With finals week finally wrapping up, the college basketball action will hit a fevered pitch this week, with most of the top twenty-five in action. This week we saw some great teams get tested that survive, and a couple other teams that got upset.
There were several upsets in the top ten, and the rankings are sure to look a lot different this week. With conference play just around the corner, teams are looking to secure a couple of last-minute resume building non-conference wins. And with that, we will jump right into our weekly top ten power rankings!
#1. Duke Blue Devils
Last Week’s Rank: #2 (9-1)
The Duke Blue Devils are the most talented team in the country. Yes, they did have an early season loss to Gonzaga, but they look fully recovered from that loss and come in at the top of the rankings again this week. The Blue Devils only had one game in the last two weeks, a blow out beating over Yale, but for my money, they are the best team in the country.
Continues to be completely un-guardable at the college level. The athletic phenom is scoring twenty points a game on a borderline absurd 66% shooting from the field. You can add in nine rebounds, two blocks, two steals, and two assists to his elite scoring levels. This guy is a matchup nightmare and is posting all of these stats in just over twenty-six minutes a game. And what if I told you that Williamson might not even be the best player on this Duke team?
RJ Barrett looks every much as good as he was advertised when he came into this season as the number one ranked recruit in the country, ahead of Williamson. Barrett is scoring over twenty-four points a game while dragging down seven rebounds and dishing out four assists. Duke has a soft game against Princeton before playing a very good Texas Tech team at Madison Square Garden to wrap up their non-conference slate. With ACC league play coming up at the start of the New Year we are going to get plenty of opportunities to see this Duke team tested, don’t be shocked if they pass those tests with flying colors.
#2. Kansas Jayhawks
Last Week’s Rank: #3 (9-0)
Several times this season we have seen the Kansas Jayhawks pushed to the absolute limit. They barely survived against Michigan State on opening night. They went into overtime against both Tennessee and Stanford. And they barely snuck past New Mexico State in Kansas City. This week we saw the Jayhawks in another close game as they went to the wire with the defending national champion Villanova Wildcats.
The game was tight all evening long, and the Jayhawks needed to make all of their free throws late to hold on to the victory. As much as I want to knock the Jayhawks for playing down to some inferior competition, which they certainly have done this year, I also acknowledge that this team has played a very tough schedule and is still undefeated. The Jayhawks have another ranked team on the horizon as they head to Tempe this week to face a very solid and nationally ranked Arizona State Sun Devils team.
The Jayhawks are playing with fire, and eventually, they are going to get burnt, but right now, it is hard to rank this team any lower than here at number two. Betting against Kansas has proved to be very profitable so far this year as they aren’t covering many spreads, but as far as getting the job done and winning the games outright, you can’t argue with their success.
#3. Tennessee Volunteers
Last Week’s Ranking: #6 (8-1)
It is hard to have too much of a better week than the ones the Vols just had. They beat the nation’s number one team, the Gonzaga Bulldogs and then followed up that win by knocking off in-state rival Memphis. I have been really high on this Tennessee team all season long, and I know the SEC is loaded this year, but this Volunteer’s team is the best of the bunch if you ask me.
Grant Williams looks to be well on his way to repeating as the SEC player of the year. Williams has improved his scoring, rebounding, shooting, and assists from a year ago when he took home the league’s top honors.
When it matters most…
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) 9 December 2018
But the play of Admiral Schofield is what is grabbing the headlines right now as the senior has scored fifty-nine points in his last two games, including the game-winning three-pointer against Gonzaga. The Vols don’t have much left on their non-conference schedule before SEC league play kicks off on January 5th against Georgia. Expect the Vols to roll into league play on a winning streak.
#4. Michigan Wolverines
Last Week’s Rank: #5 (9-0)
The Wolverines survived a scare this week as they played a competitive game with Western Michigan. Michigan trailed by as many as eight points in the first half before finishing strong and pulling away for the hard-fought win. Michigan already has two Big 10 league wins and looks poised to win the league this season, and this team looks even better than last year’s team that made the Final Four. This team plays elite defense and has a true superstar in freshman Ignas Brazdeikis. Next up for the Wolverines is a soft game against Airforce before they wrap up non-conference play against Binghamton on December 30th.
#5. Virginia Cavaliers
Last Week’s Rank: #4 (9-0)
You can easily make the case that Virginia should be ranked higher than here at number five. They were the number one overall seed in the NCAA tournament last season, and they are undefeated so far this season with nice wins against Wisconsin and Maryland. Kyle Guy, Deandre Hunter, and Ty Jerome all look like NBA players, and this team is playing its trademark tough defense. Kenpom has this team as the third best defensive squad in the country, and they lead the nation in assists to turnover ratio.
