Now that we’ve basically reached the season’s midway point, I thought it’d be fun to go back and look at the preseason Top 25 poll.
Five of the schools ranked in the Top 10 then (Louisville, Duke, Kansas, Michigan and Oklahoma State) don’t appear in the Top 10 of Bleacher Report’s latest power rankings.
And 11 teams in the preseason Top 25 have dropped out completely. They are: Michigan, North Carolina, VCU, Gonzaga, Marquette, Memphis, Connecticut, Notre Dame, UCLA, New Mexico and Virginia.
None of those squads are particularly bad.
Heck, North Carolina owns victories over Michigan State, Louisville and Kentucky and Notre Dame just beat Duke. The issue is parity. Arizona has established itself as the class of college basketball—at least for now.
But after that, there’s not a ton of separation between the top 30-35 squads. Everyone has flaws. There are no elite teams—but there are plenty of really good ones.
The situation has made our weekly power rankings a difficult chore, but, once again, C.J. Moore, Kerry Miller and I did our best.
Also considered: Kansas State, Memphis, Illinois, Gonzaga
Previous Power Ranking: 24
One of Missouri’s biggest problems last season was performing in the clutch. The Tigers lost six games by three points or less. This year, that trend has been reversed, as four of Missouri’s last five victories have come by single digits. Its only loss is a 65-64 setback against Illinois in St. Louis.
Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson is averaging 19.3 points while shooting 49.4 percent from the field. Clarkson and guards Jabari Brown (18.4) and Earnest Ross (14) average a combined 51.7 points for a squad that scores 76 points per game.
Previous Power Ranking: NR
The Bluejays are 2-0 in the Big East and have won each of their last seven games by double digits. During that stretch, Creighton has trailed for a total of six minutes and 55 seconds.
The main reason for the Bluejays’ success is two-time All-American Doug McDermott, a senior who ranks 40th on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list with, 2,562 points. McDermott is on pace to move into the Top 20 by the end of January, according to Rob Anderson, Creighton’s media relations director.
The Bluejays play at DePaul Tuesday before hosting Xavier Sunday.
Previous Power Ranking: 23
The Massachusetts Minutemen bounced back from a Dec. 21 loss to Florida State by defeating Providence (69-67 in overtime) and Miami-Ohio (73-65).
Guard Chaz Williams broke out of a mini-slump by scoring 18 points against the Red Hawks on 6-of-10 shooting. He’s now averaging 15.5 points for a squad which has two games coming up at home (against St. Joseph’s and St. Bonaventure). Cady Lalanne is averaging 9.8 rebounds.
Previous Power Ranking: 25
The Saint Louis Billikens’ only two losses are against ranked Wisconsin and Wichita State. Jim Crews’ squad has won eight straight games, including road victories at Vanderbilt and Valparaiso and a home triumph over Indiana State.
Tuesday’s game at Rhode Island could be difficult, but the tougher test will likely come Saturday on the road against a Dayton squad that has spent time in the Associated Press poll.
Previous Power Ranking: NR
Kudos to Jamie Dixon’s squad for bouncing back from an eight-point halftime deficit to defeat North Carolina State 74-62 in Raleigh Saturday. It was Pittsburgh’s first game as a member of the ACC.
Dixon has to be pleased with what he’s getting from guard Lamar Patterson, who leads the Panthers in points (17.2) and assists (4.6). Senior forward Talib Zanna (12.1 points, 7.6 rebounds) has also been a spark. Pittsburgh’s next two games are at home against Maryland and Wake Forest.
Previous Power Ranking: 22
The Iowa Hawkeyes lost to unbeaten Wisconsin 75-71 in Madison Sunday, but they certainly aren’t hanging their heads. Fueled by Roy Devyn Marble’s 27 points, Iowa showed it is good enough to compete with anyone in the country.
Iowa fans probably hope head coach Fran McCaffery does a better job in the future of keeping his composure. McCaffery was assessed a double-technical foul and ejected from Sunday’s game for arguing with officials. That resulted in four extra points for Wisconsin, which ended up being the Badgers’ margin of victory.
Previous Power Ranking: 11
The Jayhawks enter Big 12 play toting four losses for the first time since 2007. Kansas shot just 30 percent in Sunday’s 61-57 defeat to San Diego State, the worst mark ever in the Bill Self era. The setback also snapped Kansas’ 68-game home winning streak against nonconference opponents.
Self’s squad will need to re-group in a hurry, as it opens Big 12 play Wednesday at Oklahoma. The Jayhawks lost to the Sooners in Norman a year ago, and things won’t be any easier this season against an Oklahoma team that is high on momentum following Saturday’s victory over Texas in Austin.
