Conference races heat up in this week in the AP Top 25
By JOHN MARSHALL
January 02, 2018 12:54 AM
The last Saturday in 2017 took out the final three unbeaten teams.
The first week in 2018 could be a big early step in determining races in three conferences.
The week features six games between ranked teams, including four on Saturday.
Oklahoma has a tough week after moving up to No. 7, facing rival Oklahoma State on Wednesday, then heading to No. 6 West Virginia on Saturday.
The Sooners (11-1) have been on the rise since entering the Top 25 three weeks ago, generating a national buzz with freshman guard Trae Young having his way with whoever tries to guard him.
The Bedlam game is always difficult and the Sooners won't have it any easier against the Mountaineers (11-1), who have won 11 straight since an opening loss to Texas A&M.
Press Virginia against the nation's leader in scoring and assists? Bring it on.
Kansas (11-2) appears to be back on track for making a run at a 14th straight Big 12 title, moving up to No. 10 in this week's poll after beating Texas on Friday for its fourth straight win. The Jayhawks face a pair of big tests this week, starting with No. 18 Texas Tech on Tuesday.
Kansas then moves on to play at No. 16 TCU, which had its undefeated season end with a loss to Oklahoma last week. The Horned Frogs climbed up to No. 10 before the loss, the program's highest ranking, and face Baylor on Tuesday before hosting the Jayhawks.
"Our team, I think we're going to be really good by the end," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "But I don't think that we're going to be close to what we can be until February and that's with everybody getting favorable outcomes."
North Carolina (11-2) won't have an easy week, either, though there rarely is one in the ACC.
The No. 12 Tar Heels, who beat Wake Forest in their ACC opener, play at No. 24 Florida State on Wednesday and host No. 8 Virginia on Saturday.
"Once you get in the league they know more about you and know all your warts," Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said.
The final ranked-on-ranked game should be a good one: No. 17 Kentucky at No. 23 Tennessee on Saturday.
The Wildcats (11-2) responded from a loss to UCLA in New Orleans by dominating rival Louisville 90-61 and held off Georgia 66-61 on Saturday.
The Vols (9-3) lost an eight-point lead in the final four minutes and fell in overtime 95-93 to Arkansas on Saturday, but managed to remain in this week's poll. The Razorbacks (11-2) moved back into the poll for the first time since 2014-15 at No. 22 this week and play at Mississippi State on Tuesday.
Michigan State (14-1) moved into to No. 1 spot in AP Top 25 for the first time since 2015-16 this week.
The Spartans were leapfrogged by the Wildcats when Duke lost to Boston College and spent three weeks at No. 2, but moved atop the poll after previously top-ranked Villanova's loss to Butler.
Michigan State plays at Maryland on Thursday and goes to Ohio State on Sunday.
Clemson has been in a six-year NCAA Tournament drought, but could be ready to end that.
With four players scoring in double figures, the Tigers (12-1) have proven they can be players in the ACC race this season. Clemson has victories over South Carolina and Florida on its resume, and opened conference play with a 78-62 victory over North Carolina State.
The Tigers, who have won eight straight, play at Boston College on Wednesday and host Louisville on Saturday.
For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25
By JOHN MARSHALL
Updated: January 02, 2018 12:54 AM
Created: January 02, 2018 12:50 AM
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