College Basketball Power Rankings: Michigan up to No. 2 after Duke falls and Michigan State jumps into the top five
Auburn and Villanova are off hiatus and make their return to the Power Rankings this week
We are more than 3,200 games deep into a season of approximately 6,100 college hoops contests.
There's still so much road left, but the puzzle is indeed starting to come together. We're getting a better sense with each passing week of how the bracket in March will be framed. As always, conference play is providing contradicting results to keep it interesting and make it a guessing game all the while.
Here's the latest look at the teams you should be most keyed into at this point: the 19 most impressive teams of the moment in college basketball.
⤴️ 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 Power Rankings were well ahead of the train arriving at the station. That is the "Virginia Is The Best Team In College Basketball" train, of course. Tony Bennett's 16-0 club has allowed just two opponents to score more than 60 points this season. Next up is a huge opportunity at Duke on Saturday. Win or lose there, UVA has outperformed everyone's expectations through the first half the season. Not up for debate. A win at Duke would make for an unbelievable 13 straight league road victories.
| ⤴️ Last week: No. 3. |
And so it is: the only two undefeated teams left are now the top two teams in the Power Rankings. As it should be, right? Michigan has the best record in the sport (17-0) and is off to its best start in school history. Next up is a tough test at Wisconsin on Saturday. I get the feeling that one will be a one-possession game with a minute to go. Yes, it's possible -- more likely than not -- that the final two unbeatens lose on the same day.
| ⤴️ Last week: No. 4. |
The 15-1 Volunteers are , boosted by the fact they've won all but one game (the win over Gonzaga) by double digits.Tennessee's SEC slate is backloaded -- it does not play a top-50 KenPom team until it hosts Florida on Feb. 9. Rick Barnes' team might be destined to hit No. 1 in these here rankings by the end of January.
| ⤴️ Last week: No. 6. |
The Bulldogs (16-2) avoid slippage thanks to an entertaining, gutty win at San Francisco on Saturday. With three minutes and change remaining, it was a one-possession game; GU wound up winning by 13. And now the Bulldogs are favored to win every remaining WCC game by an average of 16.8 points, per KenPom.com's projections. That's a crazy number. And I think Gonzaga finishes the regular season 29-2.
| ⤴️ Last week: No. 7. |
Two notes on Michigan State here: 1) It will be shorthanded again for Thursday night's interesting road game at Nebraska; Josh Langford , which is troubling to Tom Izzo. 2) I spoke with Izzo about into the best passing team in college basketball. MSU is 15-2.
| ⤴️ Last week: No. 9. |
The 15-2 Jayhawks sit at 4-1 in the Big 12 and are seeing nice immediate play from Ochai Agbagi, the forward who was chosen to burn his redshirt in light of Udoka Azubuike's season-ending wrist injury. KU's next two come at West Virginia (Saturday) and a big one, a revenge game, at home vs. Iowa State (Monday). KU has ISU to thank for turning things in its favor with what happened on Wednesday night. (Read on!)
| ⤵️ Last week: No. 2 |
Duke is 234-37 when playing as the No. 1-ranked team -- but its loss vs. Syracuse was the first time it lost at home as the No. 1 team to an unranked opponent. While Syracuse isn't exactly knocking on the door of the Power Rankings, I will note that KPI rates the Orange's upset at Duke (while not truly factoring in no Cam Reddish or Tre Jones' absences) as the second biggest win of the season. The Blue Devils (14-2) drop from second to seventh not only because of the loss, but also because we need to see what this team is without Jones, who's the floor general and the second best defender Mike Krzyzewski has. I'm not certain the Virginia game can/will provide all the answers, even if Duke wins.
| ⤵️ Last week: No. 5. |
The Red Raiders (15-2) fall three spots after providing a spark and drama on Wednesday night with their home loss to Iowa State. The top eight teams here are crammed in one space together, so No. 8 is what makes the most sense after losing at home and seeing how the other teams around them have played in recent weeks. Chris Beard still coaches the best defense in college basketball.
| ⤴️ Last week: No. 11. |
It's not just because Buffalo sits at 16-1 that it's cracking my top 10. (And you won't see more respect for the Bulls anywhere else, I can promise you.) Nate Oats' team has nine wins away from home and is plus-5.2 in turnover margin, which rates top-five in America. In the MAC, which is arguably performing collectively as the best non-Major 7 conference this season, UB has won its first four league games by an average of 19.8 points. My prediction for Selection Sunday is this team getting a No. 5 seed.
