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College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Michigan goes from unranked to No. 1

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It was a wild week in the college basketball world, as Virginia Tech, the Stephen F. Austin, then Dayton and finally Michigan all flipped the college basketball world upside down.

So here we are, in the first week of December, and it feels like it is impossible to know for sure anything about any team in the sport.

Is Louisville actually good, or have they just not played anyone that can beat them yet?

Should we buy into the performance that we saw from Maryland on Sunday?

Just who is the best team in the Big Ten, or the best team in the state of Michigan, for that matter?

If it feels like the top of these rankings get shaken up more often than usual, you’re right. This is the first time that we will have four different No. 1 teams this early in the college basketball calendar, regardless of who ends up being No. 1 this week.

Here is what my AP Poll looks like:



1. MICHIGAN (7-0, Last Week: NR)

2. LOUISVILLE (7-0, 2)

Deciding whether to go with Louisville or Michigan for the No. 1 spot here was far more difficult that I thought that it would be. Heading into Sunday, I was dead-set on bumping Louisville up to No. 1, but as day wore on, and the more I thought about it, I really do think the Wolverines are the best team in college basketball.

In a year where there really is no high-end talent in the sport, in a season where the best players are the three- and four-year stars as opposed to the one-and-done talents, Michigan has as much of the former as anyone. Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske are senior anchors that excel on both ends of the floor while Juwan Howard, who has thrived running ball-screens with this group, has myriad shooters to surround them with. The run in Atlantis – with wins over North Carolina, Gonzaga and Iowa State – was no fluke. Michigan has the goods.

That’s not to say that Louisville doesn’t. I had them in the top five in the preseason. I had invested hard-earned Dauster Dollars in a futures bet on Louisville to win the national title. I know how good this team can be. It’s just that we have not seen it yet. Put another way, Michigan has been tested and passed with flying colors. I think Louisville will pass when they get tested.

That earned the Wolverines the bump.

The best part?

No. 1 Michigan at No. 2 Louisville on Tuesday night.

#LFG

3. KANSAS (6-1, 4)

Udoka Azubuike finally looked like an All-American in the Maui Invitational title game. He absolutely took over in the extra period. I wrote a column on this very subject afterwards. Go read that.

4. MARYLAND (8-0, 8)

Mark Turgeon made a tweak to his starting lineup in a blowout win over Marquette on Sunday, and the result was their best performance of the season. The tweak that he implemented? Playing his five best players – Anthony Cowan, Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins, Darryl Morsell and Jalen Smith. The Terps can win a title this season. I didn’t fully believe that until what they did on Sunday.

5. KENTUCKY (6-1, 5)

The key for the Wildcats, more than anything else, is their health. It looked like they were finally getting there when Nate Sestina broke his wrist. Kentucky’s next three games: Fairleigh Dickinson, Georgia Tech and Utah on a neutral. Then they play Ohio State and Louisville on back-to-back Saturdays. They’ll need to be 100 percent for those games.

6. OHIO STATE (7-0, 7)

Ohio State’s win over Villanova looks better and better. Their win over Cincinnati? Not so much. Other than that, they’ve rolled over a bunch of teams that should be on the same floor as them, and they have not yet left Columbus. On Wednesday, the Buckeyes head to Chapel Hill to take on North Carolina. That’ll be a nice little test.

7. VIRGINIA (7-0, 9)

This season, Virginia actually is what everyone thought they were for the last five years. They are an absolutely suffocating defense, the best of Tony Bennett’s tenure. They are also bad offensively, largely because they are shooting just 25 percent from three. It’s also like losing three pros is tough to replace.

8. GONZAGA (8-1, 6)

Two promising things happened during the Battle 4 Atlantis for Gonzaga. The first is that Killian Tillie played two games, and looked good doing so. The second is that Joel Ayayi looked awesome. We’ve been wondering where Gonzaga is going to get backcourt production from. Ayayi and Corey Kispert looked like they work pretty well together.

9. ARIZONA (9-0, 12)

I can’t decide what to make of Arizona. They keep winning, and their trio of freshmen are just so much fun to watch, but their wins are not exactly dominant. They won the Wooden Legacy this week, but their wins over Pepperdine, Penn and Wake Forest were by an average of 6.3 points.

