Louisville lost Sunday to North Carolina in the biggest game of the weekend in college basketball, which changed how the top of my ballot looked, but not how the final Associated Press poll shaped up. Michigan State remains first, Kansas University second.
The AP top 25, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Nov. 24, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week’s ranking:
Record Pts Prv
Others receiving votes: New Mexico 82, VCU 71, Florida St. 63, Virginia 61, Indiana 47, Boise St. 35, Charlotte 35, Belmont 31, Arizona St. 23, Harvard 22, Colorado 19, Villanova 16, Xavier 11, Pittsburgh 10, Missouri 8, Cincinnati 7, Tennessee 7, Minnesota 6, Illinois 2, George Washington 1, Georgetown 1, Texas A&M 1.
My AP ballot:
1. Kansas: When I started typing this sentence, Joel Embiid was a good basketball player. Now he’s really good. By the time you read this, he will be really, really good.
2. Michigan State: Strong, quick, tough, skilled, experienced. Weird stat: Only four blocked shots six games into season.
3. Kentucky: Freshmen scoring 84 percent of points, compared to 59 percent for Kansas.
4. Oklahoma State: With impressed Kevin Durant watching, Marcus Smart scored 39 in 101-80 blowout of Memphis.
5. Arizona: Nick Johnson — not the sweet-swinging left-handed hitter whose career could have been better had he been more dedicated to injury rehabilitation assignments, the junior guard — improves steadily. Shooting percentages: .372, .448, .588.
6. Duke: Vermont (1-5) shot .648 and stormed back from 15-point deficit only to lose, 91-90. Afterward, Duke’s Rodney Hood summed up Blue Devils’ shortcomings, saying, “We’re not connected on the defensive end.”
7. North Carolina: Lefty point guard Marcus Paige was pretty doggone good, scoring 32 points to lead Heels to nine-point victory against defending national champions.
8. Louisville: Don’t blame Russ Smith (36 points) for 21-game winning streak ending in loss to UNC.
9. Syracuse: St. Francis (NY), scoreless the last 4:10, led by four until Orange finished on 10-0 run to win 56-50.
10. Oregon: More than just the football team scores a lot of points. Ducks averaging 89.5 and unlike the football team, they don’t mind settling for three-point field goals.
11. Ohio State: More than just Crafty guard play has Buckeyes battling to stay undefeated. Junior shot-blocker Amir Williams emerging. He has worked hard to improve his free throw-shooting from year to year: .357, .557, .824.
12. Wichita State: Soph Ron Baker from Scott City shooting 50 percent from three and has a 3.7 assists-to-turnovers ratio.
13. Wisconsin: College basketball players do improve during their careers so be careful of labeling a freshman project as a stiff not worth developing. Frank Kaminsky, a junior 7-footer, scored a school-record 43 points, made 16 of 19 shots, all six three-pointers and 5 of 6 free throws in a 103-85 victory against North Dakota.
14. Florida: At some point in the Dec. 10 game vs. Kansas in Gainesville, Fla., look for Andrew Wiggins to lobby Bill Self to guard Casey Prather (17.2 ppg), unless that is, Wiggins checks him the whole game, in which case that will make for an interesting matchup.
15. UConn: German swing man Niels Giffey, a junior, shooting beleuchtungen out for Huskies. Has made 14 of 20 three-pointers. But it was Shabazz Napier who scored 47 percent of team’s points in one-point victory vs. Indiana.
16. UCLA: Nation’s most underrated player? Small forward Jordan Adams (22.2 points, 3.4 steals a game, .462 three-point shooter). He loves it though, based on his Twitter (@jordanadams 1231) motto: “I’m like a pillow I love when they sleep on me!”
17. Iowa State: I’m old enough to remember when Canada was a hockey country. Do-it-all senior Melvin Ejim of Toronto metro area scored 22 vs. Michigan, 21 in Provo against BYU.
18. Florida State: Boris Bojanovsky, 7-foot-3, 235-pound soph from Slovak Republic, spotted walking, chewing gum at same time and pitching in with 10 points and three blocked shots in OT loss to Michigan. Backup Michael Ojo, 7-1, 292, of Nigeria added eight points on night 7-footers combined for 8 of 11 from field.
19. Gonzaga: Ex-KU half-freshman Micah Downs, playing for Budivelnyk Kyiv of the Ukrainian Super League, never averaged more than 10 points for Zags, but did develop into defensive stopper. Was West Coast Conference tournament MVP as senior in 2009. I’d still like to know how he snuck out of Lawrence. Was it in the middle of the night, the way Bear Bryant’s Junction City Boys escaped? Did he do it in broad daylight? Did he hitch-hike to the airport? Micah, if you’re reading this, contact me via Twitter @TomKeeganLJW.
20. Iowa: Roy Devyn Marble won’t eclipse his father’s school record (2,116 points), has scored 1,207 points and leads team in scoring for second year in a row.
21. Creighton: Doug McDermott is the greatest walk-on ever. Father was out of scholarships when NCAA granted Grant Gibbs a sixth year of eligibility. That’s worked out well for both McDermotts. Gibbs averaging 5.8 assists.
22. UMass: Stirring memories of Marcus Camby, emerging star Cady Lalanne, a 6-10 junior, averaging 17.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and shooting .643 from field, .727 from line.
23. Baylor: Slender 7-1 soph Isaiah Austin blocking 4.8 shots a game but still hasn’t figured out how to get easy buckets at other end.
24. Xavier: Tough Battle 4 Atlantis game against Iowa on Thanksgiving could reveal plenty about both teams.
25. Pittsburgh: If Talib Zanna (15.3 points, 9 rebounds) ever makes it to the NBA and TV goes to NFL-style introductions, look for Talib to stare at the camera and proudly state, “Pittsburgh,” showing love for his school.