By Kevin Duffy
Team (Record) AP Poll Rank / ESPN/USAToday Rank
1. Memphis (21-0) 1 1
The last remaining undefeated team in the nation, Memphis received every first-place vote in both polls despite an all-too-close win over UTEP last week.
Star watch: Derrick Rose struggled from the field, shooting just 5-17 from the field, but made up for it by scoring crucial buckets and knocking down free throws at the end of the game. He finished with 17 points and 8 rebounds.
2. UCLA (18-2) 5 4
So much for ESPN’s Gameday being the “Game of the Week.” UCLA made mincemeat of a talented Arizona squad, defeating the Wildcats 82-60 on national television. The Bruins stayed ahead of Kansas in the Coaches Poll and now that they’re healthy they could be the most complete team in the nation. The Bruins two losses have come short handed and they are beginning to look like the team to beat for the National Championship.
Star watch: Kevin Love battered Arizona for 26 points and 11 rebounds on Saturday night. Love will need to play equally well when UCLA travels north in their rematch with Washington State on Thursday.
3. Kansas (21-1) 4 5
Ok, so they lost one game. So have UNC and Duke. The date of their loss shouldn’t sway the voters so much, because to this point, Kansas has put together an overall better body of work than the rest. The Jayhawks responded to the defeat at K-State with double-digit wins over Colorado and Missouri.
Star watch: Brandon Rush led the way with 19 points in the Jayhawks 90-71 win over a depleted Mizzou squad.
4. Duke (19-1) 2 2
Nothing against the Devils, they are a top five team. But I’m just not buying them as the second best team in the country (Apologies to Dick Vitale if he’s reading this, and welcome back). I don’t think they can match up with Carolina’s size inside, but then again, if they are hot from outside, the Dukies are capable of beating anyone. We’ll see on Wednesday. It should be a hell of a game.
Star watch: DeMarcus Nelson continued to make a case for a spot on the first team All-American team with 21 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in a blowout win over Miami (Fl.).
5. North Carolina (21-1) 3 3
North Carolina is more complete than Duke but the injury to Ty Lawson will likely be too much to overcome for the Tar Heels on Wednesday night. It took overtime to beat a middle ACC team (Florida State).
Star watch: Hansbrough went for a monster 22 points and 21 rebounds in Sunday’s overtime victory over Florida State.
6. Tennessee (17-2) 7 7
The Vols came away with two big SEC road wins last week vs. Alabama and Mississippi State and thus were elevated to the No. 6 spot in our poll.
Star watch: Chris Lofton has finally hit his stride. The preseason All-American is averaging 23 points per game in his last four contests and has knocked down 21 of 40 three-point attempts in that stretch.
7. Georgetown (17-2) 6 6
The Hoyas haven’t been tested since their controversial win over West Virginia two weeks ago. Last week’s victories over St. Johns and Seton Hall don’t mean much, and G’Town faces a potential ambush game when it faces an improving Louisville squad on the road this Saturday.
Star watch: Roy Hibbert went for 16 points and 9 rebounds against the Hall last week. That’s not saying much, considering Seton Hall takes classes from the Golden State Warriors School of Defense.
8. Stanford (18-3) 9 9
I never thought I would see the Cardinal ranked this high. Thanks to losses to other teams and a few key Pac-10 victories (including a 67-65 OT victory over Washington State last week), Stanford has risen into the top ten and separated itself from the pac (no pun intended) as the conference’s second-best team.
Star watch: Brook Lopez may be the best center available in the 2008 draft. He put up 18 points and 9 rebounds while knocking down 10 of 12 free throws last week vs. Wazzou.
9. Wisconsin (18-3) 8 8
The Badgers proved they are for real after beating Indiana 62-49 last week. All of the sudden- in what seemed sure to be a two-horse race between Indiana and Michigan State- Wisconsin has emerged as the Big Ten’s top team. It should be interesting to see how this finishes, but I wouldn’t expect any Big Ten squad to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
Star watch: Trevon Hughes shot just 3-15 from the field against Indiana, but converted on 9 of 10 free throws to lead the team with 16 points. The speedy sophomore guard added 20 in an easy win over Minnesota.
10. Butler (18-2) 10 11
While everyone else keeps losing, the Bulldogs continue to take care of business in the Horizon league, easily defeating Loyola-Illinois and Illinois-Chicago last week.
Star watch: Senior guard Mike Green looks like a shoe-in for conference Player of the Year. He continued his superb all-around play with 15 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals in the Bulldogs most recent game.
11. Texas (17-4) 12 12
The Longhorns get the nod over Michigan State because their conference is much tougher. A loss to Texas A&M drops them less than an embarrassing loss to lowly Penn State dropped the Spartans.
Star watch: DJ Augustin is in a bit of a shooting slump. The Longhorns’ super soph is just 7 of 25 from the field and 2 for 14 from long distance in his last two games.
12. Michigan State (18-3) 11 10
Once is a fluke. Twice is a trend. The Spartans ugly 43-36 defeat to Iowa earlier in the season was brushed off by most fans, but now after losing 85-76 to Penn State, there are some serious questions surrounding this team.
Star watch: It’s struggle city right now for Drew Neitzel, who managed just six points and two assists in the loss to Penn State. Neitzel must regain his confidence or the Spartans are in big trouble.
