College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Who are the real favorites to win a title?

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A new college basketball top 25 is now live.

This is the last time this season that you will see rankings in this space.

From here on out, it’s tournament basketball only, the best time of the year.

So in lieu of actually talking about rankings, I want to dive into the teams that I trust the most to be able to win six straight games after Selection Sunday.

And without question, the No. 1 team on that list is the No. 1 team in every ranking and metric that you will find on Monday morning: The Kansas Jayhawks. The reason is actually quite simple. With a new and improved Udoka Azubuike anchoring their frontline, the Jayhawks are the best defensive team in college basketball. Straight up. They are the best in the metrics, they are the best using the eye test and they are matchup proof given their ability to play small the majority of the time, play big when needed and the simple fact that they have two of the five best defenders in the sport in Doke and Marcus Garrett. Throw in Devon Dotson at the point, and there really isn’t anything this team is missing beyond some more reliable three-point shooting.

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And here’s the wild part: I think No. 2 on this list might actually be Michigan State. Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman are playing their best basketball of the season, and part of that is due to the fact that Rocket Watts and Aaron Henry are playing their best basketball of the season. The Spartans are no longer a two-man team. We’ve discussed this at length over the last two week, but I think we, the media — and me, specifically — completely underrated just how much the loss of Josh Langford would hurt with Matt McQuaid and Kenny Goins graduating. Michigan State had to integrate so many young pieces into their rotation, and doing so while Cassius Winston was dealing with the loss of his brother and Xavier Tillman was dealing with the birth of his second child was a lot for any program to handle.

But they’ve figured it out.

I don’t know that their ceiling is as high as some of the other teams on this list, but I’ve fully come around on the idea that they are more trustworthy than many of the teams that are ranked above them.

Take Gonzaga, for example. The Zags are very good, but there is absolutely no way that you can guarantee that Killian Tillie will be healthy for six straight games when he has to play two games in three days three times to win a national title. He is Gonzaga’s best player.

Then there is Dayton, who is an elite three-point shooting team that gets more layups and dunks than anyone because of it, but they have had their issues on the defensive end of the floor this season and their backcourt is made up of a bunch of small guards. What happens if they draw a team like Florida State, that can roll out an endless number of 6-foot-5 athletes that are elite on-ball defenders?

Baylor struggles too much to score for my liking. San Diego State seems to play great for 15-20 minutes every game, but like they spent too much time at Ballast Point the rest of the game. Creighton is at the mercy of an off-night. Kentucky may or may not have Ashton Hagans locked in. Duke can’t guard teams that spread the floor. Seton Hall’s superstar shot under 30 percent from three in league play. Oregon will go as far as their 6-foot point guard can carry them.

I could go on and on and on.

So I now this will make me sound stubborn and like a homer, but if I was power ranking teams that I thought were the most likely to win the national title without seeing a bracket first, Michigan State would probably be No. 2 for me.

Anyway, here is the rest of the NBC Sports college basketball top 25.



NBC SPORTS COLLEGE BASKETBALL TOP 25

1. KANSAS (28-3, Last Week: 1)
2. GONZAGA (29-2, 3)
3. DAYTON (29-2, 5)
4. BAYLOR (26-4, 2)
5. SAN DIEGO STATE (30-2, 4)
6. FLORIDA STATE (26-5, 10)
7. CREIGHTON (24-7, 12)
8. KENTUCKY (25-6, 6)
9. DUKE (25-6, 9)
10. MICHIGAN STATE (22-9, 21)
11. VILLANOVA (24-7, 14)
12. SETON HALL (21-9, 7)
13. OREGON (24-7, 13)
14. MARYLAND (24-7, 8)
15. LOUISVILLE (24-7, 11)
16. WISCONSIN (21-10, 18)
17. BYU (24-7, 17)
18. OHIO STATE (21-10, 15)
19. ILLINOIS (21-10, 19)
20. IOWA (20-11, 16)
21. VIRGINIA (21-7, 23)
22. MICHIGAN (19-12, 20)
23. HOUSTON (23-8, 22)
24. PROVIDENCE (19-12, 25)
25. UCLA (19-12, 24)