Michigan State vacates the top spot following a strange home loss, Duke’s surprise benching of a rotation player and two of college basketball’s blue bloods make an exit in this week’s Top Freking 10 college basketball rankings.
1. ARIZONA (last week: 2)
The Wildcats have been the most impressive team to date, so they get bumped to the top spot after Michigan State’s loss to North Carolina. Arizona — with seven players averaging at least 6.5 points — will likely be 10-0 entering Saturday’s tilt at Michigan.
2. SYRACUSE (LW: 3)
Everyone knew the Orange would receive strong play from C.J. Fair, the preseason ACC Player of the Year. The guard play from sophomore Trevor Cooney and freshman Tyler Ennis was less uncertain — but has turned out to be exemplary. Cooney is putting up 15 points per game while shooting 48 percent from 3-point land. Ennis, replacing NBA lottery pick Michael Carter-Williams at the point, has been very steady with 11 points and 5 assists a night.
3. OHIO STATE (LW: 4)
LaQuinton Ross is back. For now. The 6-8 junior swingman poured in a career-high 23 points Saturday against Central Connecticut State, his third straight game in double figures after scoring a total of seven points against Marquette, American and Wyoming.
4. WISCONSIN (LW: 6)
The Badgers recorded a pair of impressive victories last week, taking down host Virginia 48-38 Wednesday and visiting Marquette 70-64 Saturday. The emergence of Frank Kaminsky has grabbed early headlines for Wisconsin, but the team’s go-to talent remains sophomore Sam Dekker. Dekker had 20 points and 10 rebounds vs. Marquette, his second 20-10 showing in three games.
5. LOUISVILLE (LW: 7)
In the Cardinals’ run to the 2102-13 national championship, Montrezl Harrell scored just 14 points in the Cardinals’ last four games, but the 6-8 forward was projected for a breakout campaign this winter because of the departure of Gorgui Dieng and his impressive performance with Team USA in the U19 World Championships in Prague, Czech Republic over the summer. Harrell was one of the main reasons the U.S. took home gold, starting all nine games and averaging 10.6 points and 3.7 rebounds while making 57.5 percent of his field goal attempts. Through nine games this season for Louisville, Harrell is putting up 12.5 points and 9.4 rebounds.
6. DUKE (LW: 9)
The Blue Devils earned some redemption for their stinker vs. Arizona by notching an impressive showing last week vs. Michigan. Duke displayed the kind of defense it’s become famous — or infamous — for, causing the Wolverines to miss 17 of their first 21 shots. The status of sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon is worth monitoring going forward, as the swingman was benched against Michigan. Coach K said after the game that Sulaimon — who started every game as a freshman — has to earn his playing time.
7. OKLAHOMA STATE (LW: 10)
The Cowboys — one of four Big 12 teams ranked in the top 18 of the latest Associated Press poll — are generally regarded as the best bet to end Kansas’ run of nine straight Big 12 championships. The Cowboys don’t begin conference play until Jan. 4, but take on Colorado — a Big 12 outfit before leaving for the Pac-12 in 2010 — on Dec. 21. The 9-1 Buffaloes are a newcomer to the latest AP poll after Askia Booker’s buzzer-beating triple beat Kansas Saturday.
8. MICHIGAN STATE (LW: 1)
Nothing went right for MSU in its 79-65 home loss to North Carolina. The typically tough-minded Spartans were outrebounded by 11 and shot 36 percent from the field. Guard Keith Appling took a scary fall. Adreian Payne battled leg cramps. As a longtime viewer of the sport, I can’t remember a Michigan State outfit looking so lifeless for an entire game. It was bizarre. Sparty will rebound though.
9. VILLANOVA (LW: NR)
Off to a 9-0 start with wins over Kansas, Iowa, St. Josephs’ and Southern California, the Wildcats seemed primed to make their ninth tournament appearance under coach Jay Wright. Rice transfer Dylan Ennis — who missed the first four games of the season with a broken hand — is averaging 10.6 points.
10. CONNECTICUT (LW: NR)
After playing at UConn from 1991-95, Kevin Ollie spent 13 seasons in the NBA, playing for 11 different teams and under 15 different coaches. In just his second season coaching the Huskies after Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun retired, Ollie and his team are off to a 9-0 start, boasting victories over Maryland, Indiana and Florida. If he hasn’t already found a place to live, I think it’s safe for Ollie to start house-hunting.
Dropped out: Kentucky (5), Kansas (8)
Grant Freking is a sportswriter for the Daily Reporter. Contact him at 477-3230 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.