The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s new rankings released on January 26, 2019 reflect the increased volatility of college basketball in a year that saw teams come and go. The first top-25 is led by number one Kansas Jayhawks, followed by the North Carolina Tar Heels at two. Elsewhere around the country, Gonzaga Bulldogs lead next at three with Duke Blue Devils just behind them.
The “NCAA basketball power rankings 2021” is a list of the top teams in college basketball for the upcoming season.
With the holidays behind them and league play about to get underway, the SEC is quickly becoming probably the most exciting major conference in the nation.
There may not be an obvious favorite or national title candidate among the group right now. During the first half of the 2021-22 men’s college basketball season, seven different SEC teams were in the Rankings of Influence at one time or another, and four are in the top 16 this week.
The SEC flavor of the week has also been a never-ending merry-go-round. Kentucky was the preseason favorite, but they lost their first game, and Arkansas took over as the favorite. The Razorbacks began the season 9-0, but have subsequently lost three of their last four games. After winning Florida State and Ohio State in the first two weeks, the Gators had a lot of excitement, but they lost three of their next four games. After defeating Gonzaga and Houston, Alabama was the buzz of the sport until losing two of three games. Then it was the Tigers’ turn, who were undefeated until last week, when they suffered their first setback of the season. Tennessee has also had its opportunities.
However, as the year 2022 approaches, two teams stand out as the ones to watch: Auburn and Kentucky.
Auburn had just one loss on the season, a double-overtime setback to UConn in the Bahamas in late November. The Tigers’ finest victory came against LSU, but they also beat Loyola Chicago and UCF. Bruce Pearl’s club has a lot of skill, and the return of a healthy Allen Flanigan sets the bar even higher.
Kentucky, on the other hand, is on a tear. After a road defeat to Notre Dame on Dec. 11, the Wildcats dropped out of most rankings, but have since looked like one of the most powerful teams in the nation. In the three weeks following the defeat, Kentucky has the greatest adjusted efficiency margin in the country, according to @HoopsInsight. Oscar Tshiebwe is a force on the interior, the transfer and freshmen guards are finding their stride, and Keion Brooks can do it all.
Are the Tigers and Wildcats the greatest chances in the SEC to go all the way in March? Yes, for the time being; although, considering how the first two months of the season have gone, that answer may alter by next week.
This prize had a very challenging week. Providence was a strong contender, but the Friars were awarded the honor two weeks ago, and their big victory came against a depleted Seton Hall squad (though I did bump Ed Cooley’s squad into the top 16, so that’s a good consolation prize). Honorable mention goes to a pair of 3-0 ACC clubs in Louisville and Miami, as well as a couple of mid-major teams in VMI and William & Mary, who also had outstanding weeks.
This week, though, Louisiana Tech is the opponent. Since entering Conference USA in 2013, the Bulldogs have been a constant force at the top of the standings, winning at least 20 games in seven of the last eight seasons and at least 12 league wins in six of the last eight. However, they have failed to make it beyond the first round of the NCAA tournament. Is this going to be the year? They’ve previously beaten Santa Clara on the road and lost by single digits to LSU and NC State, but they’ve just had their greatest week of the season.
Tech started the season with a 23-point victory against Marshall, who was ranked two positions below it in the C-USA preseason poll. It overcame standout big man Kenneth Lofton’s first single-digit scoring performance of the season, thanks to strong performances from guards Cobe Williams and Keaston Willis. But it was a one-point victory against Western Kentucky that was the highlight of the week. In the second half, the Bulldogs trailed by as many as 17 points, and by six in the final minute. Lofton rebounded with 22 points and 11 rebounds, including the game-winning free throws with five seconds remaining, while Williams scored a pair of clutch jumpers late. Tech led for a total of 26 seconds, according to the school.
Auburn’s victory against LSU was one of the most spectacular of the last several weeks, and Kessler was a key part of it. Former five-star recruit who transferred from North Carolina last spring was one of the most sought-after players on the market; he looked excellent for the Tar Heels in late February but struggled as a rookie. It was the same for Auburn through the first month of the season. He had some strong performances and several games when he failed.
While Kessler began to find his footing in the middle of December, his genuine breakthrough performance came against LSU on Wednesday. He ended with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 blocks, dominating the paint on both ends of the court. He hit a 3-pointer, passed an assist, smashed the offensive glass, and had an influence on practically every LSU effort in the paint. It was the first points-rebounds-blocks triple-double in a ranked vs. ranked contest since Shelden Williams played at Duke, according to ESPN Stats & Information (2002-06).
