The Spartans are allowed to hang around, because no one should be axed for a loss at Assembly Hall -- but they do cede their Power Rankings blurb to a more general topic: That of Brooklyn rapper Talib Kweli and his new commercial for the Big Ten.
Kweli's promo song, entitled Welcome to the Big Stage, includes the lyrics, "You can't fake it when you make it to the Big Ten/They blocking your big shots and stopping your big men."
It's a savvy move by the league; Kweli is an acclaimed artist who will probably help the Big Ten the street cred it desires. But Kweli also did a song (on his own) in November 2005 called Drugs, Basketball and Rap -- which addresses the misconception that those are the only three career options for urban kids -- with the line, "N----- getting caught in a trap, for the cash/It's the Drugs, Basketball or the Rap/There's more to us than that."
In helping the Big Ten go hip-hop, it seems like Kweli went and embraced two out of three. For the cash.
Next three: 1/7 at Wisconsin; 1/8 at Wisconsin; 1/11 vs. Indiana.
In this space last week, Cincy was dubbed "most underrated team in the nation." I figured this might swing enough AP poll votes to get the Bearcats in the Top 25, but that proclamation fell mostly on deaf ears -- UC remained in the "others receiving votes" category. But it did pick up 20 votes -- up from 18 to 38 -- and jumped from 11th in the "others" list to fifth. Baby steps. Even Cincy's own fans aren't sold -- Fifth Third Arena was only 65 percent full (8,605 seats out of 13,167) for the Bearcats' Big East opener on Wednesday, a 22-point drubbing of DePaul.
Next three: 1/7 at Marquette; 1/9 at UConn; 1/14 vs. Syracuse.
Ooh, I smell a hardcore quote-fight brewing between the Wolfpack and vanquished foe George Washington (79-58 losers on Dec. 30). After the game, N.C. State guard Cameron Bennerman said of the Colonials, "We knew their plays. We did a good job of preparing for them" ... while GW coach Karl Hobbs claimed the Wolfpack simply "had better players than we did tonight." Seems like a serious disagreement over plays versus players. Or perhaps not. The Pack is doing just fine without Julius Hodge, but the guy's gift of gab is noticeably absent.
Next three: 1/7 at North Carolina; 1/10 at Boston College; 1/14 vs. Georgia Tech.
Since we last came at you with the rankings, SI.com's Seth Davis played Jim Cramer and rocked the Stock Report. In it, the Terps are rated a solid "Buy"; he notes that "for a team ranked 16th, the Terps seem to have very little buzz right now." They're 14th here. Does that increase the buzz? They make their annual trip to Cameron on Wednesday.
Next three: 1/7 at Miami (Fla.); 1/11 at Duke; 1/15 vs. Wake Forest.
From the Cheap-Party-Favors-as-Superstitious-Objects File: Buckeyes forward Matt Sylvester, whose clutch 3-pointer last March ended Illinois' unbeaten streak, was back at his dagger-striking ways against LSU on Dec. 31, drilling a trey with 5.5 seconds left to beat the Tigers, 78-76. The Columbus Dispatch reported that Sylvester, who had been in a slump leading up to the game -- shooting just 31.4 percent from 3, down nearly 14 percent from last season -- was given good luck by a string of beads tucked into his left sock. Not just any beads, either. They were passed on by a student who had caught them at the Illinois game and saved them, and he contacted Sylvester after meeting him in a first-semester badminton course this year.
Next three: 1/7 at Indiana; 1/11 at Purdue; 1/15 vs. Michigan State.
Ponder the mystery that is Levon Kendall. A junior starter for the Panthers, the 6-foot-9 Kendall is a quality role player -- the team's fourth-leading scorer (7.4 ppg) and second-leading rebounder (6.3 rpg). He has scored in double figures just three out of 12 games this season. And yet, this summer, while playing on the Canadian U-21 team in Argentina, he scored 40points and grabbed 12 boards in an upset win over the U.S., which featured the likes of Redick, Justin Gray, Allan Ray, Taj Gray and Rudy Gay. And then Kendall just came back to college and resumed his semi-anonymous status on the Panthers. What gives?
Next three: 1/12 vs. DePaul; 1/15 at Louisville; 1/18 at Rutgers.
Dropped out: George Washington, Washington, Nevada.
On the cusp: Washington, Arizona, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Boston College, West Virginia, Cal, UNC, Tennessee, Arkansas, George Washington.