Early season tournaments have provided us with fantastic competition and reality checks for some of the top teams in the country. With that being said, we have some movement in the Power 16 as we approach some exciting non-conference matchups including a rematch of last season’s Final Four with #1 Gonzaga facing #2 UCLA in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
1. Gonzaga (4-0)
Ahead of a massive week for the Zags with two HUGE matchups against UCLA and Duke, Mark Few’s squad has been taking care of business on their way to a 4-0 record. I expect this punishing frontcourt to get Myles Johnson and Mark Williams and foul trouble and use this to open up big leads and an undefeated week against two of the top teams in the nation.
2. UCLA (4-0)
The Bruins are faced with a huge challenge on Tuesday against Gonzaga, but it is hard to like their chances without Cody Riley against Chet Holmgren and Drew Timme in the Bulldog frontcourt. Even still, this will be an epic matchup with the two top teams in the nation in what is hopefully another March Madness preview.
3. Purdue (5-0)
Wins against Villanova and Tennessee capped off a Hail of Fame Tip Off Tournament championship for the Boilermakers and their talent mixed with experience and incredible height is living up to the preseason hype so far. Jaden Ivey has begun to become a household name at the college level and elevated his draft stock in the process.
4. Duke (5-0)
Two more big wins against lowly opponents keeps the Blue Devils at #4, but they have a huge opportunity to make a jump with a date with #1 Gonzaga coming up on Friday.
5. Kansas (3-0)
An uneventful schedule since opening night leaves the Jayhawks fifth in the rankings with no matchups against currently ranked teams coming up until late January against Kentucky for the SEC-Big 12 challenge.
6. Villanova (3-2)
I said last week that I would not punish good losses and I meant it. Villanova went 2-1 this week with good wins against Howard and Tennessee followed by a tough loss against Purdue who is ranked third in these rankings. Nobody has challenged themselves more to this point than the Wildcats and they should reap the benefits in March.
7. Kentucky (3-1)
There are few people who understand just how impressive Kentucky’s win against Ohio was on Friday night. They got behind early and endured early foul trouble to Oscar Tshiebwe and Daimion Collins. True freshman Bryce Hopkins stepped in and played tremendously on the interior to help the Wildcats past an impressive Bobcat squad who came in 3-0 and knocked off #4 seed Virginia last March.
8. Baylor (4-0)
Scott Drew got his team clicking this week with a 38-point win against Stanford. James Akinjo, LJ Cryer and Adam Flagler look poised to breakout this season and form a backcourt that is a lot closer to last year’s Baylor backcourt than people think.
9. BYU (4-0)
The Cougars dismantled Oregon on their home court on Tuesday and looked like a team who could rival Gonzaga in the WCC this season. Alex Barcello is averaging over 20 points per game after earning AP All-American Honorable Mention a season ago. A real player to watch this season.
10. Seton Hall (3-0)
Another team jumping into these rankings with a huge upset is the Seton Hall Pirates. These guys went into Ann Arbor and came away with an upset victory over #4 Michigan. They will go for another Big Ten upset in Fort Myers against Ohio State on Monday.
11. Michigan (3-1)
The home defeat to Seton Hall drops the Wolverines to #11 in these rankings, but there are plenty of opportunities coming up to surge back up. North Carolina and San Diego State are on the schedule before conference play opens up, which will have plenty of ranked matchups in a deep Big Ten.
12. Houston (3-0)
After reaching the Final Four for the first time in school history last season, the Cougars faced a home scare against Hofstra to open the season. They’ve responded with two wins while holding opponents to a combined 93 points including the Virginia Cavaliers.
13. Alabama (4-0)
The Tide are yet to face a real challenge but a three-game stretch of Gonzaga, Houston, and Memphis at the beginning of December is sure to show what this team is all about. Until then, they will continue to score, score, and score some more.
14. Memphis (4-0)
An underrated matchup coming up this week is the Tigers taking on Virginia Tech at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. This is a great battle of youth versus experience and the winner will most likely get Xavier in a physical championship matchup.
15. Texas (3-1)
I am still holding off on the Texas hype as each of the newcomers looks to find their role under first-year coach Chris Beard. There is plenty of talent on the Longhorns roster, but until they figure out how to make all of it gel, I will keep them on the lower end of these rankings.
16. St. Bonaventure (5-0)
The Bonnies were a popular sleeper pick among avid college basketball watchers before the season and they showed why at the Charleston Classic this week. Boise State, Clemson, and Marquette all went down along the way as this week will go a long way to clinching an at-large berth should they need it on Selection Sunday.
Next 5: Auburn, Florida, Marquette, Arkansas, Xavier
Players of the Week:
Justin Bean, PF, Utah State Aggies
A top candidate for MWC Player of the Year is senior Justin Bean. He put together quite a resume this week at the Myrtle Beach Invitational averaging nearly 25 points, 14 rebounds and 3 assists on his way to the tournament championship. He is shooting 60% from distance in the early season and looks like a top mid-major player in all of college basketball.
Alex Barcello, SG, BYU Cougars
Another mid-major star who was an honorable mention All-American last season is Alex Barcello. It will be difficult to take WCC Player of the Year from Drew Timme, but if anyone can do it, it’s Barcello. He went off for 25 points in the upset victory at Oregon on Tuesday and is also shooting a ridiculous 60% from beyond the arc for the Cougars.
Jalen Duren, PF, Memphis Tigers
Not only did the true freshman boast a 22-point, 19-rebound stat line against Western Kentucky on Friday but he also blocked five shots on 75% shooting as well. Pair that with a 6-block show against Saint Louis on Tuesday and you take notice of one of the premier shot blockers in the entire nation. There is a reason this guy is in the lottery discussion, and he proved exactly why this week.
Darius Days, PF, LSU Tigers
There were times on Monday night when it looked like LSU might be on upset alert, but Darius Days seemed to always deliver with a three-pointer to give his team momentum. Days is averaging 22 PTS with 7 rebounds and shooting 59% from beyond the arc. Days finally has his time in the spotlight in Baton Rouge and he is taking full advantage of it so far.
Julian Champagnie, SF, St. John’s Red Storm
Although it was in a losing effort, Champagnie put on an absolute show at Assembly Hall on Wednesday night. He scored 32 points on 54/50/100 splits, and looked unconscious shooting the ball in the second half as he tried to mount a comeback in Bloomington.
Play of the Week
Marquette Game-Winning Steal and Score
The Golden Eagles were trailing #10 Illinois by 1 with 22 seconds left and the Illini possessing the ball. Enter Marquette freshman Tyler Kolek. He came from Trent Frazier’s blindside and stripped the ball into the backcourt and drove it down for a layup and a foul to give the Golden Eagles a one-point lead. This sent the Milwaukee crowd into a frenzy and reminded us what college basketball is all about. Check it out below.
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) November 16, 2021