Major movements mark uncertainty at the top of college basketball
BY MATT DE SARLE
It happens every Thanksgiving. Great games go on, but between the post meal nap and the NFL football, it’s hard to keep up. Even the most hardcore college basketball fans did a double-take at the post-holiday top 25 to decipher exactly what happened. Here’s a recap of the major movers and shakers over feast week. This sets the table for not only a turbulent December of non-conference play, but some important resume bullets for when the committee sifts through what happened in November.
Big East Behaves Like a “Power 5” Conference in Basketball
Speaking of double-takes, you might have looked side-eyed at the preseason top 25 when you saw Creighton crack the top 10.
Not only have the Bluejays stuck the landing in the first month of play, they’ve been joined in the top 10 by fellow Big East power UCONN. Yes, the Huskies have returned to the Big East after a hiatus in the American Conference. Danny Hurley has this club clicking with great ball movement and some immoveable objects down low.
Arizona Wildcats can’t miss opportunity to dominate the Pac-12
The Arizona Wildcats were steam-rolling through to the top 5 with a ranking of number 4 overall in the nation. That’s when they took a head-scratching loss to Utah to open up conference. Arizona has lost Ben Mathurin to the NBA Lottery where he is currently playing for the Indiana Pacers. But the Wildcats have added another dynamic combo guard in Texas transfer Courtney Ramey. Ramey won’t bring the prime Russell Westbrook-like attack to the court, but you could do a lot worse in replacing an exiting NBA player. Azuolas Tubeless, a 6-11 forward who can run the floor with ease, needs to take the next step to stardom for this team to crack the Final Four. Another big man in Gonzaga transfer in 7 footer Oumar Ballo is also adding a lot more offensive production than he did while in Spokane.
With UCLA slipping out of the top 10, USC’s former front court playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the likes of Arizona State and Stanford sputtering, this is Arizona’s conference to seize.
Purdue Boilermaker bully-ball their way into the top 10
Purdue went from unranked in the AP Preseason Top 25 to surging into the top 5. Purdue dominated Duke in the Phil Knight Legacy Championship game. Make what you will of this result, but Duke is not yet close to a finished product. Purdue’s center, 7 foot 2 Zach Edey jumps off the page and off the TV screen. However, past results have proven that Purdue, regardless of how many trees it has inside, is hard-pressed to crack the Final Four. A close game against Florida State (a struggling 1-7 record at the time although they always have size and length) in the ACC Big 10 Challenge took the shine off their early season domination.