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The Dagger

With Duke and Michigan losing and no unbeatens left, who’s No. 1?

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Trey Burke and Michigan were the last unbeaten to fall (Getty Images)

When Trey Burke's potential go-ahead step-back 3-pointer went halfway down and came back out in the final seconds at Ohio State on Sunday, it didn't just ensure college hoops won't produce an unbeaten team for the 37th straight season.

Michigan's 56-53 loss also created an intriguing dilemma for voters in the AP poll.

Since there are no more undefeated teams and eight of the 10 teams in last week's AP poll have just one loss, the debate over who should take over the No. 1 spot on Monday will be more intriguing and more wide-open than any week this season. A handful of teams could make reasonable arguments for why they should be No. 1, including at least one team that is coming off a loss.

Top-ranked Duke (15-1), which inherited the No. 1 spot from Indiana last month, still has accomplished more than any other team in the nation to this point despite its loss at N.C. State on Saturday. The Blue Devils have beaten Louisville (without Gorgui Dieng), Minnesota, Ohio State, VCU, Kentucky and Temple, all of which were either ranked or received votes in last week's AP poll.

[Related: Stock watch: Indiana at its best is scary good]

Of course, the knock on Duke is it isn't the same caliber of team it was even a few weeks ago because starting forward Ryan Kelly is sidelined indefinitely with a right foot injury. The Blue Devils competed valiantly to stay within striking distance of the Wolfpack on Saturday, but they missed Kelly's outside shooting and passing on offense, and they were overmatched defensively in the paint without him.

If the Blue Devils aren't the choice, then the decision gets even murkier.

Maybe No. 1 should go to Louisville, the highest-ranked team not to lose this week. Maybe No. 1 should go to Indiana, whose victory over Minnesota on Saturday was this weekend's most impressive win. Maybe No. 1 should go to Kansas, which boasts a 13-game win streak and hasn't lost since Nov. 13. And, heck, don't completely dismiss Arizona, which boasts victories over top 20 Florida and San Diego State and a 19-point win over soon-to-be-ranked Miami.

Those teams all have similar resumes, a couple of quality wins sprinkled amid a largely cupcake-heavy schedule. The RPI has Kansas directly behind Duke and the KenPom ratings favor Louisville, then Indiana.

Ultimately, if I had a vote, it would probably go to Duke. The Blue Devils have done more to deserve it than any other team, and even if they're bound to suffer another loss or two with Kelly out, they shouldn't be penalized today for future setbacks.

But if someone else utilizes different criteria and selects Indiana, Louisville, Kansas or even another one-loss team, it probably won't be hard to justify it. In a wide-open season in college basketball with paper-thin margins between the top teams, determining the nation's best team has never been tougher.

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