10. AUBURN (7-0, 19)

I was planning on ranking Auburn higher than this. They are a buzzsaw defensively. Samir Doughty made a leap as a senior. Isaac Okoro is the truth. Austin Wiley is punishing people in the paint. The only concern I have is simple: I’m forcing myself to avoid getting too excited about wins over Davidson, New Mexico and Richmond.

11. NORTH CAROLINA (6-1, 13)

The win over Oregon on the final day of the Battle 4 Atlantis is the performance that mattered for North Carolina for two reasons: Armando Bacot and Brandon Robinson. The former was a man amongst boys against the Ducks, playing 30 minutes for the first time in college. And the latter starred in the 3-and-D role that UNC is asking him to play.

12. DAYTON (5-1, NR)

I put the Flyers at 12th, and I’ll be quite curious to find out if that is lower than consensus. On the one hand, Dayton looked phenomenal in Maui. On the other hand, the best thing they did in Maui was take Kansas to overtime. Should we really be impressed with wins over Georgia or Virginia Tech?

13. DUKE (7-1, 1)

14. MICHIGAN STATE (5-2, 3)

When Kentucky lost to Evansville, I only dropped them to fifth. The reasoning was pretty simple, really: I thought that loss had as much to do with Kentucky’s seemingly-neverending injury woes as it did anything that happened in that game. Michigan State isn’t getting Josh Langford back. Duke lost to Stephen F. Austin at full strength. The path to these two teams reaching their ceiling is much more difficult to navigate.

15. OREGON (6-2, 11)

The Ducks left Atlantis with a 1-2 record, which is not ideal. They were never blown out, losing to Gonzaga in overtime and to North Carolina by four, but in each of their three games they had to rally down the stretch to come back from double-digit deficits.

16. SETON HALL (6-2, 14)

I find myself wondering where the Pirates would be ranked right now if they hadn’t blown a 19 point second half lead to Oregon in the quarterfinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis. We know how good Myles Powell can be when he gets it rolling, but that is not a lead that the Pirates should be giving up.

17. BAYLOR (5-1, 16)

The Bears haven’t played since beating Villanova in the Charleston Classic title game. They dropped a spot because Michigan jumped from unranked to No. 1.

18. VILLANOVA (5-2, 17)

Villanova’s only game this week was an 11-point home win over La Salle.

19. UTAH STATE (7-1, 15)

Utah State is tough to peg right now. They’ve looked great at times. They’ve looked rather middling at other times. And they still are playing without star center Neemias Queta. We’ll get a better feel for just how good this team is when he returns.

20. MEMPHIS (6-1, 20)

Credit where it’s due: Memphis, without James Wiseman, has now won back-to-back games against Ole Miss and N.C. State. That’s not bad.

21. FLORIDA STATE (7-1, NR)

The Seminoles won the Emerald Coast Classic, beating Tennessee and Purdue in the process. Leonard Hamilton has himself another really good, tough and old team.

22. TENNESSEE (6-1, 18)

A buzzer-beating three from Lamonte Turner against VCU salvaged a 1-1 weekend in the Emerald Coast Classic. I’m still in on the Vols. That event had four really good teams. Someone had to lose.

23. FLORIDA (6-2, 21)

Florida hardly looked dominant in a win over Marshall on Friday. The Gators once against forgot how to shoot.

24. XAVIER (7-1, 23)

The name to pay attention to is Kyky Tandy. The Musketeers lack shooting. Tandy can shoot that thing.

25. COLORADO (6-0, 25)

It’s still hard to know just how good the Buffaloes are this season, but they do have wins over Arizona State, UC Irvine, Wyoming and Clemson.

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 1 MICHIGAN, NO. 18 DAYTON, No. 20 FLORIDA STATE

DROPPED OUT: No. 10 TEXAS TECH, No. 22 WASHINGTON, No. 24 VCU

Wesson, No. 6 Ohio State unload on Penn State 106-74

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Kaleb Wesson scored 28 points and had 10 rebounds for his ninth career double-double, helping No. 6 Ohio State rout Penn State 106-74 on Saturday.

Ohio State scored 100 points against a Big Ten rival for the first time since 1991.

