Mon. Mar 18th, 2019

College Basketball Power Rankings After a Month: Kansas is the New Number One with Tennessee Right Behind

1. Kansas

Kansas has looked great so far and is in my opinion the best team in the nation right now.  They have beaten Michigan State and Tennessee, two top-10 teams, at neutral sites and have a good win over Marquette.  Lagerald Vick and Dedric Lawson are stars and so is Udoka Azubuike, when he’s on the floor.  Azubuike is playing just about 20 minutes per game right now, sixth on the team, mostly due to foul trouble.  Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson have looked really good and actually play a fairly similar style.  Kansas is in the top 7 in KenPom adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency and do just about everything well.  Stanford took them to overtime last Saturday but Lagerald Vick carried Kansas to a win and the Jayhawks stayed perfect.  Kansas’ next big game is December 15th against Villanova.

2. Tennessee

Tennessee’s only loss so far came in overtime to Kansas.  They just beat Gonzaga in a great game and have a win over Louisville under their belt as well.  Tennessee returns nearly everyone from last year’s team and still have the same stingy defense.  The Volunteers have a balanced scoring attack with five players averaging double figures and rebound well as a team with eight players averaging at least three rebounds.  Tennessee is a complete team led by two really great players, Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield.  Both Williams and Schofield play physical, rebound very well, and can shoot from outside.

3. Gonzaga

Gonzaga is 9-1 and has a great win against Duke as well as quality wins against Texas A&M, Illinois, Arizona, Washington, and at Creighton.  Their only loss came by three to Tennessee on a last second shot from Admiral Schofield.  Rui Hachimura is averaging 22.3 points a game and looks like an All-American.  He plays tough, rebounds, plays great defense, and has an improved outside shot.  Zach Norvell Jr. has done a great job in adapting to his expanded role on offense.  Norvell is the Bulldogs’ second leading scorer at 18.1 points per game along with 5.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists.  Brandon Clarke has been an invaluable addition, he does his fair share of scoring but more importantly has averaged 3.4 blocks a game this season.  Josh Perkins has continued to be a true point guard and an efficient shooter.  Perkins is averaging 8 assists and shooting 48% from the field, 39% from three, and 90% from the foul line.  This team is extremely efficient on offense and is second in the nation in points per game, they shoot the three well and play solid defense.  The only weakness big enough to even mention with this team would be that they do not have great depth.  However, this will be helped considerably by the return of Killian Tillie which is set to be around late December or early January.  They’ve got a chance to get back on track in their next game against North Carolina.

4. Duke

There isn’t a whole lot to say about Duke cause ESPN has probably already said it.  If you’ve turned on ESPN in the last month you’re probably aware that roughly 90% of their college basketball coverage is focused on Duke.  The Blue Devils have the most talented starting lineup in the nation and at least three guys that could step on an NBA court tonight and look right at home.  They’re 9-1 and their only loss was by 2 against Gonzaga.  They have neutral site wins over Kentucky and Auburn and a dominant home win over Indiana.  They’re extremely exciting to watch and are first in the nation in KenPom adjusted efficiency margin by a wide margin.  Zion Williamson is an absolute stud and is averaging 20 points and 9 rebounds.  R.J. Barrett, who I think will be the best NBA player of the three, is leading the team in scoring at 24 points, despite early efficiency issues.  Lastly, Cam Reddish has put up 14.5 points per game but is overshadowed by Williamson and Barrett.  This team will not be untested, the ACC provides a grueling conference schedule that has two good teams meeting in most conference matchups.

5. Michigan

The Wolverines have an extremely impressive resume so far.  They have blowout wins over Villanova, Providence, North Carolina, and Purdue as well as a tight road win over Northwestern.  They have balanced scoring and rebounding with 6 players averaging at least 4 rebounds.  Freshman Ignas Brazdeikis has outperformed everyone’s expectations and is putting up 17 points a game.  Charles Matthews and Jordan Poole have taken on bigger roles offensively and guys like Isaiah Livers and Jon Teske have improved a lot.  Zavier Simpson is great defensively and leads the team with 6 assists a game.  Michigan is not a great perimeter shooting team and is not well suited in an uptempo game but this is one of the best teams in the country and certainly looks like the team to beat in the Big 10.