Kessler has averaged 15.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 6.8 blocks, and 71.4 percent shooting from the field in his last four games. He has the highest block % in the country.
Although it wasn’t on everyone’s calendar at the start of the season, Saturday’s matchup between the Bears and the Cyclones was unusual in terms of the teams’ combined record heading into the game. Saturday’s game was just the fourth Division I men’s basketball game in which both teams were 12-0 or better since 1980, according to NCAA’s David Worlock, and the first since Villanova hosted Creighton in 2016. As a result, whatever side won on Saturday was a foregone conclusion in this category. Baylor is the name of the university.
Since 1980, games involving DI MBB teams with a record of 12-0 or better have included: 1-18-86: Duke (16-0) at UNC (17-0); 1-17-09: Wake Forest (15-0) at Clemson (16-0); 12-31-16: Nova (13-0) at Creighton (13-0); 1-1-22: @BaylorMBB (12-0) vs @CycloneMBB (12-0) 2 ET on @ESPNU; 1-1-22: @BaylorMB
January 1, 2022 — David Worlock (@DavidWorlock)
The Bears seemed like they were going to run away with it early on, going up 10 points on a number of times in the first half and mainly holding the Cyclones at bay. Midway through the second half, Iowa State trimmed the deficit to five points, but Baylor recovered to take a 14-point advantage. Iowa State stepped up the pressure, causing a flurry of mistakes to keep the game close until Baylor’s free throws clinched the victory in the final minute.
It was another another message from the top-ranked squad in the country. The Bears seem to be a serious national championship contender, and although some may have doubts about Iowa State’s season so far, few teams will walk into Hilton Coliseum and lead from start to finish.
Tulane’s 2-0 start in AAC play is the first time the Green Wave have began league play with back-to-back victories since Ed Conroy was in charge in 2014-15, which shows how badly the team has battled in recent years. While victories against Memphis and Cincinnati aren’t particularly noteworthy, Hunter and Tulane have made a remarkable comeback. Tulane was 3-6 entering league play, having lost twice to Valparaiso, Southern, and Charleston. But the Green Wave, fresh off a 22-day layoff, hung on to defeat Memphis last Wednesday and then went on to upset Cincinnati on the road. Given Memphis’ loss to Tulane sandwiched between victories over Alabama and Wichita State, the Green Wave’s victory seems even more impressive in hindsight.
Hunter’s time at Tulane was always going to be difficult. The Green Wave haven’t finished above.500 in conference play since 2007, and was 0-18 in the AAC before Hunter was hired. However, the former Georgia State coach has gradually boosted the program’s potential through the transfer portal, bringing in players who had a lot of hype coming out of high school but only saw limited action in their first year of college. He did it with former LSU guard Jalen Cook, one of the most prolific transfers in the nation, and now he’s done it with Jaylen Forbes, who began his career at Alabama.
Three groups were given questions.
Michigan Wolverines: Memphis has gotten the most attention as one of the worst teams in the country, but the Wolverines aren’t far behind (if at all.) They were defeated by UCF by a score of 14 last Thursday, sliding to 7-5 overall as Big Ten action heats up. And here’s the scary part: Michigan will play Rutgers in the next two weeks, as well as Michigan State, Purdue, and Illinois.
Wichita State Shockers: The Shockers had high preseason expectations after their NCAA tournament participation previous season. An overtime defeat to Arizona in the early part of the season did little to dispel that idea. Wichita State, on the other hand, has lost three of its last six games at home, to Kansas State, North Texas, and, most recently, Memphis, by an 18-point margin. Next up is a trip to Houston.
NC State Wolfpack: Following another tight loss on Saturday, NC State has now dropped five straight games and is 0-3 in the ACC. Except for the 14-point home loss to Wright State, none of the defeats were particularly dreadful in isolation, but the problems are mounting, and the schedule isn’t getting any better this month.
