Bleacher Report's College Basketball Power Rankings Week 3: The Top 25 Teams
It's really hard not to overreact to one game this early in the season.
Sunday alone made me want to burn my preseason prediction of Louisville as national champs and re-think Duke as a top-five team.
Unfortunately, you cannot burn the Internet, and while Duke may have some issues defensively, Mike Krzyzewski still has that Jabari Parker kid.
Remember that time North Carolina lost to Belmont and "Wrecking Ball" was the anthem to UNC's season? They're singing a different tune in Chapel Hill right now.
It is still way too early to judge anyone, but hey, it's no fun not to. So let's get to the knee-jerk rankings already.
Teams to Watch: BYU, Virginia, Arizona State, Indiana, Colorado, UCLA, Illinois, Minnesota, Florida State, Villanova, Marquette, Pittsburgh
Dropped out of Power Rankings: Memphis, VCU
All advanced stats, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of KenPom.com (subscription needed).
Previous Power Ranking: 10
Michigan lost at the buzzer on Sunday to Charlotte, and everyone but Nik Stauskas combined to shoot 27 percent.
The Wolverines are not that bad, but they are a team in transition that will have to wait for the freshmen and everyone else to catch up to Stauskas.
The good news for John Beilein is that his Canadian shooter is playing like a guy who can carry the load. Stauskas has scored at least 20 points in five straight games, and he's doing his scoring from all over the court. He made only one three on Sunday but still managed to score 20 points.
24. Boise State
Previous Power Ranking: 25
Leon Rice has his team playing fast (more than 80 possessions per game) and scoring a ton of points (103 per game).
The Broncos will not really get noticed until their Dec. 10 meeting with Kentucky, but if you can find them on the dial, tune in for basketball reminiscent of the early 1990s.
Previous Power Ranking: Not ranked
For the last few seasons, Massachusetts has been a decent team with a really good point guard in Chaz Williams.
The Minutemen have always relied upon Williams—a lot. For instance, going into Sunday's Charleston Classic Final against Clemson, UMass was 48-18 in games when Williams scored in double figures and 3-6 in games he did not.
Williams had the worst shooting performance of his career on Sunday, scoring only four points on 1-of-12 shooting. Still, UMass managed to win 62-56—a sign that the Minutemen are no longer a one-man show.
Previous Power Ranking: Not ranked
Iowa gets its first test on Thursday against Xavier in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Even though the Hawkeyes have not beat anyone of note, their dominance should be recognized. They're winning by an average of 38 points while holding opponents to 39.9 percent shooting inside the arc and 16.4 percent outside of it.
21. New Mexico
Previous Power Ranking: 14
Alex Kirk, who is 7'0" and generously listed at 245 pounds, played 83 minutes in two days on Thursday and Friday.
New Mexico likely doesn't want to make excuses for its loss to UMass in the semis at the Charleston Classic, but this is not a team equipped to play two games in two days, especially when one of those games went to overtime.
The Lobos are also not equipped to guard quick guards. Harvard's Siyani Chambers gave them fits in March, and Massachusetts' Chaz Williams did the same Friday.
Still, the Lobos showed glimpses in Charleston of a team that will be really good at some point this year. Kirk, for instance, averaged 21.3 points and 12 boards at the tournament. That's not a guy any team wants to face, especially when he's rested.
Previous Power Ranking: 22
Damyean Dotson, who averaged 16 points over Oregon's final six games last year and was key to the team's Sweet 16 run, was averaging only 8.0 points per game and had missed all nine of his three-point attempts going into Sunday's game against San Francisco.
It was hard to believe Dotson was not going to put up better numbers at some point, and that's exactly what happened on Sunday. Dotson scored 17 points and made both of his three-point attempts in the 100-82 win. Oregon's offense had looked just fine without him, thanks to transfers Joseph Young and Mike Moser, and it should be even better now that he's out of his mini-slump.
Previous Power Ranking: 7
Syracuse has trailed in the second half to Cornell and St. Francis Brooklyn. The Orange are also only shooting 31.8 percent from deep and making only 46.6 percent of their twos.
Until Jim Boeheim figures out some solutions on the offensive end, this team is going to have to scrap to get by.
18. North Carolina
Previous Power Ranking: 24
How hard is it to fathom what Marcus Paige is doing right now?
Paige's best two-game scoring stretch as a freshman was 31 points, and that came in the ACC championship against Miami and the first round of the tourney against Villanova. He topped that on Sunday against Louisville.
