Every Monday throughout the College Basketball Season, I will be giving out my Top 25 teams in the country. These rankings will be based on not only wins and your team's current resume but also, how much trust and belief I have in them going forward, coaching, depth and more!
Here was last week's edition.
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1. Baylor (8-0)
I get it… Most people are going to have Purdue #1 in their polls this week and I understand why. But hear me out as to why the defending National Champions aren’t getting enough recognition to start this season. This group's backcourt is a machine, after losing three NBA caliber players from last year's squad the Bears current backcourt has four guards in LJ Cryer, Kendall Brown, James Akinjo and Adam Flagler all playing 23+ minutes a game and very well. Add in key pieces from last year's National Championship team in Matthew Mayer and Jonathan Tchamawa Tchathoua and the Bears ability to win every game they have played so far this season with ease. There is no doubt the Bears are worthy of a No. 1 ranking. They pass the eye test.
2. Purdue (8-0)
The Boilers start to this season has been very impressive, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Their ability to beat you in so many different ways with the size of Zach Edey and Trevion Williams, the dynamic plays Jaden Ivey makes with the ball in his hands or the shooting of Sasha Stefonovic is scary. However, the reason I have the Boilers #2 right now is that they easily could have lost to Villanova as the Wildcats just ran out of gas thanks to a lack of depth late in that game, they were close to blowing their big lead late to an Iowa team who was without Kegan Murray and the same Florida State team they just beat in the B1G/ACC Challenge just lost at home to Syracuse. Baylor’s wins are more impressive. With that being said this Purdue team is clearly the best team in the B1G right now and can beat anyone in the country.
3. Duke (7-1)
Following wins on the big stage to start off the season over Kentucky and Gonzaga, Duke lost their first game of the season this past week to Ohio State 77-66. This was a surprising result considering the fact that Duke was actually leading the Buckeyes at halftime by a score of 43-30 and really faltered down the stretch. Duke is still one of the best teams in college basketball, and still should win this year's weak ACC with relative ease but there are some concerns I have seen from Duke lately that need to be addressed. The Blue Devils bench is simply not getting it done. Theo John and Joey Baker are alright college players but are no real threat to score the ball. Hopefully five-star freshman AJ Griffin who is still recovering from a knee injury suffered in October will make more of an impact as time goes on. Trevor Keels, who was key in Duke’s win over Kentucky has not been the same player and also needs to produce more on the offensive end or the Devils may have some concerns.
4. Gonzaga (7-2)
The Bulldogs suffered their second loss of the season on Saturday against Alabama in Seattle by a final score of 91-82. This is the team I expected Gonzaga to be at the beginning of the season. Still very good and will be right in the mix for a one seed come March, but not as good as last year’s historically great team. Primarily, this team lost Jalen Suggs, Corey Kispert and Joel Ayayi, three NBA caliber guys that did so much for this team. Even as guys like Julian Strawter and Anton Watson have stepped up this season and are only getting better, that is still a lot of production to replace. The good news for Bulldogs fans, is I think this non-conference schedule unlike last year will actually prepare the team for close games in March and given this schedule I didn’t expect the Bulldogs to get through it unscathed. There are some kinks but Mark Few will learn more and more about his team during this stretch.
5. Kansas (6-1)
Bill Self and his squad have done a really nice job bouncing back from their heartbreaking loss against Dayton during Feast Week and really looked impressive on Friday Night during their 95-75 victory over St. Johns at the brand new UBS Arena on Long Island. Senior, Ochai Agbaji continues to improve throughout his college career as he is currently averaging 22.6 points per game. The kid is playing like a pro and it really shows just how much staying in college can help you even if you are trying to get to the NBA. Ochai’s draft stock has only improved since he got to Lawrence. Jayhawks guard, Christian Braun has been the unsung hero to this team as he led the Jayhawks in scoring with 31 points in the win over St. Johns. Bill Self will always have his team right in the conversation at the top of the Big 12 and even in the country.
6. Kentucky (6-1)
It really feels like no one has even mentioned the Wildcats since their opening night loss to Duke and it’s easy to understand why. It’s been against the likes of Robert Morris, Ohio, Central Michigan and more but Kentucky has dominated their opponents since the Duke game and are really showing some positive signs. The combination of TyTY Washington and Oscar Tshiebwe as a pure scorer/ strength duo looks scary plus guys like Sahvir Wheeler, Kelan Grady and Keion Brooks all look really comfortable in their respective roles. We will check in on Kentucky soon, as they still have a game at Notre Dame, Ohio State and Louisville by the time we get SEC Conference play.
