? It’s a possibility. But it’s unlikely, especially without Kyrie Irving, who is undergoing an examination next week on his injured right toe but may be out the season.
2. Ohio State (2)
Speaking of soft upcoming schedules, Ohio State starts Big Ten play on New Year’s Eve with a game at Indiana, followed by at Iowa, Minnesota at home, at Michigan, then back home against Penn State and Iowa. Basically, there’s no excuse for the Buckeyes to have more than one loss (Minnesota, if that’s even acceptable) entering their Jan. 22 game at Illinois.
3. Kansas (3)
So this Josh Selby guy is pretty good. It was good to see Kansas come together after Marcus Morris was ejected against Cal. Still, the Jayhawks are a work in progress. They can beat anyone in the country. They are also playing with fire as a very, very difficult Big 12 season approaches.
4. Pittsburgh (6)
If you had any doubt that the Panthers are an elite team, watching them click on all cylinders against Connecticut should have shown you the error in your ways. They go nine-deep as comfortably as any team in the nation, and they’ve got four true playmakers in the backcourt with Ashton Gibbs, Bradley Wanamaker, Gilbert Brown and Travon Woodall. Up front, Pittsburgh may be the toughest team in the country. Their bigs completely shut down Alex Oriakhi
5. Syracuse (6)
Being that we all know Tom Izzo’s teams don’t show up until March, the fact that Syracuse is hanging its hat on one good win, against Michigan State, is the Orange’s biggest weakness. But that weak schedule shifts very quickly as Big East play gets going. Don’t be surprised if Syracuse takes a few lumps early in 2011, because despite the perfect record, this team is still a bit raw.
6. Georgetown (8)
Blasting an overrated Memphis team was no surprise, but what’s impressive is how well the Hoyas are playing together lately. Chris Wright seems more committed than ever to being a point guard instead of a scorer and erratic playmaker, and John Thompson III is finding a blance in his frontcourt. Meanwhile, Austin Freeman still can’t miss a shot. Georgetown gets a shot at Notre Dame on Wednesday that should be very revealing. 
7. Connecticut (4)
It’s hard to hold too much against the Huskies for losing to an excellent Pitt team on the road. At the same time, Connecticut looked simply vulnerable as Kemba Walker attempted to carry a bigger load than he has had to all season against a better team than the Huskies had faced all year. The formula for beating UConn: Make Walker take tough shots and don’t let Alex Oriakhi dominate you inside.
12. Louisville (NR)
On paper, the Cardinals are not impressive. They don’t boast a whole lot of individual talent, and they seem to lack an interior presence. But then you watch them play and realize Rick Pitino can really, really coach. His teams always play excellent defense, and this one is no exception. But what’s really set this group apart from other recent Cardinals teams is the offense, while it lacks a top weapon, is deep and versatile. This team can run or grind and should be difficult in the Big East.
13. Purdue (15)
It’s time to stop talking about Robbie Hummel and what the Boilermakers could do with him. JaJuan Johnson and E'twaun Moore have performed admirably as seniors, and this team just blew the roof off the Crisler Arena, Michigan’s home court, with an 80-57 win to start Big Ten play. The schedule, like Ohio State’s, starts easy, so expect Purdue to come out of a Jan. 19 game against Penn State with no more than three losses.
14. Minnesota (16)
I still don’t understand in the least how Virginia beat Minnesota. With that said, in every other game this season, Minnesota has looked like a serious contender for the Big Ten title. And BOY will that be tested early. Unlike Ohio State and Purdue, the Golden Gophers have a very difficult opening stretch of Big Ten games. I’m talking Wisconsin, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue then Ohio State. If they take fewer than three losses in that stretch, all praises to Tubby Smith.
15. Brigham Young (NR)

Beating Texas-El Paso is beating an NCAA Tournament team, let’s be clear. And Jimmer Fredette is one of the few preseason All-Americans who has not disappointed in the least and would still be on everyone’s list (I’m looking at you, Jacob Pullen). The Cougars have played a much tougher schedule than San Diego State, and I can’t wait for Jan. 26, when the top two mid-majors collide in Provo, Utah. 

16. Arizona (NR)
Speaking of All-Americans, you’ve got to have Derrick Williams on your short list at this point. The Arizona forward may be the best frontcourt player in the country this season. Sure, an ugly loss to Brigham Young isn’t pretty, but the Wildcats were very impressive even in a loss to Kansas. The Pacific-10 is fairly soft this season, and Arizona could easily emerge as the class of the conference.

Dropped out: Michigan State, Kansas State, Baylor

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