NCAA Men’s Basketball Power Rankings

We saw a lot of great basketball this week as the SEC and Big 12 played out their annual challenge, and conference play continued to push teams to the limit. This week we have a new number 1 team in the Auburn Tigers, as well as a couple of teams making their season debut in my power rankings, with Providence and Houston both cracking the top-10. Without further delay, let’s jump right into this week’s NCAA Men’s Basketball power rankings! Let’s get started!

Auburn Tigers (19-1)

Last week, I had the Auburn Tigers at number 2 behind the Gonzaga Bulldogs. But I mentioned in my rankings that if the Tigers managed to win both of their games this week, I would have no choice but to elevate them to the top spot in the rankings, no matter what the Zags were able to do. And here we are, as the Tigers went 2-0 this week, with a huge win over Kentucky and a nail-biter over the Missouri Tigers.

Bruce Pearl has done a fantastic job of taking the Tigers from a barely ranked team in the preseason to the top team in the nation, and while this week certainly had plenty of controversy, most notably the officiating in the Kentucky game, controversy aside, what the Tigers have been able to do has been undeniably impressive. Jabari Smith continues to shoot up draft boards and is now looking like the potential number 1 overall pick in next year’s NBA draft and having top-line talent like Smith on the floor gives Bruce Pearl the weapons he needs to win a national title.

The SEC is loaded this year, so no week is ever going to be easy, and this week is another tough one for Auburn, with a pair of home games against Oklahoma and Alabama. That being said, both the Sooners and the Crimson Tide are struggling right now, so this should be another great opportunity to pick up a couple more quality victories. It is full steam ahead for Auburn in the SEC as they are 8-0, and with the win over Kentucky, they now have a full 2-game lead in the SEC standings, making the regular season title theirs to lose.

Gonzaga Bulldogs (16-2)

Through no fault of their own, the Gonzaga Bulldogs dip down 1 spot this week, dropping to number 2, despite having a very successful week. The Zags picked up 3 blowout wins this week, one over a much better than people seem to think BYU team, another coming over Loyola Marymount, smashing the Lions by 34 points, and a 32-point shellacking of Portland on Saturday night. The West Coast Conference is the strongest it has ever been this year, but the WCC isn’t the SEC or the Big 12, so the Zags are going to feel the sting of that lower level of competition as the biggest knock on them as we inch towards March Madness.

Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren are learning to play with each other more and more every week, and if these two bigs can nail down how to complement each other, the Zags are going to be very tough to beat in the NCAA tournament. It is starting to look like Chet is the rim protector that isn’t afraid to stretch the floor and shoot from the mid-range or from beyond the arc, whereas Timme is a monster in the paint, happy to facilitate and pass the ball while shooting an absurdly high percentage from the field.

It won’t be all cupcakes for the Zags the rest of the way out, as they have road games against BYU, Saint Mary’s, and San Francisco still on the schedule, but until the strength of schedule picks up, you can assume the Zags will continue to steamroll through weaker competition. The next game is a soft one for the Bulldogs with a road trip to San Diego, but after that, it is a showdown in Provo against BYU, a place that has been notoriously hard to win for the Zags in the past. Auburn is going to have to lose for the Zags to jump them, but don’t let the Zag’s softer schedule convince you that this isn’t one of the best teams in the nation.

UCLA Bruins (16-2)

I see Gonzaga and Auburn as head and shoulders above the rest of the nation, but if there were a 3rd team that I see as somewhat close to the Tigers and the Zags, it would be this UCLA Bruins squad. We all knew that this team was going to be really good this year when they returned basically everybody from last year’s Final Four team, but after getting thumped by the Zags in Vegas early in the season, the Bruins slid off of a lot of people’s radars.

But the Bruins are back in the national spotlight again, as they have won 6 straight games, including a massive win over Arizona, and that run has the Bruins back near the top of the rankings, as they came in 3rd in the latest AP Poll. There have never been any doubts as to this team’s talent levels as the roster is packed full of future NBA players, but there have been questions as to whether or not this team could beat the top teams in the country.

The win over Arizona went a long way into proving that they can beat elite teams, and the next couple of weeks will truly show us what this team is made of, as they are about to hit the toughest patch of their schedule, with 4 consecutive road games. That nasty stretch of schedule kicks off with a trip to Arizona, where the Wildcats will be seeking their revenge, then games at Arizona State, Stanford, and USC.

If the Bruins win all of those games, they are going to be in a great spot to lock up a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament. If they drop a couple of those games, we are again going to see them slide back off of many casual fan’s radars. Just how good is UCLA? Get back at me in 2 weeks, and I will let you know.

