College Basketball Rankings 2017-18: The Top 25 Teams After 1 Month

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystDecember 11, 2017

College Basketball Rankings 2017-18: The Top 25 Teams After 1 Month

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    Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree
    Dhamir Cosby-RoundtreeLaurence Kesterson/Associated Press

    The first month of the 2017-18 men's college basketball season was chock full of colossal upsets, but the Villanova Wildcats will enter the second month as our No. 1 team with a 10-0 record.

    Preseason AP Top 10 teams Arizona (No. 3), Florida (No. 8) and USC (No. 10) have each already suffered three losses, and Kansas (No. 4) is on a two-game losing streak after losses to Washington and Arizona State. Even the preseason No. 1 team (Duke) just lost to Boston College.

    Meanwhile, Arizona State is playing like a Top Five team, TCU is the only Big 12 team in our Top 10 and Tennessee is looking like one of the best squads in a loaded SEC.

    In other words, things have changed a bit since all of those preseason predictions.

    Plenty more will change in the remaining three months before Selection Sunday, but here's where we stand with the heart of conference play on the horizon.

Nos. 25-21: Florida-Texas Tech

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    Jarrett Culver
    Jarrett CulverJohn Weast/Getty Images

    25. Florida Gators (6-3)

    Florida had a brutal week, losing home games to Florida State and Loyola-Chicago. But the Gators bounced back in a big way with a neutral-court win over Cincinnati on Saturday night. They're still waiting on KeVaughn Allen to get going again, but Egor Koulechov, Jalen Hudson and Chris Chiozza were enough offense to win the defensive tussle with the Bearcats.


    24. Arizona Wildcats (7-3)

    The Battle 4 Atlantis was a nightmare for Arizona, but the Wildcats have bounced back nicely with wins over UNLV, Texas A&M and Alabama thus far in December. Rawle Alkins made his long-awaited season debut against the Crimson Tide, which should accelerate their return to preseason "Final Four contender" status. Deandre Ayton is averaging 23.3 points and 12.7 rebounds in December.


    23. Baylor Bears (7-2)

    Keep an eye out for Nuni Omot. Baylor desperately needs a secondary three-point shooter after Manu Lecomte. The 6'9" wing-forward hit three triples against Sam Houston State and had six more against Hillsdale Baptist. If he can become a consistent contributor, it'll greatly enhance Baylor's chances of winning at least 10 games in a strong Big 12 conference.


    22. Tennessee Volunteers (7-1)

    Tennessee was supposed to be one of the worst teams in the SEC. Grant Williams and Co. had other ideas. The Volunteers have beaten Purdue, N.C. State, Georgia Tech and Mercer, and they held a 12-point halftime lead over Villanova in their only loss of the season. It wouldn't be a big surprise if Tennessee beats North Carolina next Sunday, which would have been a preposterous statement four weeks ago.


    21. Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-1)

    Zhaire Smith was barely a top-200 recruit. Jarrett Culver wasn't even in the top 300. But that freshman duo has been excellent on both ends of the floor for the Red Raiders. Texas Tech stomped Northwestern in mid-November and picked up a big overtime win over Nevada on Tuesday. In a league full of defenses that are a headache to face, Texas Tech should be one of the biggest.

Nos. 20-16: Oklahoma-Seton Hall

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    Desi Rodriguez
    Desi RodriguezJulie Jacobson/Associated Press

    20. Oklahoma Sooners (7-1)

    If you haven't been watching Trae Young as often as possible, do yourself a favor and fix that. Oklahoma's freshman point guard is averaging 28.8 points and 8.8 assists per game and is the most entertaining player in the country. This team plays little-to-no defense, but that hasn't stopped the Sooners from winning games against Oregon and USC on the West Coast. Please—I implore you—watch this team play Wichita State next weekend.


    19. Florida State Seminoles (9-0)

    The 'Noles have only faced one noteworthy opponent thus far, but they smoked Florida in that road win. In fact, they have won eight of their nine games by at least a 17-point margin. But we're going to find out about this team in a big way early in conference play. Their first four ACC games are: at Duke, vs. North Carolina, at. Miami, vs. Louisville.