13. Xavier (18-4) 13 14
The Musketeers have won four in a row since a disappointing blowout defeat to Temple a few weeks ago. They continue to rise in the polls
Star watch: All 5-foot-7 153 lbs of Drew Lavender managed to score 19 points and pull down 9 rebounds last week vs. UMass.
14. Washington State (17-4) 17 17
Everything is unraveling for the Cougars, who have now lost three of their last four games. This week won’t be any easier, as they host UCLA and USC on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. There’s a chance Washington State could fall below .500 in the Pac-10 and possibly out of the polls by next week.
Star watch: Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver did their parts in the overtime loss to Stanford. The dynamic backcourt duo combined for 43 points and made 20-24 free throws.
15. UConn (16-5) 19 19
There isn’t a hotter team in the nation right now. The Huskies have reeled off five straight impressive wins (Marquette, Cincinnati, Indiana, Louisville, and Pittsburgh), and have done so without their second leading scorer Jerome Dyson, who is suspended for a month.
Star watch: AJ Price has scored in double figures for 12 straight games and is averaging 20.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists in his last two outings. UConn probably would be a .500 team without Price, making him one of the most valuable players in all of college basketball.
16. Indiana (18-3) 13 14
The Hoosiers bounced back after two straight losses to defeat Northwestern 75-63 last week. There’s no question this team is better than No. 16, but Indiana hasn’t played to its potential of late and will need to get things together if it even expects to win the Big 10.
Star watch: Eric Gordon poured in 29 points vs. Northwestern and seems to have rebounded from a two-game slump (if you want to call it that) against UConn and Wisconsin.
17. Kansas State (15-5) 20 24
The Wildcats suffered a tough loss to Missouri over the weekend, but still remain in the Top 20 after beating Kansas early last week. K-State stands at 5-1 in the ultra-competitive Big 12 and certainly merits the No. 17 spot in this week’s poll.
Star watch: Michael Beasley was shut down by Missouri (slowed by a turned ankle), as the normally productive freshman put up a measly 17 points and 10 rebounds. I guess he’s just not that good…
18. Drake (20-1) 15 15
Everyone continues to lose, Drake (like Butler) continues to win in league play. The Bulldogs are now 11-0 in the Missouri Valley and are making a push for a high seed. Next up: Illinois State, the No. 2 team in the conference.
Star watch: Josh Young rebounded from a midseason ankle injury and is at peak form once again. He is averaging 21.5 points per game and 5 three-pointers made over his last two contests.
19. Texas A+M (18-4) 18 18
After three straight losses, the Aggies have come up with three big wins (Oklahoma State, Texas, and Oklahoma). Two of those three games were at home, and this week A&M will have to win at Iowa State and at Missouri. Don’t be surprised to see the Tigers knock the Aggies off on Saturday.
Star watch: Freshman center DeAndre Jordan has seen limited minutes of late due to the emergence of big man Bryan Davis. Jordan has scored double figures just once in his last six games (10 points vs. Texas).
20. Notre Dame (16-4) 22 21
The Irish crack both polls for the first time this season after consecutively beating Villanova, DePaul, and Providence. At 6-2 in the Big East, they hold the No. 2 spot in the conference standings, but don’t get too excited about this team come March. Leading scorer Luke Harangody has a world of trouble scoring against tall, shot-blocking centers because he is just 6-foot-8 and doesn’t jump particularly well. If Notre Dame draws a bad match-up, it could be an early exit in both the Big East and NCAA tournaments.
Star watch: Harangody scored 29 points and notched 14 rebounds in the teams most recent victory over DePaul, who didn’t pose a shot-blocking threat to intimidate "Gody" and keep him away from the basket.
21. Florida (18-4) NR 22
The Gators must play well tonight vs. Tennessee to justify this ranking. If they are able to pull off the upset, it would be a huge momentum lift considering they got trounced 80-61 by Arkansas on their last road trip.
Star watch: Nick Cathales struggled from the field, shooting 3 for 12, but still managed to score 12 points to go along with 7 assists and 6 rebounds in defeat.
22. Louisville (17-6) NR NR
The Cardinals have been unable to crack either poll, but certainly have the credentials to do so. At 7-3 in the Big East, Louisville is finally healthy and is one of the most complete and versatile squads in the conference.
Star watch: Edgar Sosa has been shaky all year, but he came up big in Louisville’s 71-57 win over Marquette on Monday, scoring 18 points while missing just two shots from the field.
23. St. Mary’s (19-3) 25 23
A huge win over Gonzaga catapults the Gaels back into our rankings. Expect them to remain in the rankings as they continue to gel in conference play.
Star watch: Freshman guard Patrick Mills led the way with 23 points (13-18 from the line) in the OT victory over the Zags Monday night.
24. Rhode Island (18-3) NR NR
URI finds itself ranked in our poll once again after knocking off Dayton, who was once thought to be the class of the A-10. The Rams are now 5-2 in conference and are riding a four-game win streak while the Flyers dropped to a disappointing 3-4 in the A-10.
Star watch: Lamonte Ulmer was big inside for the Rams off the bench, scoring 11 points and grabbing 9 rebounds while hitting on 5 of 6 shots from the field. He provides nice length and athleticism that will help URI down the road.
25. Vanderbilt (18-4) 23 20
The Commodores fend off SEC rivals Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Arkansas for the final spot in this week’s poll. Don’t be surprised to see these teams in a carousel for the last few slots for the remainder of the regular season.
Star watch: Andrew Ogilvy had one of his better games to date as he put in 19 points and 9 rebounds in an important victory over Auburn.