Posted by Ryan Clark at 5:38AM

With Kansas’ stunning road loss to a depleted Tennessee Volunteers team yesterday afternoon, the Jayhawk stranglehold on the No. 1 ranking is finally over. And with Purdue falling at Wisconsin just a day earlier, that leaves only two undefeated contenders vying for that top spot — the Kentucky Wildcats and your Texas Longhorns.

The Wildcats were pushed for 38 minutes by the Georgia Bulldogs in Rupp Arena on Saturday, while Texas logged double-digit victories against Colorado and on the road against Arkansas. The Longhorns already had eight first place votes in last week’s AP Poll, while one coach tabbed Texas as the best team in the land. Kentucky managed just one vote for first, in the Associated Press rankings.

All signs point to the first-ever No. 1 ranking in school history for the Longhorns. This afternoon, we’ll find out if it really happens.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 2:34AM

Top 25 Action

#11 Texas Longhorns 78, Baylor Bears 72 – The Longhorns escaped Waco with their 23rd consecutive win over Baylor, leaning on a nineteen point night from sharpshooter A.J. Abrams. The senior guard was hot early, but went through long stretches of absolute silence, including a nine-minute scoreless bout to open the second half. Damion James logged another double-double in the winning effort, posting a line of fourteen and twelve. Full post-game thoughts and numbers will be headed your way this afternoon.

#16 Purdue Boilermakers 64, Wisconsin Badgers 63 – He only had eight total points on the night, but Robbie Hummel provided three huge ones when he hit the go-ahead trifecta with a minute left to propel Purdue to their fifth-straight win. Meanwhile, the Badgers continued their free fall through the standings, suffering their fifth consecutive loss. It was also their third loss this season at the friendly confines of the Kohl Center after posting an impressive 113-7 home record during Coach Bo Ryan’s first eight years in Madison.

Mississippi Rebels 85, #24 Kentucky Wildcats 80 – It was a rough welcome to the Top 25 for Kentucky, who lost their first game since cracking the poll on Monday. David Huertas dropped 21 for the Rebs — nineteen of them in the second half — to earn their first victory in ten tries against the Wildcats. The loss was the first conference blemish for Kentucky, who still holds the half-game lead over Tennessee, a team they soundly beat on the road earlier this month.

Big 12 Games

Colorado Buffaloes 55, Iowa State Cyclones 49 – Jeff Bzdelik and the Buffaloes shook the monkey off their back last night, winning their first conference game and climbing into a four-way tie for most futile team in the Big 12. Despite allowing Iowa State a robust 48% success rate from the field, Colorado was able to claim the home victory by sinking seven more free throws than their opponents. Craig Brackins once again led the way for the ‘Clones, dropping in 24 points in the losing effort. The performance marked the seventh time in his last nine games that Brackins has cracked the 20-point plateau.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 6:22PM

National Broadcasts (All times Eastern)

West Virginia Mountaineers (13-4, 3-2 Big East) at #12 Georgetown Hoyas (12-4, 2-2) | 7 PM, ESPN
The Hoyas are looking to start piling up wins in conference play now that the toughest stretch is behind them. Despite the league placing eight teams in the top twenty-five, the next six games for Georgetown include only one ranked opponent. The Mountaineers, unfortunately, have no such luck. After traveling to face Georgetown tonight, they will take on Pitt and Louisville before the end of January. For two teams stuck in the middle of a packed conference, this could very well be a turning point.

#18 Purdue Boilermakers (14-4, 3-2 Big 10) at #21 Minnesota Golden Gophers (16-2, 4-2) | 7 PM, ESPN2
Michigan State’s home loss to Northwestern has cracked the door open in the Big 10, and these two teams are the ones best positioned to take advantage. Sure, the Golden Gophers had their own loss to the Wildcats on Sunday, but they have the privilege of only playing the Boilermakers once — and having home court in tonight’s match-up. The Spartans, who now lead the conference by only one game, still have two-games on tap with Purdue. If Minnesota can hold home court tonight, they could reap the rewards as the other contenders knock each other off.

St. Louis Billikens (11-6, 2-1 Atlantic 10) at Temple Owls (9-7, 1-1) | 8 PM, CBS College Sports
If you’re fortunate enough to get this channel, you might be disappointed that the A-10 game on the air tonight isn’t Dayton’s visit to Foggy Bottom. But if you happen to tune into this contest between two of the conference middle-tier squads, you’ll be treated to the play of star Dionte Christmas, who is leading the way with 21 points and six boards.