    18. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-2)

    We're still feeling out this Notre Dame team. The Fighting Irish looked great in the Maui Invitational, then got stomped by Michigan State. They lost at home to Ball State on Tuesday, then won at Delaware by 24 points. The trio of Bonzie Colson, Matt Farrell and TJ Gibbs has been great, but overall defensive effort has been inconsistent.


    17. Gonzaga Bulldogs (8-2)

    At its peak, Gonzaga has looked excellent. But the Bulldogs have had a lot of trouble defending the three-point arc and seem to let their foot off the gas for about 10 minutes in every game. If and when they start putting it all together for 40 minutes, they could be just as good as they were last year.


    16. Seton Hall Pirates (8-1)

    Is anyone hotter than Seton Hall right now? Since that last-second, neutral-court loss to Rhode Island, the Pirates have beaten Vanderbilt, Texas Tech, Louisville (on the road) and VCU. Desi Rodriguez has been fantastic during that four-game stretch, averaging 24.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists.

Nos. 15-11: Kansas-Kentucky

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    Hamidou Diallo
    Hamidou DialloJames Crisp/Associated Press

    15. Kansas Jayhawks (7-2)

    In the loss to Washington, Kansas appeared to have no idea how to run a zone offense. In the loss to Arizona State four days later, Kansas appeared to have no idea how to play any sort of defense. Help should be on the way in the form of Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe and potentially Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa if they are ruled eligible to play this season. For now, though, the Jayhawks do not look like a Top 10 team.


    14. Purdue Boilermakers (10-2)

    Purdue had a couple of disappointing losses to Tennessee and Western Kentucky in the Battle 4 Atlantis, but Dakota Mathias and Co. have reasserted their dominance with consecutive wins over Arizona, Louisville, Maryland, Northwestern and Valparaiso. As a whole, the Big Ten is not looking good this year, but the Boilermakers (and Michigan State) give the league a reasonable shot at reaching the Final Four anyway.


    13. Xavier Musketeers (9-1)

    Xavier was on the wrong end of one of Arizona State's offensive explosions in a 102-86 loss to the Sun Devils, but the Musketeers have won every other game by a double-digit margin, including 13-point wins over Baylor and Cincinnati. Trevon Bluiett has been great, as expected, but Quentin Goodin's evolution into an efficient point guard might make this the best team Chris Mack has ever had.


    12. West Virginia Mountaineers (9-1)

    Jevon Carter was already a great player in this Press Virginia system, but he has found a whole new level of excellence as a senior leader. He has tallied at least 19 points, nine rebounds and six assists in three consecutive games against NJIT, Virginia and Pittsburgh. Only seven more games until the Mountaineers get Esa Ahmad back from his 17-game suspension, and it's looking like they'll be in great shape when he returns.


    11. Kentucky Wildcats (8-1)

    Don't look now, but this young bunch is starting to figure things out—at least on offense.

    Early on, it was Kevin Knox or bust, but he had a horrendous performance Saturday afternoon against Monmouth, and the Wildcats still scored 93 points. Hamidou Diallo has at least 19 points in each of his last three games. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has flashed triple-double potential. And that P.J. Washington/Nick Richards frontcourt is thriving. But let's see if those performances against the likes of Fort Wayne and Harvard translate to upcoming games against Virginia Tech, UCLA and Louisville.

10. TCU Horned Frogs

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    Desmond Bane
    Desmond BaneRon Jenkins/Associated Press

    Record: 10-0

    Best Wins: vs. SMU, vs. Nevada, vs. St. Bonaventure

    Noteworthy Games in December: vs. Oklahoma (Dec. 30)

    What We Like

    For four years under Trent Johnson, TCU couldn't shoot to save its life, struggled on the defensive glass and typically committed way too many fouls. But in the second season under Jamie Dixon, the Horned Frogs rank second in the nation in effective field-goal percentage, are top-20 in defensive rebounding and have done a fine job of defending without fouling.

    Basically, what we like about TCU is that it looks nothing like what it used to be. Five Horned Frogs are shooting at least 41 percent from three-point range, including 6'11" center Vladimir Brodziansky. Sophomore Desmond Bane (55.8% 3PT, 75.0% 2PT) is hotter than the sun. And Kenrich Williams (14.1 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 3.7 APG, 2.7 SPG) is filling up the stat sheet on a nightly basis.