Baylor Bears, No. 1 (13-0) 1st place previously This week: at TCU (Tuesday), vs. Oklahoma (Tuesday) (Saturday)
I have spoke about Baylor’s victory against Iowa State, but Jeremy Sochan’s recent performance deserves a closer look. The rookie forward came into the season with a lot of fanfare, but he struggled for a few weeks in late November and early December. But Sochan is beginning to come together, and he was a game-changer against the Cyclones on Saturday. Sochan had 28 points, 18 rebounds, four blocks, and four three-pointers in games against Iowa State and Northwestern State. He’s a dynamic frontcourt player who works hard on both sides of the floor and may provide matchup issues for Scott Drew’s smaller lines.
Duke Blue Devils, No. 2 (12-1) Previous position: 2 against. Georgia Tech (Tuesday), vs. Miami (Wednesday) (Saturday)
Duke’s games against Clemson and Notre Dame were also postponed last week due to COVID-19 concerns inside the Blue Devils’ program. Although it’s uncertain if they’ll be eligible to play against Georgia Tech on Tuesday, the ACC’s new COVID-19 procedures would enable the Duke players who tested positive to return to team activities in as little as five days.
Purdue Boilermakers, No. 3 (11-1) 3rd place before. This week: Wisconsin (Monday), Penn State (Wednesday) (Saturday)
Purdue’s worst defensive performance of the season came against Nicholls State on Wednesday, a game the Boilermakers won by 14 points. They did, however, allow 90 points and 1.23 points per possession. While it was never going to be a very competitive game, it was the second straight game in which Purdue allowed its opponent to shoot better than 44% from 3-point range. We’ll see whether it becomes a problem in Big Ten competition. On the positive side, moving Zach Edey back to the bench seems to have served as a wake-up call for the 7-foot-4 Canadian. Edey has averaged 16.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in three games since Matt Painter benched him in favor of Trevion Williams, while shooting an incredible 82.6 percent from the floor.
4. Jayhawks of Kansas (11-1) Previous position: 5 This week: Oklahoma State (Tuesday), Texas Tech (Wednesday) (Saturday)
In Kansas’ nine-point victory against George Mason on Saturday, I did not expect to witness a Mitch Lightfoot and Jalen Coleman-Lands rebirth. With David McCormack limited to only 10 minutes (for the second time in three games), Lightfoot came off the bench to score 14 points and grab four rebounds while hitting all seven of his field goal attempts. With Remy Martin out due to injury and Ochai Agbaji unable to hit shots, Kansas needed some perimeter help, so Coleman-Lands had his greatest game as a Jayhawk, scoring 20 points, giving out three assists, and sinking five three-pointers. Lightfoot and Coleman-Lands won’t be relied on like this every night, but it’s wonderful for Bill Self to have two senior players who have seen it all at the collegiate level.
Gonzaga Bulldogs, No. 5 (11-2) Previous position: 6 This week: San Francisco (Thursday), Pepperdine (Friday) (Saturday)
Gonzaga defeated North Alabama on Tuesday, with the five-star pair of Nolan Hickman and Hunter Sallis providing outstanding bench contributions. Hickman finished with 13 points and three three-pointers, while Sallis finished with eight points and five rebounds. Those two guards will be crucial for Mark Few in the playoffs, particularly against opposition backcourts with size and physical ability. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs’ program encountered COVID-19 troubles, and their Saturday game versus Loyola Marymount had to be postponed. On Thursday, the team will face one-loss San Francisco in a matchup. It should be one of the top games of the WCC regular season if it goes forward.
UCLA Bruins, No. 6 (8-1) Previous position: 6 This week: Wednesday against. Arizona State; Friday vs. California (Saturday)
UCLA hasn’t played since its victory against Marquette on Dec. 11, having postponed games against Arizona and Arizona State this week and being on hiatus for the Christmas break. However, there is some good news for Bruins fans: they will be back in play this week. Due to COVID-19 difficulties, Stanford had to postpone the game originally set for Thursday, but UCLA and the Pac-12 were able to reschedule the Bruins versus Arizona State. As a result, on Wednesday, the Sun Devils will travel to Westwood for UCLA’s first game in in a month.
Arizona Wildcats, No. 7 (11-1) Previous position: 4 This week’s games are against Washington (Monday) and Arizona State (Wednesday) (Saturday)
Since the Wildcats’ first setback of the season, on Dec. 22 against Tennessee, we haven’t seen them in action. Both UCLA and USC went on hiatus, requiring both of Arizona’s games to be postponed over the holidays. However, the Wildcats were able to postpone their game against Washington for Monday, giving them a time to recapture their momentum before facing Arizona State this weekend in a rivalry matchup.