A team that plays defense at a high level, is led by experienced upperclassmen, and never turns the ball over. That sounds like a recipe for success. Virginia played a somewhat close game with VCU this week but managed to come away with the win and run their undefeated record to 9-0. The Cavs play a better than their record South Carolina team on the road in their next game, and something tells me that game could be decided by single-digits and will be much more competitive than many think.
#6. Nevada Wolfpack
Last Week’s Ranking: #7 (11-0)
There has been only one question mark about this Nevada team so far this season, the strength of their competition. My eyeballs tell me that this team is Final Four caliber, but they hadn’t played good enough competition in the season’s first several weeks to truly show off their talents. Well, they have now. The Wolfpack beat last year’s Final Four team, the Ramblers of Loyola-Chicago, then they beat USC, and Arizona State, two teams that could very well win the Pac-12 this season. And then this week, they beat a sneaky good South Dakota State teams that features the best player in the country you have never heard of in Mike Daum.
Nevada plays the Akron Zips next, in Reno, and the Wolfpack should roll in that one. The Mountain West is down right now, so don’t be shocked if Nevada hits the NCAA tournament undefeated. There are going to be tough games in league play, but Nevada is going to be favored in every game they play the rest of the way out.
#7. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Last Week’s Rank: #1 (9-2)
It is hard to see the silver lining for the Zags this week as they have now lost back to back games after starting the season out undefeated and ranked number one in the country. Gonzaga lost to Tennessee at the buzzer and then got their doors blown off by North Carolina in the Dean Dome. Both of those teams are in the top ten in both major polls, so there isn’t too much shame in the losses. And you have to remember that this team is still playing without what is very likely their best player in big man Killian Tillie.
Tillie is expected to rejoin the team just in time for WCC league play and will be a much-needed boost to this suddenly struggling Gonzaga team.
I contemplated dropping the Zags even further, but quickly remember that this team beat Duke without their best player on the floor and they are only going to get better as they get healthy.
If you don’t think this team is a Final Four level team you need to get your eye’s checked. Don’t be surprised if the Zags put together another long winning streak as their competition is about to take a major dip when league play starts.
#8. Auburn Tigers
Last Week’s Ranking: #9 (7-1)
Like many of the teams in the top ten, the Auburn Tigers had a soft week of games with final’s week. They played one game against UAB. Most expected Auburn to run through the Blazers, but UAB had different ideas. The Blazers took this game to overtime, and if it weren’t for a transcendent effort from Auburn’s Jared Harper, who scored thirty-one points, Auburn would have lost.
We saw that Auburn could play with any team in the nation when they hung with Duke in Maui. But when you look at the full body of work for the Tigers, it is a bit light. They have decent wins over Washington, Xavier, and Arizona but each of those wins are likely to look less impressive as those teams continue to struggle. Auburn heads to NC State for a showdown with a 9-1 Wolfpack team next, and they better be on upset alert!
#9. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Last Week’s Ranking: #10 (8-0)
There has been a lot of discussion to just how good this Texas Tech team is this season. Most expected them to struggle coming into the year as they lost more than just about anybody in the Big 12. Yet here they are undefeated and ranked in the top fifteen of both polls. We will find out just how good this team is this week though as they have a huge showdown with Duke from MSG. The Red Raiders won’t need to beat Duke to prove to me that they are legit. If they can keep the game even somewhat competitive, we will know that this team is the real deal.
#10. North Carolina Tar Heels
Last Week’s Ranking: #9 (8-2)
To round out the top ten, we welcome the North Carolina Tar Heels back to the countdown. The Heels dropped out of the top ten after getting pounded by Michigan, but have totally redeemed themselves this week, by beating the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The win was a signature one for the Tar Heels, but when you take a closer look at how that game played out, they were fairly lucky to win. North Carolina turned the ball over twenty-two times in that game but managed to shoot their way out of their ball handling troubles.
The Zags came into the game as a good rebounding team, but the Heels dominated the boards to the tune of a 42-21 advantage. Carolina shot 52% from three and 55% from the field. There were some doubts about this Gonzaga defense coming into this game and the Heels completely exposed their biggest weakness. The tough schedule continues for North Carolina as they play the Kentucky Wildcats in Chicago next week.
And here they are, folks, my week seven NCAA Men’s basketball power rankings! We had plenty of movement this week, with several teams shuffling around and we welcomed the North Carolina Tar Heels back to the rankings after a two-week hiatus.
We have a little bit of a lull in the action until the holidays are over, and then it is full steam ahead into conference play. Thanks for reading and good luck betting NCAA Men’s College Basketball!