Let’s be honest.
No. 1 Kansas and No. 2 Texas haven’t played anyone, and in turn, nobody has played them close. That might speak to the Jayhawks’ and Longhorns’ talent, depth, and overall dominance.
But as long as college basketball is synonymous with parity, it’s too easy to dismiss seemingly dominant wins by saying these two teams are seemingly too dominant themselves. Not in December, when few teams are battle tested enough to deserve the No. 1 spot anyway.
Right now, the top two teams in the country are simply skirting by—Kansas with all the votes—while the teams in chase are fighting each other off and working through well-crafted non-conference slates.
The No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats went to Cancun in November and won on a floor that had gaps you could fill with China’s 2008 Olympic gymnasts. They fought off the John Wall-induced drama of a meeting with North Carolina, where coach Roy Williams didn‘t pursue Wall out of high school. They even went to New York—probably outdrew nearby Connecticut’s fan base—and beat the then-one-loss Huskies.
So can John Calipari’s squad get some love for the No. 1 spot? Or at least more than one vote, the amount Kentucky drew in the most recent AP Top 25 polls?
The Wildcats have debatably the best player in the country in Wall and one of the best post-up players in the NCAA in Patrick Patterson. Kentucky has already beaten two ranked opponents (you hear that, Kansas?), and look to have at least five games left against Top 25 teams. Plus they’re only going to get better as three freshman starters grow into their new roles.
The Jayhawks, they’re good. So are the Longhorns. They just haven’t proven it yet.
But Kentucky has.
Syracuse has, too.
The Orange fought from completely off the radar to their current spot at No. 5 thanks to marquee wins over California, North Carolina, and Florida.
In the process, Syracuse has seen Wesley Johnson transform into a household name. Andy Rautins now does more than just shoot. And Scoop Jardine and Arinze Onuaku have proven to be great compliments on both sides of the ball.
So Kentucky has the talent, and Syracuse has shown the ability to improve—even complete one of the greatest and quickest ascents to the No. 1 spot in years.
What’s Kansas showcased, other than they can handle a down Memphis team and hold pitiful Alcorn State to 31 points? Radford and Oakland also stood no chance.
Texas is on the chopping block this Saturday when they meet North Carolina. Note to pollsters: If Texas wins, the margin of victory compared to Kentucky’s 68-66 win over North Carolina as well as Syracuse’s 87-71 victory are worth noting.
Tennessee, however, awaits on Jan. 10 for the Jayhawks’ first true test this season. At that point, Kansas can be reevaluated.
Until then, the nation’s No. 1 should be a team that’s shown it’s worthy.
Like Kentucky or Syracuse, for starters.
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