Four players hit double figures for the Buckeyes (9-0, 1-0 Big Ten), who shot 57.4 percent from the field. Andre Wesson scored 15, and sophomores Duane Washington Jr. and Luther Muhammad each had 14.

Izaiah Brockington scored 19 points and Seth Lundy added 10 for the Nittany Lions (7-2, 0-1), who lost for the second time in four games and gave up 100 points for the first time since 2017. Penn State managed just 25 rebounds, far below its average of 44.

Senior Lamar Stevens, Penn State’s leading scorer averaging 17.9 points, managed just 11 against the Buckeyes and fouled out after getting a technical with 13:26 left in the second half.

Ohio State started the first half 1 for 6 from beyond the arc, but started draining 3-pointers in the second half, hitting 14 of 26 for 53.8 percent for the game. The Buckeyes were led by Washington, who hit four straight and Kaleb Wesson who shot 4 for 6 from long range, including three straight in the second half. Ohio State now has back-to-back games with 10 or more 3-pointers.

BIG PICTURE

Penn State: After showing early promise, Lions ran into Ohio State’s potent offense.

Ohio State: Solidified its standing as a Top 10 team, dominating every facet of the game and dispatching Penn State with ease.

UP NEXT

Penn State: At Maryland Tuesday.

Ohio State: At Minnesota Dec. 15.

Balanced effort leads No. 24 Butler past Florida 76-62

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INDIANAPOLIS — Sean McDermott and Aaron Thompson each scored 16 points to lead No. 24 Butler to a 76-62 win over Florida on Saturday.

Thompson made 6 of 7 shots and delivered seven assists. McDermott contributed a team-high seven rebounds.

Jordan Tucker added 13 points off the bench for the Bulldogs (9-0). Kamar Baldwin, who was averaging a team-high 17.5 points for Butler, scored 12 points.

Baldwin picked up two fouls in the first 3-plus minutes of the game and was limited to 11 minutes in the first half. The senior guard finished with three fouls.

Kerry Blackshear Jr. led Florida (6-3) with 17 points. Andrew Nembhard and Noah Locke each scored 11.

The Bulldogs shot 52% percent while holding the Gators to 44%. Butler made 9 of 20 3-pointers while Florida was 6 of 21. Each team had 10 turnovers.

The Gators, who trailed by nine at halftime, narrowed the deficit to six points twice before the Bulldogs pulled away. Butler’s largest lead was 19 points at 61-42 with 7:33 remaining.

Butler finished the first half with a 19-5 run to take a 35-26 lead at halftime. Trailing 21-16, the Bulldogs had an 11-0 run.

Butler owns the nation’s longest streak of consecutive non-conference home victories at 56.

BIG PICTURE

Florida: After a solid start on the road, the Gators’ four-game winning streak end with a thud. Entering the game with a 30% average from 3-point range, Florida shot 23%.

Butler: The Bulldogs won their third meeting with an SEC opponent in the last four games, previously beating Missouri 63-52 in the Hall of Fame Classic on Nov. 24 and host Mississippi 67-58 Tuesday.

UP NEXT

Florida: Home game against another Big East opponent Providence on Dec. 17.

Butler: Travels to No. 18 Baylor on Tuesday.

No. 18 Baylor beats No. 12 Arizona 63-58 as fans get free tickets

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WACO, Texas — MaCio Teague scored 19 points, Freddie Gillespie had 17 points and 13 rebounds and No. 18 Baylor defeated No. 12 Arizona 63-58 on Saturday for the Wildcats’ first loss.

Admission was free at Baylor’s campus arena because the Bears were playing Oklahoma in the Big 12 football championship game, which started about the same time 100 miles north of Waco at the home of the Dallas Cowboys.

It was supposed to be the first true road game for the Wildcats (9-1), but their fans might have outnumbered the Baylor contingent. They loudly chanted “U of A” before the Baylor introductions but had a hard time getting into the game early, with Arizona giving up a 15-0 run and shooting 33 percent in the first half.

The Wildcats, whose 52-game home winning streak was stopped by Baylor last December, did enough to stay close and had the fans chanting several times in the second half.