Paige scored 58 points in two games at the Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament this weekend and is now averaging 22.4 points per game. That's the most points a UNC player has averaged through five games since Tyler Hansbrough averaged 22.8 at the start of the 2008-09 championship season.
Paige has made it a lot easier to classify the Belmont loss as a freak accident caused by 26 bricks at the line.
Previous Power Ranking: 23
Nine days ago, Wisconsin junior Frank Kaminsky had scored in double figures four times in his career. Kaminsky has now scored in double figures in four straight games, including 43! against North Dakota and 21 in Wisconsin's latest win against Oral Roberts.
This is Bo Ryan magic. His offense makes guys who you think should be average into guys who are great.
Previous Power Ranking: 17
Baylor's Brady Heslip led Canada in scoring during the World University Games this summer on a team that included Iowa State's Melvin Ejim, Gonzaga's Kevin Pangos and Stanford's Dwight Powell.
This was good news after Heslip had a down year (by his standards) last season, shooting only 38.6 percent from deep after making 45.5 percent of his threes during his first season at Baylor.
Heslip's summer trip appears to have him back to his old self. He's coming off the bench and leading Baylor in scoring at 15.0 points per game, and he's knocked down 14 of his 27 three-point attempts.
15. Saint Louis
Previous Power Ranking: 21
Saint Louis makes teams run offense like it's back in the late 1980s before most coaches embraced the three. SLU's opponents averaged only 4.5 made threes per game last season. This year, SLU's opponents have made only 13 threes in five games and are shooting 20.3 percent from deep.
Previous Power Ranking: 15
Florida played its most recent game without point guards Scottie Wilbekin (suspended) and Kasey Hill (ankle injury). When Billy Donovan has all his pieces—he has to at some point, right?—that should be his starting backcourt.
Even without their two point guards, the Gators beat Middle Tennessee, an NCAA tourney team from last year that was undefeated, by 20 on Thursday. With all their parts, the Gators are a top-10 team, and it speaks to their depth that they could look that good without their best two guards.
13. Wichita State
Previous Power Ranking: 19
Wichita State could get tested for the first time this season on Monday and Tuesday at the CBE Classic in Kansas City. The Shockers open with DePaul and could play a borderline Top 25 team in BYU on Tuesday.
It's hard to gather too much from five easy wins so far—all by double-digits—but the Shockers appear to be who they were last year: a balanced team that makes it really difficult to run good offense.
Previous Power Ranking: 18
It's has to be hard for Doug McDermott's teammates not to develop a Marsha, Marsha, Marsha! complex.
Anytime anyone mentions Creighton, McDermott gets all the love. And that's what happens when a guy is a two-time All-American averaging 27.5 points per game.
But hey, he's playing with no slouches. The other Bluejays are shooting 44.8 percent from deep and making 59.6 percent of their twos. And they are a big reason why Creighton has one of the most efficient offenses in the country.
Previous Power Ranking: 20
Connecticut's PR team better start up the Shabazz Napier campaign for National Player of the Year. The odds are that a freshman, not a senior, wins the award this year, but it's looking like Napier will be in the discussion.
So far this season, UConn's point guard has a triple-double, a double-double, and he carried his team to win over Indiana on Saturday at Madison Square Garden with 27 points. The rest of his teammates failed to reach double-figures. Oh yeah, and he's shooting 62.5 percent from deep.
UConn hasn't had a guard play this well since Kemba Walker carried the team to a title in Napier's freshman season.
Previous Power Ranking: 11
Mark Few has made Kevin Pangos Gonzaga's go-to scorer this year by moving David Stockton into the starting lineup and sliding Pangos over from point guard to shooting guard.
Pangos had a season-high 27 points on Thursday against Washington State and took advantage of someone setting him up. Stockton assisted on six of Pangos buckets, including four threes.
9. Iowa State
Fred Hoiberg told me this summer that his defensive strategy is to get opponents to shoot a lot of two-point jumpers while also limiting threes and shots at the rim.
Hoiberg appears to have what could be his best defensive team in his four years in Ames by employing that strategy. Iowa State has limited opponents to attempting only 10.4 percent of their shots at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.com, and 28.9 percent of their shots from deep.
And in that in-between area where the Cyclones have baited their opponents into taking a majority of their shots, opponents are shooting just 31.2 percent.
