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College basketball power rankings: Louisville now ranked, Texas is No. 3 and Big East has four in the mix

1 🔄Last week: No. 1 | Record: 12-0. The Zags are coming off two more dominant wins, last Thursday’s pummeling of BYU being an eye-opener for how non-competitive it was. On Saturday, in its first road game of the season, Gonzaga had one of its players notch a triple-double for the first time in school history. Joel Ayayi had 14 assists, 13 rebounds and 12 points. He’s the team’s fourth-best player. Gonzaga is so good it’s a joke.  2 🔄Last week: No. 2 | Record: 11-0. The Bears lost their Tuesday night game against WVU due to WVU having multiple COVID-19 positives, meaning it’s the latest NCAA Tournament-level team to either be eliminated or pushed back on BU’s schedule. The Bears lost matchups against Arizona State, potentially Villanova, Seton Hall, Gonzaga, Texas and now the Mountaineers. And what has to sting for Scott Drew’s program is it’s running out of time to fill in these games. I’d be surprised if Baylor plays more than 22 games by the end of the regular season. 3 ⤴️Last week: No.  | Record: 10-1. The Longhorns have earned this. Shaka Smart’s team has a 6-1 record at this point against Quad 1 and Quad 2 opponents, with the sole loss coming at home in a good game against Villanova. This is Texas’ best start in league play in a decade, and Andrew Jones‘ huge shot on Saturday to beat West Virginia was so special it led my weekend takeaways piece.  4 ⤴️Last week: No. 7 | Record: 10-0. The Wolverines have reached 10-0 for the fifth time in school history. Two times before (1988-89, 2012-13), the school made the Final Four. We’ve got a powerhouse matchup scheduled Tuesday night with the Wolverines hosting Wisconsin. A win in this spot, the day after the end of the college football season and not buried by NFL games, would be a huge announcement for Juwan Howard’s guys.  5 ⤴️Last week: No. 3 | Record: 8-1. The Wildcats are in the midst of a game drought, having last played on Dec. 23 and not having their next until a week from today, Jan. 19. Ideally no more COVID pauses are coming for VU, but if this high-profile, Big East flagship program is made to wait one more time along with three other Big East schools, I wouldn’t be surprised if some “controlled environment” chatter picks up in that league. 6 🔄Last week: No. 6 | Record: 9-1. Tennessee had an ultra-winnable game scheduled Tuesday night at Vanderbilt, but COVID-19 positives within Vandy postponed the game, meaning that Rick Barnes will have to wait until the weekend win his 719th game. When he does that it will tie him with Phog Allen and Don Haskins for 20th in all-time D-I men’s basketball victories. UT allows 56.8 points on average, second best in college hoops.  7 ⤴️Last week: No. 5 | Record: 11-2. In case you weren’t fully aware, Luka Garza is the country’s leading scorer at 27.6 points per game. We’ll see if he can keep it up, but if he can, he’ll be on an extremely short list of preseason national player of the year honorees who went on the lead the nation in scoring. The Hawkeyes have defeated their five toughest opponents this season (I’m excluding the losses in this) by an average of 12.0 points. They’re averaging a sport-best 21.3 assists and have the best assist-to-turnover ratio (2.11).  8 🔻Last week: No. 7 | Record: 10-1. Caleb Mills left the program but Houston‘s showing no signs of slump due to that yet. Team would be unbeaten if not for a one-point loss at Tulsa in the closing seconds. In the past week, sophomore Marcus Sasser averaged 20.0 points, including his show-out game against Tulane wherein he dropped eight 3s. A huge effort, but not the individual season-high. Cleveland State‘s DeMoi Hodge and Oakland‘s Rashad Williams each made 10 triples in a game earlier this season.  9 🔄Last week: No. 9 | Record: 10-2. The Badgers haven’t been fruitful the past six meetings against Michigan, going 2-4 in that span. Tuesday night’s game is the biggest on the slate in the sport. Greg Gard’s team is shooting 41.4% from 3, which is a spike from this team’s accuracy a season ago (35.2%). Wisconsin as a program has never had a season shooting better than 39.1% from beyond the arc, but this team has a shot.  10 🔄Last week: No. 10 | Record: 8-2. The Jayhawks’ past two games were a 29-point therapy session of a win over TCU and then a four-point squeaker at home against a game Oklahoma squad. David McCormack‘s been playing better as of late and he’ll probably need to keep that up to give KU a chance at winning the Big 12. My biggest takeaway from the OU win was Jalen Wilson rounding closer to form in the second half to get the W. He seems to be the team’s most necessary player.  