6. Nevada

The Wolfpack has not had played too many great opponents so far but they have looked really good in their three toughest tests with a 16 point win over BYU, a 12 point road win over USC, and a comeback win over Arizona State.  Against Arizona State, Nevada shot just 3-18 from three and still managed to pull off a win over a good team.  This showed the Wolfpack is not one-dimensional and can win tough games even when they aren’t hitting from three,  Their offense is even better than last year and it is easy to argue that it is the best in the nation.  They have 4 players averaging double figures and they are shooting 37% from three as a team.  Transfers Jazz Johnson and Tre’Shawn Thurman have taken on bigger roles than I expected and 5-star freshman Jordan Brown is just seventh on the team in minutes per game, which I found interesting.  Caleb Martin and Jordan Caroline have been as good as expected and Nevada’s defense is much improved.  The additions of Trey Porter and Tre’Shawn Thurman have given the Wolfpack some much needed size that allows Jordan Caroline to play his natural position and as a result, their defense is much better this year.

7. Virginia

Virginia is undefeated so far with wins over Wisconsin and Maryland.  Their defense has been suffocating and their offense has been methodical.  Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and De’Andre Hunter have been great and do most of the scoring.  All three are averaging at least 13 points and shooting over 40% from three.  De’Andre Hunter has grown from a great sixth man to one of the most complete forwards in the nation and an All American conteder. This Virginia team can compete with any team in the country and will give Duke a challenge for the ACC title.

8. Auburn

The Auburn Tigers are a very talented team led by guards Bryce Brown and Jared Harper and have an impressive resume so far.  They have wins over Washington, Xavier, and Arizona and their only loss came by six points to Duke.  Brown and Harper are averaging 18 points and 15 points respectively and Harper is also averaging 7 assists and shooting 44% from three.  Auburn is good on both ends of the floor and shoots the three very well.  They have a tough SEC schedule ahead but should be in at least the top three of the conference all year long.

9. Michigan State

Michigan State had high expectations coming into the season and have looked really good besides their losses to Kansas and Louisville.  They have quality wins over UCLA, Texas, Iowa, and Florida and have one of the best offenses in the country.  The Spartans are led by Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford, Winston is averaging 16.1 points and 7.5 assists while shooting 39% from three point range and Langford is averaging 16.7 points with a 44% three point shooting percentage.  Winston and Langford do make up one of the best backcourts in the country, but the Spartans also have three strong big guys in Nick Ward, Xavier Tillman, and Kenny Goins.  They won their first two Big Ten games and have an easy schedule until conference play resumes.

10. North Carolina

North Carolina is a talented and experienced team with a lot to figure out.  They looked good in a 16 point win over UCLA but have dropped their two other most challenging games against Texas and Michigan.  Coby White has looked like one of the best freshmen in the nation and is at times carrying the Tar Heels on offense.  UNC has a very deep bench and a great offense but have a lot to figure out on the defensive end.  Nas Little had a ton of hype around him coming into the season but has been coming off the bench and has been impressive in his current role.  With Garrison Brooks not exactly setting the world on fire, Little could definitely take on a bigger role and I’m looking forward to seeing that.  North Carolina will be around the top of the ACC and will be a part of some of the best games of the season.

11. Texas Tech

The Red Raiders did not have very high expectations coming into the season but they’ve impressed so far.  They’re 8-0 and have wins over USC and Nebraska.  Texas Tech has been led offensively by Jarrett Culver who is averaging 18 points a game and 4.5 assists.  I’m interested to see how they hold up once conference play starts but they look excellent right now.

12. Wisconsin

Wisconsin is not getting enough respect because of their lack of success last season.  The Badgers are led by Ethan Happ, D’Mitrik Trice, and Brad Davison (who took five charges in one game this season).  They have wins at Xavier and Iowa and home wins against Oklahoma and NC State.  Their only losses were to Virginia and in overtime against Marquette.  Wisconsin has a top ten defense in the country and are shooting the three extremely well so far as a team.

13. Villanova

Early on the Wildcats dropped back to back games to Michigan and Furman but are 6-0 since.  Also, those losses look better and better the more that Michigan and Furman continue to win.  It would’ve been unreasonable to not expect some bumps and bruises early in the season when they’re replacing as much talent as they are.  Phil Booth and Eric Paschall are leaders and are both averaging 15 points a game.  Marquette or St. John’s could challenge them but I expect Villanova to win the Big East.

