We've entered into a cooling period for college basketball's regular season. With finals taking place this week and next, many teams are playing only one game over the course of a 10-14 day period. In most seasons that might mean little movement within the rankings.
But not this one. Three teams jump into the power rankings this week, and of course Ohio State firmly establishes itself as the No. 1 team in college basketball. A big Saturday of games awaits, so as we turn to the weekend, here are the 19 most impressive teams in college basketball across the past month or so.
Courteous correspondence is always encouraged: tweet me at @MattNorlander.
|⤴️ Last week: No. 2 | I'm tired of the "there are no great teams this season" line that's false because of the existence of Ohio State. The 9-0 Buckeyes are a great team -- right now. Maybe there isn't another great team, but Chris Holtmann's is. The Buckeyes are No. 2 in defensive efficiency, No. 6 in offensive efficiency, with a 27.3-point average margin of victory over Villanova, North Carolina and Penn State, three teams with a combined record of 21-7. Next up is a game at Minnesota on Sunday.|
| ⤴️ Last week: No. 4 | Here's something strange about 8-1 Kansas: an outrageous 49.6% of opponents' shots are coming from 3-point range. That's the fifth-most in college hoops; only Syracuse, Stetson, Virginia, High Point and Temple are inducing opponents into more 3-pointers per possession than KU. And it's a growing trend. The second-highest rate Bill Self's allowed: 41.8% (a big difference still) last season. Next highest: 39.1% two seasons ago. Sure, teams are shooting 3-pointers more than ever, but Kansas ranking in the bottom half is what's a little alarming. Hey, at least opponents are merely making 34.1% of their 3-pointers this season.|
|⤴️ Last week: No. 6 | Ohio State is one of two teams with an offensive and defensive efficiency ranking in KenPom's top 10. Duke is the other. The Blue Devils are 10th in offense and fourth in defense. The road win at Virginia Tech gave Duke its fifth win away from home this season, which is more than the Blue Devils usually have by Dec. 12, but the ACC bumping up league games into December due to the 20-game schedule is what affords Mike Krzyzewski's team that opportunity. When the NET rankings debut on Monday, I'll be interested to see how Duke is placed after some good wins and good opponents, but with the horrid home loss to Stephen F. Austin.|
|⤴️ Last week: No. 7 | The Tigers are underranked and underrated in many other places (16th at KenPom, 21st at Torvik), but not here. Bruce Pearl's 8-0 team Auburn's best short-range team under Pearl; his next-closest was last season's team, which ranked 103rd at a 51.7% clip.. The new wrinkle to this season's team is the 2-point shooting. At 59.9%, this is by far|
|🔄 Last week: No. 5 | I thought probably six or seven minutes too long about it, but I'm going to keep Butler static. A lot of teams inside and outside the power rankings took worse losses than the Bulldogs' one-point Tuesday night loss at 8-1 Baylor. And Butler won't lose many one-possession games this season, in part because senior Kamar Baldwin is almost automatic from the foul line (95.5%). Combine that with an A-minus defense, and it's just about official: BU fans can expect -- not hope for -- an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2020.|
| ⤵️ Last week: No. 1 | Something to consider: Louisville got handled by Ohio State in its preseason scrimmage. Chris Mack told me Tuesday night that his team learned and rebounded well from that. Hey: it started the season 9-0. So the hope here is that the Texas Tech L is a shock to the senses and that the Cardinals not only get straight and correct against Eastern Kentucky and Miami (OH) for their next two, but use this for good when it comes to time to play at Kentucky on Dec. 28. Louisville being No. 1 didn't affect his players' prep, Mack said. |
"I think it had an effect on Texas Tech's preparation," he said. "They were very well-prepared, had a week to prepare and were ready. They pressured us, rattled us and we could have done some things early on to set the tone and change the game and we didn't do that."
