College basketball power rankings: Duke takes No. 1 spot away from Michigan and Kansas slips
An SEC team jumps into the rankings this week, and Oklahoma is now in the top 10
College basketball has produced a dense top end through the first eight weeks of the 2018-19 regular season. There are 54 teams with two or fewer losses. That's 15.3 percent of the schools in Division I. It's a much higher number than I would have guessed.
And with three or fewer losses? Ninety teams total -- a quarter of the sport. Whereas a number of major and multi-bid leagues (Pac-12, A-10, the American, the Mountain West, the Big East) have been underperforming, there's a high number of teams building up strong marks in the binary. From purely a win-loss perspective, there's a lot to sort through.
So here are the 19 most impressive teams in college basketball as of right here, right now. The emojis in each capsule indicate whether a team has risen, fallen or circled back to the same spot from where it was last week.
|⤴️ After pulling away to win by 11 against then-undefeated Texas Tech last Thursday, the 11-1 Blue Devils climb up to No. 1 due to the impressiveness of the win (Zion Williamson fouled out late on an iffy call) and how it outflanks any other teams competing for No. 1 in who they've played recently. Duke is No. 1 in college basketball in scoring margin (27.8 points), No. 1 in blocks per game (8.0 and No. 2 in steals per game (11.5). Last week: No. 2. |
|⤵️ Michigan is now 12-0, its most recent win a defeat at home against Air Force by 21. You compare that to Duke's superior neutral-court victory over Texas Tech, and that's why UM slips just one spot in this week's PR. The Wolverines seem a borderline lock to remain top-three in the rankings through early January because they've got easy opponents forthcoming and few within striking distance have enough good teams awaiting in the next 10-15 days to warrant a leapfrogging of the Wolverines. Last week: No. 1. |
|🔄 Virginia romped William & Mary, 72-40, IS still undefeated and is trending for the third consecutive season to be the slowest team in college hoops. UVA (11-0) is strolling to 60.7 possessions per game. As a reminder, style of play does not correlate to quality of team. The fastest team isn't the best and the slowest team isn't the worst -- or vice-versa. It's what you do with how you do it. UVA remains a lethal stranglehold in its pack-line approach. Last week: No. 3. |
|⤴️ Given that this is the first season for the Power Rankings here at CBS Sports, there are readers who no doubt will have certain ideas about how teams should be ranked. I'm going to wind up repeating myself in spots because the blowback on where I do or don't have teams is going to get more consistent as we dive deeper into 2019 and more people come across the PR. I bring that up with Nevada's graf to write: I do not rank teams on résumé alone. I don't sort teams the way the NCAA Tournament selection committee does/will. Nevada (12-0) is lacking top-end quality -- it's just 1-0 in Quad 1 games -- but I still think it's a top-five team at this very moment both because of how it's roster is constructed and how I've seen it win a variety of games. Last week: No. 6. |
|🔄 Tennessee beat Wake 83-64 on Saturday to improve to 10-1. The Vols are now ranked No. 1 in . The Vols are producing 1.80 assists for every turnover they contribute, which is No. 3 in college basketball. No one ranking college basketball teams in any capacity has any right to put this team anything worse than fifth. Last week: No. 5. |
|⤵️ Kansas. The 10-1 Jayhawks are down Udoka Azubuike still, are coming off an understandable 80-76 loss at Arizona State and have played the toughest nonconference schedule in college basketball if you only account for opponents' win percentage. The Jayhawks' foes have a combined record of 97-28 (.776). This is the kind of stuff that's going to make KU a lock for a No. 1 seed if it wins the Big 12 for the 47th straight season. Dedric Lawson, for what it's worth, leads the Big 12 in scoring (20.6) and rebounding (11.4). Last week: No. 4. |
|🔄 Gonzaga remains static after ripping the spine out of Denver last Friday, winning 101-40. Just wow. There's beating a an inferior team and then there's laying bare all of its weaknesses and taking a beetle to them. It makes you wonder how on earth a 3-10 North Alabama team preps for the Zags ... cause, yeah, that game is happening on Friday night. Last week: No. 7. |
|🔄 Texas Tech (10-1) is going to stay right where it was in last week's rankings. It played Duke to a tight tilt for about 36 minutes, then things got away from Chris Beard's team. Weirdly, Duke and TTU are the only two teams in the NET top 24 yet to play against a Quad 2 team. TTU won't have many chances in league play; most opponents will qualify as Quad 1. Last week: No. 8. |
