College Basketball Power Rankings: Kentucky jumps into top 5; No. 1 Virginia and No. 2 Duke set for rematch
The No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament could be at stake in Charlottesville
This weekend sets up as one of the best, if not the best, college hoops has had in 2018-19. Duke at Virginia is the marquee game, but Villanova at Marquette, Wisconsin at Michigan, Washington at Arizona State, Louisville at Florida State, Auburn at LSU, Kentucky at Mississippi State (on CBS, CBSSports.com and streaming for free on fuboTV), TCU at Iowa State, Kansas State at Baylor and Saint Mary's at Gonzaga all populate Saturday's slate.
Sunday gives us Ohio State at Indiana (on CBS, CBSSports.com and streaming for free on fuboTV), plus a huge game in the AAC: Cincinnati at Houston. It all lines up to knock down narratives and alter course for a number of quality teams. League races are tightening at the top, and a number of notable schools will notch resume-bolstering wins. It should be a great couple of days.
In advance of that, here's where the Power Rankings stand. These are the 19 most impressive teams in terms of performance, consistency and effectiveness in the sport as of today. The Duke-UVA game is a matchup up No. 2 vs. No. 3 in the AP Top 25 Poll -- but No. 1 vs. No. 2 right here in the CBS Sports Power Rankings. The winner for sure winds up No. 1 here a week from now.
⤴️ means a team is higher than where it stood last week, ⤵️ indicates a drop and 🔄 means no change from last Thursday.
|🔄 Last week: No. 1 |
The 20-1 Cavaliers have been the No. 1 team in the Power Rankings six consecutive weeks. Tony Bennett's team has the fortune of getting a full week's rest before hosting Duke -- and then having to play at North Carolina two days later. The big question here is if Ty Jerome is going to be available (back) vs. Duke. UVA has the No. 1 offense and defense in the ACC.
|🔄 Last week: No. 2 |
The Blue Devils (20-2) rank first in college basketball in total blocks (166) and fourth in total steals (229). What's amazing about the blocks number is that Washington is second ... and it's 29 blocks behind. That's the same gap as Washington and Marquette (107), which is tied for 22nd. The offense is a menace, but with Tre Jones and Zion Williamson, it is no exaggeration to say Duke has two of the 10 best defenders in college basketball.
|🔄 Last week: No. 3 |
This is now unquestionably the best team in Tennessee history. The 21-1 Vols are the only team in college basketball yet to lose a game in regulation. What's unusual and overlooked is this: last season's UT team was a lot better defensively than this group. The 2018-19 Vols are second in offensive efficiency and 42nd in defense. Last season was a flip: 36th on offense, sixth on defense. Even Rick Barnes' season with Kevin Durant at Texas wasn't this good on offense.
|🔄 Last week: No. 4 |
Mark Few is commanding the 21-2 Bulldogs to another terrific season -- maybe one of the three best ever in school history. Gonzaga, as Ken Pomeroy pointed out this week, is crushing every team with the metaphorical wave of a hand in the WCC. I'm setting the over/under on Gonzaga having any regular season league games from here on out decided by single digits at 0.5.
|⤴️ Last week: No. 7 |
Easy call to bump up the Wildcats yet again. The 19-3 Cats are getting it done in a variety of ways, but one of those ways most certainly isn't the 3-point shot. For the second consecutive season, Kentucky is taking 30 percent of fewer of its attempts from 3-point range. If this winds up being sustainable (read: Kentucky makes another Final Four) it's going to be a fun counterplot to the 3-ball-happy environment that basketball has produced in the past five years.
|🔄 Last week: No. 6 |
The Wolf Pack led by 17 at Colorado State on Wednesday, then their lead shrunk to three ... then Nevada won 98-82 to get to 22-1. Jordan Caroline (19.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg), who gets less pub than any great player in college basketball, dropped 40 points and had 12 rebounds on CSU. Caleb Martin is a stud (25 on Wednesday), but Caroline is vying for All-American status too. Now Nevada welcomes in New Mexico on Saturday and should surely avenge its only loss of the season.
|⤴️ Last week: No. 9 |
I continue to drive the Houston bus. The Cougars remain undervalued in some predictive metrics, though UH is a respectable 13th in the Massey Composite . At 21-1, Houston sits at its highest perch in the Power Rankings in advance of its toughest two-game stretch the rest of the AAC season: at UCF on Thursday, then hosting Cincinnati on Sunday. Houston has a less-than-50-percent chance of winning both games, but if it does, the Cougars will have a case for a No. 1 seed.