| 🔄 Last week: No. 10. |
The Wolf Pack (17-1) have steadily been slipping in KenPom. They were as high as fourth on Dec. 9 but are now 15th. If not for Cody Martin's 3-pointer (he hadn't made a triple in more than a month!) to beat Boise State on Tuesday night, Nevada's chances at a No. 1 seed would be officially gone. As is, I think this team needs to run the table to have a chance at the top line.
| ⤴️ Last week: No. 13. |
Everyone still sleeping on the 15-3 Terrapins? Maryland has won six straight, is the only real contender to Michigan and Michigan State in the Big Ten and has developed a true big three in Anthony Cowan, Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith. There's a tough double road-dip coming with Ohio State and Michigan State, but this team is an Elite Eight sleeper with the way it's been performing over the past month.
| ⤵️ Last week: No. 8. |
I'm not going to ding Virginia Tech too much in light of it losing against Virginia the way most teams lose against Virginia. The Hokies' 40-plus-point swing in that, though, was astounding. Virginia Tech entered the UVA game with a plus-21 point average differential. It lost by 22. Next up is Wake Forest at home and then a compelling road game at UNC (which was bounced from the Power Rankings this week after taking its worst home loss under Roy Williams).
| ⤴️ Last week: No. 16 |
The Wildcats (13-3) have, as expected, ripped off three straight wins subsequent to their understandable 77-75 road loss against Alabama on Jan. 5. I didn't panic with UK then and still kept them in the Power Rankings. But I must note that UK's got an odd habit of starting slow and/or allowing other teams to shoot well from 3-point range early and often. It was down by 14 early vs. Vanderbilt last week. At least it won by 20 at Georgia on Tuesday.
| 🔄 Last week: No. 14. |
Kelvin Sampson won the 600th game of his career on Wednesday night when Houston defeated SMU 69-58 on the road. The 17-1 Cougars are now allowing opponents to make just 36 percent of their shots, which is No. 2 in college basketball.
| ⤴️ Last week: No. 19. |
The Golden Eagles get a nice little bump thanks to an impressive/close win vs. Seton Hall over the weekend and a 74-71 escape at Georgetown without Markus Howard for most of the night on Tuesday. Howard left the game in the first half with lower back soreness. His availability for MU's game on Sunday vs. Providence is still not known. Fortunately, this team has a pair of excellent 3-point shooters in the Hauser brothers (Sam and Joey), who make up for lost production.
| ⤴️ Last week: No. 17. |
Iowa State proves you can move up week-over-week even with a home loss in between. What a weird past four games for the Cyclones, who kept grip in the Power Rankings in the 11th hour thanks to a 65-61 win at Texas Tech on Wednesday night. Prior to beating TTU, ISU lost at home to K-State and took an ugly loss at Baylor. But before that? You'll recall the Cyclones beating Kansas at Hilton Coliseum, which got them into the PR in the first place. Steve Prohm's team might be inconsistent, but it's got the pieces to become top-10 quality. Just a matter of stringing together the wins.
| ⤴️ Last week: unranked. |
The Tigers (13-3) took a hiatus from the Power Rankings but strut back into the squad after their 85-66 win road at A&M on Wednesday night. Bruce Pearl's team blocks 6.2 shots per game, which is fourth-best in the country. There's a big game Saturday: Kentucky's coming to town.
| ⤴️ Last week: unranked. |
The final two spots in this week's Power Rankings were fought over between six teams. I'm handing Villanova some love because the Wildcats are on a five-game winning streak and stand as the only unbeaten team in the Big East (4-0). I've mentioned this in previous editions of the Power Rankings, but it bears repeating in the event you've recently discovered 'em: season-long accomplishments (or disappointments) are taken into account, but the Power Rankings are an overall assessment of how a team is trending, how good I believe a team to be in the moment and how impressive its victories/performances have been in recent games -- not so much what was done two months ago. So the Michigan blow, Furman loss and Penn defeat are still factors, but relatively small ones with Nova at this point.
| ⤵️ Last week: No. 18. |
I'm still driving the Oklahoma's-actually-pretty-good bus. The home loss on Wednesday night to Kansas State was a hiccup, but this is still a top-10 defense with four guys who are capable of carrying OU to a win over NCAA Tournament-quality opponents. But at 13-4, OU will need to win at Texas and at Oklahoma State, both of which will be played prior to next week's Power Rankings, in order to be listed here again come Jan. 24.
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