|🔄 The Spartans had a 30-point win over Oakland on Friday and are now 10-2. Tom Izzo's team is the most shareable at the moment in college basketball. MSU's 21.0 assists per game is No. 1 in college basketball. That's helped Sparty to the No. 3 offense overall, per KenPom. Last week: No. 9. |
|⤴️ I was there in Evanston, Illinois, last Friday to watch Oklahoma come back and rip a game away from Northwestern in overtime that the Wildcats really, really wanted. Oklahoma (11-1) now has seven good-to-great wins, which is better than any team in college basketball. Yes, easily top 10 in impressiveness -- and No. 1 in shock factor -- in college basketball through the first two months of the season. Last week: No. 14. |
|⤴️ Virginia Tech (10-1) has not played an exceptional schedule, but it has defeated Purdue, Washington, Ball State and Northeastern. Those teams are all in the top 103 of KenPom currently, and Va. Tech has been smearing the teams it's supposed to smear. The Hokies' average win margin is top-three in college basketball: 23.1 points. More next week on why this team is the most intriguing heading into ACC play. Last week: No. 12. |
|⤴️ The Buckeyes (11-1) bump back up a few spots in light of their no-doubt-about-it takedown of underachieving UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic. Ohio State's start is so impressive in part because six players who are freshmen or sophomores are earning real minutes on a game by game basis. Last week: No. 15. |
|🔄 The 10-2 Badgers are 13 here but come in proudly at No. 4 in the NET, the NCAA's official/primary sorting metric. That's an interestingly high ranking, considering Wisconsin has two Quad 1 losses already. And yet, it's "only" played four of its games in Quad 4 (the worst quad!) which is lower than many of the other teams occupying the top 25 of the NET. Last week: No. 13. |
|⤴️ Want a sign that things should continue on the upswing for Houston into 2019? The American is not a good 3-point shooting conference. It ranks 23rd out of 32 leagues, currently at 33.3 percent from beyond the arc. Houston is No. 5 in the nation in 3-point defense, holding opponents to 25.3 percent. Between that and the fact Houston's won 25 straight at home -- longest streak in the nation -- this team is in strong position to make the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. Houston (12-0) has won 25 consecutive home games for the nation's longest active home winning streak. Last week: No. 16.|
|⤴️ One more nonconference game remains for 11-1 Florida State, which is on the verge of completing one of its best out-of-league runs to start a season. The Seminoles get Winthrop at home on New Year's Day, and then a rude change of pace: at Virginia on Jan. 5 to start ACC competition. Last week: No. 17. |
|⤵️ The Bulls were on the wrong end of one of the most ridiculous single-half performances in the history of college basketball. Marquette's Markus Howard went for 40 in the second half last Friday to lift the Golden Eagles over Buffalo 103-85, injecting his name into the Player of the Year race in the process. For UB, its first loss of the season. One road game outside MAC play awaits. The 11-1 Bulls travel to 3-7 Canisius this Saturday. Weird as it sounds, winning that one -- or just not losing it -- may prove quietly critical to this team's at-large case in two months. Last week: No. 11.|
|⤴️ Welcome Ben Howland's Bulldogs to the rankings. Mississippi State (11-1) is in good shape as we turn to 2019. Its only loss came in Las Vegas against Arizona State. The best wins: Saint Mary's on a neutral, Clemson on a neutral, at Dayton and home vs. Cincinnati and Wofford. All told, pretty solid. It's earned its place here. Last week: unranked. |
|⤵️ NC State. I heavily weighed keeping NC State (11-1) here vs. dropping in TCU or Marquette. A very slim margin, but Kevin Keatts' team will stay. I'll ride with the Wolfpack for another week; the game at Miami on Jan. 3 could be a short-term referendum on them, though. If you're an NC State skeptic, here's a stat that you put at the top of your list: NCSU's opponents have a combined record of 56-80, the eighth-worst win percentage (.412) of 353 teams. Last week: No. 19. |
|⤵️ UNC The Tar Heels, which still rank in the top 20 of most metrics, cling here on the edge of the PR after losing in the CBS Sports Classic to Kentucky on Saturday. UNC (8-3) has to figure out what is and isn't improvable with Nassir Little (I ), but it's still one of the best offensive teams in college basketball. What's interesting is what awaits, and if North Carolina can sustain itself as a top-20 team. The Tar Heels' remaining opponents have a collective win percentage of .784, making their schedule one of the five toughest from a pure record standpoint. Last week: No. 10. |
Dropped out: Furman.
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