7. UCLA (8-1)
The Bruins have looked rock solid since their first loss of the season to Gonzaga and won their first two games of Pac 12 Conference play this by beating Colorado and Washington. The game against Washington was actually postponed and deemed a forfeit in the Bruins favor due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the Washington program. Cody Riley getting healthy and back into the lineup is ultimately what should be the Bruins No. 1 priority at the moment, as his size and rebounding wouldn’t have propelled UCLA over Gonzaga but it definitely would have made things more interesting. The Pac 12 has looked down as a conference besides UCLA and a few others (namely USC and Arizona) so the conference is in the Bruins favor as the preseason favorite. Plus, UCLA still has games at Marquette and against North Carolina on a neutral court before the end of the year so we will see them much more soon.
8. Alabama (7-1)
There were many things that stood out in Alabama’s 91-82 victory over Gonzaga in Seattle on Saturday. Primarily, the one thing that stuck out most was that Alabama might just have the best backcourt in the country outside of Baylor. Jaden Shackelford was the best player on the court against Gonzaga as he had 28 points and 9 rebounds while shooting 10/16 from the court. Former Villanova guard, Jahvon Quinerly did a great job managing the game and running offense while adding in 17 points and six assists. Five-star freshman JD Davison also really popped off the screen with 20 points while shooting 4/6 from deep. Combine those guys with Keon Ellis and the sky's the limit for this Bama team. Nate Oats has done a phenomenal job in only his third year getting this program turned around.
9. Villanova (6-2)
Villanova really wasn’t tested much this past week as they delivered comfortable victories in the Big 5 series with wins over Philadelphia rivals Penn and St Josephs. Jay Wright’s squad is now 31-1 against Big 5 opponents since 2013-2014 which is the same year Villanova moved to the “new” Big East and really started this run of dominance. The Wildcats will be heading to Madison Square Garden this week to participate in The Jimmy V Classic and take on Syracuse who has now beaten Indiana and Florida State in back to back games after a tough start. The Wildcats top six players are all really good, but the question remains. Does Villanova have enough depth to be one of the elite teams in college basketball this year? So far that has cost them two games against two opponents currently ranked higher than them in UCLA and Purdue.
10. Texas (6-1)
Similar to Kentucky, the spotlight has been off of Chris Beard and the Longhorns since they lost to Gonzaga. Texas has looked significantly better since that loss and balled out in a recent win over Sam Houston State, It was a cool event, as the game was actually played at Gregory Gym which is the school's rec center. They played this game in front of students only and the atmosphere did look absolutely electric. Texas has one huge test this week as they head on the road to Seton Hall in the Big East/ Big 12 Challenge, and I’ll be curious to see how this group looks. We all know this is probably the most talented team Chris Beard has ever coached but considering the lack of familiarity this group has with each other, how long will it take for everyone to figure out their roles? Once this question is answered, Texas still has the ability to be one of the best teams in the country with the group they currently have.
11. Arizona (7-0)
After their Pac 12 Conference Opener earlier this week against Washington was cancelled due to a COVID-19 issue within the Washington program Arizona actually opened up their Pac 12 season with a bang on Sunday, as they rolled past Oregon State in Corvallis by a final score 90-65. Future NBA Lottery Pick, Benedict Maturin led the Wildcats with 29 points on 11/18 shooting from the field. Sean Miller did leave Tommy Lloyd with a really nice core to build around in his first year plus it does seem like Arizona’s offense is more free flowing and has had a somewhat easy time scoring the ball so far to start Lloyd first year. Arizona is another team that we will see a lot more of by the time we hit January because they will go to Illinois on Saturday, plus a trip to Knoxville, Tennessee will soon follow before UCLA approaches on December 30th. Arizona is definitely a factor in a weak Pac 12.
12. Houston (7-1)
Kelvin Sampson’s team responded really nicely following their first loss of the season in the Maui Invitational to Wisconsin by absolutely demolishing the likes of Northwestern State and Bryant. That is one quality that I have noticed about Houston under Sampson that last couple years that is really appealing. When Houston wants to blow teams out, they are more than capable of doing it. Plus, when they do, they leave zero doubt it is a thorough butt kicking. Getting Tramon Mark back should be a huge deal for the Cougars as his play really put Houston over the top during their Final 4 run a season ago. Transfers have also had a noticeably big effect on the early success of this team with Kyler Edwards (Texas Tech), Josh Carlton (UConn), Taze Moore (CSU Bakersfield) and Reggie Chaney (Arkansas) all contributing. Houston will have a trip to Alabama and a neutral court game against Oklahoma State in the near future.
13. Auburn (7-1)
Auburn is not only one of the more underrated teams in the country currently but also, they are one of the more underrated programs in the country nationally based on what Bruce Pearl has done since arriving on the Plains. Within the last four years, Auburn has won the SEC outright and has made a Final Four. It seems every time I watch these Tigers Pearl is clicking the right buttons and Auburn has gotten off to a 7-1 start without the services of starting point guard Allen Flannigan. They have looked really impressive doing it by blowing out Ivy League Favorite Yale this past week by a final score of 86-64. Future NBA Lottery pick Jabari Smith had 17 points and 17 rebounds in this one plus Auburn’s depth coming off the bench really stood out. Guys like Jaylin Williams and Wendell Green stepped up plus starters Zeb Jasper and Devan Cambridge provide legitimate scoring threats. When a good coach like Bruce Pearl has good depth and talent that is a scary combination.