Arizona finally got the deficit under six by scoring five points on one possession to get within 57-56 with less than two minutes remaining. Jemarl Baker Jr. hit a 3 as a foul was called and Zeke Nnaji made both free throws.

Teague, who was 9 of 10 on free throws, made a pair at the other end, then blocked a 3-point attempt by Nico Mannion, who led the Wildcats with 15 points. Leading by four, Baylor got another block from Gillespie in the final minute.

Nnaji scored 12 for Arizona, which made just two of 18 3-pointers after coming in sixth in the nation at 43% shooting from long range. The last miss came from Josh Green with a chance to tie in the final seconds.

The Bears (7-1) started hot in the fourth-ever Top 25 matchup in Waco but cooled off while Arizona simply stayed cold. Baylor shot 30% to 27% for the Wildcats, who came in fourth in the nation in scoring at 87.1 points per game.

The Wildcats stayed close by making free throws. Mannion was 8 of 8 and Chase Jeter matched Teague by going 9 of 10. Arizona was 28 of 34 from the line.

BIG PICTURE

Arizona: The Wildcats didn’t play well in their first real test this season, and first true road game against ranked team since beating rival Arizona State 77-70 in February 2018. Arizona won’t have to wait long for the next one. No. 9 Gonzaga visits next Saturday.

Baylor: The Bears took control early without a lot of help from Jared Butler, third in the Big 12 in scoring coming in. The sophomore guard didn’t score until after the 15-0 run that put Baylor up 22-8 and finished with 13 points.

UP NEXT

Arizona: Omaha at home Wednesday.

Baylor: Butler at home Tuesday.

Best Bets: Previewing the weekend’s biggest college basketball games

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There are no Vegas lines for these games just yet. All analysis will be based on KenPom projections, which typically end up close to the opening lines anyway.

No. 7 NORTH CAROLINA at No. 5 VIRGINIA, Sun. 4:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Virginia 61, North Carolina 55
  • TICKETS: Click here

I am going to be fascinated to see where the line for this game opens up, because neither of these teams are playing all that well right now, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Virginia was blown out by unranked Purdue on the road, 69-40, while North Carolina is coming off of a drubbing at the hands of Ohio State in their own building, 74-49.

My initial lean here is going to be the Virginia side, depending on how much they are laying, but I do think that the best bet would likely be the under assuming the line opens at or around 116. The logic is relatively simple, really. Virginia has still been one of college basketball’s most intimidating defenses this season despite what happened against Purdue. While nice, 69 points doesn’t sound like a lot, but the 1.19 points-per-possession the Boilermakers did post was one of just four times in the last two-plus years that a team has done that against Virginia.

Purdue has done it twice.

That’s because the Boilermakers run the precise kind of action you need to run to beat the Pack-Line. There is a ton of motion, guys running off of screens every which way and action happening simultaneously on both sides of the floor. This is not what North Carolina does, and when combined with the fact that – as shown in the video embedded below – the Tar Heels have basically one option offensively right now, leads me to believe that the Wahoos will control tempo, overwhelm UNC defensively and keep this game in the 50s.

Think about it like this. Ohio State-UNC finished at 123 total points. Virginia is the only defense in the country ranked higher on KenPom that Ohio State, and Virginia is a full 100 spots lower offensively.

PICKS: I like Virginia -5 and below, and I like the under for everything 115 and above.

No. 12 ARIZONA at No. 18 BAYLOR, Sat. 12:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Baylor 75, Arizona 71
  • TICKETS: Click here

There are a couple of things to take into account here.

For starters, this game is being played in Waco, but there are some real questions about just how much of a home court advantage the Bears are going to have here. The football team is in the Big 12 title game, which will be played at the same time. I have a feeling that is going to take priority for the majority of the Baylor fanbase. Baylor has resorted to giving away free tickets to make sure the stands are filled.

That said, I think that Baylor has the matchup advantage here. The Bears haven’t been playing as much zone this year but it’s still something they can fall back into, which will be tricky for an Arizona team built around three freshmen. I also think the size Baylor has inside is less than ideal for a team that relies on Zeke Nnaji quite a bit. Then throw in the fact that this is Arizona’s first true road game and first game outside of the western time zone, and I like the spot for Baylor.

