After a week of very little movement last week we saw all kinds of big upsets and signature wins this week! Both of the last two undefeated teams in the nation, Michigan and Virginia, lost and other top ten teams like Texas Tech, Kansas, and Virginia Tech all tasted defeat. It was a wild week, and there is going to be lots of movement in the top ten!
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Let’s get started!
#1. Tennessee Volunteers
Last Week’s Rank: #1 (16-1)
One thing that remains unchanged this week is my top team, the Tennessee Volunteers. I have been high on the Vols all season long, and in my eyes, this is the most complete team in the country. Many of you chuckled when I put the Vols at number one last week, but you are chuckling anymore as the rest of the top five took a beating in the last week, and the Vols have emerged as the number one ranked team in both the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll. Kenpom has them a bit lower at number five.
The Vols only had one game this week and survived a scare from a good Alabama team at home, eventually hanging on for the 71-68 win. Grant Williams was up to his old tricks as he dropped twenty-one points in the victory, and Admiral Schofield had a double-double. Tennessee plays at Vanderbilt next and then follows that one up at home against West Virginia. The schedule lays out fairly well for Tennessee before they head to Lexington to play the surging Kentucky Wildcats on February 16th in a game that will likely decide the SEC regular season championship.
#2. Duke Blue Devils
Last Week’s Rank: #5 (16-2)
No team rebounded from a tough loss better than the Duke Blue Devils did this week. Duke was reeling after needing a buzzer beater to beat Florida State and then dropping a home game to Syracuse last week. What better way to snap back into form than by beating the top-ranked, (in the coaches poll) and undefeated, Virginia Cavaliers. The win over the Cavs was a huge one, as it established Duke as the team to beat in the ACC. The game couldn’t have been closer as it was a one-possession, back and forth game all afternoon long, and was decided by just two points, with Duke winning 72-70.
Duke beat up on Pittsburgh last night to make it a 2-0 week for Coach K’s squad. Life in the ACC is never easy, but the Dukies get a bit of a break this week as they host an awful Georgia Tech team at home and then go to South Bend to play the struggling Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. There is ample opportunity for the Blue Devils to play top competition, but the rematch against Virginia on February 9th is a game to circle on your calendar now.
#3. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Last Week’s Ranking: #4 (18-2)
With all the carnage in the top five, the Gonzaga Bulldogs slide up one spot to number three in this week’s rankings. The Zags had an easy week, they blew out both Loyola Marymount and Portland this week, and now that Killian Tillie is back on the floor, this Zags team looks nearly unbeatable. The Zags have been easing both Tillie and Geno Crandle back into the rotation but both guys are getting healthier by the day, and I don’t see the Zags losing another game until the tournament.
And it’s not even that the WCC is bad, it’s actually decent this year. But the Zags are just on another level. The win over Loyola was a win against a 14-4 team, but the game itself wasn’t competitive as the Zags won by nearly twenty points. The Zags have historically always struggled in Provo against BYU, and they will have to pass that test again on January 31st. Assuming Mark Few’s team can leave Utah with a win, I see them running the table in the WCC the rest of the way out.
#4. Michigan Wolverines
Last Week’s Rank: #2 (18-1)
We all knew that the Michigan Wolverines weren’t going to go undefeated this year, the Big 10 is just too good, but some were surprised as to which team was able to knock the Wolverines off. I wasn’t. Madison has always been one of the toughest places to play in the country, and despite the fact that the Badgers are having an up and down year, they have the talent to hang with any team in the country. Ethan Happ is on the short list for national player of the year, and he showed it against Big Blue as he flirted with a triple-double and ended Michigan’s undefeated season with a twenty-six-point, ten rebound, seven assists game.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) 23 January 2019
It was almost two straight losses for Michigan as they needed a buzzer beater from Charles Matthews to sneak past Minnesota last night 59-57. Are the Wolverines running out of steam? Or is this just the Big 10 being the best league in the country? If you ask me it’s probably a little bit of both. We will see if the Wolverines can get back to dominating teams again as they travel to Bloomington to face the Indiana Hoosiers before hosting their arch-rivals, the Ohio State Buckeyes. Don’t be shocked if they are on upset alert in one or both of those games.
#5. Virginia Cavaliers
Last Week’s Rank: #3 (17-1)
I really wanted to put the Virginia Cavaliers at the number one spot last week, but I had a strong feeling they weren’t going to be able to go into Cameron Indoor and beat Duke, so I left them at number three. And after they went into Duke and lost, I feel good about my decision to leave them out of the top spot. But if the loss at Duke told us anything, it is that this team is absolutely the real deal. Yeah, they lost, but they showed a ton of heart and wouldn’t back down in what is likely the toughest place to play in the country this year. I am not a big fan of moral victories at this level of college basketball, but the Cavs left with a bit of a moral victory, knowing that when Duke comes to Charlottesville in a couple of weeks, they are going to have all they can handle.
