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Joe Boozell | | November 30, 2016

Poll reactions: Baylor a well-deserved top-10 team

  Transfer point guard Manu Lecomte has been a huge addition for the Bears thus far.

Feast Week has come and gone, and we have a new set of college basketball rankings to digest.

MORE: Full AP Top 25

Baylor jumped all the way to No. 9 in this week’s poll, which isn’t shocking. The Bears already have an impressive four top-36 KenPom wins under their belts – the most of any team in the country – and knocked off three quality opponents en route to the Battle 4 Atlantis championship.

Somehow, Scott Drew continues to restock the cupboard in Waco. Transfers Manu Lecomte and Jo Lual-Acuil have been magnificent – the former is a major upgrade from what Baylor had at point guard last season, and the latter might be the best rim-protector in the country.

Acuil is swatting 4.2 shots per game and rejects a whopping 16 percent of the opposing team’s field goal attempts when he’s on the floor. Throw frontcourt mate Johnathan Motley into the mix, and there are (seemingly) endless limbs for opposing slashers to weave through in the trenches. To score against Baylor, seek options outside of the painted area.

Elsewhere in this week’s rankings, North Carolina rises one spot to No. 3. No team in the country has looked as dominant as the Tar Heels thus far; UNC ranks third in the nation in offense and seventh in defense, and it’s outscoring opponents by 27.3 points per game. Think we might have underestimated these guys?

RELATED: Five things we've learned about UNC so far

Perhaps. Those that were saying Joel Berry was superior to Marcus Paige last season are being proved right, and freshman big man Tony Bradley looks like a young Brice Johnson.

Even in the pace-and-space era, Roy Williams has remained firm: size and athleticism trumps all. He looks awfully smart right now; the Tar Heels are retrieving 46.6 percent of their own misses, which ranks second in the country. By the sheer number of extra possessions they’re creating for themselves, the Heels don’t even need to be efficient to rack up points. Make the defense get three stops in one possession, and it’s bound to crack. Kentucky and Villanova haven’t done anything to surrender their spots at one and two, respectively, but by the eye test, UNC has looked like the best team in America to date.

Outside of Baylor, Butler jumped the highest of any team in this week’s rankings. The Bulldogs check in at No. 18 after impressive victories over Vanderbilt and Arizona; BU goes a legitimate 11 deep. This kind of depth is unprecedented in Indianapolis.  

Freshman point guard Kamar Baldwin will make you go “wow” at least a few times per game, the Bulldogs are stocked with shooters, and Chris Holtmann is a magician with the clipboard. He’s dialing up after-timeout gems each night, and it’s as if Butler starts every game with a 4-0 lead. Brad Stevens is grinning somewhere.

On the flip side, Indiana falls 10 spots to No. 13 after losing to Fort Wayne on Wednesday. The Hoosiers will be fine – OG Anunoby missed the bulk of the game against the Mastodons, and IU simply had an off night. This team is still supremely talented -- don’t be surprised to see Indiana back in the top 10 sooner rather than later. But it might not happen this week, as Indiana squares off against North Carolina on Wednesday.

Syracuse and Oregon also fell in this week’s poll – four and 10 spots, respectively. The Orange have only been tested once, but a 14-point loss on a neutral floor to South Carolina is tough to defend. It’s a struggle to win games when you shoot less than 28 percent from 3-point range on 29 attempts from distance – Syracuse will be difficult to beat when it’s making shots, but does it have a counter attack? Perhaps the Orange can develop one as the season rolls along, but they have some work to do.

The Ducks, meanwhile, were missing Dillon Brooks at the beginning of the season, but they’re also missing Elgin Cook and Dwayne Benjamin from last year’s team. Oregon doesn’t have the ball movement it did in 2015-16, but as Brooks has played more, the Ducks have looked more like themselves.

Still, this system shouldn’t be so dependent on any individual. The Ducks need more out of Tyler Dorsey and Dylan Ennis – regardless of the way Brooks plays, Oregon’s greatest strength was supposed to be its offensive versatility. The Ducks’ guards need to play up for their capability in order for that to hold true.




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