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.
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