Previous Power Ranking: NR
The Cincinnati Bearcats pulled off one of the more impressive wins of the season by any team when they whipped then-No. 18 Memphis 69-53 on the road Saturday.
Sean Kilpatrick scored 18 points, and Justin Jackson added 13 for a physical Cincinnati squad that held Memphis to 33.3 percent shooting.
The victory came just three days after a 65-57 win over SMU on New Year’s Day, which looked much better after SMU upset Connecticut on Saturday.
Previous Power Ranking: 14
Rare are the times when a team scores 91 points in a game and loses, but that’s what happened to the Oregon Ducks in their first defeat of the season Sunday at Colorado.
One bright spot for Oregon in its 100-91 loss was the play of Mike Moser, who scored 24 points after combining for only nine points in his previous two games.
Oregon, though, struggled in the backcourt, where guards Jonathan Loyd, Damyean Dotson, Dominic Artis and Joseph Young combined to go 14-of-42 (33 percent) from the field. Oregon should still be expected to contend for the Pac-12 title.
Previous Power Ranking: 10
The Duke Blue Devils entered Saturday’s tilt with Notre Dame looking like national-title contenders following five straight victories by an average of 21.7 points. The Fighting Irish, though, put a halt to Duke’s momentum by stunning Mike Krzyzewski’s squad 79-77 in South Bend, Ind.
Freshman Jabari Parker, a national Player of the Year candidate, finished with a season-low seven points and was benched for the final three minutes, 35 seconds. The Associated Press (via ESPN) reported Krzyzewski saying after the game that his reason for benching Parker was simple: He wasn’t playing well. This is a good Duke team, but not a great one.
Previous Power Ranking: 12
Even with the dismissal of Chane Behanan, there is no excuse for the Louisville Cardinals not to win the American Athletic Conference.
Rick Pitino’s squad simply has too much talent and, more importantly, too many players who were key contributors to last season’s NCAA title run.
Russ Smith, Luke Hancock, Montrezl Harrell and Wayne Blackshear are battle-tested veterans who should flourish—and not flounder—in the face of adversity. Point guard Chris Jones has more than held his own after transferring in from junior college. Don’t write off the Cardinals just yet.
Previous Power Ranking: 3
It will be interesting to see how the Oklahoma State Cowboys fare without forward Michael Cobbins, who had surgery on his left Achilles Thursday and is out for the season. Even though his numbers (4.5 points, 4.3 rebounds) were modest, he was Oklahoma State’s top low-post defender. His teammates fed off his energy and swagger.
Without Cobbins, the Cowboys dropped their Big 12 opener Saturday at Kansas State. Also absent from that game was backup point guard Stevie Clark, who was suspended following his arrest last week for misdemeanor possession of marijuana. The Cowboys will contend for the Big 12 title, but they should no longer be considered the favorite.
Previous Power Ranking: 20
The Coors Events Center in Boulder has turned into a daunting place to play for opposing teams. One month after toppling Kansas, the Colorado Buffaloes handed Oregon its first loss of the season there on Sunday.
Guards Askia Booker (27) and Spencer Dinwiddie (23) combined for 50 points in the 100-91 victory. Booker and Dinwiddie were the first 20-point scorers in the same game for Colorado since Cory Higgins and Alec Burks accomplished the feat against Cal in March 2011.
Colorado’s next two games are at Washington State and Washington.
Previous Power Ranking: 15
The Villanova Wildcats bounced back from a Dec. 28 loss at Syracuse by squeaking by Butler in overtime and then drubbing Providence by 30 points. Guards Dylan Ennis and Ryan Arcidiacono combined for 24 points in the victory over the Friars, which gave Villanova 2-0 start in the Big East.
The Wildcats’ next two games are on the road against Seton Hall (Wednesday) and St. John’s (Saturday). Jay Wright’s team knows better than to look past either opponent, as St. John’s is the most talented team in the league, while Seton Hall is tough at home.
Previous Power Ranking: 21
The Aztecs looked like one of the top teams in the country in Sunday’s victory over Kansas. San Diego State became the first nonconference team to win at Allen Fieldhouse since Oral Roberts topped Kansas there in 2006. The streak spanned 68 games.The Aztecs also outrebounded the Jayhawks 51-39 and held them to 30 percent shooting from the field.
Xavier Thames had 16 points, while Josh Davis snared 14 rebounds. San Diego State’s only loss came Nov. 14 against an Arizona squad that is undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll.
Previous Power Ranking: 16
The Wildcats will open SEC play against Mississippi State Wednesday following an 11-day layoff. The last time we saw Kentucky was on Dec. 28, when it finally picked up a quality victory by beating Louisville at Rupp Arena.
