Holiday week is the moment when teams start to show themselves as real rivals. Virginia did just that with a pair of impressive wins over Baylor and Illinois in the main event of the Continental Tire. Virginia is one of the big winners early in the season, and her strong performance has been rewarded with a big rise in the AP’s Top 25 College Basketball rankings.
But not all teams are so lucky. Kentucky failed both Michigan State and Gonzaga in the initial two Tests. John Calipari has still created an opponent, but he’s not quite there yet.
“I wouldn’t trade my team for any team in the country,” Calipari said Sunday after Gonzaga lost 16 points to the Wildcats. “I would not. I’m not happy now. We lost a game that we start terribly, can’t shoot, get back in the game, and then when you do it all, you finish them. shows that we are not ready. It was Michigan. We had a chance to kill people. … But it’s a long season. Like I said, it’s November now. They are good. They played with great teams. We’ve had our fair share of games and now it just keeps going. We still have some really good teams and our league is very good too.”
That’s how AP college basketball voters across the country have decided on their top 25 after several tests early in the season.
1. NORTH CAROLINA (4-0) – 47 FIRST VOTES (1541 POINTS)
Armando Backot posted a double-double with 19 points and 23 rebounds to help North Carolina knock out James Madison 80–64. R.J. Davis had 21 points and five assists.
“We watched the movie and the movie tells the truth,” said UNC coach Hubert Davis. “One of the things I always tell guys is that I don’t call you, I call you. The reason I’m calling you is because you should expect more than I expect more of you. What we’ve done before at both ends of the court, I just felt like we could do better. I just felt like we could do it better, consistently. Today I felt that our defense was really good. I told the coaches that towards the end of the game, I felt that today we took a step forward. James Madison is one of the hottest teams in the country coming here and they’ve shot everything from 3-pointers, paint runs and offensive rebounds. Defensively, they made interceptions, they could go into the open, and I think we responded and played very well today.
2. HOUSTON (4-0) – NINE FIRST VOTES (1499 POINTS)
Houston hit the road and scored an impressive 66–56 victory over Oregon. Markus Sasser (16 points) was 1 of 4 Cougars in double figures. Terrence Arsenault came off the bench and made three three-pointers. Jamal Shed had 13 points, four assists, two rebounds, four steals and zero turnovers. The Houston backcourt of Shed, Sasser and Tramon Mark more than lived up to the offseason hype, and the Cougars are one of the few select teams that can win it all.
3. KANSAS (4-0) – ONE FIRST PLACE VOTE (1396 POINTS)
Kansas took their first Champions Classic victory on Tuesday with a clutch, late comeback and knocked out Duke 69-64. Freshman Grady Dick has to clean up some defensive stuff, but the prized shooter has made huge strides in monstrous situations against Duke. Jalen Wilson led the boys with 25 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. The problem was that Kansas was fast asleep on Friday due to long stretches against Southern Utah. Wilson, Dick and Dajuan Harris saved the Jayhawks from a terrible defeat.
4. TEXAS (3-0) – FIVE FIRST VOTES (1377 POINTS)
Texas passed its first big test with honors. Texas didn’t just beat Gonzaga last Wednesday. This knocked Drew Timm and Zags off the floor. Texas is filled with talent and depth in every position. Tyrese Hunter completely killed Gonzaga with 26 points and five 3s.
“It’s a software win because there’s a lot of factors invested in it,” Texas coach Chris Byrd said. “This is a sign of respect for Gonzaga. They are really good. They have a program that we’re trying to build, in terms of consistency. Who was Gonzaga’s best player four years ago? You do not remember. Was Gonzaga really good four years ago? You remember they were like that. We are trying to achieve the same consistency. We are in the early stages of the second year. But I think that today our guys have taken a big step in the right direction.”
5. VIRGINIA (4-0) – ONE FIRST PLACE VOTE (1279 POINTS)
The people of Virginia are shocked by the death of three footballers. Virginia played with a heavy heart, but the Cavaliers pulled off two huge wins over Baylor and Illinois in The main event of Continental Tire. Virginia has shown that this is a team to be reckoned with in the ACC race.
“We are trying to play as freely as possible because of the perspective we have seen and we know the pain and grief that many in the football program go through,” said UVA coach Tony Bennett. “We’re kind of a ripple effect.”
6. GONZAGA (3-1)
Gonzaga reeled after Texas thrashed him 93-74. The Zagis took some of their frustration out on Kentucky. Drew Timm, Julian Strouter and Rasir Bolton eclipsed Gonzaga’s 88-72 throttling 20 points.
“Give credit to Gonzaga, because when we got back that Wednesday, by the way, it was a great Wednesday, on that Wednesday, we had a chance to win that game, we let go of the rope, and they finished us off,” Kentucky Coach. John Calipari said. “You have to give them credit.”
7. BAYLOR (4-1)
Baylor was baffled by Virginia, but Scott Drew leaned on his veterans in a big win over UCLA. LJ Cryer scored a game-high 28 points, while Adam Flagler scored 22 points, six rebounds and four assists. Flagler and Cryer hit eight 3-pointers together. Baylor’s defense forced UCLA’s star point guard Tiger Campbell to an ineffective 5-for-15 shooting.
8. DUKE (3-1)
There’s a lot to like about what Duke has done and where the Blue Devils are headed under John Shayer. Duke is now busy returning star freshman Daric Whitehead to the rotation after suffering a preseason foot injury. Whitehead had six points, two rebounds and two steals in Duke’s Friday game over Delaware.
“We knew there would be some rust, but I think you can see his athleticism, his body, and he’s a really smart player,” Shyer said. “I thought he was a little tired and started to recover a little. He’s a really tough opponent when he’s attacking the ring, passing and playing from there.”
9. ARKANSAS (3-0)
After three games, Arkansas is ranked third in KenPom’s defensive rankings. Eric Musselman’s “Boars” literally fly on the defensive. Arkansas ruined a good South Dakota State program 71-56 last Wednesday thanks to Trevon Brazil’s 22 points and 10 rebounds. The Missouri transfer dubbed the poor defenseman Jackrabbit one of the best dunks of the college basketball season. The Boars will be tested on Maui, but the defense will keep them in every game.
10. CRAYTON (4-0)
Creighton turned over the UC Riverside business on Thursday with an 80-51 drawdown. Baylor Scheierman scored 17 points on just 10 shots with six rebounds. Arthur Kaluma, Ryan Kalkbrenner and Trey Alexander each had a dozen.
“Today was our best game,” McDermott said. “It was the best team we played with. … I really thought defensively the last 10 minutes of the first and second half were about as good as we played all year.”
Creighton gets his first big test on Monday against Texas Tech in Maui.
11. INDIANA (4-0)
Adam Kunkel missed an open layup attempt at the end of the regulation and Indiana survived Xavier’s failed bid. Trace Jackson-Davies was 30 points behind Xavier and followed…