8. Ohio State
Previous Power Ranking: 9
It is not as easy to apply pressure on the perimeter as it used to be because of the new rules, but don't tell Ohio State opponents that. Led by ball-hawking guards Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott, the Buckeyes are turning opponents over on 26.8 percent of their possessions.
Craft has 13 steals through four games. Last year at this time, he had six steals against an easier schedule.
Previous Power Ranking: 1
If there's an overarching offensive concern from Sunday's loss to North Carolina, it's the over-reliance on Russ Smith and Chris Jones to carry the offense. Smith and Jones combined to take 41 shots against the Heels.
Smith hunting for shots is nothing new—and his 36 points on 21 shots was not terrible—but the Cardinals always had Peyton Siva there to make sure other guys were getting shots.
With two ball-dominant guards now, it's hard for anyone other than Smith and Jones to get involved, and it shows in the assist numbers. Only 43.5 percent of Louisville's baskets have been assisted. That number would have ranked 282nd nationally through Saturday's games.
Previous Power Ranking: 6
Sean Miller is going with a huge starting lineup that includes Aaron Gordon (6'9") at small forward, Brandon Ashley (6'8") at power forward and Kaleb Tarczewski (7'0") at center.
The big-ball Wildcats are not creating many turnovers, but they are dominating the boards and blocking a lot of shots. Arizona is getting back 41.9 percent of its misses, rebounding 76 percent of opponents' misses and blocking nearly one out of every five attempts inside the arc.
Previous Power Ranking: 5
Vermont scored 90 points on 65 possessions (1.38 points per possession) in Sunday's one-point loss to Duke. That's the most points per possession Vermont has scored since a win over Niagara on Feb. 18, 2012.
This is a team that has won one game, had scored more than 64 points only once in five games and plays in the America East Conference.
Duke's small-ball approach is putting up a lot of points, but the defense that allowed the Catamounts their best offensive output in two seasons gives Coach K plenty of reasons to be concerned.
4. Oklahoma State
Previous Power Ranking: 8
All the headlines from Tuesday's blowout over Memphis were about Marcus Smart and his 39 points. But what was just as impressive was Oklahoma State's defense against the star guards of Memphis.
The Cowboys held Joe Jackson, Geron Johnson, Chris Crawford and Michael Dixon all to single-figures. It was only the second time in two seasons that Jackson, Johnson and Crawford all failed to reach double-figures, and Dixon had a 15-game streak of reaching double-figures that dated back to his time at Missouri.
The Cowboys are averaging 102 points, and it's their defense that is likely to be their greatest strength.
Previous Power Ranking: 4
John Calipari has gone all-in with his freshmen, and he's done it earlier than Steve Fisher and Michigan's Fab Five did it 22 years ago.
Calipari started five freshmen for the first time last Sunday in Kentucky's fourth game. Fisher didn't start the Fab Five together until Michigan's 19th game.
In the last two games, Calipari's freshmen are playing 78.8 percent of UK's available minutes and scoring 87 percent of UK's points. Typically, these numbers would be cause for concern. At Kentucky, Calipari is just getting his most talented guys on the floor.
Previous Power Ranking: 3
Bill Self knew that he would want his team to run a lot this year because of the athleticism he has, most notably Andrew Wiggins. That was on display in Friday's blowout against Towson.
The Jayhawks can get from end to end as quickly as any team in the country, and to prove it, I got out the stopwatch. KU had five different fast breaks in the first half that came off defensive rebounds, which I timed (from defensive rebound to basket) at 3.67 seconds, 4.61 seconds (see video above), 5.99 seconds and 5.1 seconds.
You'll have to forgive them for that 5.99-second possession. Four Jayhawks touched the ball on that play.
1. Michigan State
Previous Power Ranking: 2
Michigan State's big three (Gary Harris, Keith Appling and Adreian Payne) are all playing at a high level offensively, and that was to be expected. The Spartans have made their way to the top because the Big Three is morphing into a Big Four.
The fourth emerging star is Branden Dawson, who was slowed last year by offseason knee surgery and has bounced back to average 11.0 points and 9.7 rebounds this season.
Dawson's athleticism is back, and he's benefiting from the Spartans playing at a faster pace. According to Hoop-Math.com, Dawson has scored 17 of his 31 buckets in transition (first 10 seconds of the shot clock). In 36 games last season, he had only 41 transition baskets.
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