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It’s not shocking to see Gonzaga, Baylor and Iowa atop the AP Top 25. But their ascendency represents a continued shift in power across the college basketball hierarchy.

The three programs were among the preseason NCAA Tournament favorites at sportsbooks prior to the season, but they don’t have the history of the sport’s most decorated programs. Between them, they have just one Final Four appearance (the Zags in 2017) since 1980. The Bears last made it in 1950.

Creighton and Houston are also in the top 10. Meanwhile, where are college basketball’s bluebloods?

Yes, Michigan State has made a leap to No. 4 after beating Duke at an empty Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Spartans also struggled to beat Detroit ( No. 203) at home.

And Kansas is No. 5, but the Jayhawks could not keep up with Gonzaga in the season opener and struggled to get past North Dakota State. The Blue Devils are ranked 10th with wins over Coppin State (by 10) and Division II Bellarmine, looking very young in the process (they are). North Carolina looks improved but is coming off a historically bad 2019-20 season.

And what about Kentucky? The Wildcats are 1-3 and 37th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. There was no shame in losses to up-and-coming Richmond — although it was a 12-point defeat — or Kansas. Georgia Tech, on the other hand?

The Yellow Jackets had begun the season with losses to Georgia State (123-120 in quadruple overtime) and Mercer (by 10). Then, as The Associated Press noted, they parlayed 15 steals into a 33-4 advantage in points off turnovers in a 79-62 rout of Kentucky.

To put it mildly, the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class has not gelled through four games. Kentucky has struggled from deep, shooting just 25.8% (250th nationally). But the first needed fix is turnovers: The Wildcats make a lot of them and don’t force many from their opponents. Richmond’s advantage in turnover margin against Kentucky was plus-11, Kansas’ was plus-five and Georgia Tech’s an embarrassing plus-15.

Freshmen Terrence Clarke and Brandon Boston Jr. had a combined 19 turnovers in the three Wildcats losses. Boston was fifth and Clarke eighth in 247Sports’ 2020 recruit rankings. They are two of five top-50 freshmen Kentucky coach John Calipari lured to Lexington.

After the loss to Georgia Tech, Calipari bemoaned the lack of “face-to-face contact,” something even more important with young players. The coach has plenty to work on as Kentucky, with its first three-game losing streak in 20 years, prepares for Notre Dame on Saturday.

Here are this week’s picks. The numbers for the spreads are based on game predictions at


Indiana at Florida State -2: This will be just the second game for the Seminoles and the fifth for Indiana. The Hoosiers have three solid efforts sandwiched around a blowout loss to Texas (No. 4 at Florida State has just a rout of North Florida a week ago, but the Seminoles return an experienced backcourt in seniors RayQuan Evans and M.J. Walker, the team’s leader, and added the top recruit in school history, Scottie Barnes, a 6-foot-9 wing.

Florida State also has two 7-foot centers, and Serbian sophomore Balsa Koprivica, especially, could be key in limiting Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis on the inside. FLORIDA STATE


Wofford at South Carolina -10: The Terriers put a scare into Richmond before a late Spiders run on Monday. The Gamecocks, 1-2 with losses to Liberty and Houston, have been middling on offense thus far. They are good at creating second-chance points, but Wofford excels on the defensive glass, thanks to forwards Messiah Jones and BJ Mack.

The Terriers love to shoot 3’s (50% of their points come from long range, third most in the nation), and Storm Murphy, now a senior, is 42.5% from deep during his career. He and his teammates could win this. WOFFORD

North Dakota State at South Dakota State -8: A boring Summit League matchup, you say? Think again.

Yes, the Bison are 0-4, but look at their opponents. They lost to Nevada, Nebraska, and Creighton before staying with Kansas for 40 minutes in a 65-61 loss.

North Dakota State doesn’t commit many fouls, and it guards the perimeter well. The Bison will have to against the Jackrabbits, who are eighth in the country in 3-point shooting.

South Dakota State is 3-2 against a tough early-season schedule that included losses to West Virginia and Saint Mary’s. If North Dakota can guard the arc, this one could be close. NORTH DAKOTA STATE


Iowa State at Iowa -10: Although they had yet to be tested (before Tuesday’s game against North Carolina), the Hawkeyes have checked every box for offensive efficiency.

For the third straight year, Fran McCaffrey’s team has also made a leap forward in defense (No. 71, per KenPom).

The Cyclones, who are coming off a home loss to the aforementioned Jackrabbits, must contend with Iowa’s player-of-the-year frontrunner, 6-foot-11 center Luke Garza. Iowa State has just one player taller than 6-6 — 6-8 senior Solomon Young — playing significant minutes. IOWA

Last week: 2-0-1

Season: 6-0-1

About the Author

Ched Whitney

Ched Whitney has been a journalist in Las Vegas since 1994. He worked for the Las Vegas Review-Journal for 18 years, where he was the paper’s art director for 12. Since becoming a freelancer in 2012, his work has appeared at, AOL, The Seattle Times and UNLV Magazine, among others. ​

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