Bleacher Report's College Basketball Power Rankings Week 5: The Top 25 Teams
After the Champions Classic, it really felt like the narrative of the season would be that the elite would dominate this year.
Those freshmen were just too good. Michigan State was so sharp.
It was hard to imagine that all four would not be high seeds come March. That could still happen, but it's not looking as promising after this past week.
Kansas and Kentucky both lost their second games of the season—Duke has two losses as well—and Michigan State was unimpressive in a loss at home to North Carolina.
The Spartans at least have some injuries to use as excuses—not that they should—but the Wildcats and Jayhawks have real issues that have a lot to do with their youth.
They're both out of the top 10 this week, but they could both be back near the top in a month or two for the same reason: youth.
Better get them now.
Teams to Watch: Missouri, San Diego State, UCLA, Boise State, Saint Louis, Indiana
Dropped Out of Power Rankings: Michigan, Boise State
Previous Power Ranking: 23
Last year, Iowa had an NCAA tournament-caliber defense but was not quite consistent enough on the offensive end.
So far this year, the Hawkeyes are one of the most efficient offenses in the country, and they've done it by shooting better from the perimeter—36.9 percent compared to 30.5 percent last year—and cutting down turnovers.
Iowa is turning it over on only 14.3 percent of its possessions, according to KenPom.com (subscription needed). Three-point shooting helped the Hawkeyes knock off Notre Dame this past week, as they made 7-of-13 from deep to get a resume-builder W.
Previous Power Ranking: Not ranked
Colorado had been winning in spite of guard Askia Booker, who came into the KU game having made only 10-of-42 threes all season. Booker had been taking more shots than any player on the team, and it wasn't exactly warranted.
The win on Saturday was a signature one for the program, and it could be huge for the offense going forward if that's the game that gets Booker back on track. Booker knocked down 3-of-6 treys, including the game-winner. It was the first time all season he's been 50 percent or better from distance.
Previous Power Ranking: 22
Chaz Williams may have outdone Marcus Smart for the best performance of the season. Williams went for 32 points, 15 assists and only one turnover in a 105-96 win over BYU on Saturday.
Williams needed only 14 shots to get his points, and he made all nine of his free throws. It's probably time to put the little fella on Player of the Year watch.
Previous Power Ranking: 14
Florida's bad luck might finally be turning around. When Scottie Wilbekin injured his ankle in the final minutes against Connecticut, it looked like he would be out at least a few weeks, and the Gators are already without point guard Kasey Hill because of an ankle injury.
Wilbekin practiced on Saturday and Billy Donovan, via the school's website, said that Wilbekin is "fine now."
The Gators outscored UConn 55-53 with Wilbekin on the court last week, and it's hard to imagine they would have much of a chance against either of their next two opponents—Kansas and Memphis—without a point guard.
21. New Mexico
Previous Power Ranking: 21
The Lobos continue to lean heavily on the trio of Kendall Williams, Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow, and that strategy is working out just fine. The three stars combined to score 49 points in New Mexico's 63-54 win over Cincinnati on Saturday.
The Bearcats were on the verge of sneaking into the Top 25 and may have done so with a win over New Mexico. The next big test for the Lobos is a trip to Kansas City to play Kansas.
Previous Power Ranking: 20
Gonzaga's offense has found a way to still be incredibly efficient without Kelly Olynyk.
Since starting the season going 7-of-19 from distance against Bryant, Gonzaga has shot worst than 40 percent from the three-point line only once since (the loss to Dayton).
The Zags have also made at least 11 threes in six games. Their 46.4 percent three-point percentage ranks third nationally, and they have five players shooting better than 44 percent from deep. Guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, who attempt the most threes, are both shooting better than 50 percent.
19. North Carolina
Previous Power Ranking: Not ranked
The Tar Heels have made four threes in their last three games, and the lack of any perimeter shooting has put a premium on interior scoring. Luckily for Roy Williams, he's had two bench guys, Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks, emerge as dependable scorers, and both are making a case for more playing time.
This past week, in wins over the Spartans—Michigan State and UNC Greensboro just so happen to share the same mascot—Johnson scored 14 points in each game, and Meeks scored 15 against MSU and 12 against Greensboro.
In UNC's two losses, that duo combined to average 32.5 minutes per game. In the two biggest wins (Louisville and Michigan State), Meeks and Johnson combined to play 49 minutes per game and averaged 27.5 points.
If P.J. Hairston ever returns, don't expect these Heels to go back to small-ball.
