Ranking the Rankings: Duke's No. 1

Ranking the rankings criticizes the critics as soon as the polls come out.

Headlining: It's obvious, right? Duke tops both polls for the first time since the end of the 2005-06 regular season and we're all


ecstatic! I want to say that it's hard to like this Blue Devil team, but when is it easy to like Duke? (Answer: When you're a Duke fan. Or when the Blue Devils are playing Carolina.) That being said, the 2008-09 incarnation isn't nearly as hate-able as previous teams.

Gerald Henderson is a freakish athlete who tries hard, Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer embody a certain Durham stereotype, but at least they're not Chris Collins and Wojo, and Greg Paulus has been relegated to a supporting role and has yet to play more than 24 minutes a game.

The antipodal proposition alone should be worth a slightly less odoriferous and palatable annoyance. (Yes, I'm pretending that I graduated from Duke and write for Slate.) Of course, there's still the matter of butting heads with the previous top team, Wake Forest, Wednesday, but for now: Everyone respects Duke.

Freefallin': Georgetown (12/14 to 25/23), Syracuse (8/8 to 15/15) and Notre Dame (19/19 to UR/22). In fairness to all three teams, the Big East is really good. And in fairness to the pollsters, this group of teams combined to lose five games (the Irish lost that Saturday prime timer as their only game of the week en route to three straight losses; coughing one up to Marquette Monday won't help their case either) last week, so it's not that shocking. The Big East teams are certainly going to beat up on each other all season long and they'll fluctuate; anything other than the same from the top tier ACC teams would be surprising as well.

You Gotta Rise Up: Kentucky (UR/UR to 24/UR), UCLA (17/16 to 13/11). It's never a total shock when two big name programs -- Louisville could apply here too, I suppose, just based on the relative inaction of the top 10 -- win a couple of games and start vaulting higher. In Kentucky's case, it's Jodie Meeks helping to propel the Wildcats back into the rankings for the first time since November ... 2007. It wouldn't seem that long if it wasn't Kentucky we're talking about, but the Wildcats are held to a higher standard. Presuming they can beat both Mississippi and South Carolina this week, it's safe to say you'll see them ranked in both polls next week.

Clemson (12/11). Yes, the Tigers only have two losses, but they're still in the top 15. And while I don't necessarily know that the Tigers are en route toward a total and utter meltdown, I certainly won't vouch that they aren't, either. They've got games against Virginia Tech, Duke, Florida State and Boston College in their next four matchups. Two of those teams have beaten No. 1-ranked squads ... and they're the two inferior teams on the schedule. A win against Georgia Tech kind of righted the ship, but there's a distinct possibility that they could go 0-4 over that span.

Bunked: Arizona State (14/14). Call me a Herb Sendek homer if you want, and I won't care. I love the guy, and all he does is produce teams that go to the NCAA Tournament. His last five teams at N.C. State went to the Big Dance and It's not far-fetched to say that the Wolfpack would probably deal with an annual tourney bid right now. The Sun Devils are not a high-scoring bunch, and losses to USC and Cal aren't impressive, but James Harden is a baller and 22 points per game in Sendek's offense might be equal to 49 anywhere else.

WTF?: No one from the coaches' poll dropped. Like, literally no one. Florida is this -- makes pinching motion with index and thumb -- close to inching in, just one point shy of Gonzaga, and Utah State is right behind, but it's still really unusual to see a poll with no movement whatsoever.

People That Vote Are Smart:
Ron Morris of The State in Columbia, S.C., takes the cake. He really thinks highly of Luke Harangody, so much so that he puts Notre Dame at No. 14 in his poll. Yes, the Irish are a talented team, but when he voted they had lost three straight, and they've dropped four straight now. It's kind of tough to bump a team from No. 14 to unranked in one week, but here it's arguably deserved. He also has UConn and North Carolina ahead of Duke.

Ranking the Rankings: Duke's No. 1 originally appeared on NCAA Basketball FanHouse on Mon, 26 Jan 2009 22:00:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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