Auburn Tigers (#8) (12-1) 14th place before. This week: at. Florida (Tuesday), at South Carolina (Tuesday) (Saturday)
This Auburn squad has my full support. The Tigers have a top-notch defense and a variety of attacking weapons at their disposal. They’re ranked No. 6 in adjusted defensive efficiency in the nation, and they caused LSU to go 0-for-11 in the opening eight minutes last Wednesday, with three turnovers and four blocked shots. Jabari Smith continues to make a few plays every game that put him in a good position to be taken first overall in the NBA draft in June, ahead of Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero. With one-time SEC Player of the Year contender Flanigan back in the lineup, Bruce Pearl now has at least four or five viable scorers to choose from on a regular basis. Three of Auburn’s next four games come on the road, where the Tigers haven’t been as dominating this season. But keep an eye on the Tigers if they keep playing like this away from home.
Michigan State Spartans, No. 9 (12-2) Previous position: 8 This week: Nebraska (Wednesday), Michigan (Friday) (Saturday)
Joey Hauser has struggled to make an impression in East Lansing since transferring from Marquette a few years ago, and has spent much of his two seasons with the Spartans in and out of the starting lineup. However, he has put together a couple of strong performances in the last week that should give him reason to be optimistic. Hauser had 17 points, 11 rebounds, and three assists against High Point on Wednesday, and then had 10 points and nine rebounds against Northwestern. He went 5-for-9 from three-point range over the week. Hauser has shot under 34% from beyond the arc at Michigan State, which is a particularly encouraging indication after hitting 45 percent of his 3s in Big East play last season.
The Ohio State Buckeyes are ranked No. 10 in the country (10-2) Previous position: 10 This week: against. Northwestern on Thursday at Indiana (Sunday)
After a 23-day layoff due to COVID-19 difficulties, Ohio State’s overtime victory against Nebraska on Sunday wasn’t exactly a classic performance. E.J. Liddell, who is a contender for the Wooden Award, struggled offensively and went 2-for-14 from the field. Chris Holtmann, on the other hand, received a breakthrough performance from freshman Malaki Branham, who scored 35 points and drained six three-pointers after hitting just five all season. Jamari Wheeler, a backcourt mate, also nailed a few key shots late in regulation and in overtime, ending with 16 points and four three-pointers. Until Sunday night, Branham and Wheeler had only combined for one double-digit scoring game. Despite the break and Liddell’s troubles, the Buckeyes battled to win on the road, which speaks well for the future.
USC Trojans, No. 11 (12-0) Previous position: 11 This week: California (Thursday), Stanford (Friday) (Saturday)
USC, like its Westwood crosstown competitors, is on hold. The Trojans’ most recent games were against Arizona State and Arizona, both of which were postponed due to COVID-19 concerns inside the program. The Northern California trip, which will take place on Thursday and Saturday, is slated to be the following stop.
Iowa State Cyclones (#12) (12-1) Previous position: 9 This week: Texas Tech (Wednesday), Oklahoma (Friday) (Saturday)
On Saturday, the Cyclones suffered their first setback of the season, losing to top-ranked Baylor by five points. However, I believe Iowa State will compete for a top-three or top-four Big 12 finish. Iowa State’s turnover-forcing defense finally found its groove in the second half, forcing 19 Baylor turnovers and frustrating the Bears. The Cyclones could have had a chance to shock the reigning champs if they had been able to make shots from the perimeter (they made just one of 14 tries from 3). Another point to consider: If former Kansas transfer Tristan Enaruna can establish himself as a reliable inside presence, the Cyclones’ half-court attack will become much more efficient. In his last two games, Enaruna has averaged 21.0 points and 9.0 rebounds.
Kentucky Wildcats (13). (11-2) Previous position: Waiting in the lobby This week: at. Georgia (Tuesday), at LSU (Tuesday) (Saturday)
For the Wildcats, everything are beginning to fall into place. Few teams are playing as good as they are right now, as they have won four consecutive games by a total of 135 points. Kentucky is also shooting better from outside the arc than others, continuing to dominate the offensive boards and increasing the pace and intensity on both sides of the court. Sahvir Wheeler and Kellan Grady’s progress in the backcourt has been crucial. Off the dribble, Wheeler is an outstanding playmaker who controls the pace both offensively and defensively. He’s tallied 32 assists and 11 turnovers in his last four games, including a 26-point performance against North Carolina. Grady has rediscovered the shooting stroke that made him such a standout Davidson player. Grady is averaging 18.0 points on 64.5 percent shooting from 3-point range during the same four games, nailing 20 threes.