14. Florida (6-1)
The Gators lost their first game of the season on Wednesday Night to Oklahoma in a true road game in Norman. Even with it, Florida has already picked up wins so far this season over Ohio State and Florida State which should age well. It is noticeable how bought in this Florida team is to Mike White compared to years past and the type of players who make up this Florida up of might just be very well suited for him. Charleston Southern transfer, Phlandrous Fleming led the Gators in scoring against Oklahoma with 17 points off the bench and three others, Collin Caselton, Brandon McKissic and Tyree Applebee were all in double figures. These are just contributions that you would never see from surrounding parts of past Gators teams under White. It’s never great to lose a game but weirdly enough, I felt ok about these Gators after Oklahoma. This week, Florida will have Maryland at the Barclays Center in New York for their last major test before SEC Conference play.
15. Arkansas (8-0)
Arkansas is among the flurry of SEC teams we have in these rankings and they find themselves in a pretty good position to start the season after losing many key pieces from last year's Elite Eight team including lottery Moses Moody. So far, Arkansas has picked up wins over Kansas State and Cincinnati in an otherwise quiet non-conference slate. They will get that chance with a neutral court game against the same Oklahoma team that just defeated Florida a few days ago. The Hogs, have still yet to find that guy who can replace Jalen Tate as a pure playmaking guard as Chris Lykes has started the season by only shooting 36% from the field and is averaging only 1.9 assists per game. I trust Eric Musselman to have his team's problems fixed by the time we get to March but there are some things to sort out right now that might be covered by the fact Arkansas hasn’t really played the toughest schedule.
16. Ohio State (5-2)
After Chris Holtmann led his Buckeyes to victory over the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils on Tuesday the thought of how Duke should have replaced Coach K with Chris Holtmann did pop into my head and it hasn’t been the first time. Very few coaches in college basketball have done more with less than Holtmann has since he arrived to Columbus as he has consistently overachieved with the Buckeyes relative to expectations. This year, nothing has been different as Ohio State lost Justice Sueing (10 PPG in 19-20) and fell to Xavier in the Gavitt Games to start off the season. After that loss to Xavier, things were really looking bleak, but the Buckeyes have followed it up with wins over Seton Hall and Duke. Guys like Meetchie Johnson, Zed Key and Justin Ahrens are stepping up in place of Sueing. Add that to EJ Liddell who is currently averaging 16.4 points per game including the game ceiling jumper against Duke and is one of the 10 best players in the country.
17. UConn (8-1)
It is very rare that I drop a team four spots in the Top 25 compared to last week when they didn't lose a game but it only seems fair that I do it with these Huskies. Unfortunately, for UConn it was announced earlier this week that standout guard Tyrese Martin is expected to miss multiple weeks with a wrist injury and big man Adama Sanogo who many would consider to be the Huskies best player is also likely out multiple weeks due to an abdominal injury. Danny Hurley is a good enough coach and the Huskies have enough depth for me to keep them ranked but I’ll be semi worried about them in their upcoming games at West Virginia and vs St Bonaventure before a very tough Big East conference slate begins. RJ Cole, Isaiah Whaley, Jordan Hawkins, Andre Jackson and others all have a real opportunity here at a crucial point in the Huskies season.
18. Tennessee (6-1)
We all see what is going on with the other team in the state of Tennessee, the Memphis Tigers right now. What both the Vols and Tigers have in common is that they both have a lot of talent, but at some point I thought they might too much talent and would struggle to establish clear roles for anyone on the team. That’s what usually happens when you have 10-11 really good players, it is almost like you have too much talent. Memphis is continuing to struggle with that problem this year, while Tennessee is the exact opposite. After an off game against Villanova it looks like the Vols have officially got something cooking. Freshman point guard Kennedy Chandler is living up to the lofty expectations by averaging 16.1 points per game and junior guard Santiago Vescovi looks like one of the more improved players in the country averaging 15.1 points per game while shooting 39 percent from 3. The Vols just picked up a really solid road win against a good Colorado team, and will get another test this week against Texas Tech at the Jimmy V Classic.