|⤴️ Last week: No. 10 | The 10-1 Wildcats most definitely did not overlook their Wednesday night opponent in advance of Saturday's huge home game vs. Gonzaga. Arizona beat Omaha by 50 (99-49) to increase its average scoring margin to 22.3, which is third-best in the sport. Only Ohio State (26.2) and Liberty (22.7) are providing bigger beatdowns on average.|
|⤵️ Last week: No. 3 | What an oof of a loss to Penn State on Tuesday. Now, it's an acceptable loss considering Penn State is rounding into form as a top-25 team, but Maryland had a great opportunity to establish itself as a top-shelf team instead of the latest example of a top-three team by virtue of outside results as much as their own schedule. But as for that schedule, a nice early sign: Maryland ranks third in Wins Above Bubble, which is a new-age equitable metric, only behind San Diego State and Michigan.|
|⤴️ Last week: No. 12 | The win over North Carolina inches up UVA in the rankings. If you've not been following, UVA holding opponents to fewer than 50 points on average this season is going to be one of my primary fascinations. The only school in the era of the shot clock (since 1985) to keep foes below 50 was Princeton in the early 1990s. Virginia's at 44.2 points allowed per game. It's got a real shot.|
|⤴️ Last week: No. 13 | The last time the Aztecs were 10-0, a guy named Kawhi Leonard was playing for Steve Fisher. Now Kawhi's maybe the best player in the NBA and SDSU is coached by longtime Fisher assistant Brian Dutcher, who's in his third season as head coach. The storyline that's completely gone overlooked is how Utah State was the OVERWHELMING Mountain West favorite, and yet Utah State is 10-1, but almost got plucked by Fresno State last week -- and San Diego State is still obviously the best team in the league through the first six weeks of the season.|
|⤴️ Last week: No. 14 | The 10-1 Zags are rated No. 4 at Sagarin which, because it's not in the discourse as much as KenPom or the NET or even ESPN's metrics, doesn't get discussed as much these days as three or really five years ago. But Sagarin's model is the OG predictive metric and still highly respected in the advanced-stats community. The only teams ahead of the Zags are Duke, Ohio State and Kansas.|
|⤴️ Last week: No. 17 | Don't let those 7-1 Flyers drift off your radar. They won by 10 in Phoenix over Saint Mary's, and you probably didn't realize this is the best passing team in college basketball right now. Anthony Grant's guys share the sugar to the tune of a sport's-best 20.6 assists per game, almost two more on average than No. 2 Michigan State.|
|⤴️ Last week: No. 18 | Baylor, you're damn good. Back-to-back home wins vs. Arizona and Butler assured me that you've probably got loss insurance in the power rankings going forward. But a loss isn't coming until 2020. Baylor's next opponents are UT Martin and Jackson State. In fact, Baylor will only play two games between Dec. 11 and Jan. 3. Wonder how they'll open up Big 12 play vs. Texas on Jan. 4.|
|⤵️ Last week: No. 11 | I got a chance to see Indiana in person on Tuesday night at MSG when it won an unlovely one 57-54 over UConn. IU played 11 guys in the first half. I asked Hoosiers coach Archie Miller afterward how many guys he realistically thought would be in the rotation and earning real minutes by the time early March came. His answer: 11. This is seldom the case with power-conference programs, but it could be how IU operates. No one got into double figures in scoring on Tuesday and there is no alpha here. The Hoosiers are an interesting team.|
|⤴️ Last week: unranked | The 8-1 Tigers deserve inclusion this week for how they've been able to remain good without James Wiseman and without Lester Quinones for three games. Now, after a road win against UAB, a road game against Tennessee on Saturday. To me, it's a top-three intriguing game of the weekend. You've got the backdrop of Rick Barnes vs. Penny Hardaway. But Tennessee has grown dudes who would love to give Memphis back-to-back losses in this rivalry.|
|⤴️ Last week: No. 19 | Tennessee bumps up despite not playing a game since last Thursday's power rankings debut. I'm not one to normally bump up a squad, but at this point the resumé has to dictate it. The 7-1 Vols can scoot up yet again if they win Saturday at home against Memphis, which unfortunately might wind up being the last time those teams meet for a long time. It doesn't seem like Rick Barnes wants to continue the series.|
|⤴️ Last week: unranked | The Wildcats are all over the metric map: No. 8 at KenPom, No. 27 at Torvik, No. 11 at TeamRankings, No. 20 at Sagarin, No. 35 at Massey. Oh, and No. 76 (WHAT!) at Haslametrics. We need a lot more data on this team. Nobody knows how good or not Kentucky is, and it's somehow become one of the most polarizing programs this season.|
|⤴️ Last week: unranked | The 9-1 Musketeers' lone loss came by five points to Florida in the Charleston Classic. What Xavier is missing on its resumé: a road game. That box gets checked Saturday with a winnable proposition against Wake Forest. Travis Steele's squad has developed as expected with a 1-2-3-4 barrage of Tyrique Jones, Naji Marshall, Paul Scruggs and Quentin Goodin.|
|⤵️ Last week: No. 8 | Michigan edges out Penn State for the final spot. The Wolverines got caught in a road contest Wednesday night against an Illinois club I think will make the NCAA Tournament. U-M is ranked fifth in the polls as of now but will drop into the teens come Monday. At 8-2, its two losses are reasonable: at Louisville, at Illinois. The fact they came by a combined 24 points is of a little concern, but let's see how Michigan looks Saturday when Oregon heads to the Crisler Center as the Wolverines face the Ducks on the first college basketball game of the season CBS.|