Madness in December! College basketball fans got an early Christmas gift in this weekend of games. Once again there is a new number one team in the rankings, Arizona State jumps in after taking down Kansas, Kentucky is returning to form and so much more is detailed in this week’s rankings.
All in all, 13 of the 16 teams from last week find themselves in a new spot. Buffalo was removed after Marquette was able to end their undefeated run and Mississippi State has been sniffing the elusive 16 spot for multiple weeks now. Here are this week’s Power 16 and top players of the week.
Rank (Last week’s rank)
1. Duke (2)
|The Blue Devils are able to regain the top spot in the country after an impressive week of play. Fresh off of a 50-point beatdown of Princeton, Duke was able to tarnish Texas Tech’s undefeated record with a 69-58 win. Anyone who has watched Duke played this year understands they are a very good team, but still have areas to improve on. Players like Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish have been in the center of much of the spotlight for Duke, but Tre Jones is arguably the most important player on the team. Jones’ effectiveness was felt in a strong way against Texas Tech where he was jumping passing lanes, picking pockets, and doing all of the little things a team needs their point guard to do. If Reddish finds his shooting stroke and Barrett’s shot IQ increases, Duke should really have no problem making a Final Four run.|
2. Michigan (3)
|After an incredibly tough start to the year in which Michigan bested Villanova, UNC, and Purdue, the Wolverines haven’t seen the elite competition but also haven’t played such an elite level of basketball. Regardless, the team has outscored every opponent they’ve matched up with and have looked impressive in doing so. Michigan is the clear Big Ten favorite at this point and will attempt to repeat their success from a year ago.|
3. Kansas (1)
|Kansas suffered their first loss of the season late on Saturday night in the hands of Arizona State. For people who were sleeping during this game, Kansas was finning for the first 37 minutes of the game. The Jayhawks were seemingly in control for the entirety of the game until Arizona State pumped up the volume in the closing minutes. In the long run, this loss means nothing. Bill Self still has himself an elite roster that is primed to win the Big 12 yet again.|
4. Tennessee (4)
|Tennessee continued to impress this week with easy wins over Samford and Wake Forest. The Vols play a fantastic brand of basketball. They are second in the nation in assists per game with just over 21 on average. The more you watch this team, the more of a feeling you get that they can really be something special. The Volunteers have emerged as the favorite in the SEC, it’ll be interesting to see if the can further cement themselves as a legit national contender.|
5. Virginia (5)
|Speaking of fantastic brands of basketball, Virginia is seemingly the founding father of literally outplaying your opponent. The Cavaliers have the nation’s top scoring defense, top assist-turnover ratio, the least turnovers, and the second fewest fouls. I get it, they haven’t been truly tested yet, but come on. Virginia amazes me year-in and year-out with what they’re able to accomplish and this year is clearly no different.|
6. Nevada (6)
|The Wolfpack opened the season absolutely obliterating everyone that crossed their path, but recently that has not been the case. Nevada is still undefeated but has have won their past four games by an average of just 6 points per game. Those four games also include Grand Canyon, South Dakota State, and Akron. I believe that when you don’t have many talented teams on your schedule, you need to make statements when you play them. I’m not jumping off the Nevada bandwagon yet, but if they don’t turn things around, I might feel different in a couple of weeks.|
7. Michigan State (9)
|Michigan State has been quietly becoming one of the best teams in the country. They have two good losses and a few good wins. Let’s not forget this team also won a game 101-33 earlier in the year. Tom Izzo has himself a veteran squad that is rare in top programs today. The Spartans start three juniors and two seniors and that level of experience could give them that extra push in some of their close games down the road.|
8. Gonzaga (10)
|The Bulldogs responded to their back-to-back losses by going on a killing spree. Gonzaga’s last two games have been won by 45 and 61 points. Mark Few still has a very talented roster despite some of the criticism they have received in the past. I fully expect the Bulldogs to continue on this tear for the foreseeable future and keep their name relevant in the national conversation.|
9. Florida St. (12)
|Outside of the confusion Florida State was giving fans with those bright blue jerseys on Saturday afternoon, they left no question of whether or not they are the real deal. With three wins this week, the Seminoles have really garnered attention from the general public. Florida State is now presented with the rigorous gauntlet that is ACC conference play. The conference opener is against Virginia so we won’t have to wait long to see what this team is really made of.|
10. Kentucky (13)
