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College Hoops Power Rankings: Arizona, Purdue and then... who?!

With no college football this weekend, it felt like the first major Saturday where everyone was locked in on college hoops.

With it, it's time for our updated College Basketball Power Rankings coming out of the busiest college hoops weekend of the year.

Here is our Top 25 heading into mid-December

1. Arizona Wildcats

It is not spoken about enough just how good of a hire Arizona made in the Spring of 2021, when Arizona brought in Gonzaga’s lead assistant Tommy Lloyd to be their next head coach. The Wildcats are 69-11 under Tommy Lloyd following their blowout victory over Wisconsin on Saturday. Keep in mind, Wisconsin was fresh off victories over the likes of Virginia and Michigan State going in, and it didn’t even matter. The Wildcats scored 98 points in the victory, which is somehow only their fourth highest scoring point total so far this season.

The primary difference of this Arizona team compared to the last two teams that fell short in the NCAA Tournament is point guard play. Sophomore, Kylan Boswell does a great job controlling the game and valuing each possession. Boswell finished with 10 points, 9 assists and only two turnovers in the victory on Saturday. This Arizona team has multiple playmakers and guys that can score the basketball, when the team needs it most.

Each of the five starters for the Wildcats scored in double digits against Wisconsin. That included 20 points from North Carolina transfer Caleb Love, on an efficient 7/13 from the field.

Arizona’s best win right now is at Duke which is a phenomenal win. However, these Wildcats can really make a statement next Saturday against Purdue, in a game that will feature the two best teams in the sport right now.

2. Purdue Boilermakers

The Boilermakers responded nicely from their first loss of the season against Northwestern this week, with a pair of victories over Iowa and Alabama. In Zach Edey’s homecoming on Saturday, the Boilers showed they were capable of bouncing back when they need to.

Purdue started the game facing an 8-0 hole and trailed 19-9 just five minutes in. Purdue was able to cut that deficit to two points by halftime, and outscored Alabama 45-37 in the second half to secure the victory.

In the process, Edey was able to match his season high with 35 points in his first time playing in his hometown of Toronto, and even better for Purdue, the other pieces around him are stepping up. Sophomore Braden Smith, is playing like one of the best guards in the country, finishing with 27 points on a high percentage 9-20 from the field. Purdue as a team also shot 44.4% from deep and 85.7% from the free throw line.

Although there are always going to be questions with this team until they make a significant run in March, Purdue is by far and away the best team in the Big Ten right now. There is zero doubt that these Boilermakers will be a top three seed at worst in the Month of March. That is due to the fact they have built a really good non-conference resume, featuring wins over Tennessee,

Marquette and Alabama.

3. UConn Huskies

Dan Hurley’s team showed on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, that they are more than capable of becoming the first team in over a decade and a half to repeat as National Champions. North Carolina is a legitimate Top 15 type team, and it never felt like the Huskies were in any jeopardy of losing that game.

What's even better is that two of the Huskies premier players didn’t even play particularly well in this one. Alex Karaban, who is averaging 14.4 points per game on the season, had been dealing with an injured finger that clearly affected his shooting in this contest. Despite shooting 2-9 from three, he still found a way to score 18 points and even followed it up with 26 points on 6-9 from three on Saturday against Arkansas Pine Bluff.

In addition, Donavan Clingan hasn’t even really got going yet, only scoring eight points in 20 minutes of action against the Tar Heels. This is a player that suffered a foot injury in late September and missed the majority of the final month of the offseason.

Still, UConn is sitting at 9-1 overall and looks like one of the best teams in the sport.

Tristen Newton is playing like one of the best players in the country, with more assists per game in non-conference games than any player in the Big East. He also ranks in the top five in scoring of Big East players during the non-conference slate. With Freshman Solomon Ball also stepping up against the Tar Heels with 13 points and Stephon Castle now back in the lineup, there is truly no ceiling for these Huskies.

If you're worried about the marquee games slowing down for the Huskies after playing at Kansas and against North Carolina in recent weeks, well no worries - they play Gonzaga in Seattle on Friday night.

4. Kansas Jayhawks

It seems like every time this Kansas team is brought up in any conversation, the first things that are brought up are their issues and how this Jayhawks team might not be as good as years past. With that being said, Kansas has still started their season 9-1 with victories over UConn, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri. Plus their only loss came against a really good

Marquette team, that is also ranked in the Top1- of these rankings.

That is how high the standard is for Bill Self’s program, which has been among the best in college basketball over the course of the last two decades.