    It's still weird to be saying this about TCU, but there are just too many quality players on this team. The Horned Frogs legitimately might challenge Kansas for the Big 12 crown.


    What We Don't Like

    Decent teams have had no difficulty scoring against TCU, particularly in the paint. St. Bonaventure, Belmont, SMU and Nevada each scored better than one point per possession against the Horned Frogs and shot a combined 77-of-125 (61.6 percent) on two-point attempts. And with the exception of Belmont, those aren't teams which typically convert that well on two-point buckets.

    TCU also has some turnover issues, despite two quality point guards in Jaylen Fisher and Alex Robinson. They coughed up the ball 18 times against St. Bonaventure and 20 times against SMU. When the shooting percentages come back to earth a bit, that's going to be a problem.

9. Texas A&M Aggies

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    Robert Williams
    Robert WilliamsChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Record: 8-1

    Best Wins: vs. West Virginia, at USC, vs. Penn State, vs. Oklahoma State

    Noteworthy Games in December: at Alabama (Dec. 30)

    What We Like

    This defense is a bit like Virginia's in thatthough it doesn't force many turnoversit is going to make you work your butt off to get a shot up. The Aggies have held eight of nine opponents to 67 points or fewer. They have a pair of rim-protecting towers in Robert Williams and Tyler Davis, and they have aggressive perimeter defenders who are holding opposing teams to just 23.3 percent shooting from three-point range.

    (This is a far cry from last season when A&M's opponents routinely scored at will from the perimeter.)

    The other big change is the Aggies are at least competent from the free-throw line and aren't committing an egregious number of turnovers. Without a lead guard last season, those were major problem areas that resulted in a lot of close losses. Though Marquette transfer Duane Wilson isn't the second coming of John Stockton, he is running the offense a heck of a lot better than anyone did last year.


    What We Don't Like

    It's hard to nitpick a team with eight wins by a double-digit margin and a close road loss to a Final Four contender (Arizona), but one issue with Texas A&M is the aforementioned lack of forced turnovers. Opposing teams have committed 12 or fewer turnovers in each of Texas A&M's last eight games. Even Prairie View A&M only coughed up the ball 10 times in Saturday's loss to the Aggies.

    We would also (selfishly) like to see Williams get more involved in the offense. He is crushing it on the glass and has blocked multiple shots in five straight games, but he's averaging just 5.0 points in those five contests. It's hard to understand how the Aggies have been unable to incorporate such a gifted athlete who averaged 12.9 points in SEC play last season.

8. Virginia Cavaliers

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    Kyle Guy
    Kyle GuyRyan M. Kelly/Getty Images

    Record: 8-1

    Best Wins: vs. Rhode Island, vs. Wisconsin, vs. Vanderbilt, at VCU

    Noteworthy Games in December: None

    What We Like

    Per usual, Virginia's defense is a thing of beauty. Opponents are averaging just 52.6 points per game against a pack-line D anchored by Isaiah Wilkinswho remains the most underappreciated player in the nation for a third straight year. Newcomers Jay Huff, De'Andre Hunter and Nigel Johnson have all bought into this system and are putting up strong defensive numbers.

    But the two-man show of Kyle Guy and Devon Hall on offense has been darn impressive.

    What Guy has been doing (16.8 PPG, 44.8% 3PT) is no huge surprise, considering he shot 49.5 percent from distance as a freshman and was expected to be the offensive leader of this team. But Hall (12.6 PPG, 42.9% 3PT) suddenly becoming an assertive and efficient shooter is a huge development.

    A ton of people wrote off the Cavaliers in April when Darius Thompson, Marial Shayok and Jarred Reuter all transferred out of the program, but that evidently just opened the door for Hall to thrive.


    What We Don't Like

    Who's the third scorer in this offense?

    Wilkins rarely shoots, but even he looks like a gunner compared to Jack Salt's 18 field-goal attempts in 193 minutes. Johnson ranks third on the team in shots per 40 minutes, but he's shooting just 33.9 percent from the field. Ty Jerome should be one of the leading scorers, but his numbers are way down from last year.

