With all leagues now well into league play, we are starting to see the NCAA tournament field really start to take shape. Teams like Iowa and Nebraska that many saw as potential top four seeds during the non-conference have been humbled at the start of league play. While other teams like Texas Tech and Iowa State have used a hot start to conference play to boost their tournament resumes and gain some national attention. The top ten will be shaken up in a big way this week. Let’s get started!
#1. Duke Blue Devils
Last Week’s Rank: #1 (12-1)
Not many teams had a better holiday season than the Duke Blue Devils did this year. We all know that Duke is the most talented team in the country, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to walk straight to the Final Four. Duke picked up a big win over a very strong Texas Tech team and then kicked off their ACC schedule by beating a game Clemson team. Zion Williamson continues to wreak havoc as he went for 17 and 13 against Texas Tech and followed that up y dropping 25 and 10 against Clemson. Zion is shooting 66% from the field and is averaging a double-double.
The ACC is absolutely loaded as usual this year, and things are going to be challenging for this Duke team. Duke plays three games this week, at Wake Forrest, at Florida State, and home against Syracuse. All three of those teams are sure to put up a fight. And what do the Blue Devils get as a reward for playing three games in six days? A matchup against the undefeated Virginia Cavaliers. We will find out a lot about this Duke team in the next week or so. If they cruise through it unscathed, you can just go ahead and pencil them in now for a third-weekend appearance in the Big Dance.
#2. Tennessee Volunteers
Last Week’s Rank: #3 (12-1)
At number two this week we have the Tennessee Volunteers. The Vols have been riding high all season long, with their lone loss coming at the hands of the Kansas Jayhawks in overtime. Since that loss, this Tennessee team has looked unbeatable, and they boast wins over Gonzaga and Memphis. This week Tennessee started their SEC play off on the right foot as they absolutely obliterated Georgia 96-50. Now, don’t get me wrong, this Georgia team is nowhere near elite, but they are a solid squad with a winning record and the beatdown that Tennessee put on them put the rest of the SEC on notice.
The duo of Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield continues to be one that has proven hard to stop. The Vols have three games this week as well as they play at Missouri, at Florida, and at home against Arkansas. Missouri and Florida are both teams that are projected as tournament teams and winning on the road in league play is never easy. And Arkansas is playing well as they are 10-3 on the season. I have said all season long that Tennessee is the class of the SEC, and they are going to need to play their best to hit week eleven without a loss.
#3. Michigan Wolverines
Last Week’s Ranking: #4 (15-0)
Many people have the Wolverines ranked at number two, just behind Duke. In the AP Poll, the Wolverines are ranked second and received their fair share of first-place votes. And I can certainly understand why people are loving this team so much. Michigan has yet to taste defeat on the season and their defense is stifling. Kenpom has the Wolverines as the fourth best team in defensive efficiency. And they are no slouch on the offensive side of the ball either, as they are ranked twentieth per kenpom.
Wins over Purdue, Northwestern, Penn State, and Indiana tell me that this team is the clear favorite to take home the Big 10 regular season title. Michigan plays Illinois and Northwestern this week, two games they should win fairly easily, before heading to Madison for a showdown with the Wisconsin Badgers on January 19th.
#4. Virginia Cavaliers
Last Week’s Rank: #5 (13-0)
Coming in at number four this week are the Virginia Cavaliers. When Virginia hosted the top ten ranked Florida State Seminoles this week and were laying double-digit points, I was shocked. How could you possibly like the Cavaliers to blow out a very strong Florida State team when they play such a slow pace and struggle to score the basketball? Despite my skepticism, the Cavs did just that, as they played their typical brand of slow down basketball, and their defense did the rest. Virginia held Florida State to just 34% shooting from the field and forced fifteen turnovers in the 65-52 spread covering victory.
Virginia has a couple of tough tests coming up this week as they play at Boston College, at Clemson, and then at home against a top ten ranked Virginia Tech team. They follow that up with a road game at Duke. Thus, is life in the ACC, having to play back to back games against top ten teams. I like this Virginia team a lot, but something tells me that they are going to struggle during this stretch. I think Duke handles them and I wouldn’t at all be shocked if Virginia Tech knocks them off either. Two weeks from now, if this Cavs team is still undefeated you can expect to see them atop my rankings.
#5. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Last Week’s Rank: #7 (14-2)
After spending a couple of weeks in the top spot earlier in the season, the Gonzaga Bulldogs slide back into the top five again this week. Since losing back to back games against North Carolina and Tennessee, the Zags have beat up on some weak competition. The WCC isn’t as weak as it typically is as the conference has several solid squads. San Francisco and Loyola Marymount seem to be the best of the bunch outside of Gonzaga at the moment, but don’t sleep on perennial powers BYU or St. Mary’s either. The Zags won’t have their usual cake walk through league play and should be challenged at least a couple of times during the WCC regular season.