Alabama Crimson Tide (14). (10-3) Previous position: 16 This week: Florida (Wednesday), Missouri (Friday) (Saturday)
Since defeating Gonzaga and Houston back-to-back in early December, the Crimson Tide has gone on a four-game losing streak. There were defeats to Memphis and Davidson in those four games, as well as tight home victories against Jacksonville State and Tennessee. The Crimson Tide’s offense has improved from last season and is significantly more effective at the basket, but they are still failing from three. Shooting 28.5 percent over the last four games is concerning for a club that tries more than 46 percent of its shots from outside the arc. The emergence of Furman transfer Noah Gurley might be a hopeful indication. Last season, Gurley was an all-conference player in the SoCon, but he hadn’t scored in double digits all year. However, he had a career-high 20 points and 10 rebounds against Tennessee, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Tennessee Volunteers, No. 15 (9-3) Previous position: 12 This week: at LSU (Wednesday), vs. Ole Miss (Wednesday) (Saturday)
Tennessee came close to pulling off an incredible road win in Tuscaloosa last week, but the Crimson Tide won in the dying minutes. Rick Barnes’ squad also won despite the absence of its two greatest players, Kennedy Chandler and John Fulkerson. This season, the Volunteers’ defense will keep them in most games: they’ve only allowed one team to score more over one point per possession thus far. However, if they can regularly make shots from the perimeter, their ceiling will be dramatically enhanced. They went 14-for-53 from three-point range in the last two games, against Arizona and Alabama. The fact that they beat Kentucky for the first time and came close to beating Alabama demonstrates how good they can be if players like Justin Powell, Chandler, and Victor Bailey can consistently hit jumpers.
Friars of Providence, No. 16 (13-1) Unranked in the previous ranking This week: vs. St. John’s at Marquette (Tuesday) (Saturday)
Ed Cooley’s Friars, who were one of the greatest shocks in the first half of the season, are putting up a very solid resume heading into Big East play. Providence is currently 6-0 versus Quadrant 1 opponents after defeating Seton Hall on Wednesday. It also has victories against UConn, Texas Tech, Wisconsin, and Northwestern. There are only four other teams in the nation with more than four players. Are the Friars a real championship challenger in the Big East? Villanova is as susceptible as it has been in years, and Providence has already put up a 3-0 conference record, including two victories on the road. Cooley’s teams aren’t renowned for their outside shooting prowess; in 15 years, he’s only coached two teams that shot better than 35.3 percent from three. While the Friars have a season shooting percentage of 33.6 percent, they have a conference shooting percentage of 40.4 percent.
Seton Hall Pirates (No. 13) and LSU Tigers have been dropped (No. 15)
Waiting in the lobby
Houston Cougars: On Sunday, we got our first glimpse at Houston in the post-Marcus Sasser era, as the Cougars beat Temple 66-61. Since Tramon Mark’s injury, Jamal Shead (14 points) has been consistently successful, and he seems to be the team’s go-to player until Kyler Edwards comes healthy. Ramon Walker, a freshman, was thrust into the starting lineup for the first time and answered with three three-pointers and 13 points. Houston remains the AAC favorite, in my opinion.
Colorado State Rams: The Rams haven’t played since a neutral-court victory over Mississippi State on Dec. 11, but they have games against Air Force and Boise State on the schedule this week. The Rams’ trip to Boise on Friday — provided it goes on; Boise’s games on Saturday and Tuesday were canceled due to COVID-19 concerns — will be one of the Mountain West’s toughest tests.
Villanova Wildcats: After a pre-Christmas win over Xavier and a road victory at Seton Hall on New Year’s Day, the Wildcats are back in the Power Rankings. Bryan Antoine scored seven points in 16 minutes in his second game of the season on Saturday. For Jay Wright, he may be the X factor.
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The “NCAA basketball rankings top-50 2021” is a ranking of the best college basketball teams in the country. It was released on January 9, 2019. Reference: ncaa basketball rankings top-50 2021.
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