TOP 25 THIS WEEK: No. 16 Baylor tries to maintain momentum
By AARON BEARD, AP Basketball Writer
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A year ago, Baylor carried momentum from winning a November tournament all the way to its first No. 1 national ranking.
The 16th-ranked Bears have a chance to see how far another title carries them.
Baylor won last week’s Hall of Fame Classic by beating Wisconsin and Creighton , allowing the Bears to climb six spots in the latest AP Top 25 poll. Now Scott Drew’s club gets two games against ranked opponents this week, starting with Tuesday’s visit to No. 21 Xavier.
Last year’s Bears won three games in three days — including a comeback from 22 down in the championship game against Louisville — to win the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. That team went on to start 15-0 and earn the No. 1 ranking by January in a 27-win season that included a trip to the NCAA Sweet 16.
“A lot of times these (tournaments) are fun environments and you have TV and you can get distracted,” Drew said after the Creighton win in Kansas City, Missouri. “Our upperclassmen always do a good job to let them know the importance of these, especially come later in the year when it comes NCAA Tournament time.”
The challenge now is two tough nonconference games. The Bears (5-0) visit the Musketeers (5-1), then host No. 8 Wichita State (4-1) on Saturday.
MORE DOUBLE-RANKED GAMES: The Musketeers get two home games against ranked opponents, following the Baylor game with Saturday’s date with No. 11 Cincinnati. And No. 25 Creighton visits No. 15 Gonzaga on Friday.
DUKE UNQUESTIONED: It took top-ranked Duke a month to go from getting roughly half the No. 1 votes in the AP Top 25 to securing them all.
The Blue Devils (8-0) pulled off big comebacks against Texas and Florida to win their PK80 Invitational bracket behind the latest dominant showings from freshman Marvin Bagley III. And with then-No. 2 Arizona’s three-game flop in the Bahamas, Duke claimed last week’s 11 holdout votes and now sits atop all 65 ballots in results released Monday .
Duke visits Indiana in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday, then returns home to host South Dakota on Saturday.
ACC/BIG TEN CHALLENGE: Speaking of the interconference throwdown, there are several notable matchups this week.
Tenth-ranked Miami visits No. 12 Minnesota on Wednesday night in a schedule that includes No. 13 North Carolina hosting Michigan after the Tar Heels’ lopsided loss to No. 3 Michigan State in the PK80 Invitational.
The Spartans then host No. 5 Notre Dame — which beat Wichita State for the Maui Invitational championship — on Thursday night. The ACC leads the annual event 11-5-2 since it began in 1999.
WILDCATS REGROUP?: Arizona has gone from No. 2 to unranked in a week after an 0-3 showing in the Battle 4 Atlantis last week that stood as the most surprising outcome from the holiday tournaments . That made the Wildcats the first team to go from No. 2 to unranked in a week since Louisville in 1986-87 after its own November tournament flop in the Great Alaska Shootout.
The Wildcats play Wednesday against Long Beach State and visit UNLV on Saturday.
WELCOME BACK: No. 20 Arizona State, No. 22 Texas Tech and No. 23 TCU are back in the rankings for the first time in a while.
The Sun Devils are ranked for the first time since the 2008-09 season entering Saturday’s home game against San Francisco, and they’ll go for their first 7-0 start since the 1980-81 season.
The Red Raiders (6-0) are ranked for the first time since the 2009-10 season entering Thursday’s game against Seton Hall in New York.
As for TCU (6-0), the Horned Frogs are ranked for the first time since December 2014 and has their highest ranking since January 1999 entering Wednesday’s home game against Belmont.
WATCH LIST: Seton Hall fell from No. 20 to out of the poll, though the Pirates have a chance to make it a short absence. In addition to facing the Red Raiders, Seton Hall visits No. 17 Louisville on Sunday.
The same goes for Purdue, which fell out from No. 18 after a 1-2 showing at Atlantis. The Boilermakers got their offense rolling again in their rout of Arizona to salvage a win in the Bahamas, and next host Louisville in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday before opening Big Ten play Friday at Maryland.
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