Sure, the NFL playoffs have started and the NCAA football season is coming to a close, but the NCAA basketball season got into the meaty part of the season and it did not disappoint. It was an extremely entertaining and action-filled week in which it felt like everybody lost. There were top ten matchups, big time upsets, and more than enough close games to satisfy the college basketball fans of the world this week.

Four teams in the top ten from last week suffered losses and there is now one less undefeated team remaining in the country. In a week that nobody could’ve predicted Kansas, Nevada, Florida State, Kentucky and Ohio State all lost which made for a huge shakeup in this week’s rankings. Without further ado, here are this week’s Power 16 and Players of the Week.

Rank (Last week’s rank)
1. Duke (1)
Freshman phenom Zion Williamson and the Duke Blue Devils continued to impress this week as they took down Clemson to start off ACC conference play. Williamson’s flashiness and overall dominance has been able to overshadow the worrisome play from Cameron Reddish and keep the narrative that Duke is by far the most dominant team in the country moving forward. I’m not saying Duke isn’t dominant, but they are not complete. And to be honest, it’s scary that an incomplete team can look this good.
2. Michigan (2)
Michigan continued their strong start to the season by beating Penn State to improve to 14-0. The Wolverines have outclassed every opponent that they have come across thus far and will have a handful of opportunities to further improve their resume. The Big Ten is a place with plenty of worthy competition and Michigan will look to continue to improve each night on the floor.
3. Virginia (5)
I’m not sure if Virginia’s 65-52 win over #9 Florida State was more about solidifying the Cavaliers as elite, or about Florida State being hyped up a bit much, but I am officially back on the Tony Bennett bandwagon. Virginia had played some lackluster competition up to this point but you can’t help but be impressed with what this team has accomplished. They have the best scoring defense and are top ten in seemingly every defensive category imaginable. True basketball purists can really appreciate the brand of basketball Virginia plays.
4. Tennessee (4)
The Volunteers opened up SEC play with a complete dismantling of Georgia in a 96-50 win. Tennessee just seems to dominate every game and have shown no signs of slowing down. They have a high-powered offense that looks primed to take control of the SEC. The Vols have multiple players that can rake in 20+ points on a given night as four have done so already. Tennessee is a scary team that nobody should want to face and despite dropping a spot in this week’s rankings, this is no knock on Tennessee basketball.
5. Michigan State (7)
Michigan State wanted to prove the state of Michigan owns the Big Ten and they did so this week with a win over Ohio State. The Buckeyes kept it close and even had the lead for a portion of the game but the Spartans talent and experience proved to be too much too handle. This win further cements the Spartans as an elite team in the country once again as Tom Izzo tries to prove the one-and-done route isn’t the only way to succeed in the NCAA.
6. Gonzaga (8)
The Zags opened up conference play with a highly anticipated game with Santa Clara. All jokes aside, Gonzaga destroyed the Broncos by a score of 91-48 and resumed their supremacy of the WCC. They say you can only beat the teams on your schedule and that is exactly what the Bulldogs will need to do in order to stay respected in the national platform as Gonzaga’s remaining opponents are underwhelming to say the least.
7. Texas Tech (12)
The Red Raiders were able to fend off Kansas State in a Big 12 clash in order to improve to 13-1 on the season. The most impressive thing about this game for Texas Tech was that they proved they can beat quality opponents when {Player: Jarrett Culver] has an off night. Culver shot 2-7 and only recorded 9 points but his teammates were able to pick up the slack and come out with a win. We’ve seen a lot out of this Texas Tech team, and it just keeps getting better and better.
8. Auburn (11)
Auburn was one of the few teams to not have a game this week but still manage to move up the rankings after a handful of teams saw the opponents celebrating as the clocks hit zero. The Tigers have had some shaky games leading up to SEC play, but hopefully the time off has allowed this team to change form into the team we saw at the beginning of the year.
9. Kansas (3)
The Jayhawks were embarrassed on Saturday when Iowa State routed them 77-60. To be fair, Iowa State is respectable and Kansas was on the road, but when you’re held to the standard the Jayhawks are, this shouldn’t happen. As you look closer you see that Kansas hasn’t been playing great basketball consistently for awhile now. Last month, the Jayhawks went to OT against Stanford, won by 3 against New Mexico, won by 3 against Villanova and obviously, lost to Arizona State. It hasn’t been pretty for Bill Self, but I’m sure Kansas will get back on track and turn into the powerhouse we’ve grown accustomed to.
10. North Carolina (13)
Cam Johnson made his return to Pittsburgh against his former team and ended up on the right side of a blowout. UNC has responded from their loss to Kentucky by rattling off three straight wins of 20+ points. The Tar Heels are easily the most respected three-loss team in the country and it’s for a reason, they’ve lost to some damn good teams and beaten a few too. The ACC is always fun to watch and with the talent on this team, they’re definitely a part of the reason why.
11. Virginia Tech (14)
The Hokies have almost turned me into a believer. They’ve rattled out back-to-back ACC wins this week over Notre Dame and Boston College and looked good doing it. Whether or not they can compete with the likes of Duke and Virginia is yet to be seen, but they’ve built a promising case for believing they could do it.
12. Nevada (6)
I talked about Kansas having a shaky month of December, but they weren’t the only ones. An 8-point win over Grand Canyon, a 4-point win over South Dakota State and a 6-point win over Akron filled up the majority of the month for the Wolfpack who finally saw their undefeated season come to an end this week. A team like Nevada should never be getting blown out by New Mexico. Losing 85-58 to an 8-6 team when you don’t have a true quality win of your own is more than worrisome. I might be a little to harsh on the Wolfpack, but there are more than a few reasons to feel the way I do about this team.
13. Mississippi State (16)
Mississippi State was untested this week as they don’t start conference play until Tuesday against South Carolina. The Bulldogs are in the same boat as many teams, which is why they are only ranked at 13 on this list. They don’t have a signature win and their lone loss isn’t too bad of a look. I will say that the way this team is built is promising for the long run. There are a handful of players that could lead the team in scoring on any given night which is great for when certain players are having off-nights. Mississippi State might just be the biggest competition to take down Tennessee in the SEC.
14. Houston (NR)
Houston does have a win over Oregon, but not much else other than that. They have proven that they have an elite defense as the Cougars have a top ten scoring defense in the country. Houston is similar to Buffalo, Nevada and Gonzaga where they don’t face much competition, but if they keep winning there is no choice but to respect them. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this team to see if they are the real deal.
15. Buffalo (NR)
The Bulls improved to 13-1 after a clobbering of Eastern Michigan. Buffalo does have a win over Syracuse which leads you to believe this team can hang with some elite talent but a convincing loss to Marquette could make you think the opposite. But like I just said, if Buffalo keeps winning games, they will force us to respect them as a competitor, but pretty much any loss is not a good look for a team that doesn’t have the chance to pick up any more quality wins.
16. Kentucky (10)
After handling UNC and rival Louisville, Kentucky lost to Alabama for the first time in six years. I still believe that the Wildcats are capable of snatching a few wins against the SEC’s best, but if they can’t, they might be losing their spot in the conversation for best teams in the SEC. I might be wrong edging the Wildcats over NC State for the final spot in the rankings but I’m valuing the strength of schedule in this scenario.