19. LSU (8-0)
The crazy amount of SEC teams just keeps on coming with Will Wade and the Tigers. LSU is one of the more underrated teams in college basketball at the moment. While their schedule hasn’t been anything spectacular, they have picked up blowout wins over good mid majors in Ohio and Belmont plus a neutral court win over an over-achieving Wake Forest team in the ACC. Cincinnati transfer Tari Eason has been a difference maker off the bench for LSU averaging 14.6 points per game in only 22.5 minutes of game action. What really appeals to me about this LSU team is the fact that whenever Will Wade has had talent he has always won with it. This team oozes with talent from Darius Days to Eason to Xavier Pinson to Efton Reid to Eric Gaines and on and on. Watch out for LSU in the SEC. They will be a factor.
20. Colorado State (9-0)
Niko Medved has the Colorado State Rams rolling to start off the season and they are the clear best team in the Mountain West. In their 9-0 Colorado State has already picked up wins over Creighton, St. Mary's and Oral Roberts but more importantly when you watch them, they look like a team that is out for blood. Star guard David Roddy is averaging 20 Points Per Game and looks like one of the best players in all of College Basketball. Keep in mind this Colorado State team has overachieved the last few years with Medved and were one of the first four teams out of the NCAA Tournament field from a year ago. Now they return basically the same team and have a group that is experienced, talented and have been through all the wars in the Mountain West. The Rams will have SEC opponents in Alabama and Mississippi State before they start off conference play.
21. Seton Hall (7-1)
The Pirates had a light week compared to most but did pick up wins over Wagner and Nyack College. Kevin Williard’s squad put up 113 points on Nyack and the best part was senior guard Myles Cale who left the Pirates only loss to the season so far against Ohio State due to injury did return to the lineup against Nyack. In 21 minutes, Cale had 12 points and 3 rebounds. This is just a great thing for the Pirates to get their stud guard back in the lineup before we hit conference play. This team is deep and will be tested against Texas and Rutgers this week with both games coming at home. However, Bryce Aiken who has looked really good to start the season for the Pirates will be out due to Illness so Seton Hall’s depth will be tested.
22. USC (8-0)
Very quietly, the USC Trojans have started off Pac 12 Conference play 2-0 and are one of the more underrated teams in the country as we speak. Not enough people are giving Andy Enfield credit for turning around a USC basketball program that was not looking so good when he got there. This year's team is looking like it has a really nice core of experienced and talented guys that all seem to be on the right page. Memphis transfer Boogie Ellis who has been very efficient scoring the ball this season set up Chavez Goodwin with the game winning assist on the road on Saturday against a much-improved Washington State team. The Trojans also blew out a very well coached Utah team in the conference opener. The core of Boogie Ellis, Drew Peterson, Isaiah Mobley, Max Agbonkpolo, Chavez Goodwin, Josh Morgan and more have really blended nicely for USC and Andy Enfield deserves so much credit for having the team tis good after an Elite 8 appearance and a the loss of Evan Mobley.
23. North Carolina (5-2)
It hasn’t been the smoothest of starts for North Carolina to start the Hubert Davis era but big picture North Carolina is one of the 25 best teams in College Basketball. Although they lost both games at Mohegan Sun to very good Purdue and Tennessee teams the Tar Heels showed some resiliency by bouncing back this week by picking up a blowout win over Michigan in the B1G/ACC Challenge and a road win over Georgia Tech to start off ACC Conference play. Sophomore point guard Caleb Love has balled out this season including dropping 22 points on Michigan. The ACC has been flat out bad as a conference to begin this season as well. Besides Duke and North Carolina, teams like Louisville, Notre Dame, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Virginia all look worse than expected so there is no reason why this Tar Heel team can’t take advantage.
24. Illinois (6-2)
The Illini suffered some frustrating losses to start off this season including to Marquette and Cincinnati. However, in the Marquette game they were missing Kofi Cockburn who would have definitely made a large impact against a thinner Marquette front court plus more importantly they have found a new guy taking control of the offense. Utah transfer Alfonso Plummer is averaging 15.1 points per game and has provided the Illini with a scoring threat from the perimeter along with Trent Frazier. It’s been a rough start to the season for Andre Curbelo but I don’t think he is this bad and he’ll eventually get it together. The Illini looked good blowing out Notre Dame and Rutgers this week but the competition will get a little bit tougher as they host Iowa and Arizona this week in 2 marquee matchups.
25. Xavier (6-1)
There are plenty of coaches I trust more in college basketball than Travis Steele. Quite frankly, he’s underachieved so far during his time at Xavier considering the talent he’s had. However, this Xavier team might be his best team yet. It better be or Travis Steele has no excuses. Colby Jones looks like he’s capable of being an All-Conference Guard, Nate Johnson and Paul Scruggs can score the rock, Zach Freemantle is back, you have really good transfers. The talent of this Xavier team is very appealing and they have already picked up quality wins over Ohio State, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State. However, they also had a rather disappointing loss to an overachieving Iowa State team who is still rather unproven after a really nice start. The Big East is one of the better leagues so this will be a big year for Steele to prove his program has staying power.
Follow Zac Krull on Twitter @ZKrull3