As improved as they looked in that game, it’s reasonable to think the Wildcats will be even better following their extended break. Julius Randle is averaging 18.1 points and 10.6 rebounds, while Willie Cauley-Stein is blocking 4.1 shots per game.
Previous Power Ranking: 13
The Baylor Bears aren’t exactly easing into their Big 12 schedule, as they open league play Tuesday at Iowa State. Baylor has never won in Ames under Scott Drew—or any coach, for that matter.
The Bears tout an impressive resume with victories over Colorado, Dayton and Kentucky. But they haven’t defeated a quality opponent in nearly a month, winning their last four games by an average of 22 points. Cory Jefferson leads Baylor in points (14.2) and rebounds (8.3).
Previous Power Ranking: 9
Considering they lost four double-digit scorers from last year’s squad, the Cyclones are one of the nation’s biggest surprises.
Iowa State has tied a school record with 13 straight victories and can break it Tuesday by defeating Baylor at Hilton Coliseum. The matchup would certainly seem to favor the Cyclones, who have never lost to the Bears in Ames.
Point guard DeAndre Kane is one of the most versatile players in America, averaging 15 points and 7.1 rebounds to go along with his team-high 6.1 assists.
Previous Power Ranking: 7
The Florida Gators have won five in a row, and they may not lose again anytime soon. Billy Donovan’s squad should be heavily favored in its first eight SEC games, with the only possible exception being a home contest against Tennessee on Jan. 25.
Senior forward Casey Prather has been one of the biggest surprises in all of college basketball, averaging 17.3 points per game after contributing just 6.2 points as a junior. He is shooting 61 percent from the field.
Previous Power Ranking: 8
Fred VanVleet belongs in any conversation concerning the top point guards in America. The sophomore had 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting in Sunday’s win over Northern Iowa and did not commit a turnover in 35 minutes.
In fact, VanVleet has now gone three straight games without a turnover. He has just 18 turnovers during a season in which he's averaging 12.4 points and 5.1 assists. As good as senior point guard Malcolm Armstead was last season, VanVleet is even better.
Previous Power Ranking: 6
The Badgers have matched the best start in school history, as their 15-0 record ties that of the 1911-12 team and the 1913-14 squad.
Wisconsin’s most recent win certainly didn’t come with ease. Bo Ryan’s squad staved off a pesky Iowa team Sunday and escaped with a 75-71 win at the Kohl Center. Iowa outshot and outrebounded Wisconsin, but the Badgers hung tough and kept their composure in the clutch. Wisconsin will face another tough test Wednesday when it hosts Illinois.
Previous Power Ranking: 5
The Ohio State Buckeyes' schedule has been weak thus far. Thirteen of their 15 victories have come by double digits, and their best win is against Notre Dame.
Things will change on Tuesday, though, when Ohio State travels to East Lansing to face Michigan State. Guards Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott—who combine to average 8.9 assists and 3.9 steals—will need to play well against the Spartans’ highly touted backcourt of Keith Appling and Gary Harris. Also looming is a tough home game against Iowa on Sunday.
Previous Power Ranking: 4
The Michigan State Spartans’ first two conference victories (over Penn State and Indiana) came by an average of 16.5 points, and both occurred on the road. Clearly, Tom Izzo has his team playing at a high level.
Guard Gary Harris erupted for 26 points against Indiana, a performance he may need to repeat if Michigan State hopes to beat undefeated Ohio State Tuesday in East Lansing. The game between two of the Big Ten’s top three teams will likely have huge implications on the conference title.
Previous Power Ranking: 2
The Syracuse Orange’s first win as a member of the ACC hardly came in impressive fashion, as Jim Boeheim’s squad eked out a 49-44 victory over a mediocre Miami team at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse didn’t lead for good until the 4:16 mark of the second half. Still, the best teams are the ones who find ways to win on nights when they don’t play well, and the Orange certainly managed to do that.
Even though he went just 2-of-12 from the field against Miami, Orange guard Trevor Cooney has been one of America’s most improved players. He’s averaging 14.1 points in 29.9 minutes after scoring just 3.4 points in 11.2 minutes of action last season.
Previous Power Ranking: 1
Aaron Gordon, T.J. McConnell, Nick Johnson and Co. have been stars on the offensive end, but the biggest reason the Arizona Wildcats have yet to lose is their defense.
Opponents are averaging just 54.9 points and shooting only 36.6 percent against Sean Miller’s squad. Both marks lead the Pac-12. On Thursday, the Wildcats defeated Washington State 60-25. The Cougars—who, to be fair, were missing two starters—had just seven points at intermission.