The Zags will get their first real WCC challenge, and it could prove to be the toughest game they have left on their schedule when they travel to San Francisco to play a 14-2 Dons team. Gonzaga has an average margin of victory of over 40 points a game in the last three weeks, expect things to tighten up for the Bulldogs this week.
#6. Kansas Jayhawks
Last Week’s Ranking: #2 (12-2)
It has not been a great two weeks for Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks team. After rising to the top of the AP Poll for the first time since the preseason, the Jayhawks have really struggled. They lost at Arizona State, played a much closer than most anticipated game with Oklahoma, and then lost in their last game at Iowa State. And they didn’t just lose to the Cyclones, they got embarrassed as they lost by seventeen points in Ames to the unranked Cyclones. Life without Udoka Azubuike is not looking great as Kansas was struggling on the road before the seven-footer went down with a season-ending injury. Now that he is gone, this team looks a bit lost.
Coming into the season all the chatter surrounding this Kansas team was about whether or not this was the best team that Self has ever had in Lawrence. It seemed that winning their fifteenth consecutive Big 12 title was a foregone conclusion.
They played close and survived against LA-Lafayette, Stanford, and New Mexico State. But if you play with fire long enough, you are going to get burned, and this Kansas team looks charred at the moment.
#7. Virginia Tech Hokies
Last Week’s Rank: Unranked (13-1)
I was a bit slow to recognize just how good this Hokies team was this year. Maybe they just got lost in the shuffle of what is a very good ACC, or maybe it was there not overly flashy workmanlike brand of basketball that threw me off. Whatever the case may be, I am all in on this team now. I know that Duke, Virginia, and North Carolina are all really good, but this Hokies team deserves to be mentioned in that same breath as teams that could win the ACC this season. Tech boasts three legitimate superstar players in Neil Alexander-Walker, Kerry Blackshear Jr, and Justin Robinson.
The Hokies don’t have a great resume just yet, as their biggest wins of the year came over Purdue and Washington, solid but not spectacular squads. But we are going to find out just what this team is made of this week when they travel to Charlottesville to play the Virginia Cavaliers. As I said above, the Cavs are going to be on upset alert in that one, and if Tech finds a way to steal a win on the road, you can expect them to vault into my top five.
#8. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Last Week’s Ranking: #9 (13-1)
Dedric Lawson of Kansas is getting all the hype for the Big 12 player of the year, and deservedly so, the guy is a beast. But my pick for the Big 12’s best is Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech. On top of being an absolute lockdown defender on the perimeter, Culver is filling up the stat sheet with 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists a game, all while shooting north of 42% from deep. Coming into this season, many wondered who would take the place of do-everything guard Keenan Evans for Texas Tech. It turns out that not only can Culver fill that void, he might just be even better than Evans ever was.
The Red Raiders only loss on the season came in a very competitive game against Duke, and they have nice wins over Nebraska, West Virginia, and K-State. If the Kansas Jayhawks historic streak of fourteen straight Big 12 titles comes to an end this season, don’t be shocked if it is this Texas Tech team that knocks them off. Next up for the Red Raiders is a home game against twenty-third ranked Oklahoma and then a road game at Texas.
#9 Michigan State Spartans
Last Week’s Ranking: Unranked (13-2)
The Michigan State Spartans rejoin the top ten this week as they picked up a huge road win at Ohio State. The Big 10 started their league play early this season, and the Spartans are already 4-0 in conference play. The big question mark for the Spartans in the health of Joshua Langford. Langford will miss his third straight game tonight against Purdue, and if he doesn’t get back healthy soon, I don’t think this Spartans team will be able to keep up with Michigan atop the Big 10 standings. All league games are going to be tough in the Big 10 this year, and this week the Spartans play at home against Purdue and then at Penn State. Can State stay elite without Langford on the court?
#10. Nevada Wolfpack
Last Week’s Ranking: #6 (14-1)
Rounding out the top ten this week are the Wolfpack of Nevada. So much for all that undefeated talk in Reno. After starting out the season 14-0 and looking unbeatable, the Wolfpack got shocked this week at New Mexico. The Lobos aren’t a great team this year, but they always play well at home, so the loss wasn’t all that hard to see coming. But the way that Nevada loss surely was. Reno lost by nearly thirty points and shot the ball awful all night long. Every team is going to have an off night, and maybe the loss will take off all the undefeated pressure. Nevada plays three times this week, against San Jose State, Fresno State, and Boise State, expect them to get right back on track.
And here they are folks, my week ten NCAA Men’s Basketball power rankings. We saw a huge shake-up with teams like Kansas and Reno getting upset and some second tiered teams like Michigan State, Virginia Tech, and Texas Tech announce themselves as legit conference championship contenders. With conference play in full swing, you can expect these rankings to look a lot different each week as there are lots of big games on the schedule.
Thanks for reading and good luck betting this week!