(Again, let me note that these, er, nuggets are part of our weekly college basketball package, which runs every Tuesday in the print AJC. I offer them for your digital delight.)
1. What’s the best conference in the land? It’s not the ACC (too top-heavy) or the SEC (too Kentucky-heavy), and it’s not the Pac-12 (nary a team in the Top 25). That leaves the Big Ten (five teams in the Top 25), the Big East (also five in the Top 25) and the Big 12 (three in the top seven). For quality at the top, we’ll say the Big 12. For overall depth, we’ll say the Big Ten.
2. Who’s the best freshman in the land? Take your pick between Kentucky Wildcats. Center Anthony Davis — he of the unibrow so famous it’s already a feature on Bluegrass T-shirts — could be the first player drafted this summer, but forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been the Big Blue’s MVP to date, scoring 24 points against Louisville and 17 against Tennessee.
3. Does Georgia State, which is tied for the Colonial Athletic Association lead, have to win the conference tournament to reach the NCAA? Yes. Even though the CAA received three NCAA bids last season, Georgia State can’t make it as at-large team. Its RPI is, according to ESPN Insider, tied for 172nd in the nation, and its non-conference strength of schedule is dead last. The NCAA committee, which makes a big deal of non-conference strength of schedule, would never reward such a team. (In cheerier news, the Panthers cracked the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 this week; they’re 24th.)
1. Syracuse: It’s hard to imagine a team staying undefeated much longer in the brawny Big East, but the Orange isn’t scheduled to play a ranked team until the day after the Super Bowl.
2. Kentucky: The Wildcats struggled in road wins at Auburn and Tennessee last week, but their biggest test of the young SEC season will come when Alabama visits Saturday.
3. Baylor: This week could serve as proof positive that the unbeaten Bears are bona fide, or it could suggest the opposite — at Kansas on Monday, at home against Missouri on Saturday. (Update: Baylor lost at Kansas 92-74.)
4. Missouri: The Tigers handled Texas rather easily Saturday, but this Saturday will offer an even bigger test for the men of Frank Haith — Baylor in Waco.
5. Duke: The Blue Devils are 3-0 in ACC play and stand alone atop the conference, but it’s worth noting that the biggest of those three victories has come by seven points.
6. Ohio State: Last week the Buckeyes whipped Indiana at home, which you’d expect, but they also lost at surprising Illinois, which is tied with Michigan State for the Big Ten lead.
7. North Carolina: Even Roy Williams lamented the incongruity — a Florida State team that scored 10 points in a half against Princeton managed 54 in a half against his Tar Heels.
8. Michigan State: The Spartans’ 15-game winning streak was halted Saturday at Northwestern. Tuesday brings another difficult road test: Michigan in Ann Arbor.
9. Kansas: This was considered a lesser bunch of Jayhawks entering the season, but there has been nothing small about the play of big man Thomas Robinson. (Update: Robinson scored 27 points in KU’s defeat of Baylor.)
10. Murray State: Up next for the 18-0 Racers is Morehead State, which took down Louisville in the NCAA tournament last spring, on the road Wednesday night.
11. Indiana: The Hoosiers climbed to No. 7 in the Associated Press poll on the strength of some stirring victories, but they backslid by losing to Minnesota and Ohio State last week.
12. Georgetown: The Hoyas lost at home last week to unranked Cincinnati, but the Georgetown losing streak ended at two games. It beat St. John’s on Sunday.
13. Connecticut: Normal service was restored last week. The Huskies rebounded from two losses in New Jersey to beat West Virginia and Notre Dame.
14. San Diego State: The 15-2 Aztecs won a huge game Saturday by beating UNLV. They’ll face another Wednesday in Albuquerque, where 15-2 New Mexico awaits.
15. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs beat Alabama in Starkville on Saturday, which would have given State the edge in the SEC West if the SEC West still existed. Which it doesn’t.
16. Virginia: The Cavaliers played Duke tough at Cameron Indoor Stadium, having (and missing) a last shot to tie. Next up is Georgia Tech at Philips Arena on Thursday.
By Mark Bradley