While depth clearly isn’t a strength for this Kansas team and they have a lot of things to figure out by the time we get to March, there have also been some major positives. There aren’t many players in the entire country who have improved more offensively than Kevin McCullar.

After averaging 10 points per game in each of the last three seasons, McCullar currently is averaging an absurd 19 points per game. He is doing this pretty efficiently on 51.2 percent from the floor and 37.8% from deep. Michigan Transfer Hunter Dickinson has also lived up to the hype in a major way, averaging 19.4 points and 12.6 rebounds per game. The duo of Dickinson and McCullar currently rank second and third out of Big 12 players in scoring so far during non-conference play. With veteran point guard DaJuan Harris leading the way, and KJ Adams also taking a nice step forward, there aren’t many top fours in all of college basketball better than these Jayhawks.

Despite some clear flaws, they are still the team to beat in the Big 12 until proven otherwise.

5. Houston Cougars

While the Cougars might not necessarily have the resume as some of the other teams ranked in the Top 10, they deserve the benefit of the doubt based on eye test and prior body of work. There isn’t a deeper backcourt in the country right now, as these Cougs have at least five guards who can make a shot at any time.

Sophomore Emmanuel Sharp has been the breakout player so far this season, averaging 11.6 points per game, as the team’s second leading scorer. That included dropping a career high 25 points in the Cougars victory over Jackson State on Saturday. In addition, Houston continues to be an elite defensive and rebounding team, which is a great formula to win games. Kelvin Sampson’s team currently ranks fifth in the country in offensive rebounds per game with 14.2 boards per game. Houston also ranks first in the country in true defensive ranking.

This will be Houston’s first season as members of the Big 12 conference, giving them a lot more opportunities at quality wins.

While many expected teams like Houston and Kansas to be at the top of the league, the Big 12 as a whole, has been a lot better than many expected. Right now ,the Big 12 can realistically have as many as 11 of their 14 teams make the NCAA Tournament. That is a large difference from the two or three teams per year the American Athletic Conference was putting into the big dance. Houston has collected some nice victories over the likes of Utah, Dayton, and Xavier, but will have their biggest test of the season on Saturday against Texas A&M at the Toyota Center in Houston.

6. Marquette Golden Eagles

There won’t be a coach in all of college basketball who will feel better about his team’s performance in a single game this season, than Shaka Smart on Wednesday Night. Not only did Marquette get the win over Coach Smart’s former team in Texas, but they left absolutely zero doubts.

After a close back and forth start, Marquette used an 11-0 run with just under sixminutes remaining in the first half to push their lead to nine, and never looked back.

There isn’t a trio in the country right now better than Tyler Kolek, Kam Jones and Oso Ighodaro. Having a lead guard, wing and big men that are all among the best in the country at their position is rare, and that is something that this Marquette team has. Kolek led the way for the Golden Eagles on Wednesday Night with 28 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. This was particularly impressive for Marquette considering the fact that they bounced back nicely after a disappointing loss to their rivals Wisconsin.

Although Smart will tell you that he approaches every game the same, this was definitely one he wanted, after coaching at Texas for six seasons and ending his tenure in disappointing fashion with only one NCAA Tournament win during that span. The bottom line is going their separate ways was definitely better for both sides, and Marquette is the absolute perfect fit for Smart.

7. Baylor Bears

Scott Drew’s Bears are one of the final eight unbeaten teams currently remaining in the country, and I can’t wait to see them play in more high-profile games. The Bears have collected two nice resume wins up to this point over the likes of Auburn and Florida. They still will have neutral court games against Michigan State and Duke to round out December, before the start of Big 12 play.

There haven’t been many freshmen that have burst onto the scene quite like Ja’Kobe Walter has, who is leading the team in scoring with 14.9 points per game. In addition, Coach Drew did a really good job in the transfer portal, adding former Toledo Guard RayJ Dennis, who has had zero problems whatsoever adjusting to moving up a level in the Big-12. That is never a guarantee when you're relying on someone transferring up, but there aren’t many point guards in the country right now who can control a game better.

Baylor is currently one of the better three-point shooting teams in all of college basketball, ranking second in the country in three-point field goal percentage at 43.2 percent. They also have a ridiculous four different players, currently shooting over 40 percent from deep. As good of a start as this has been for Baylor, there is a good chance they might be better than we realize right now and we’ll see them very soon in some high-profile games.

8. Creighton Bluejays

The Jays have done a nice job bouncing back after their one and only loss so far this season against Colorado State during Feast Week. It wasn’t only the fact that they lost that game, but a team that is supposed to have one of the best offenses in the country was held to 48 points. The Blue Jays shot a brutal 17/61 from the field, and 6/29 from three in that game. But the more time passes however, that game is looking more and more like an outlier and Creighton looks like the team many expected in the preseason.