|Kentucky played spoiler to a UNC team that could’ve capped off an amazing stretch with an 80-72 win over the Tar Heels. I’ve been saying that people are giving up on Kentucky too easily and they showed everyone why this week. The Wildcats do in fact have a very good basketball team. Keldon Johnson was his usual self, getting buckets, but this game was a coming out party for Reid Travis. Travis had 20 points and 7 rebounds but after watching the game you could’ve convinced me he had 25 points and 15 rebounds. If Travis, Johnson, and PJ Washington play like this consistently, Kentucky is an extremely scary team.|
11. Auburn (7)
|Auburn had been on a bit of decline and finally fell against NC State this week. Auburn’s last three wins against Dayton, UAB, and Murray State have all been worrisome, winning by an average of just 6.3 points per game. The Tigers seem to have lost their fire as of late and desperately need to find a new spark. With SEC conference play approaching, Auburn will not fare well if they have these performances on a regular basis.|
12. Texas Tech (11)
|Texas Tech deserves a round of applause for what they were able to in Madison Square Garden against Duke. In the brightest lights, in the Mecca, against a national powerhouse, the Red Raiders gave Duke everything they could handle. Jarrett Culver showed what he is capable of being, which is a first-round pick. This loss is by no means a bad one for Texas Tech, and if anything, this game may have helped their stock in the long run.|
13. North Carolina (8)
|I feel bad for North Carolina. They get a huge win over Gonzaga which allows them to jump up the rankings, then have the chance to even further move up with a game against Kentucky, but suffer a tough loss and fall down the rankings instead. UNC is a talented team but can easily be exposed by matchup issues. We saw it last year in the NCAA Tournament and we saw it this week, UNC can’t hang with teams that have dominant big men. Next year, maybe Armando Bacot can change that, but for the rest of this year Roy Williams will have to try to figure out how to overcome this deficiency.|
14. Virginia Tech (15)
|Virginia Tech is definitely a tough team to gauge. They have a win over Purdue, but not much else. They don’t really give you to think they’re a fraud. But you get a feeling they haven’t earned a legit title yet. If the Hokies want to prove me wrong, they’ll have their chance with games against Virginia, UNC, Duke, and FSU in their conference play.|
15. Ohio State (16)
|Ohio State, yet again, just keeps winning their games. I’ve seen some people say Ohio State hasn’t earned a spot in the top 20 of the rankings and maybe they’re right, but a matchup with Michigan State to open up conference play will give everyone a better idea of what Ohio State really is this year.|
16. Arizona State (NR)
|Arizona State has beaten Kansas for the second straight year. People forget that Arizona was ranked in the top five last season at one point. The Sun Devils are not a team to be slept on and they showed why when they took down the number one ranked team in the land. The Pac-12 is a fairly weak conference this year and Arizona State should control their own fate in winning the conference.|
Next Five: Mississippi State (11-1), Marquette (10-2), Wisconsin (10-2), Buffalo (11-1, Kansas State (9-2)
Top Five Players of the Week
1. Markus Howard – Marquette
Markus Howard had one of the most explosive weeks in recent memory. I mean this man absolutely caught fire. Against North Dakota, Howard recorded 19 points in the final 10:22 of the game en route to 26 total points on 9/13 shooting. Then, against undefeated Buffalo, Markus Howard went God-mode. In the second half alone, Howard tallied 40 points and totaled 45 in the game. He hit 9 three’s and went a perfect 12-12 from the charity stripe.
2. Dedric Lawson – Kansas
Dedric Lawson continued his strong start to the season with two more big games. He started the week shooting 7-11 and scoring 16 points while grabbing 14 rebounds. He followed up that double-double with an even more impressive double-double. Lawson scored 30 points on 12-15 shooting and also recorded another 14 rebounds. Lawson has been a pleasant surprise for Bill Self and finds himself on this list for the second straight week.
3. Jarrett Culver – Texas Tech
In his first game of the week, Culver raked in a career-high 30 points on a near-perfect 12-13 shooting. Then, against Duke, Culver was on a mission to prove he and his team were just as good as Duke. At the end of the game Culver started playing a bit a hero-ball and got out of the flow of the game trying to get his team back in it, but for the majority of the game you could argue Culver was the best player on the floor for either team.
4. Cassius Winston – Michigan State
Michigan State was able to hang 104 and 99 points in their games this week and Cassius Winston played a big part in doing so. He scored a season-high 26 points on 10-13 shooting against Oakland and filled the stat sheet against Green Bay by scoring 16 points, dishing out 12 assists, and pulling down 6 boards. Winston’s big week helped propel Michigan State’s offense to an elite level.
5. Rui Hachimura – Gonzaga
It seems like each week two players from the same team fight for a spot on this list. Hachimura and Brandon Clarke did so this week. Hachimura’s perfect 9-9 from the floor against Denver was what sealed the deal for me. He scored 23 points in that game. He also recorded 20 points to go along with 11 rebounds in another game this week in which he shot 8-11 from the field. Averaging 21.5 points on 17-20 shooting will usually earn you a nod on the players of the week list.