St. Mary’s Gaels (17-1, 4-0 WCC) at San Diego Toreros (12-7, 4-0) | 9 PM, ESPN2
The WCC has quietly built itself into a power conference at the top, with Gonzaga still statistically ranked as one of the best teams in the land. But it’s the emergence of St. Mary’s and San Diego that have made the league stronger. San Diego crashed the NCAAs last year with a win in the conference tournament before shocking the country with a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. Meanwhile, the Gaels have earned all sorts of pub with their Australian pipeline, which has brought previously unheralded players such as Patty Mills and made them stars in the states. While this may seem like an unimportant game to the casual viewer, it’s actually a must-win if either team hopes to challenge the Zags this year.

#13 UCLA Bruins (14-3, 4-1 Pac-10) at Washington State Cougars (11-6, 3-2) | 9 PM, FSN
After stumbling early in the season against Michigan and Texas, the Bruins have quietly plugged along, having won ten straight games prior to Saturday’s overtime loss to Arizona State. The loss dropped the Bruins into a three-way tie for the league lead with Cal and Washington, who they will face this weekend. Ben Howland’s team can’t afford to look ahead to that match-up, though, as guard Taylor Rochestie lit up Oregon this weekend to the tune of 30 points. And the Cougars will certainly be fired up in front of the home crowd, as they hope to exorcise the demons of an eight-game losing streak to the Bruins.

USC Trojans (12-5, 3-2 Pac-10) at Washington Huskies (13-4, 4-1) | 11 PM, FSN
Coach Tim Floyd has brought a frustrating brand of defense to Los Angeles, which has turned the Trojans from a conference also-ran to a contender in just a few seasons. Never was that defensive transformation more apparent than Thursday night, when USC absolutely shut down Arizona State’s National Player of the Year candidate James Harden. The super soph, who has averaged 22 points per contest, was stifled by the Trojans, going 0-for-8 from the field and finishing with only four points from the line. USC will have to spread out that solid defense tonight, though, as the Huskies run a balanced attack with four players averaging double-digits in scoring.

ESPN Full Court

Not a lot to choose from on the pay package tonight, but if you want to be the guy who predicts the 14-seed upsets come March, you might get some added intel from this set of games.

Vermont Catamounts at Hartford Hawks | 7:30 PM, ESPNFC1

UW-Milwaukee Panthers at Valparaiso Crusaders | 8 PM, ESPNFC2

New Mexico State Aggies at Boise State Broncos | 9 PM, ESPNFC4

Posted by Ryan Clark at 10:22PM

A lot of losses for the top teams in the country last week, giving blogpollers the unenviable task of deciding which defeats were most damaging. What is the value of a road loss when compared to a home loss against another ranked opponent? Do you favor the overall profile when you vote, or do you give more weight to recent results? The balloting process was certainly much more interesting at the top this time around, with the different voting philosophies evident in the individual rankings. Here’s this week’s poll with my comments, and as always you can review everyone’s ballot here.

As a reminder, all ballots were cast following Monday night’s action, meaning that Purdue’s win over Michigan State did not factor into the rankings.

This week’s blogpoll consisted of votes from March to Madness, March Madness All Season, Rush the Court, A Sea of Blue, Tar Heel Mania, Storming the Floor, Vegas Watch, Super, Scintillating, and Sarcastic, George Mason Basketball, College Hoops Journal, Gopher Nation, Bryce’s Brackets and Observations, Making the Dance, Bizzaro Joe Lunardi, and yours truly. Six bloggers absented from this week’s vote.

There weren’t many outliers on my ballot this week, with the biggest variance between my rankings and the consensus coming with Washington State, K-State, and Purdue. In retrospect, I have the Cougs too high as a result of trying not to penalize them for “good” losses. But in reality, their résumé is rather lacking in the quality win department, so they’ve really got to prove things down the stretch against Zona and the Cardinal.

And while K-State has solid wins over A&M and Kansas on their home floor, the overall body of work is a bit sketchy. The main problem, though, is that this description could fit a ton of teams between 15 and 35. Of course, the Wildcats are in the middle of laying a huge egg in Lubbock as I write this, so it looks like their up-and-down year may continue.

Purdue also has some really questionable losses early in the year, but their win over Sparty last night will certainly propel them up the ranks in next week’s vote. While the talk has been about MSU, ‘Scon, and Indiana all year, the Big 10 could very easily be won by the Boilermakers. It ought to be quite the interesting stretch run.