While road wins at Oklahoma State and Nebraska aren’t going to have anyone going crazy, it had to be a real confidence booster for the Jays to not only win both of those games, but leave zero doubt. Especially the rivalry game victory last weekend at Nebraska, in which the Cornhuskers entered the game undefeated. There were many people that didn’t really know what to make of Creighton in the offseason, after they lost a pair of major contributors in Ryan Nembhard and Arthur Kaluma in the portal.

With that being said, the roles for this team have become much clearer. Guys like Trey Alexander, Baylor Schierman, Steven Ashworth and Ryan Kalkbrenner are the clear alphas. Plus, guys like Mason Miller and Isaac Traudt, have played nicely as role players, and are capable of hitting shots from all over the floor. That included Traudt dropping a career high 18 points in Creighton’s victory over Central Michigan on Saturday.

Along with UConn and Marquette, the Big East has three clear cut Top-10 teams who are all legitimate contenders to get to a Final Four.

9. Oklahoma Sooners

There haven’t been many teams in the country more surprising than Porter Moser’s Sooners. Oklahoma continued their perfect start to the season with a blowout victory over Arkansas on Saturday. With the win, the Sooners now has victories over Arkansas, USC, Iowa, and Providence during non-conference play. That puts these Sooners in a great position to earn a nice seed on Selection Sunday, with plenty of more opportunities for quality wins upcoming during Big-12 Conference play.

While Oklahoma may not have added the sexiest names in the portal this offseason, it was clear that Moser knew exactly what he was doing. Five of Oklahoma’s top eight leading scorers this season were added from the Transfer Portal in the last eight months. Javian McCollum, who was probably the one tabbed with the most upside, wasn’t even a guarantee to produce, considering he played at Siena last season. Despite the fact that it was unknown if he can do what he’s doing at the Power 6 level, McCollum has been one of the best portal additions in the country thus far, averaging 14.9 points per game.

The other thing that stands out about this Sooners team is their leading scorer Otega Oweh, was actually one of the few returnees from last season’s team that missed the NCAA Tournament. Despite being a former Top 50 recruit, Oweh averaged 4.8 points in only 13.3 minutes per game as a Freshman last season. Now, he is looking like one of the best players in the Big 12, averaging 15.2 points per game, on a ridiculous 69.1% from the field. Oweh has also scored in double digits in eight of Oklahoma’s first nine games to start this season.

Many forget this is a team with a coach that has made a Final 4, and has some of the best continuity I’ve seen so far in College Basketball this season. That is especially impressive with so many new players within the program.

10. Auburn Tigers

No team had a more impressive victory this weekend than Bruce Pearl’s Tigers beating up on Indiana in Atlanta. After a slow start that saw Auburn trailing 16-6 five minutes into the game, Auburn outscored the Hoosiers 98-60 in the final 35 minutes of action. Auburn as a team shot 49% from the field, 48 percent from three and 87 percent from the free throw line. They also had 25 assists as a team, while only turning the ball over two times.

This is the best guard play we’ve seen at Auburn, since the Jared Harper/ Bryce Brown era, that featured a run to the Final Four in 2019, and an SEC regular season title the year. Auburn had six different players score in double digits against Indiana, headlined by 24 a piece from both Aden Holloway and Jaylin WIlliams. It is scary that Auburn was able to dominate a game like this against another good team, and SEC Player of the Year candidate Johni Broome only scored two points in 21 minutes of action. Bruce Pearl has won a combined 49 games in each of the last two seasons, winning an NCAA Tournament game each time as well. This Auburn team has the much higher upside with some of the best Guard play in the country, and there is a legitimate argument to be made that this is the best team in the SEC right now.

While many people will be concerned over last week’s loss to Appalachian State, there aren’t many other coaches in the Power 6 that would have been willing to play a true road game against a quality mid-major opponent. I truly believe that long term that loss will be a good thing for Auburn, and they showed that by how they responded against Indiana on Saturday. The Tigers will have one more test in the non-conference against USC, and then will open up SEC Conference play at Arkansas and at home against Texas A&M.

The Rest…….

11. Clemson

12. Tennessee

13. Kentucky

14. North Carolina

15. Florida Atlantic

16. Wisconsin

17. BYU

18. Gonzaga

19. Colorado State

20. Illinois

21. Ole Miss

22. Memphis

23. Ohio State

24. Duke

25. Utah

Zac Krull covers college hoops for AT Media and is the host of the College Hoops Today podcast.

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