The last day of 2018 just so happened to fall on a Monday meaning we get to go into the new year with a fresh AP rankings list.
While we know these week nine rankings, released on December 31, 2018 will be nearly unrecognizable by time March 17, 2019 rolls (Selection Sunday) rolls around; today’s release does play a part in how teams will be perceived entering this, the first week of conference play for the majority of the country.
TOP FIVE STRENGTH
The teams in the top five remain the same for the third consecutive week; while the order of those five teams stays intact for the second week in a row.
The Kansas Jayhawks held the pole position for the second time this season until their first loss of the season at the hands of (18) Arizona State on the road. Following the Jayhawks unexpected loss they fell to five in the AP list; making room for the Duke Blue Devils to begin their second stint at the top. With Duke being idle during week eight, they remain ranked as the best team in the country leading into their conference play opener Saturday night; when they welcome the Clemson Tigers into Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Michigan Wolverines and Tennessee Volunteers are a combined 24-1 with the only loss between the two coming in a November 23rd overtime matchup between the Jayhawks and Volunteers. For some odd reason, B1G officials decided to schedule conference games in the beginning of December this season so Michigan will enter January already 2-0 in conference play.
As for the one unmentioned team in the top five, the Virginia Cavaliers enter 2019 ranked fourth in the country and once again a popular pick to make a deep March run behind the defensive philosophy of Tony Bennett. UVA’s defense will be put to the ultimate test in a couple weeks (Saturday January 19th) when they travel to Durham, North Carolina to meet the Blue Devils in what could very well be a battle of undefeated top-five teams.
BEST CONFERENCE IN THE COUNTRY
The measurement for best conference in the country usually comes in March and is judged by who has the most schools in the tournament. The ACC continues to win this statistic, however with the Atlantic Coast Conference being home to the most teams in the nation, it’s easy to accomplish such a feat year after year.
With that said, on an even playing ground the best way to determine the best conference in the land is simply by finding the most competitive group in the country.
It’s not out of the question that the ACC is indeed the best conference out there; offering the likes of Duke, Virginia, and the North Carolina Tar Heels at the top. Throw in an always competitive (9) Florida State Seminoles unit led by Leonard Hamilton and Buzz Williams’ 10th ranked Virginia Tech Hokies and you’ve got five teams in the top-15; with North Carolina State being the sixth ACC team in the top-18.
The B1G offers six top-25 teams as well, with four of them falling between 21-25.
Once again this conversation truly can’t be accurately had until we start to see some conference games play out on the hardwood; but until then the B1G and SEC are chasing the ACC for bragging rights.
THE WEEK AHEAD
College basketball granted us with some amazing matchups to start the new year. Below is a rundown of can’t miss games in the first week of 2019:
Wednesday 1/2 9:00pm: (23) Oklahoma at (5) Kansas
Saturday 1/5 12:00pm: (8) Michigan State at (14) Ohio State
Boston College at (10) Virginia Tech
1:00pm: (13) Kentucky at Alabama
3:00pm: (9) Florida State at (4) Virginia