14. Syracuse

Syracuse dropped two games in a row to UConn and Oregon but have rebounded since.  The Orange got Frank Howard back and beat Ohio State on the road.  Syracuse has several talented offensive guards including Tyus Battle and Elijah Hughes and defensive bigs like Oshae Brissett and Pascal Chukwu.  They run Boeheim’s 2-3 zone well and rely on their guards on offense.  They return most of their rotation from last year’s Sweet Sixteen team and should give the rest of the ACC a lot of trouble.

15. Virginia Tech

The Hokies bring back a lot of talent from last year including Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Ahmed Hill, and Justin Robinson.  They have an excellent win over Purdue under their belt and their only loss was by one point at Penn State.  This is yet another tough ACC team that can give anyone a close game.

16. Iowa State

Iowa State has wins over Missouri, Illinois, and San Diego State with losses against Arizona and at Iowa.  This is especially impressive considering they look like a top-20 team without their star player Lindell Wigginton.  Wigginton has not played since their season opener against Alabama State because of a strained left foot but is expected back around mid-December.  Marial Shayok and Michael Jacobson are currently leading the Cyclones but will form one of the best trios in the nation once Wigginton returns.

17. Florida State

Every time I watch Florida State I haven’t come away very impressed, however they have several quality wins, their only loss is to a good Villanova team, and KenPom has them ranked 15th in the nation.  Terrance Mann is averaging 12 points and 7 rebounds and has looked very capable of taking charge of this team.

18. Indiana

The Hoosiers have had outstanding wins over Marquette, Northwestern, Louisville, and at Penn State and their losses came on the road against Arkansas and Duke.  Romeo Langford has lived up to the hype so far and Juwan Morgan has looked great.  This team has a lot of potential and could make a run at the Big Ten title.

19. Marquette

Marquette plays an extremely challenging non-conference schedule but they have looked good.  They beat Louisville, Kansas State, and Wisconsin but dropped games to Indiana and Kansas.  They have several more good non-conference games coming up including a game against Buffalo.  They’ve got a really good offense led by Markus Howard, who is averaging 22.9 points per game.

20. Ohio State

Ohio State has shown guts in road wins over Cincinnati and Creighton.  Their lone loss came to Syracuse in a game that Syracuse shot uncharacteristically well from three and Ohio State struggled against the zone.  The Buckeyes followed up their loss with a 20-point win over Minnesota and a win over Illinois.  This team lacks a consistent lead offensive option but someone seems to step up every game.  C.J. Jackson, Kaleb Wesson, Andre Wesson, and Keyshawn Woods have all led the team in scoring in a game this year.

21. Nebraska

Nebraska has an experienced team that was very underrated last year.  James Palmer Jr., Isaac Copeland Jr., and Glynn Watson Jr. are three exceptional players that are complemented by a deep rotation.  The Cornhuskers play good defense and have wins over Seton Hall, Clemson, Illinois, and Creighton.  They’ve got several difficult games coming up and are looking to add a couple more quality wins to their resume.

22. Buffalo

The Buffalo Bulls are undefeated so far and look like they will run through the MAC.  They have superb road wins over West Virginia and Southern Illinois and have dominated in most games this season.  C.J. Massinburg is averaging nearly 18 points a game and shooting over 46% from three, he’ll contend for the MAC Player of the Year.

23. Kentucky

Kentucky came into the season as a top-three team and then lost their season opener by 34 to Duke and lost their next game against a good team in overtime to Seton Hall.  Their best wins are against Southern Illinois and UNC Greensboro.  In my opinion, I can’t have a lot of faith in this team right now when they’ve lost to their only top 50 opponents.  Freshman Keldon Johnson and grad transfer Reid Travis are leading the Wildcats and are a duo that could be a force to be reckoned with.  This team certainly was overrated coming into the season and has a lot to figure out but they are obviously very talented and I think they will straighten things out over some time.

24. Kansas State

They just had their first two losses of the season against Marquette and Tulsa, thanks to Markus Howard’s 45 point game, but Kansas State is a good team.  Dean Wade and Barry Brown are back and look really good and are looking to challenge the other top teams in the Big 12.  Kansas State’s defense is great once again and is KenPom’s 3rd best in the nation.  They’ll have to wait until almost Christmas before their next really good game but they should be ready to prove themselves.

25. St. John’s

St. John’s has a talented team with Shamorie Ponds and Mustapha Heron that is still figuring some things out.  They haven’t played any really great opponents but have beaten the teams on the schedule and still have an undefeated record.

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