Who will emerge from chase pack?

Four undefeated powers, each from one of the nation’s top four basketball conferences, continue to reign atop the rankings. The question now is how high to rank the other undefeated teams with much less pedigree. All will be tested as league play kicks into gear. No. 8 San Diego State of the Mountain West will have to deal with BYU, UNLV and New Mexico. No. 16 Central Florida will face many challenges in the underrated Conference USA, in which all 12 teams have winning records. Cincinnati faces life in the brutal Big East, in which six teams are ranked in the top 11.


No. Team » Comment » Last week
1. Duke (13-0) » Next Up: UAB (10-2), Maryland (9-4), at FSU (11-3) » 1
2. Ohio State (14-0) » At Indiana, Buckeyes hit 13 of 19 3-pointers (68.4%) » 2
3. Kansas (13-0) » Leads the nation in field goal shooting (53.5 percent) » 3
4. Syracuse (15-0) » G Joseph (Carroll) averaging 23.3 points over last three » 4
5. Pittsburgh (13-1) » C McGhee (11 points, 11 boards, 22 min.) rose vs. UConn » 5
6. Connecticut (11-1) » Walker’s showing vs. Pitt (10-for-27) is sign of trouble » 6
7. Villanova (12-1) » Completed Big 5 sweep with 78-74 win over Temple » 9
8. San Diego St. (15-0) » Only Duke’s 23-game win streak is longer than Aztecs’ » 10
9. Kentucky (11-2) » How far can the Wildcats go with a six-man rotation? » 12
10. Notre Dame (12-2) » Four of next six vs. St. John’s and Marquette » 13
11. Georgetown (12-2) » Just 9-for-36 (25 percent) from 3-point range last week » 7
12. Missouri (13-1) » Handed ODU its worst lost (23 points) in three years » 8
13. Texas (10-2) » Telling January: Five games are against ranked teams » 11
14. Purdue (13-1) » Moore (20.4), Johnson (19.9) only top-30 scoring duo » 14
15. Michigan St. (9-4) » Quality wins: Washington, Minnesota, South Carolina » 15
16. Central Fla. (13-0) » Scored a recruiting coup last week with 6-11 Chandler » 16
17. BYU (14-1) » Has lost 5 of last 6 against Wednesday’s foe, UNLV » 18
18. Texas A&M (12-1) » Will play Mizzou, Texas, KSU in row later this month » 20
19. Memphis (11-2) » Interesting challenge at slumping Tennessee on Wed. » 19
20. Washington (10-3) » Won L.A. two-step (USC, UCLA) for first time since ’06 » 22
21. Cincinnati (14-0) » Impressive wins over DePaul by 16, Seton Hall by 17 » 23
22. Louisville (11-2) » Cardinals were outrebounded 35-23 by Kentucky » 21
23. UNLV (12-2) » Has beaten BYU eight straight at Thomas & Mack Center » 24
24. Kansas State (11-3) » At Oklahoma State (11-2) will be a test on Saturday » NR
25. Illinois (12-3) » Quality wins: UNC, Maryland, Gonzaga, Wisconsin » NR
* Records through Sunday night


Kentucky; Also » Villanova, Texas


UConn; Also » Memphis, Louisville


No. 6 UConn at No. 13 Texas, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)

As if the Big East isn’t enough, UConn (11-1) jazzes up its January schedule with games against national powers Texas (11-2) and Tennessee (9-4). In suffering their first loss Monday at Pitt, the Huskies’ offensive woes were illustrated by their six assists and 31.7 percent field goal shooting. Back in November, Texas also lost to Pitt. But the Longhorns have rallied behind 6-7 swingman Jordan Hamilton (19.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg), this year’s follow on to Damion James/Kevin Durant.


Norris Cole, Cleveland State, G

Can Cole, the top scorer in the Horizon League (20.9 ppg), and Cleveland State (15-1) challenge perennial conference power Butler (10-4)? The Bulldogs carried a 22-game winning streak against league teams into Monday night’s contest at Milwaukee. The last Horizon team to beat Butler was Cleveland State in the 2009 conference championship game. Cole has scored in double figures in 22 straight games and averages 4.9 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. (Fri., 7 p.m., ESPNU)

1. Smith rises for Duke » Reports of Duke’s impending demise with the toe injury to sensational freshman Kyrie Irving have been exaggerated. Coming to the rescue for the No. 1 Blue Devils has been senior guard Nolan Smith. In the last four games, Smith has hit 34 of 51 shots (66.7 percent) from the floor and 10 of 14 (71.4 percent) from 3-point range, averaging 24.5 points, the most prolific scoring stretch of his career. In Sunday’s ACC opener against Miami, Smith scored a career-high 28 points. Since taking over at point guard after Irving was hurt, Smith also has averaged 6.6 assists.

2. Tennessee? » What is the deal with the most perplexing team in the nation? After wins over top-10 teams Pitt and Villanova, Tennessee (9-4), has fallen into an abyss, losing to lightweights Oakland, Charlotte, Southern California and College of Charleston. All of this has happened without any significant injuries or drama, except for the cloud over the program after coach Bruce Pearl was found guilty of recruiting violations. The verdict on the Vols: They’re not as good as they looked during their quick start, and they’re not as bad as they look now.

3. Kentucky's anomaly » What is the definition of a loser at No. 9 Kentucky? A senior who’s still in the program. But the player in question — the lone senior on this year’s team — is hardly there to fill a quota. On Friday in a 78-63 victory at rival Louisville, Josh Harrellson scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. In the postgame news conference, when coach John Calipari perused the stat sheet and realized what Harrellson had accomplished, he blurted, “Oh, my gosh.” The 6-10, 275-pounder even hit a 3-pointer as Kentucky won its sixth straight game.


Quick, name the last team to beat Duke. Yup, Maryland. Duke has won 23 straight since the Terps’ 79-72 win over the Blue Devils on March 3 of last year. On Sunday night in Durham, Maryland (9-4) has a chance to bookend the streak. But first the Terps warm up with Colgate (1-11), which got its first win Sunday at Longwood.
Next » Colgate, Tue., 8 p.m. (CSN)

The short-handed Hokies (9-4) — now minus Dorenzo Hudson and Cadarian Raines, both out for the season with foot injuries — have won five straight, including a 99-34 romp over Mount St. Mary’s on Sunday. The 65-point margin was the largest for Virginia Tech since a 105-24 win over Washington & Lee in 1959.
Next » Florida State, Sat., 3 p.m. (ESPN2).

The Cavaliers (9-5) reversed a two-game skid with a 64-50 victory over LSU. Guards K.T. Harrell (15 points) and Mustapha Farrakhan (11 points) fueled an 18-3 second-half run with six points each. Will Sherill, who missed five games last month with a leg injury, added two 3-pointers in the final four minutes.
Next » Howard, Tue., 7 p.m.

The struggles continue for the Midshipmen (4-11) who have lost five straight, including a 60-58 defeat to Presbyterian on Sunday. Navy begins Patriot League play Saturday at home against Bucknell (9-7). Before that, they play independent Longwood (5-12), led by 6-6 junior Antwan Carter (17.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg).
Next » Longwood, Tue., 7:30 p.m.

The Colonials (7-6) begin play in the Atlantic 10 on Wednesday against La Salle (7-7), led by the inside duo of 6-8 senior Jerrell Williams (16 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and 6-10 sophomore Aaric Murray (15.2 ppg, 8.2 rpg). GW dominated Howard on Sunday 85-50 as freshman Nemanja Mikic (15 points) connected on five of eight 3-pointers.
Next » La Salle, Wed. 7 p.m..