    In the 49-37 win over Wisconsin, players not named Guy or Hall combined for 16 points, and not one of them scored more than four. And in the loss to West Virginia, Guy and Hall scored more than 60 percent of the team's points. Great as the defense is, Virginia is going to pick up some disappointing losses if it doesn't find another reliable scorer or two.

7. North Carolina Tar Heels

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    Luke Maye
    Luke MayeGrant Halverson/Getty Images

    Record: 9-1

    Best Wins: vs. Arkansas (in PK80), vs. Michigan, vs. Northern Iowa

    Noteworthy Games in December: at Tennessee (Dec. 17), vs. Ohio State (Dec. 23)

    What We Like

    Luke Maye has been sensational, averaging 19.9 points and 10.5 rebounds per game after barely seeing the floor for his first two seasons in Chapel Hill. But I wrote a whole thing on Maye last week and would rather use this space to point out the development of Kenny Williams.

    As a freshman, Williams didn't make his first three-point shot until the ACC tournament. He finished 2015-16 shooting 1-of-13 from distance and was almost unplayable because of his inability to shoot in games. Williams showed significant improvement as a sophomore. He shot 33.8 percent from downtown and was a legitimate fifth piece of the puzzle, starting 22 games prior to a knee injury that kept him out of UNC's last 14 contests.

    But now, Williams is an assassin. He's shooting 55.0 percent from three-point range and is showing off both the driving ability and the athleticism that will eventually land him on a SportsCenter Top 10 highlight reel for a ridiculous dunk. There's a case to be made that his development into a serious scoring weapon has been every bit as important for the Tar Heels as Maye's rise to stardom.


    What We Don't Like

    UNC's top four (Maye, Williams, Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson) has been great, but there's not much beyond that trio.

    Jalek Felton is good in garbage time, but we've yet to see much from him in a meaningful situation. Same goes for Andrew Platek. Brandon Robinson looks like he's on the verge of breaking out, but it hasn't totally happened yet. And the three-man rotation at center (Garrison Brooks, Sterling Manley and Brandon Huffman) has yet to produce a big man that you definitely want on the floor in crucial moments.

    The center part of that equation is the biggest concern. Everyone on the team struggled in the loss to Michigan State, but that trio was particularly useless, reinforcing preseason concerns about what North Carolina will be able to do against opponents with multiple talented big men.

6. Wichita State Shockers

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    Landry Shamet
    Landry ShametPeter G. Aiken/Getty Images

    Record: 8-1

    Best Wins: at Baylor, at Oklahoma State, vs. Marquette

    Noteworthy Games in December: vs. Oklahoma (Dec. 16)

    What We Like

    Last year's leading scorer, Markis McDuffie, hasn't even played in a game yet this season, and Wichita State still has too many weapons for opposing teams to deal with.

    Landry Shamet is unstoppable—as evidenced by his 30 points in Saturday's win over Oklahoma State. Conner Frankamp is a darn fine shooter, as well. Between Darral Willis Jr., Rashard Kelly and Shaquille Morris, it seems like the Shockers pull down three out of every four possible rebounds on a nightly basis. And there are still four other players on this team averaging better than five points per game.

    Whether you want to believe that the American Athletic is a major conference or not, Wichita State has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is a major-conference team. The Shockers have two road wins over good Big 12 teams, neutral-court wins over Marquette and California, and a last-second, neutral-court loss to Notre Dame.


    What We Don't Like

    The Shockers have gotten into a nasty habit of starting slow. They trailed California by 18 points early in the second half, and they were down by 13 at the same point in a home game against South Dakota State. They scored just nine points in the first eight minutes against Baylor and were held to nine points for the first 14 minutes against Oklahoma State.

    Eventually, they snap out of it and manage to just wear down the opposing team with their intensity and deep rotation, but you can't always count on a second-half comeback—particularly with a defense that doesn't force many turnovers.

5. Miami Hurricanes

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    Lonnie Walker
    Lonnie WalkerWilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Record: 8-0

    Best Wins: at Minnesota

    Noteworthy Games in December: Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25)

    What We Like

    Miami has one of the best backcourts in the country, primarily consisting of Ja'Quan Newton, Bruce Brown, Lonnie Walker IV and Dejan Vasilijevic. Though Anthony Lawrence II usually plays the small-ball 4, he's a wing-forward, so feel free to consider him part of the backcourt, too. Even freshman backup point guard Chris Lykes has been impressive.