PICKS: I’m refraining from betting on this. I don’t have a great feel.

No. 9 GONZAGA at No. 22 WASHINGTON, Sun. 7:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Gonzaga 73, Washington 71
  • TICKETS: Click here

A rivalry game, one where I expect Gonzaga to be favored on the road. I think I like Washington here. I don’t fully trust Gonzaga’s guard play at this point in the season, and if anyone remembers the way that the Washington-Baylor game ended the first week of the season, Isaiah Stewart completely dominated Baylor’s frontline down the stretch. I can see that happening again, considering just how much Gonzaga relies on running offense through their posts.

PICKS: I think Washington will win, so getting the Huskies on the money line at +125 would be nice.

FLORIDA at No. 24 BUTLER, Sat. 12:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Butler 63, Florida 57
  • TICKETS: Click here

We’ve been betting Butler this season because the Bulldogs have been undervalued by the market all year. But now that they have that number next to their name and coming off of a really impressive win at Ole Miss, I think our chance to be all in on this team may have come to an end.

I also think that six points is a lot in this matchup, which I expect to be really low-scoring. The Gators can defend, are good at running teams off of the three-point line and can’t make threes themselves. They have a number of guards they can throw at Kamar Baldwin and have shown no desire to play fast at all this season. Butler is 348th in average possession length offensively.

PICKS: Let’s see where the total opens, but if it’s in the low-to-mid 120s, I think the under is the play in this game.

No. 20 COLORADO at No. 2 KANSAS, Sat. 7:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Kansas 73, Colorado 65
  • TICKETS: Click here

I am definitely looking forward to this game because I feel like I haven’t had a chance to really watch Colorado yet this season. I saw a little bit of their game against Arizona State in the opener, but that’s it. So keep that in mind as I proceed to tout the Buffaloes. Here’s the logic: The Jayhawks want to run their offense through Udoka Azubuike in the post, and Colorado is top ten nationally in defensive two-point field goal percentage. They have big bodies, they have strong posts and they can make life tough for Azubuike inside.

PICKS: I think this line will open up higher than Colorado (+8). Getting the Buffaloes (+10.5) would make all of my wildest dreams come true.

No. 19 DAYTON vs. SAINT MARY’S, Sun. 4:00 p.m. (Phoenix)

  • KENPOM: Dayton 70, Saint Mary’s 68
  • TICKETS: Click here

I’ll be on Dayton here. What makes Saint Mary’s dangerous is their ability to spread teams out with their shooting and create mismatches all over the court. Dayton does the same thing, only they have Player of the Year candidate Obi Toppin creating mismatches, who should, in theory, be able to limit Malik Fitts’ advantage at the four. Playing this game at a neutral site is a bonus as well.

PICKS: I like Dayton up to (-4.5), and I would think about the under as well. Both of these teams are built on shooting, and neutral sites environments can be tough to shoot in. Saint Mary’s wanting to play at a slow pace will help as well.

CINCINNATI at XAVIER, Sat. 5:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Xavier 73, Cincinnati 67
  • TICKETS: Click here

My take on Cincinnati is that the Bearcats are overvalued right now. The biggest reason for that is that there seems to still be some tension between new head coach John Brannen and star guard Jarron Cumberland. I also think that Xavier is one of the teams that is being undervalued at this point. I know they struggle shooting the rock, but they are tough, they are athletic and they have a couple of game-changers in Naji Marshall, Tyrique Jones and Paul Scruggs. If Kyky Tandy can provide a bit of shooting and Quentin Goodin is truly out of his funk, the Musketeers are a top 20 team.

The only concern I have: This is a rivalry game. If Jarron Cumberland is ever going to play like a National Player of the Year candidate, this is the game he’ll do it.

PICKS: I will probably be staying away at Xavier (-6).

CBT Podcast: Georgetown’s problems, the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, a weekend preview

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Rob Dauster and Bobby Reagan from the Fundamentally Sound podcast go through everything that happened in a wild week of basketball, from the four – yes, four! – blowouts of in the marquee games of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge as well as the rise of DePaul and the enigma that is Indiana. Rob also discusses the situation at Georgetown at the top, and the podcast ends with a preview of what should be a lively weekend of college hoops.