11 🔄Last week: No. 11 | Record: 9-1. Give the Tigers the respect they are due. Check that record, and know this: Brad Brownell’s team right now is 7-1 against Quad 1 and Quad 2 opponents, meaning that if we started the NCAA Tournament today, Clemson would be a strong No. 2 seed. Hard to think of it in those terms right now, but this group is capable of setting a program-best for seeding. Clemson’s twice been a No. 4 seed (1987, 1997) but never higher. Defensive battle on tap Saturday against Virginia.  12 ⤴️Last week: No. 17 | Record: 10-2. The Bluejays haven’t lost a game in almost a month and just scored 97 on Saturday without their best player, Marcus Zegarowski, who is nursing a bum hamstring. Creighton‘s only game between now and next week’s Hey Nineteen is on the road against 3-6 Butler. I’m not anticipating the Jays drop out of the rankings here in the coming weeks. 13 ⤴️Last week: N/R | Record: 8-1.  Now we’re going to get to some new crews. Chris Mack’s Cardinals got wiped from rankings consideration for a bit after a shorthanded shellacking at Wisconsin six days before Christmas. But that’s this team’s only loss to this point, the two most recents wins coming against Boston College (OK, that’s meaningless) and a good Virginia Tech team. We’ll know how reliable Louisville is by week’s end, as it has road games against Wake Forest and Miami. 14 ⤴️Last week: N/R | Record: 8-2. The Trojans are 8-2 with their only losses coming by three points vs. UConn in Connecticut and by 10 against Colorado without their starting point guard. I don’t know if USC is the best team in the Pac-12 but I’ve got it ranked highest among all Pac-12 teams for this week. The Trojans are playing a makeup noncon home game Tuesday night against UC Riverside and then moving on to play Washington and Washington State later this week. This should be an 11-2 team and right back here next week in the rankings. 15 🔄Last week: No. 15 | Record: 13-0. The Bulldogs and head coach Darian DeVries got the cover treatment in last Thursday’s Court Report. Unfortunately I was a jinx, as Drake announced the next day it had a COVID-19 positive, which postponed its next four games. The Bulldogs will hold steady for this week, but I’d expect a two- or three-spot drop when we meet back here again in seven days. 16 🔻Last week: No. 14 | Record: 9-2. A little dip for the Hokies, but keep in mind Mike Young’s team bounced back from a two-point road loss at Louisville last week with a 14-point win over mediocre Notre Dame. Tuesday night has Va. Tech hosting Duke. Predictive metrics have Duke as the better team, but the Blue Devils won’t be at full-go. With the game in Blacksburg, it sets up as a huge spot for the Hokies to get a third notable win (Villanova, Clemson).  17 ⤴️Last week: N/R | Record: 9-2. Mick Cronin’s Bruins are in. How about this unbelievable stat: Last week USC and UCLA both swept their road series against the Arizona schools. It was the first time in history that happened. What a stunner. The Bruins have won nine of 11 games and no longer have Chris Smith, whose college career is unfortunately over due to a torn ACL. The offense is close to elite.  18 ⤴️Last week: N/R | Record: 7-1. The Huskies are ranked in this week’s AP Top 25, their first appearance since the fall of 2016. Hard to believe. I spoke with Dan Hurley on Saturday evening and he told me to expect more news on star James Bouknight (elbow) sometime this week. At most Bouknight will miss a couple more weeks, but there’s a shot it’s a shorter-term injury. Bouknight missed UConn’s past two games, but the Huskies won both (at Butler, at DePaul) and are interesting, viable and NCAA Tournament-good for the first time in five years.  19 ⤴️Last week: N/R | Record: 10-2. Four Big East teams in the rankings this week. Xavier is becoming the must-watch team in college basketball due to how many games it’s winning by one-possession margins. Colby Jones hit a last-second 3 to beat Providence on Sunday. It was Xavier’s sixth game this season decided by five points or fewer. The Musketeers still rank only 52nd at KenPom and it’s about time for a barometric test. At Seton Hall, at UConn are the next two. Even a split there would confidently suggest X is dancing in March.



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