The Cavs took out their frustrations against Wake Forrest last night, holding the Demon Deacons to just forty-five points in a blow out victory. Next up for Virginia are two road game against Notre Dame and NC State. Both of those games could prove to be trouble for the Cavaliers, especially the trip to Raleigh to play a very dangerous NC State team. The second half of the ACC schedule is filled with landmines for Virginia, don’t be shocked if they drop another game or two before it is all said and done.
#6. Michigan State Spartans
Last Week’s Ranking: #8 (17-2)
If you want to point to what team had the best all-around results this week, you need to look no further than Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans team. Despite the fact that the Spartans have been playing without their best player Joshua Langford, for the last six games, the Spartans have separated themselves from the rest of the Big 10 with some huge wins. The Spartans picked up a nice win at Nebraska against a Cornhuskers team that seems to be much better than their mediocre record. Then they turned right around and beat down a very good Maryland team at home, beating the Terrapins by fourteen points.
I will be the first one to admit that I saw the Spartans having a lot of trouble this week. But they didn’t. It makes you wonder how good this team will be when Langford gets healthy and back on the floor. The Big 10 is a beast this year, and the Spartans have another tough week ahead as they play road games at Iowa and Purdue. I would say that I expect the Spartans to struggle, but I have been saying that all season long and the Spartans have been making me look foolish, so this week I will give Izzo’s squad their fair share of credit and play wait and see.
#7. Nevada Wolfpack
Last Week’s Rank: #10 (17-1)
It is really hard to tell just how good this Nevada team is right now. They have a great record at 17-1, and the eye test tells me this is a sleeper, Final Four team. But they have been struggling against some very sub-par competition recently, so it is hard to nail down just what this team is capable of this year. The Wolfpack come in at number seven in both major polls, but kenpom gives them a lot less love as they come in at number nineteen in that ranking. The NET rankings? The NCAA’s new tool to replace RPI, has the Wolfpack down even further at number twenty-two.
Nevada is the biggest wild-card of any team in the country this year as they have elite level talent, but until March rolls around, we are going to see this team play against any elite competition. The Mountain West is by no means a terrible conference, but it is shaping up as a one or two bid league. So, we are going to have to continue using the eye test on the Wolfpack the rest of the way out. Nevada plays Colorado State next and then travels to Vegas to play UNLV. Both of those games project to be easy wins for Nevada.
#8. Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Ranked (15-3)
Don’t look now, but coach Cal has his boys playing high-level basketball again in Lexington. After coming into the season wildly overrated and struggling a bit out of the gates, the Wildcats seem to have everything clicking now as they have won eight out of their last nine games. We always knew this Kentucky team was full of first-round NBA talent, but the question was could Calipari get them playing together as a team before March Madness. That question has been answered as the Cats are mowing through some tough competition.
This week Kentucky played two ranked teams, on the road at Auburn, and then at home against Mississippi State, and they came away winners in both games. Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson are emerging as one of the best backcourts in America as both guys have been lights out in conference play. The Wildcats always schedule tough, and they will host the Kansas Jayhawks in a rare mid-season non-conference matchup in their next game. If Kentucky can hold off the Jayhawks, don’t be shocked if they rocket into my top five.
#9. Kansas Jayhawks
Last Week’s Ranking: #8 (16-3)
Speaking of those Jayhawks, Kansas comes in here at number nine, sliding down the rankings for the third consecutive week. Kansas lost a tough game to West Virginia on the road this week. And while the Mountaineers aren’t nearly as good as they have been in recent years under head coach Bob Huggins, winning in Morgantown is never an easy task. Kansas had a six-point lead with two minutes left to play but collapsed down the stretch and let West Virginia steal the game. The Jayhawks did rebound well from defeat though as they held off Iowa State at home in their last game, avenging an earlier season loss to the Cyclones.
Kansas has a brutal stretch of games coming up, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see them drop at least one of, if not more, of these games. You already know about having to go to Rupp Arena and play a very good Kentucky team. But after that, the Jayhawks play at Texas, home against Texas Tech, and at Kansas State. Brutal. Expect Kansas to struggle.
#10. North Carolina Tar Heels
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Ranked (15-4)
At the number ten spot, we welcome the North Carolina Tar Heels back to the rankings. While the Tar Heels have certainly had their share of struggles this year, it is clear that the team has loads of talent and they are going to compete for the ACC regular season title. This week, Carolina went into Miami and knocked off the Hurricanes and then followed that up by obliterating a top ten ranked Virginia Tech team 103-82. The Heels play at Georgia Tech this week, a game where they will be heavily favored before beginning a tough stretch against Louisville and NC State.
And here they are folks, my weekly top ten NCAA Men’s Basketball power rankings. This week we said goodbye to both Virginia Tech and Texas Tech as both teams may have gotten exposed just a little bit in conference play. With those teams dropping out we welcome North Carolina and Kentucky back to the top ten. There are about twenty teams vying for a spot in the top ten right now, and each week you can expect to see a lot of movement in the rankings. Conference play is where the men separate themselves from the boys.
Thanks for reading and good luck betting this week!