Previous Power Ranking: 17
Pittsburgh's schedule has yet to pick up, and the only real test before ACC play will be a neutral-court game against Cincinnati on Dec. 17. The schedule should be a knock, but the Panthers have been too dominant not to take notice.
Pittsburgh has won every game but one by double digits and has provided each opponent with its widest margin of defeat, except for Penn State. Pitt beat the Nittany Lions by nine, and Bucknell beat them by 10.
Previous Power Ranking: 16
Oregon survived the Marshall Henderson chuck-fest on Sunday at Ole Miss. Henderson put up 39 points, and the Ducks won 115-105 in overtime.
What has made Oregon's offense so good so far has been balance, something that had to make the Rebels jealous. The Ducks now have six players averaging in double figures, led by transfers Joseph Young and Mike Moser. In their last five games, they've had five different players either lead or tie for the lead in scoring.
Previous Power Ranking: 15
Memphis proved last Sunday against Oklahoma State that its backcourt, which is considered as one of the best in the country, is worthy. That backcourt is going to keep the Tigers relevant all year. What could make them great is combining that great backcourt with a really good Shaq Goodwin.
The Memphis big man has been dominant in the last two games, scoring 17 points against Oklahoma State and then a career-high 21 on Saturday against Northwestern State. An even better sign is that Goodwin is finishing much better than his freshman year, shooting 65.4 percent compared to 46.6 percent last year.
Previous Power Ranking: 10
I wrote about Duke's defense this past week and how coach Mike Krzyzewski has started to play his true big men more to try to improve on that end.
That held true against Michigan, when Josh Hairston played a season-high 21 minutes, Amile Jefferson played 17 minutes and even Marshall Plumlee got in the rotation, playing six minutes after logging just one minute in the previous four games.
When you look at the defensive splits for the Blue Devils, the big men have earned the right to get more minutes. Jefferson, Hairston and Plumlee have been Duke's best on-the-ball defenders, giving up the fewest points per possession, according to Synergy Sports Technology (subscription required).
Previous Power Ranking: 7
Perimeter shooting has been an Achilles heel for Kansas so far this season, and it was a problem on Saturday when KU went 5-of-20 at Colorado. The Jayhawks are shooting 29.8 percent from deep for the year and should expect to see a lot of zone defenses, especially considering how bad they've shot the ball against the zone.
KU is shooting 21.7 percent from distance against zone, via Synergy, and went 2-of-9 when the Buffs went zone.
Even with that poor shooting and a defense that is not playing typical Bill Self D, it has taken two buzzer-beating threes to give the Jayhawks their two losses. Things will get better in Lawrence, but with KU's brutal non-conference schedule, the record might not be pretty entering Big 12 play.
Previous Power Ranking: 3
Kentucky's attention to detail and pick-and-roll coverage were both bad in that game. Baylor ran 22 pick-and-rolls, according to Synergy, and those plays produced 24 points.
The good news for the Wildcats is that those problems are fixable. Teams evolve in their ball-screen coverage—Calipari will make adjustments—and attention to detail is something that should improve with time for such a young team.
Just like Kansas, the 'Cats aren't as good as they were expected to be right now, but they could still get there eventually.
Previous Power Ranking: 19
Isaiah Austin made news by telling Kate Hairopolous of The Dallas Morning News before Baylor's game with Kentucky that "Kentucky is not better than us in any way, shape or form."
In at least one way, Austin backed up his words by helping Baylor's frontline outplay Kentucky's touted frontline. The trio of Austin, Cory Jefferson and Rico Gathers got the best of Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee in just about every which way, outscoring the UK bigs (32-24), out-rebounding them (27-14) and finishing with more blocks (6-4).
Previous Power Ranking: 18
Count Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli as one who believes that Villanova is for real. The Wildcats beat up on the Hawks, 98-68, on Saturday. It was the worst loss for the Hawks since the 2009-10 season.
"I looked at three or four minutes of Kentucky and people said they were the preseason No. 1. Well, Villanova is better," Martelli said, via Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer. "The Villanova team that just played is better than the Kentucky team."
10. Iowa State
Previous Power Ranking: 8
The Cyclones played what could be considered their first bad game in an overtime win over Northern Iowa on Saturday.
Northern Iowa shot 60 percent inside the arc, and that was the one area where Iowa State really struggled. It may not be a reason to worry, however.
For the season, Iowa State opponents are shooting just 42 percent inside the arc. The Panthers made 69.2 percent of their two-point jumpers, according to Hoop-Math.com. That's an area where most teams struggle, so one game shouldn't change Iowa State's defensive strategy.