|⤵️ Last week: No. 6 |
The 21-2 Wolverines take a little slip after getting housed at Iowa last Friday. An expected recovery came Tuesday night with a 77-65 win at Rutgers. Next up is Wisconsin at home on Saturday. I expect that to be a bruising game. If Michigan loses there, by the way, the Big Ten could set itself up as the best-rated league in college basketball and yet not have a team in good position -- for now -- to get a No. 1 seed.
|⤴️ Last week: No. 12 |
The Tar Heels (18-4) fit the mold so well of what a Power Rankings team should be. If you watch them play, it's almost impossible to argue against this being one of the 10 best teams in college basketball right now. Not much else to say this week other than that -- and they just put 113 on NC State. How many will they score at home vs. Virginia on Monday? I'll guess 72.
|🔄 Last week: No. 10 |
Villanova is 19-4 and hasn't lost a game since it fell at Kansas on Dec. 15. It's won 11 straight, sits at 10-0 in the Big East and was held to just 66 points in 45 minutes at home against a shorthanded Creighton team. An omen for the big road test at Marquette on Saturday, or did Nova just put up a stinker in an inadvertent move to lure in Marquette, who will be itching after losing at home to St. John's? Does this surprise you: Villanova has never started 10-0 in the Big East until this season.
|⤴️ Last week: No. 18 |
Back in early January, there was feeling within the Big 12 that Iowa State (18-5) had the most talent in the league. You look up now and it's not even arguable. From Marial Shayok to Lindell Wigginton to Cam Lard to Talen Horton-Tucker to Tyrese Haliburton, Steve Prohm's done a tremendous job building out a very fun roster. The Cyclones are Final Four contenders a season after finishing last in the Big 12.
|⤵️ Last week: No. 5 |
The Spartans (18-5) are spared a worse ranking because I think this team is still capable of winning the Big Ten. But losing at home to Indiana and then going and ghosting at Illinois, leading to a three-game losing streak? It's straight-up strange. We now also know that MSU is without compass if Cassius Winston (nine turnovers at Illinois) is off his game.
|⤴️ Last week: No. 19 |
Chris Mack's Cardinals move up in spite of a loss in the past week because, if you look at how Louisville's played in its past eight games, it's operating better than any of the teams below it. At 17-6 and 8-2 in the league, Chris Mack is the frontrunner for ACC Coach of the Year.
|⤵️ Last week: No. 11 |
A competitive loss in a tough spot at Bowling Green last Friday has the Bulls Plinko'ing their way back in the rankings but still not in danger of falling out. This is a dangerous, veteran team that's 19-3 and still probably can lose three more games and be on the right side of the bubble. The MAC is a top-10 conference this season, according to KenPom.
|⤵️ Last week: No. 13 |
The Golden Eagles (19-4) are the only Power Rankings team that is in the top 10 nationally in free-throw percentage. Markus Howard and Co. are making 77.0 percent of their freebies, which didn't help on Tuesday night in the loss to St. John's but should, big picture, be a factor in getting Marquette to a No. 3 or No. 4 seed -- if it can win at least one game against Villanova.
|⤴️ Last week: unranked. |
The Badgers (17-6) pop into this week's Power Rankings thanks to their sixth straight Big Ten win (vs. Minnesota) which was the sixth straight game they've held a team to 60 or fewer points. A win at Michigan on Saturday is a tough ask -- Wisconsin's win streak began on Jan. 19 when it ended Michigan's undefeated season -- but if Bucky pulls off the upset, it will be viewed as a true Final Four contender.
|🔄 Last week: No. 17.|
The 18-4 Tigers flirted with fire over the weekend and dropped a home game to middling Arkansas, but on Wednesday night they came from behind to beat Mississippi State on the road in overtime as Naz Reid scored 25 after halftime and Tremont Waters provided 26 in the game. This is an elite offensive-rebounding team and one of the best teams at stealing the ball and a sleeper Final Four threat.
|⤵️ Last week: No. 14. |
Kansas fans are looking out for this team since the Jayhawks are 8-6 this season without Udoka Azubuike. On the whole, and on a neutral court, I'd take Texas Tech over Kansas at this point. The 18-5 Red Raiders still have a top-three defense -- and proved it by winning at West Virginia, which is more than Kansas can say this season.
|⤴️ Last week: unranked. |
Hello, Boilermakers! They've got a longer win streak in the Big Ten than Wisconsin -- and have a win over Wisconsin. But I'd take Wisconsin tomorrow on a neutral if the teams played. Still, Purdue has the No. 3-ranked offense at KenPom and now has a bleeding Nebraska team coming into Mackey Arena on Saturday. Purdue (16-6, 9-2) has won at least 12 Big Ten games the past four years, and it's going to do it again in 2019.
Dropped out: Virginia Tech, Kansas
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