Baylor Bears (18-2)

Baylor is really good this year. They won the national title last year and started out this year 15-0, looking like a threat to go back-to-back. But the Big 12 is really good, and the Bears have felt that recently, as they are just 3-3 in their last 6 games. None of their losses are bad ones, and prior to their loss to Alabama in their last game, in the SEC/Big 12 challenge, the Bears looked like they were headed back towards the top ranking in the nation with road wins at West Virginia and Oklahoma and a home win over K-State.

I am not sure how to feel about the loss to Alabama, as the Crimson Tide had lost 4 of their previous 6 games before knocking off the Bears, but when I see that Alabama has wins over Gonzaga, Houston, and Baylor this year, 3 of last year’s Final Four teams, it is hard to be too tough on Baylor for the loss.

The Bears get a home game against West Virginia tonight, which should be a tightly contested but winnable game for them, and then they head to Lawrence for a showdown with the Kansas Jayhawks in a blockbuster matchup. Life in the Big 12 is brutal, and no matter how many games the Bears may drop between now and Selection Sunday, they are still going to be a team capable of cutting down the nets this year in New Orleans.

Purdue Boilermakers (18-3)

Purdue is another team that rose to the top of the rankings, only to slip up and slide down the top-25. We see this a lot in conference play, particularly in the Big 10 and Big 12, where teams lose games, and there is a knee-jerk reaction to say that they were overrated. We have seen that after each of the Boilermakers 3 losses this year, with road losses to Indiana and Rutgers and their home loss to Wisconsin.

But let me tell you this right now, Purdue is not overrated! They are an elite team that has shown me that they can beat the best teams in the country on a given night. Teams just don’t ever go undefeated in the Big 10 as the league is far too physical, and home team dominated for teams to run the table and win all of their conference games. When I am judging teams for my power rankings, I am much more concerned about their ability to beat great teams than I am about them having an off night here and there.

Yeah, I would like to see Purdue be a little more consistent at times, but this roster is very talented with guys like Jaden Ivey and Trevion Williams, and the Boilermakers have as good of a resume as anybody right now with wins over North Carolina, Villanova, Florida State, Iowa (twice), Illinois, and Ohio State. Will Purdue lose again? Absolutely. Will that change my mind about them? Of course not.

The Boilermakers will be on upset alert their next time out with a road trip to Minnesota to play a Gophers team that is always tough at home, and then this weekend they play Michigan, a team that is much better than their 10-8 record might lead you to believe. As long as Purdue stays healthy, this is a team that nobody is going to want to see in their bracket come March.

Houston Cougars (18-2)

Could we see last year’s Final Four again this year? All 4 of last year’s final weekend teams are playing great basketball again this year, and we have already talked about Baylor, Gonzaga, and UCLA in this article, and coming in next are the Cougars of Houston. Houston is always going to be a little bit under the radar as they play in the AAC, which like the WCC, just isn’t an elite conference.

But if you ask me, that doesn’t make what the Cougars have been able to do so far this year any less impressive, as all the Cougars do is win basketball games. Heading into opening weekend last year, we heard a lot about the Zags and Cougar’s strength of schedules and why that was going to hurt them in the Big Dance. That was a bunch of BS last year as both teams made it to the Final Four, and it is a false narrative this year as well, as Houston has wins over Virginia, Oregon, Oklahoma State, Wichita State, and UCF.

The Cougars will carry a 10-game winning streak into their next game, a home game against Tulsa, before playing back-to-back tough road games at Cincinnati and at SMU. In a vacuum, the Cougars are the far superior team when compared to both the Bearcats and the Mustangs, but these games aren’t played in a vacuum, they are played on college campuses teaming with screaming students, and road games in league play against solid teams are always going to be hard-fought victories.

Arizona Wildcats (17-2)

Tommy Lloyd might have the most athletic roster in the nation, as the Wildcats have athletes all over the floor. A lot of people expected this to be a rebuilding year in Tucson with the new head coach, but that just hasn’t been the case, as Lloyd has done a great job of getting all of this raw talent playing at a high level.

The analytics love the Wildcats, as they play one of the fastest tempos in the country, and they pass the ball better than any other team, ranked 1st in assists per made field goal. The Wildcats are being dismissed for a lot of the same reasons that people are always trying to discount Gonzaga and Houston, as the schedule has been light for Arizona. Arizona has played 3 games against what I would call very good teams, and they are just 1-2 to show for it with losses to UCLA and Tennessee and a true road win against Illinois.

The Wildcat’s weak SOS won’t be that way for long, though, as Arizona has their biggest week of the entire season this week, with home games against UCLA and USC. If you add a couple of top-25 victories to Arizona’s resume, they are all of the sudden right back in the national title conversation. I will get a little bit ahead of the curve and keep the ‘Cats in that conversation right now, as I think they have a very good chance of going 2-0 this week and shooting up the national rankings.

