It is going to be fascinating to see how the top five of this week’s polls play out.
There are three, maybe four, teams with a totally valid case to be ranked No. 1.
Let’s start with the team that was No. 1 last week, Villanova. The Wildcats are still the No. 1 team in the country, according to KenPom. Their only loss, which came on Saturday, was a road loss to a top 40 team that just so happened to shoot 15-for-22 from three. That’s the kind of fluky, outlier performance that will beat anyone on any given night. The Wildcats have two top 20 wins on KenPom – Tennessee and Gonzaga, both on a neutral – and their four best wins on the season all came away from home.
They’re awesome. Having them No. 1 on New Years Day is justified.
So is ranking Michigan State in the top spot. They haven’t lost in more than six week. They’ve developed one of the biggest and best front lines in college basketball. They have a super star in Miles Bridges, their back court is playing as well as they have ever played and a team with arguably the most intimidating defense in the sport has now scored 100 points in four straight games.
For me, Michigan State is the best team in the country. And yes. I know. They lost to Duke when Duke played 30 minutes without Marvin Bagley. If I was seeding an NCAA tournament bracket, Duke would seeded above the Spartans.
And then I would pick Michigan State to beat them when they play.
Speaking of Duke, you can certainly make the argument that they deserve to be ranked No. 1. They probably have the best résumé in college basketball. In addition to beating Michigan State on a neutral, they have three other top 35 KenPom wins, two of which came on a neutral floor. Michigan State only has two total. Same with Villanova. And Arizona State. Duke’s only loss came on the road in their ACC opener against a Boston College team that has cracked the top 75 on KenPom.
If you want to have Duke at No. 1, you’re not wrong. Personally, I just cannot get past their issues on the defensive end of the floor. Their currently 79th in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom’s metrics, and that seems like a friendly ranking based on the games that I have seen them play (one in person, eight in their entirety).
I’m not sure that you can justify putting Arizona State at No. 1 after their first loss of the season, but that is a team that is certainly in the mix at this point. They won at Kansas, beat Xavier on a neutral and have amassed six top 75 KenPom wins.
(And before anyone asks, I know I’m on an island with Arizona. You can hear my justification for their ranking at the 32:00 mark of the podcast below):
Anyway, here my full Power Rankings:
1. Michigan State, 14-1 (Last Week: No. 2)
2. Villanova, 13-1 (1)
3. Duke, 13-1 (3)
4. Arizona, 11-3 (4)
5. Arizona State, 12-1 (5)
6. Xavier, 13-1 (7)
7. Oklahoma, 11-1 (13)
8. West Virginia, 12-1 (8)
9. Purdue, 13-2 (9)
10. Texas A&M, 11-2 (6)
11. Miami, 12-1 (10)
12. North Carolina, 12-2 (11)
13. Kansas, 11-2 (12)
14. Wichita State, 11-2 (14)
15. Seton Hall, 13-2 (15)
16. Virginia, 12-1 (16)
17. Kentucky, 11-2 (19)
18. Gonzaga, 12-3 (18)
19. TCU, 12-1 (17)
20. Notre Dame, 11-3 (20)
21. Cincinnati, 12-2 (21)
22. Texas Tech, 12-1 (23)
23. Arkansas, 11-2 (25)
24. Tennessee, 9-3 (22)
25. Clemson, 12-1 (NR)
DROPPED: No. 24 Baylor
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 25 Clemson