Here’s the newest set of college basketball rankings, featuring a familiar team the top:
Duke rose three spots, and earned 48 first-place votes, after two thunderous performances in the first week. The Blue Devils had the highest ceiling in the country coming into the year, but they were unproven. It was fair to take a wait-and-see approach. It’s only been two games, but Duke looks unlike anything else we’ve witnessed in college basketball in the last decade.
That doesn’t mean the Blue Devils are going undefeated, though they certainly could. But what’s unprecedented is the star power. There’s a legitimate argument to be made that Duke has the three best players in the country in Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish.
Through two games, that trio is averaging a combined 79 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists. Williamson is shooting 81.5 percent from the floor. We knew how athletic and strong he was, but his advanced skill level has been a pleasant surprise. Barrett does everything well, and Reddish is the perfect complement to those guys. He’s capable of carrying an offense himself but is such a good shooter and defender that he makes for a ridiculously overqualified third option. But it works.
This team is also coached by Mike Krzyzewski and has Tre Jones running the point. There are question marks after that. But considering the star power in the starting lineup, those questions may not even matter.
It has to be tough to see Kansas fall to No. 2 if you’re a Jayhawks fan, but it makes sense. The funny thing is that Kansas entered the season No. 1 and might be even better than we expected; it just doesn’t have a ceiling as high as Duke’s. But that’s OK. The Jayhawks are even more of a championship contender than we thought based on what we saw in the Champions Classic.
Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson were awesome in their Kansas debuts, combining for 37 points and nine 3-pointers. If that’s the kind of production the Jayhawks are going to get out of their backcourt all season long, look out. Because Udoka Azubuike and Dedric Lawson are scary, and Bill Self has won Big 12 titles with far less talent than he has in 2018-19.
At the end of the day, it’s nice to be ranked No. 1. But it’s meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Kansas fans should be encouraged by what they saw from their team in the Champions Classic.
A team that dropped significantly was Kentucky, which fell eight spots to No. 10 after getting blown out by Duke and struggling to beat Southern Illinois. It certainly hasn’t been an ideal start for the Wildcats, but it’s far too early to panic. Coming into the season, we liked Kentucky because of its experience and depth. But depth can be tricky. It can cause confusion with playing time and role allocation, and at the beginning of a season, there’s no clear pecking order.
The issues are solvable. It may mean John Calipari has to bench players who would start for other teams, and ride other guys 30-35 minutes per game. The Wildcats haven’t meshed yet, but they will. This isn’t a talent issue. Keep an eye on minutes and shot distribution moving forward.
Those were the most interesting developments in this week’s poll, but some other tidbits: No. 14 Florida State jumped three spots after demolishing Florida by 21. The Seminoles were overshadowed because the win happened while Duke was lighting up social media, but FSU seems to have picked up where it left off in the 2018 NCAA tournament.
The same goes for Buffalo, which upset West Virginia this week and is ranked 25th. The Bulls’ run-and-gun, aggressive defensive scheme is a joy to watch, and they beat the Mountaineers at their own game. West Virginia fell all the way out of the rankings; turns out, losing Jevon Carter really hurts.
Marquette, which looks newly energized on defense, jumps into the fray at No. 24. The Golden Eagles ranked 182nd in defense last year and 12th in offense. Become average at the former, and Marquette could have a really nice season. They’ve held both of their opponents under 60 in their first two games.
We’re still in the infant stages of the 2018-19 season, but we’ve already learned a lot. Let the fun continue.