Kansas Jayhawks (17-3)

I don’t really know why, but the Kansas Jayhawks seem to be the best team in the nation that nobody is talking about. Which honestly is a bit strange, as the Jayhawks are a true college basketball blue blood program, with a Hall of Fame coach, and one of the most talented rosters in the nation. I guess the overall strength of the Big 12 is what is keeping the Jayhawks out of the headlines, but I will tell you this right now, do not sleep on the rock chalk Jayhawks, as they can absolutely win it all.

After a tough road loss in Lubbock against Texas Tech, the Jayhawks reeled off 5 straight wins, with signature wins over Iowa State, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kansas State, and a revenge win over Texas Tech in their last game. We can argue back and forth all day on which conference is the best in the country, but I can’t imagine that the Big 12 isn’t at least in the top 3, and if you are a disciple of Kenpom, it is the toughest league in the land.

Kansas didn’t look great in their last game, a home loss to Kentucky, in a rare mid-season non-conference matchup, but there is no shame in losing to what I see as a very good Kentucky team that is currently ranked 3rd on Kenpom. The Jayhawks are sitting alone in 1st place in the Big 12, and there is something to say when you are the best team (at least by league record) in the best conference (per Kenpom) in the country.

Their schedule will continue to be amongst the toughest around this week, as the Jayhawks head to Ames to play the Iowa State Cyclones, a team they barely snuck past on their home floor, and then welcome the Baylor Bears to town for a game with the Big 12 regular season title on the line. Kansas has dudes, and a 2-0 week would be enough to skyrocket them back into the top-5 nationally.

Duke Blue Devils (17-3)

We have talked a lot about the strength of some of these conferences today, and for the first time in a long time, the Duke Blue Devils find themselves in a spot where playing in the ACC is hurting them, not helping them. The ACC has seemingly always been a great league with teams like Virginia, North Carolina, Louisville, and Duke winning recent national titles. But the league is way down this year, as the Blue Devils have been the only ranked team all season long.

Is this a sign of the times? Or just a fluky bad season for the ACC? We have seen the power shift a bit from the Big 10 and ACC to the Big 12 and the SEC in the last couple of seasons, and programs like Gonzaga, Houston, and Loyola-Chicago have shown that you can get deep in March without playing in a power conference. I would think that the league will quickly get back on its feet, but until then, wins for Duke over the likes of Louisville, Clemson, and Syracuse aren’t blowing anybody’s hair back.

I know it feels like a long time ago, but the Blue Devils did pick up non-conference wins over both Gonzaga and Kentucky, telling me that they are a very good basketball team, and even with the ACC down to its normal standards, nearly the entire league is still in the top-100, so these aren’t what I would call gimme type of games that the Blue Devils are winning.

Looking ahead on the schedule for Duke shows me that 9 of their last 11 regular season games will be against top-100 teams, and even though you might not be all that impressed as the Blue Devils continue to win games, I am, as I think this team is amongst the best teams in the country right now. This week Duke plays at Notre Dame and at North Carolina, and despite likely being favored in both games, those are going to be tough wins for Coach K’s boys.

Providence Friars (18-2)

To round out the top-10, I am going to highlight a team that is shockingly controversial, the Providence Friars. If you are a math nerd that looks only at the data, the Friars are a bubble team at best. If you are all about the eye test, the Friars are a Final Four threat. I am somewhere in between, as I am certainly a big believer in the analytics, but I also believe my eyes, and I just can’t understand what Kenpom hates about Providence.

PC is 18-2, and their resume is outrageously impressive for a team that wasn’t even ranked until 7 weeks into the season. The Friars have wins over Texas Tech, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Vermont, UCONN, Rhode Island, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Xavier, and Marquette. The losses came to Virginia and Marquette, which aren’t losses that are bad as both teams are in the top-100. I guess I will just have to agree to disagree with Pomeroy, as I see the Friars as a team that could be a dark horse national title contender.

Road games in the Big East are never easy, and the Friars have a pair of them this week, with road games at Saint John’s and Georgetown. PC beat both of those teams at home earlier this year, but both games were competitive, so this won’t be an easy week for Ed Cooley and company.

But if you want to look ahead and see where the real challenges are for Providence, you have to fast forward a couple of weeks, as the Friars play Villanova twice in the final 2 weeks of the regular season. Buckle up PC fans as the analytics say you suck, but I think you are great, and those games against the Wildcats will go a long way into proving who is right.

Wrap Up

And there you have it, folks, my weekly NCAA Men’s Basketball power rankings. If you want to win in March betting on college hoops, you need to start doing your homework now, and that starts by swinging by TheSportsGeek’s college hoops betting page, where our team of expert handicappers bring you high value, free, NCAA Men’s Basketball betting picks!

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Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL

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