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College basketball power rankings: Purdue takes on Arizona in showdown to determine top team in nation

Purdue produced another gem for its sparkling resume with a neutral-site win over Alabama on Saturday, adding to a collection of conquered foes that already included Gonzaga, Tennessee, Marquette, Iowa and Xavier. Next up: Arizona. Last week: 1
Arizona won at Duke, beat Michigan State on a neutral court and crushed Wisconsin. Now comes a test bigger than all those as the Wildcats prepare to face Purdue in Indianapolis on Saturday to determine who truly deserves to be No. 1. Last week: 2
Kansas’ only loss is against Marquette, and the Jayhawks own wins against Kentucky, Tennessee, UConn and Missouri. The Jayhawks should handle Indiana on Saturday, but it will be their first true road game of the season. Last week: 3
UConn’s only blemish is a 69-65 road loss at Kansas. Everything else is a double-digit victory, including wins over Indiana, Texas and North Carolina. The Huskies have everything they need to vigorously defend their 2023 national title and will get another chance to prove it Friday against Gonzaga. Last week: 4
Houston is No. 4 in the AP poll, No. 2 in the NET and No. 1 at KenPom. So why are the Cougars only No. 5 in the power rankings? It’s because of how light the schedule’s been. Neutral site wins over Utah and Dayton are nice, and a true road win over a struggling Xavier team is mildly interesting. But it’s mostly been a cakewalk for the Cougars, who will get their toughest test yet Saturday against Texas A&M. Last week: 5
Baylor’s best win is still its season-opening victory against Auburn. But the Bears get Michigan State on Saturday and Duke next Wednesday, which will give them a chance to keep rising. Scott Drew’s club is shooting 43.2% from 3-point range, which is insane and likely unsustainable against quality opposition. Last week: 6
Oklahoma proved its legitimacy once again with a 79-70 neutral-site win over Arkansas, improving the Sooners to 9-0. If OU beats North Carolina on Dec. 20, there’s an excellent chance it will enter Big 12 play at 13-0 after winning just 15 games all of last season. Last week: 9
Clemson picked off TCU 74-66 in a battle of undefeated teams Saturday to reach 9-0. Saturday’s game at Memphis will be another test, but this team already has true road wins over Alabama and Pittsburgh and looks like an ACC title contender. Last week: 12
Marquette’s resume includes wins over Illinois, UCLA, Kansas and Texas, and its losses were away from home against Purdue and Wisconsin. That’s why the Golden Eagles are the highest-ranked two-loss team. Last week: 11
BYU finally lost, falling 73-69 at rival Utah in a hostile road environment. The Cougars’ wins over 2023 NCAA Tournament teams San Diego State, Arizona State and NC State are enough to keep them from falling too far. This team could be 12-1 when Big 12 play begins on Jan. 6. Last week: 7
Colorado State suffered its first loss Saturday against Saint Mary’s, but the Rams have wins over Creighton and Colorado as part of their 9-1 start. With elite point guard Isaiah Stevens leading the way, this group could emerge as the best in a Mountain West that is looking strong early. Last week: 8
Virginia is rounding into a vintage version of the elite program built by Tony Bennett. The Cavaliers rank among the top-10 nationally in multiple defensive metrics at KenPom and are 8-1. Their game at Memphis on Tuesday will be a fascinating contrast in styles and tempos. Last week: 16
It’s worth mentioning that LSU started 12-1 last season against a relatively light schedule under first-year coach Matt McMahon before finishing 14-19 as the realities of the SEC hampered a rebuilding program. Maybe Ole Miss will follow a similar script. But for now, the Rebels have won a series of close games to reach 9-0 under new coach Chris Beard. Last week: 17
Memphis has already played four true road games against top-100 KenPom teams and is 3-1 in those contests. Throw in neutral-site wins over Michigan and Arkansas, and it’s clear the Tigers are going to challenge FAU for AAC supremacy. Home showdowns with Clemson and Virginia loom large over the next few days. Last week: NR
James Madison just keeps winning. The Dukes are 9-0 now and have won their last four in blowout fashion to solidify themselves as one of the top mid-majors in the nation after opening the season with a head-turning win at Michigan State. Last week: 18
Wins over Syracuse, UCLA and USC are enough to keep the Zags clinging to a spot in the power rankings after they lost 78-73 at Washington. Friday’s showdown with UConn will be a massive test for coach Mark Few’s club. Last week: 13
North Carolina’s wins over Arkansas and Tennessee suggest the Tar Heels are much-improved over last season. At this point in the 2022 calendar, UNC’s best wins were James Madison and Charleston. North Carolina’s only losses are against Villanova (in overtime) and UConn. Last week: NR
Tennessee’s wins over Wisconsin and Illinois are looking good as both teams appear capable of contending in the Big Ten. The Volunteers’ three losses are against likely national-title contenders, and they’ve handled business against everyone else. Last week: NR
Wisconsin got crushed at Arizona, ending a six-game winning streak that included victories over Virginia, Marquette and Michigan State. The Badgers shouldn’t be punished too severely for having the courage to play in Tucson. Last week: 10

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