Next Five: NC State (13-1), Oklahoma (12-2), TCU (12-1), Iowa State (12-2), Ohio State (12-2)

Top Five Players of the Week

1. Shamorie Ponds – St. John’s

Shamorie Ponds had himself a week. In a highly anticipated matchup against Marquette’s frequently featured guard Markus Howard, Ponds was the one who shined brighter. The junior scored 26 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 5 assists and recorded a pair of steals. Then, against Georgetown, Ponds kept his hot streak going by raking in 37 points including hitting 6 of his 10 three-pointers. This was a week to remember for St. John’s star player and anybody who didn’t know who is was should definitely have him on your radar now.

2. Kyle Guy – Virginia

I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the only time a Cavalier is on the player of the week list due to the fact that their offense isn’t meant for impressive stat lines, but Kyle Guy impressed everyone this week. He dropped 30 points on 10-14 shooting including 7-9 from behind the arc. Despite not having an assist on the night, the guard did grab 8 rebounds to go along with his scoring outburst. Next, in a top-ten matchup against Florida State, Guy continued his efficient performance with 21 points on 7-11 shooting and 5-6 shooting from deep. There wasn’t a player with a hotter hand than Kyle Guy this week.

3. Rui Hachimura – Gonzaga

Rui Hachimura is making the most of his opportunities this year shooting just under 60% from the field this year, but shot 7-10 on his way to recording 22 points to start his week. Hachimura kept his scoring efficiency going in his 25-point performance in which he shot 8-12 from the floor. The 6’8” forward is a fun player to watch and this week was a showing of what he can do every night he’s on the floor.

4. Zion Williamson – Duke

It’s actually crazy that this is the first time that Zion Williamson has graced this list, but late is better than never. In just 22 minutes against Clemson, Zion led the team in scoring thanks to his 9-11 shooting en route to tallying 25 points. The freshman sensation recorded his fifth double-double of the season in this performance thanks to his work on the glass that led to 10 rebounds. Williamson has been the best player on the floor almost every night which is high praise considering the level of talent on his team alone.

5. Romeo Langford – Indiana

Romeo Langford is one of the most intriguing prospects in the Big Ten and this week he showed why. Despite shooting just 1-4 from deep, he scored 28 points thanks to his 11-15 shooting from the charity stripe. The 6’6” freshman also dropped in 17 points against an elite Michigan team. Langford is averaging over 18 points per game this season and is also grabbing about 6 boards per game in what has been an impressive start to his freshman season.


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