The top of the rankings was all shaken up this week with big upset, premier matchups, and mid-season tournaments that did not disappoint. It is important to note each week that these rankings indicate who are the best teams right now and are subject to change each week because of that.
1. Duke (7-0)
The Blue Devils handed Gonzaga their first regular season loss since February 2020 when they took down the #1 Zags 84-81 on Friday night. Paolo Banchero put on a show in the first half and if he, and several other teammates, were not battling cramps the entire second half, this game could’ve been ugly. No other team has the resume, the experience, or the talent that Coach K’s team boasts at this moment, and they truly could come through with the storybook ending to his illustrious career.
2. Gonzaga (6-1)
Despite falling to Duke on Friday, Gonzaga still owns the second most impressive win of the regular season after they dominated #2 UCLA from start to finish on Tuesday. Chet Holmgren and Andrew Nembhard made the Bruins look like the 11 seed from last year instead of the Final Four team that took the undefeated Zags to the death last April. This team might not lose again the rest of the season, so do not count them out now or you will certainly regret it.
3. Purdue (6-0)
The Boilermakers may not have participated in a tournament this week, but I will not forget the impressive display they put on last week in their weekend matchups with North Carolina and Villanova. Zach Edey and Jaden Ivey are better than advertised as Matt Painter’s squad are the new Big Ten favorites in 2021.
4. Baylor (7-0)
Welcome back to the national spotlight, Scott Drew. His Bears lost a LOT from their national championship team, yet they seem to have figured everything out just 7 games into the new season. A three-game sweep at the Battle 4 Atlantis, in convincing fashion, has Baylor right back in the national discussion with another loaded backcourt and physical frontcourt that can control the interior. These guys are not going to have a championship hangover.
5. UCLA (6-1)
Mick Cronin was publicly embarrassed with his team’s effort and toughness after Gonzaga blew them out of the water. His team responded in a big way with a 22-point win over UNLV while outrebounding the Runnin’ Rebels by 20. We learned last year not to count out the Bruins and I am learning from that mistake by leaving them in the top five.
6. Villanova (4-2)
The Wildcats deserved a long rest after playing three ranked teams in the first five games. Their only two losses are to teams ranked above them here and they still belong towards the top of the rankings.
7. Kentucky (5-1)
This Kentucky team truly has it all and they responded to their opening night loss to Duke, which looks better and better by the day, by taking care of business and finding their identity. This is a second weekend team and one of the most dangerous Coach Cal has had in recent years.
8. Kansas (5-1)
A miraculous buzzer-beater by Dayton knocked off the Jayhawks, but the Flyers should never have been in that position. Kansas was out to a big lead early and let Dayton hang around for one possession too long, causing a bit of a slip in their ranking.
9. Auburn (5-1)
These guys weren’t featured on the Power 16 last week and despite dropping a game in Atlantis, I still have them making a big jump. KD Johnson plays his heart out more than anyone else in the nation and Jabari Smith is going to make every team think about him on draft night as a potential #1 pick.
10 Arkansas (6-0)
It’s been a great week for the Razorbacks who faced their first real competition at the Hall of Fame Classic and willed their way to victory in a physical matchup with Cincinnati in a game that had an NCAA Tournament feel. It doesn’t look like they’ll see a ranked team until the new year, but they look like they are ready to get back to the Elite Eight.
11. Arizona (6-0)
The Pac-12 has been underwhelming to start the season, but that does not apply to the Wildcats under first year coach Tommy Lloyd. They’ve destroyed weaker competition and looked Michigan look like one of their cupcake games. This team is a legitimate threat to win a Pac-12 Championship.
12. Iowa (6-0)
While the Hawkeyes have not seen any competition, they are still taking care of every team they face, which cannot be said of everyone. The Murray twins are leading the way and filling a huge void left by Luka Garza.
13. BYU (6-0)
Mark Pope and the Cougars are running through their competition on the west coast and could remain unbeaten for a lot longer than people think.
14. Florida (6-0)
Tyree Appleby delivered an early candidate for shot of the season with his buzzer-beating three-pointer to knock off Ohio State in Fort Myers. I’m not convinced that the Gators are a true threat, but their quality wins cannot be disputed to this point.
15. Iowa State (6-0)
Another team with an indisputable resume at this point is Iowa State who are potentially the biggest surprise in college basketball right now. This team was 0-18 in conference play last season and they have already knocked off Xavier and Memphis who boasted undefeated records before they ran into the Cyclones.
16. Alabama (5-1)
A loss to Iona in their NCAA Tournament rematch drops the Tide in these rankings but there is too much talent to completely remove them from the top 16. A three-game gauntlet in early December will tell us everything we need to know about what this team can do in March.
Next 5: Texas, Houston, Memphis, Connecticut, Michigan State
Players of the Week:
Paolo Banchero, PF, Duke Blue Devils
20 minutes of basketball in late November might have the biggest say on who is drafted first overall in the 2022 NBA Draft. Banchero went off for 20 points on 8-13 from the field and 3-6 from distance in the first half of the game and even took Chet Holmgren to the rim and converted an and-one over the 7’1 freshman. Cramps limited him in the second half, but scouts had already seen what they needed to see.
Wendell Moore Jr., SG/SF, Duke Blue Devils
Another Blue Devil who shined in the spotlight was the junior from Charlotte, NC. Moore has scored at least 20 in his last three games and is averaging 6 rebounds and assists on the season. He is putting his name in the hat for most improved player in the nation and is working his way into first round discussion in the draft.
Johnny Davis, SG/SF, Wisconsin Badgers
There were a lot of tournaments going on this week and many might have missed the performances that won Johnny Davis MVP of the Maui Invitational. He brought the Badgers back from a huge deficit in the quarterfinal against Texas A&M, scored nearly half of their points as a team with 30 against #12 Houston, and scored 20 more against St. Mary’s in the championship game. The Badgers win with defense, but this week, they won with Johnny Davis.
Jabari Smith, PF, Auburn Tigers
All eyes were on Holmgren vs. Banchero this week, as the clear favorites for the top pick in the draft faced off, but Smith is not going to go down without a fight. He is shooting 43% from beyond the arc on the season and looks smooth as can be pulling up from anywhere on the floor. I still think Holmgren and Banchero will be the first two off the board, but there is not that big of a drop off from them to Smith.
Andrew Nembhard, PG, Gonzaga Bulldogs
You probably didn’t have to do much arguing by naming Nembhard the top PG in the nation after his nearly flawless display against UCLA this week. We all know he can run an offense and create for others, but he was also getting to the basket and knocking down jumpers, which are not considered major strengths to his game. He didn’t replicate that performance against Duke, but he was still the premier playmaker we know him to be with 11 assists.
Play of the Week:
While it might not be a “play” Dick Vitale’s return to broadcasting was without a doubt the best thing to happen in college basketball this week. His emotional introduction before the Gonzaga-UCLA game brought tears to many and inspiration to countless more. Welcome back, Dickie V! It wasn’t the same without you.