There were upsets. There were buzzer-beaters. There was basketball. College basketball returned to our lives this week and it did not disappoint. From James Madison knocking off No. 4 Michigan State to Arizona and Duke playing a classic at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the opening week of college basketball was a fascinating one.
Check out who the early favorites are to cut down the nets in Phoenix in April in our first power 16 rankings of the season!
1. Kansas (2-0)
Hunter Dickinson and Bill Self are a match made in heaven and should carry the Jayhawks to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season. The Michigan transfer should be one of the favorites to win NPOY with Self coaching and Dajuan Harris creating for the Jayhawks.
2. Purdue (2-0)
Dickinson will need to unseat Zach Edey as the NPOY with the 7’4 center back for redemption in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers return most of the core from their Big Ten Championship team a season ago and have an exciting stretch ahead headlined by a stacked Maui Invitational beginning next week.
3. Arizona (2-0)
Caleb Love’s (pictured) return to Cameron Indoor Stadium ended as the best win in college basketball from the opening week of the season. Love and former five-star sophomore guard Kylan Boswell will thrive in Tommy Lloyd’s system as the Wildcats are undisputed favorites to run the Pac-12 this season.
4. UConn (2-0)
The reigning national champions lost three crucial starters but should compete for another with several talented newcomers and the rise of Donovan Clingan in a larger role. A duel with Indiana at Madison Square Garden on Sunday will show where the Huskies are at with a new, exciting lineup.
5. Houston (2-0)
Kelvin Sampson might have lost Marcus Sasser and Jarace Walker this offseason, but the Cougars are loaded with guards and physicality once again. They’ll need it in their first season in the Big 12, but I’d expect them to have much more success in the transition than their football team (2-5 in conference play).
6. Duke (1-1)
A tight loss to Arizona at home is no reason for Blue Devils fans to panic in this young season. Kyle Filipowski is the best stretch big in the sport and a loaded freshmen class will add plenty of options for Jon Scheyer and his experienced core of stars.
7. Marquette (2-0)
Shaka Smart is one of the top coaches in college basketball, but his job is made a lot easier with a point guard like Tyler Kolek captaining the backcourt. The crafty southpaw will post a few triple-doubles this season and could be the top point guard in the country for the Golden Eagles.
8. Tennessee (2-0)
We already know the Volunteers will win with defense this season, but the addition of Dalton Knecht and return of seasoned veterans in the backcourt could ensure they don’t lose with offense like they’ve done in the past. The Vols should be favorites in the SEC this season.
9. Michigan State (1-1)
After a shocking loss to James Madison to open the season, Michigan State will drop significantly in the AP Poll. I’m not ready for that steep drop quite yet. The Spartans boast the top backcourt in the country, and I believe it will carry them to a win over Duke at the Champions Classic on Tuesday.
10. Kentucky (2-0)
Winning with freshmen might be a thing of the past in college basketball, but this year’s Kentucky team will revive the theory that it’s still possible. DJ Wagner and Justin Edwards highlight a record-breaking class for the Wildcats that could be Coach Cal’s last hope to win back his fan base.
11. Miami (2-0)
Jim Larranaga led the Hurricanes to the Final Four for the first time in school history last season and is not slowing down with this year’s team. Wooga Poplar is a popular breakout player candidate as he leads an explosive Miami team that could challenge Duke and North Carolina for an ACC title.
12. Gonzaga (1-0)
Those who don’t know Graham Ike will learn about him quickly at the Maui Invitational next week. The Wyoming transfer is an outstanding post scorer who has the impossible task of filling Drew Timme’s shoes after his departure to the NBA. Creighton transfer Ryan Nembhard will be an All-American in his first season leading Gonzaga’s offense.
13. Arkansas (2-0)
Nobody weaponizes the transfer portal and wins in March quite like Eric Musselman. After great work in the portal once again, he has a chance to keep building on his success with the Razorbacks. I assure you no one will want to draw Arkansas in their region on Selection Sunday this season.
14. Alabama (2-0)
If anyone can rival Musselman in the transfer portal, it’s Nate Oats and the Crimson Tide. Grant Nelson and Aaron Estrada are living proof of it this season and will be crucial to getting the Tide back to the top of college basketball after a sensational season last year.
15. USC (2-0)
No Bronny, no problem for USC after wins against Kansas State and Cal State Bakersfield to open up the season. As James works to get back onto the court, five-star phenom Isaiah Collier will keep proving why he was the top recruit in college basketball this season.
16. Creighton (2-0)
Nembhard might be gone, but the Blue Jays are in good hands with Trey Alexander and Baylor Scheierman. Ryan Kalkbrenner will hold everything down as a premier rim-runner and rim-protector in the sport.
Next 5: Saint Mary’s, Texas, Baylor, FAU, James Madison
Players of the Week:
Armando Bacot, No. 19 North Carolina Tar Heels
One of the best bigs in college basketball is back for another year and off to a flying start. Bacot posted the third 20-point, 20-rebound game of his career in a 90-68 win over Lehigh on Sunday after a 25-point double-double against Radford on Monday.
Dalton Knecht, No. 9 Tennessee Volunteers
The Volunteers marched out of Wisconsin with one of the more impressive wins of the opening week in college basketball. They wouldn’t have done it without star transfer Dalton Knecht who starred at Northern Colorado last season as a 20-point scorer. Knecht is a name to watch among breakout stars in the SEC.
Ja'Kobe Walter, No. 20 Baylor Bears
They hype is real, and warranted, for five-star freshman Ja’Kobe Walter. The Bears have plenty of production to replace in the backcourt and Walter did his best to do so in a win over Auburn on Tuesday. The McKinney, TX native went off for 28 points in the win and helped stave off an upset bid from Gardner Webb on Sunday.
Tucker DeVries, Drake Bulldogs
DeVries is an under-the-radar draft prospect who opted to return to Drake for his junior season. The 6’7 wing and reigning MVC Player of the Year went for a career-high 36 points in the season opening win over Lipscomb on Wednesday. Look for DeVries to bolster his underrated draft stock this season.
Carlton Carrington, Pittsburgh Panthers
Papa Kante and Jaland Lowe were the two highest rated freshmen for the Panthers heading into the season, but it was Bub Carrington who shined in two wins this week. His triple-double on Monday was the only one of the season so far and the first by a true freshman in school history in a debut.
Play of the Week:
It wasn’t a pretty play, but it was an upset-clinching one for Nicholls State in Baton Rouge on Friday. This late triple by Jalen White is the play of the week in college basketball.