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AP basketball Top 25: It’s time for Mississippi State, Missouri to prove their worth

Mississippi State’s first loss of the season came to Drake last week. Missouri stunned Illinois in a blowout. With daunting SEC matchups ahead, it’s time to prove just how good they actually are.

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Missouri Tigers guard Kobe Brown
Missouri Tigers guard Kobe Brown reacts after making a 3-pointer against Illinois during the second half of their matchup last week. (Jeff Curry/USA Today)

There wasn’t much movement at the top of the men’s college basketball world in a rather slow holiday week.

There was still plenty of action to keep up with, including a big rise from Miami after a win over Virginia, and a few undefeated teams picking up their first losses of the season.

Here’s everything you missed in Week 7 of the season, and the latest Associated Press men’s college basketball poll.

Drake stuns Mississippi State for first loss of the season

Mississippi State’s undefeated run, and impressive climb up the rankings, is over.

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Drake knocked off Mississippi State last week in Nebraska 58-52 in one of the biggest regular-season wins the Bulldogs have had in recent years. The loss sent Mississippi State, which wasn’t ranked and didn’t receive any votes in the first preseason poll of the season, down six spots to No. 21 in this week’s poll.

Mississippi State has looked solid this season and survived when it needed to. The Bulldogs’ 11-0 start included wins over Marquette, Utah and Minnesota. Yet their last several games ahead of SEC play starting this week have been rough, which makes the loss to Drake surprising.

Mississippi State surged ahead late to take a 10-point win over struggling Jackson State, and beat Nicholls by just two points days later. The Bulldogs shot 2-of-14 from behind the arc against the Colonels.

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It’s not going to get easier for head coach Chris Jans. The Bulldogs kick off SEC play this week against No. 8 Alabama, who has dropped games this season only to No. 2 UConn and No. 10 Gonzaga. Mississippi State takes on No. 7 Tennessee next week.

If the Bulldogs are an SEC contender, we’ll find out soon. If the losing continues, Mississippi State’s hot start will be just that, and nothing more.

Illinois stumbles again in blowout loss to Missouri

Illinois’ stretch to close out the calendar year hasn’t gone well.

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The Illini, after dropping a tough game at home to Penn State earlier this month, struggled nearly the entire way through a matchup with Missouri on Thursday. The Tigers, after a 20-4 run early in the first half, flew ahead to a dominant 93-71 win over Illinois in St. Louis, which handed the Illini their second loss in three games.

Illinois is 8-4 on the season with Big Ten play right around the corner. It dropped out of the poll completely this week and received 65 total votes, which made it unofficially No. 29

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The loss might be worse after listening to Missouri head coach Dennis Gates’ assessment after.

“We didn’t play well,” he said, via Sports Illustrated’s Zach Dimmitt. “I’m dead serious … I don’t think we played well and I’ll continue to challenge my guys on executing the things we didn’t execute. For a full 40 minutes, we did not play well. I’ll continue to say that.”

He’s almost certainly being too harsh, especially looking at the 11-1 start Missouri is on to open up this season. The Tigers’ lone loss came in the form of a blowout to No. 4 Kansas earlier this month. They received 57 votes this week, which makes them unofficially No. 31, the closest they’ve been to being ranked this season.

While Illinois is the best team they’ve played, outside of the Jayhawks, a huge win like that is certainly a reason to start paying attention to the Tigers ahead of conference play — which won’t be easy right away. The Tigers will take on No. 19 Kentucky this week before a battle with No. 9 Arkansas next week.

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Like Mississippi State, it’s time for Missouri to prove itself.

Full AP Top 25

The full AP Top 25 poll from Monday, Dec. 26:

1. Purdue (12-0)

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2. UConn (13-0)

3. Houston (12-1)

4. Kansas (11-1)

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5. Arizona (12-1)

6. Texas (10-1)

7. Tennessee (10-2)

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8. Alabama (10-2)

9. Arkansas (11-1)

10. Gonzaga (10-3)

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11. UCLA (11-2)

12. Baylor (9-2)

13. Virginia (8-2)

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14. Miami (12-1)

15. Wisconsin (9-2)

16. Indiana (10-3)

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17. Duke (10-3)

18. TCU (10-1)

19. Kentucky (8-3)

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20. Auburn (10-2)

21. Mississippi State (11-1)

22. New Mexico (12-0)

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23. Xavier (10-3)

24. West Virginia (10-2)

25. North Carolina (9-4)

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Others receiving votes: Charleston 102, Maryland 87, Memphis 74, Illinois 65, Ohio State 59, Virginia Tech 57, Missouri 57, San Diego State 39, Iowa State 19, Marquette 12, Texas Tech 10, Michigan State 7, Providence 6, Kansas State 5, USC 4, San Francisco 1

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