This was yet another stereotypical week for this season, which means it was unpredictable. All in all, seven teams from last week’s rankings suffered a loss which results in four new teams in this week’s Power 16. We’ve seen a changing of the guard in the Big 12, complete chaos in the Big Ten and some major jumps for the mid-major teams. With another week of madness, here is this week’s Power 16 and Players of the Week.
1. Duke (15-1)
In my eyes, the Blue Devils are the best team in the country and this week just built on the case. Duke has shown that there are a variety of players on the roster who can step up and lead the team on any given night. Coach K’s team is at the top of their game right now and in the loaded ACC, could pull further away from the pack with continued success.
2. Gonzaga (18-1)
The Zags are hanging right under the Blue Devils and I wouldn’t complain too much about someone thinking Gonzaga is the top team. For the most part, the Bulldogs have been dominating their lesser opponents which is exactly what you hope to see. We shouldn’t see too many games be tightly contested for Gonzaga and if we do, it may be a reason for concern considering the quality of their opposition.
3. Baylor (13-1)
Jared Butler and Baylor had a huge week in which they took down Texas Tech and Kansas. What’s even more impressive is that the Bears were the road team in each game. It’s time to fully buy in to Baylor and any doubts about how legit this team is should’ve been silenced this week. Depth could prove to be an issue down the road, but for now this team is the real deal.
4. Auburn (15-0)
Auburn picked up a pair of wins this week against Vanderbilt and Georgia. The Tigers still remain without a ranked win and will not have a chance to do so until the beginning of February. Regardless, they are one of the last unbeaten teams left in the country and that deserves respect in itself. We’ll keep a close eye on Auburn for the rest of the month.
5. Louisville (13-3)
The Cardinals seem to have lost the national respect they had just a couple of weeks ago and I’m not too sure why. Outside of a loss to Texas Tech, which still isn’t terrible, the other losses have come to Kentucky and Florida State, two team on this list. Sure, maybe they aren’t the powerhouse we thought they were, but this is still a contender in the ACC.
6. Kansas (12-3)
Kansas fell to Baylor this week at home and in pretty bad fashion. In the 12-point loss, the Jayhawks rarely had control of the game and just seemed like the worse team on the court. Kansas will have a chance at a rebound as Oklahoma and Texas are waiting for them next week. With two wins, hopefully in blowouts, we can be sure this team is still one of the best in the country.
7. Kentucky (12-3)
Big Blue Nation beat Georgia and Alabama this week and improved to 12-3 on the season. Kentucky’s young players are continuing to become more comfortable on the floor and in their roles, which will only lead to more success as the season progresses. Kentucky, along with Auburn, have distanced themselves from the rest of the SEC and the battle between the two should be a fun one to watch.
8. Oregon (14-3)
The Ducks tough schedule continued this week and they were able to pick up another quality win, this time in OT against Arizona. With their senior floor general Payton Pritchard (pictured) leading the way, Oregon is unquestionably the favorite to win the Pac 12 and will be a fan favorite in the tournament. The next week and a half won’t be easy for Oregon because Washington State, Washington and USC are the Ducks next three opponents.
9. San Diego State (17-0)
I’ve been saying for a couple weeks now that the Aztecs have a legit shot to run the table and finish the season undefeated. With every week that passes, the belief of the possibility grows stronger and stronger. Two more blowout wins this week helped build their case as a top team in the nation, and I’m starting to believe they can hang in there with any team in any conference.
10. Butler (15-1)
Butler and Villanova will likely be the top teams in the Big East for the entire season, and right now the edge has to go to the Bulldogs. Butler’s defense is the strength of the team and we all know that defense travels well. I like Butler to remain in the conversation for a while, but I can’t say I’ve completely hopped on the bandwagon just yet.
11. Michigan State (13-4)
The Spartans opened the week with a 16-point win over Minnesota but finished the week with an embarrassing loss to Purdue. It’s not that Purdue is terrible, but the game was a blowout with a final score of 71-42. For right now, we’ll chalk this up as an extreme off-night in a road game, but with another performance like this it will be hard to think Michigan State can hang with the top dogs.
12. Villanova (12-3)
Villanova has hung in the conversation for a couple of weeks and this week, skated by Creighton and beatdown on Georgetown. You have to give it up for Jay Wright who has kept his team in competition with the best despite not having the star players he’s had in the past.
13. Florida State (14-2)
Florida State has been slowly creeping their way into the conversation for contenders in the ACC. Last week’s win over Louisville put them more on the map, but with a win over Virginia next week will fully establish themselves. I like the build of the Seminoles’ team as they aren’t reliant on one guy to put up 20+ a game, which should help them in the long run in the ACC.
14. Maryland (13-3)
The Terps split the week, beating Ohio State and losing to Iowa. It’s tough to call which result carries more weight, but for now I believe the win is more impressive, even with Ohio State crumbling before our eyes. Maryland’s team is experienced and well coached which tends to force me to give them the benefit of the doubt. The Big Ten has been a wild ride so far and the Terps are just one of the many victims thus far.
15. Dayton (14-2)
Dayton has the same problem as the rest of the mid-major teams, we rarely see them play elite competition. In past years I’ve been tougher on the mid-major teams in these rankings but in the chaotic season we have on our hands, I have to give respect to the teams that keep winning. VCU and Saint Louis are the Flyers next opponents and are both no walk in the park, we’ll see if they can keep it up.
16. West Virginia (13-2)
West Virginia is the sleeper of the Big 12, cruising under the national radar but performing at a high level. The Mountaineers best Oklahoma State and Texas Tech this week and did so with dominant defense. They’re allowing under 60 points per game which will always give the team a legit shot to win any game.
Next Five: Wichita State, Colorado, Memphis, Ohio State, Virginia
Players of the Week:
1. Markus Howard – Marquette
Markus Howard is a friend of the program here on the Players of the Week list. He once again graces the list thanks to a pair of scoring outbursts that we’ve become so accustomed to over the years. He dropped 39 points on Providence in an OT loss and followed up with 27 points in a loss to Seton Hall. Not a good week for the team, but an outstanding one for Howard.
2. Tre Jones – Duke
Duke has had a couple different players on this list and Tre Jones is the most recent of the bunch. Jones had 16 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals against Georgia Tech. He also had 23 points on 10-for-15 shooting against Wake Forest in a game where he also added 5 assists, 3 rebounds and another 4 steals.
3. Precious Achiuwa – Memphis
Precious Achiuwa has been consistent and dominant this season for Memphis. This week he had a 22-point, 12-rebound and 4-block performance against Wichita State to go along with a 22-point, 11-rebound, 5-block outing against USF. He was also extremely efficient as he shot 17-for-23 on the week.
4. Payton Pritchard – Oregon
Payton Pritchard built on his strong season by adding an 18-point, 7-rebound, 6-assist game to his resume against Arizona in an OT win. He also scored 29 points while adding 6 rebounds and 3 assists against Arizona State.
5. Zavier Simpson – Michigan
Zavier Simpson shot 9-for-13, including a perfect 8-for-8 from inside the three-point line, on his way to 22 points against Purdue. He added 9 assists in the outing. Simpson also tallied 19 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds against Minnesota.