    Each member of that sextet is averaging better than seven points per game, and Newton is the only one who isn't shooting better than 40 percent from three-point range. Walker got out to a slow start in November, but he had 26 points in his most recent game. If that's the start of his expected leap to one-and-done star, get ready for Miami to make a serious run at a national championship.


    What We Don't Like

    For a team with so many great backcourt options, the Hurricanes sure are terrible from the free-throw line. They're shooting 57.3 percent as a team, which is the third-worst mark in the nation.

    Vasilijevic is the best shooter on the team, but he never gets to the line (26 free-throw attempts in his career). Brown's drop from 74.4 percent as a freshman to 43.8 percent as a sophomore is the most concerning, even though he has only attempted 16 freebies this season. As the most NBA-ready player on the roster, he's going to have the ball a lot in late-game situations. And if he doesn't get that percentage up soon, opposing coaches will be sending him to the line repeatedly.

4. Duke Blue Devils

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    Grayson Allen
    Grayson AllenGerry Broome/Associated Press

    Record: 11-1

    Best Wins: vs. Michigan State (Champions Classic), vs. Florida (PK80), vs. Texas (PK80)

    Noteworthy Games in December: vs. Florida State (Dec. 30)

    What We Like

    Duke's offense is virtually unstoppable. Both Grayson Allen and Gary Trent Jr. have nearly limitless range. But if you stretch the defense too much to guard those shooters, it either opens up lanes for Trevon Duval or space for lobs to Wendell Carter Jr. and Marvin Bagley III.

    Between those two big men, Javin DeLaurier and Marques Bolden, the Blue Devils lead the nation in offensive rebound percentage. And thanks to all those second-chance opportunities, they also lead the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency. They have averaged at least 1.09 points per possession in every game this season and are averaging 1.25 PPP overall.


    What We Don't Like

    Duke's defense is atrocious. In the loss to Boston College, the Eagles made 11 of their first 15 three-point attempts in the first half. Part of that was just Ky Bowman, Jerome Robinson and Jordan Chatman catching fire, but the reason they were able to get hot is that Duke has no clue how to guard ball screenswhich was also a major issue midway through their 2015 championship season.

    The Blue Devils have given up at least 80 points in 50 percent of their games, and Carter's presence as a rim protector might be the only thing keeping them from giving up at least 90 per game. They struggle to force turnovers and they're just average on the defensive glass and the defensive perimeter. Duke is exponentially more effective in its 2-3 zone, but Mike Krzyzewski keeps playing man-to-man—presumably to help develop his one-and-done guys for the NBA.

    So, where have we seen this before? To recap, this is an elite offense led by an electric point guard who has a hideous-looking perimeter shot, and a defense that has no idea how to force turnovers or defend the arc.

    This year's version of Duke is basically last year's version of UCLA. Get ready for three more months of some variation of this sentence: Duke is incredibly fun to watch and can outscore anyone when it's firing on all cylinders, but will that defense keep the Blue Devils from reaching the Final Four?

3. Arizona State Sun Devils

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    Tra Holder
    Tra HolderRick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Record: 9-0

    Best Wins: at Kansas, vs. Xavier, vs. Kansas State, vs. St. John's

    Noteworthy Games in December: vs. Vanderbilt (Dec. 17), at Arizona (Dec. 30)

    What We Like

    There is not a crisper, more entertaining, higher octane offense in the country than Arizona State's. The pair of Tra Holder and Shannon Evans II was already at No. 1 on my ranking of backcourt duos on Friday morningbefore wins away from home against St. John's and Kansas. They are now averaging a combined 40.6 points and 10.4 assists while shooting 45.8 percent from three.

    And they're only part of the equation. Romello White is averaging better than 16 points per game. Kodi Justice has been good for better than 14 per contest. Freshman Vitaliy Shibel had a career-high 11 points in the win over St. John's, and freshman Remy Martin exploded for 21 points and five steals in the win over Kansas.