Previous Power Ranking: 13
Bo Ryan's teams typically don't get to the foul line often, but the Badgers are taking advantage of the rule changes this year and have also been good about not fouling opponents.
Wisconsin is shooting free throws at a higher rate than any Ryan team since 2007. The Badgers also have outscored opponents by 67 at the line and have more makes (165) than their opponents' attempts (148).
8. Wichita State
Previous Power Ranking: 12
Wichita State trailed by eight at halftime against Oral Roberts on Saturday. But much like the Final Four team, the Shockers never panic in these situations, and Gregg Marshall has proven to be a really good in-game coach.
The Shockers came out of halftime and scored on 11 of their first 14 possessions, and they went on to win easily by 13.
Previous Power Ranking: 11
Connecticut has now won four games by one point, and typically, I'd take this as a sign of a team that has had luck on its side. The Huskies have the good fortune of having Shabazz Napier on their side.
Sure, a little luck was involved in getting Napier his game-winner against Florida this past week, but nothing was lucky about the shot itself. Napier, like his buddy Kemba Walker, has the clutch gene.
Typically, close wins and losses even themselves out over the season, but I'm going to bet the Huskies continue to win a lot more close ones than they lose.
Previous Power Ranking: 9
Syracuse's offense is performing at an extremely high level since Jim Boeheim took his team to Maui. In those five games (three on the island and two back at the Carrier Dome), the Orange are averaging 80.6 points and scoring 1.24 points per possession.
A good amount of credit goes to Trevor Cooney for such ridiculous efficiency. Cooney has made five threes in four of the last five games.
5. Oklahoma State
Previous Power Ranking: 6
Marcus Smart scored only 13 points, took only eight shots and had five assists against South Carolina. The eights shots were a season low. The five assists were a season high. And both numbers were good signs for the Cowboys.
Smart had tried to do too much in Oklahoma State's loss to Memphis, and the fact that he was more of a facilitator against South Carolina was a sign that he learned his lesson.
I went back and watched all 13 shot attempts against Memphis and all eight attempts against South Carolina. In the Memphis loss, I'd characterize 10 of Smart's attempts as forced. In the South Carolina win, not one shot was forced.
The next test is to see how Smart plays down the stretch the next time the Cowboys are in a close game.
4. Michigan State
Previous Power Ranking: 1
Michigan State could throw out plenty of excuses for the loss to North Carolina. Gary Harris was playing hurt and is now out indefinitely with an ankle injury, according to Mike Wilson of Scout.com. Adreian Payne was dealing with cramps. Keith Appling fell hard on his hip in the first half and was clearly hurting.
But once the Spartans watched the game tape, they had to see that it wasn't just the injuries. They were too impatient and tried to do too much individually. They had a season-low 12 assists and rarely put together more than a pass or two in a possession.
3. Ohio State
Previous Power Ranking: 5
Ohio State has the best defense in the country, according to all advanced metrics. The Buckeyes rank No. 1 in adjusted defensive efficiency and their raw defensive efficiency is No. 1 as well, according to KenPom.com.
Those numbers get even more impressive when you look at what the Buckeyes have done just in the half court. Ohio State's opponents are scoring just 0.67 points per possession in the half court, according to Synergy. That too is the best in the country.
Previous Power Ranking: 4
Louisville has three more gimmes until the must-see game at Kentucky on Dec. 28. The schedule has been pretty soft for the Cardinals, but they've played much better since the loss to North Carolina, and the offense has been about more than just the Russ Smith and Chris Jones.
Smith has made a real effort to get others involved. In the first six games, he took approximately 35.9 percent of Louisville's shots when he was on the floor. In the last three games, he's taken approximately 24 percent of the shots. He also has 18 assists during that stretch. That's so un-Russdiculous.
Previous Power Ranking: 2
Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon are Arizona's two most talented players and are receiving the most national attention, but a case can be made that point guard T.J. McConnell has been the team's MVP.
The returners in the rotation—Johnson, Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Gabe York—are all shooting better this season than they did last year. Out of Johnson's buckets, 62.5 percent have been assisted, compared to 49.6 percent last year, according to Hoop-Math.com's numbers. McConnell is making life easier for Johnson and all of his teammates.
Sean Miller has one of the best defensive teams in the country, and that's why Arizona has climbed to No. 1. McConnell gives the Wildcats a chance to develop into one of the best offenses as well.
Follow C.J. on Twitter @cjmoore4.