    The Sun Devils have scored at least 90 points in seven of nine games this season, and it's hard to imagine how anyone intends to stop them.


    What We Don't Like

    Arizona State is superb on offense, but it's barely even average on defense.

    In the three best wins over Kansas, Xavier and Kansas State, the Sun Devils gave up 261 points on 218 possessions (119.7 points per 100 possessions). Those three opponents shot a combined 59-of-90 (65.6 percent) from inside the arc and 37-of-90 (41.1 percent) beyond it.

    For now, it hasn't been a problem, as Arizona State has arguably the best resume in the nation. But if and when that offense comes back to earth a bit, the Sun Devils won't be nearly as tough to beat.

2. Michigan State Spartans

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    Jaren Jackson Jr.
    Jaren Jackson Jr.Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

    Record: 9-1

    Best Wins: vs. North Carolina, vs. Notre Dame

    Noteworthy Games in December: None

    What We Like

    With the exception of Grayson Allen catching fire and scoring 37 points against Michigan State in the Champions Classic, this defense has been impenetrable. The Spartans have held seven consecutive opponents to 63 points or fewer, including the ridiculous beatdown of North Carolina, limiting the Tar Heels to 45 points in a 72-possession game.

    The star of that defensive show has been Jaren Jackson Jr. The 6'11" freshman is averaging 3.0 blocks per game in just 22.5 minutes. He had eight blocks against Rutgers on Tuesday and had another five Saturday against Southern Utah. Nick Ward and Miles Bridges are also doing a fine job of protecting the rim, but Jackson might be the national defensive player of the year.

    And on offense, Cassius Winston is unconscious, averaging 6.7 assists per game while shooting 61.0 percent from three-point range. Bridges isn't even playing that well yet, and Michigan State is still clearly a top-five team right now.


    What We Don't Like

    Turnover margin is a significant concern for the Spartans. With the exception of their win over Connecticut, they have had a negative turnover margin in each game this season, including a minus-eight in the loss to Duke.

    Because they're doing such a great job of protecting the rim and crashing the offensive glass, they still look mighty impressive and have won eight of their 10 games by at least an 18-point margin. But coughing up the ball 14 times per game is a problemespecially when you consider they have yet to face a team ranked in the top 40 nationally in steal percentage. If the Spartans happen to draw West Virginia in the NCAA tournament, uh oh.

1. Villanova Wildcats

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    Mikal Bridges
    Mikal BridgesJulie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Record: 10-0

    Best Wins: vs. Gonzaga, vs. Tennessee, vs. Northern Iowa

    Noteworthy Games in December: at Temple (Dec. 13), at Butler (Dec. 30)

    What We Like

    Villanova runs like a well-oiled machine.

    Jalen Brunson is one of the most efficient and smoothest players in the entire country. He's shooting 51.5 percent from three-point range and averaging 3.7 assists per turnover. And this 6'2" point guard has better post moves than most big men. With the possible exception of Oklahoma's Trae Young, there isn't a player in the country who is more dangerous with the ball in his hands.

    And Brunson might not even be the best player on this team, given the breakout season Mikal Bridges is having. Factor in Phil Booth and Donte DiVincenzo, and the Wildcats have an incredible quartet of scoring options to go along with a defense that contests well without fouling.


    What We Don't Like

    There are only two possible complaints to make about Villanova right now. The first is that the Wildcats are a little too dependent on the three-point shot. However, that has been the case for the entirety of their 138-17 record over the past four-plus seasons. And with six guys shooting better than 38 percent from distance, banking on the long ball seems like a good strategy.

    The other minor issue is a lack of overall depth. Villanova has a fantastic primary six-man rotation. Beyond that, though? Freshman power forward Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree is eating up about 12 minutes per game, but not doing much with them. Freshman wing-forward Jermaine Samuels is unplayable right now, and freshman backup combo guard Collin Gillespie is out with a wrist injury.

    If the main six stay healthy and stay out of foul trouble, Villanova should be a Final Four team. But the Wildcats aren't anywhere near as immune to in-game attrition as most of the title contenders.


    Advanced stats courtesy of KenPom and Sports Reference.

    Kerry Miller covers men's basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.