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College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Louisville or Ohio State at No. 1?


It feels like college basketball makes a little more sense today than it did at this time last week.

That’s because, over the course of the last seven days, we’ve had a number of marquee non-conference battles, from the showdowns that took place during the ACC-Big Ten Challenge to a wild Saturday that was headlined by a battle of top 20 teams to a Sunday that happened to feature the worst game between top ten teams that we’ve ever seen.

So there’s a lot to dig through.

And in a season where it doesn’t feel like there are any great teams, I will say this: I think that we’re starting to get some separation at the top.

Anyway, here is my AP poll with some explanation as to why I slotted teams in those spots.

1. LOUISVILLE (9-0, Last Week: 2)

2. OHIO STATE (9-0, 6)

I think there are only two teams this week that can justifiably be ranked No. 1 in a poll: Louisville and Ohio State.

And both have strong claims to the top spot. Louisville was No. 1 in the AP Poll last week and all they did was land a couple of double-digit wins over Pitt and No. 4 Michigan, who was No. 1 in this space seven days ago. They’re very much deserving of being the No. 1 team in the country.

But Ohio State has an argument as well. The Buckeyes beat North Carolina and Penn State by an average of 28.5 points this week, with the win over the former coming in Chapel Hill. The Buckeyes have three wins over 25 points or more over KenPom top 25 opponents. To put that into context, there have been just six instances this season where a KenPom top 50 team has lost by 20 or more. Ohio State is responsible for half of them.

So they’re deserving of consideration as well.

3. KANSAS (7-1, 3)

If you forced me to put college basketball into tiers, I would have Kansas as the third team in the top tier. Hell, I think that there’s an argument to be made that they are the favorite to win the national title right now. They have the most unstoppable force of the elite teams – see: Azubuike, Udoka – and they have the best point guard play as well. They beat No. 20 Colorado by 14 on Saturday evening, a win that is going to age really nicely.

4. MICHIGAN (8-1, 1)

The Wolverines got smoked when they played at Louisville on Tuesday, which was hardly unexpected. Michigan was coming off of a trip to the Bahamas, where they played three games in three days, and it was the most obvious fade Michigan spot in the history of gambling. They bounced back on Friday by putting up 103 points on Iowa.

5. MARYLAND (10-0, 4)

Maryland is still undefeated despite trying their damnedest to not be undefeated anymore. The Terps needed to rally from 15 points down in the second half to avoid dropping a home game against Illinois, but they did it. I’m still torn on just how good this team is, but the talent is undoubtedly there.

6. GONZAGA (10-1, 8)

The Zags went into Seattle and picked off in-state rival Washington on Sunday night. That’s a really nice win for a team that seems to be flying under the radar a little bit. Remember the name Joel Ayayi. He’s the x-factor for Mark Few.

7. KENTUCKY (7-1, 5)

We just have to survive games against Georgia Tech and Utah in the next 10 days and we’ll get rewarded with the Wildcats taking on No. 1 Louisville and No. 2 Ohio State in the span of one week. I’m already fired up.

8. ARIZONA (9-1, 9)

I discussed why on the podcast (at the 26:50 mark), but I actually feel better about Arizona after they lost at Baylor than I did before they played.

9. AUBURN (8-0, 10)

I’m still in on this Auburn team. They struggled with Furman at home, but the Palladins are well coached with good guard play. Teams like that are not going to be affected by Auburn’s pressure. There’s a reason they are still undefeated.

10. DAYTON (7-1, 12)

I guess that I’m still higher than the public on Dayton, and they rewarded me by going out west and taking care of Saint Mary’s in Phoenix. This is a really, really good team that spaces the floor, shoots a ton of threes and has Obi Toppin. They’re legit.

11. DUKE (9-1, 13)

Exactly seven days after they lost at home to Stephen F. Austin as the No. 1 team in the country, Duke turned around and went into East Lansing and handed the preseason No. 1 team in the country a beatdown. I don’t pretend to understand it.

12. OREGON (7-2, 15)

The Ducks bounced back from a tough trip to the Bahamas by beating Hawaii in Eugene over the weekend. We’ll get a better sense for just how good they are this weekend, when they head to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan.

13. BAYLOR (7-1, 17)

The Bears hung on to beat Arizona at home on Saturday despite playing what sounded like a road game in their own gym. That’s what happens in Big 12 country when your football team is playing for the conference title at the exact same time. The big question with Baylor is going to be whether or not Tristan Clark can ever get back to 100 percent.

14. VILLANOVA (7-2, 18)

The Wildcats have been pretty good since they were plastered by Ohio State in Columbus, and there is still rook for them to grow. Bryan Antoine has only played 38 minutes this season as he comes back from shoulder surgery.

15. UTAH STATE (9-1, 19)

Neemias Queta is back, which means that we can finally start to see the Aggies that we have been expecting to see since last March. When healthy, this is a dangerous group.

16. SETON HALL (6-3, 16)

The status of Sandro Mamukelashvili, who may have broken a bone in his wrist, is much more important than losing on the road at Iowa State. Without him, Seton Hall’s ceiling takes a significant hit.

17. MEMPHIS (8-1, 20)

Memphis just keeps winning without James Wiseman. On Saturday, they erased a 20 point deficit on the road against a pretty decent UAB team.

18. BUTLER (9-0, NR)

The most underrated team in college basketball right now, the Bulldogs picked off Florida in Hinkle this weekend after going into Oxford and beating Ole Miss.

19. TENNESSEE (7-1, 22)

The Vols have only played one game since returning from the Emerald Coast Classic. They get Memphis on Saturday. Buckle up.

20. VIRGINIA (8-1, 7)

The Wahoos can’t score. When you go from having Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter to Kihei Clark, Kody Stattman and Mamadi Diakite, you are going to take a step back.

21. NORTH CAROLINA (6-3, 11)

I’m not sure what to do with North Carolina. On the one hand, they looked awful this week. On the other hand, they’re a young team still learning how they are going to play that had to go up against the two best defensive teams in college basketball.

22. XAVIER (9-1, 24)

Xavier’s win over Cincinnati on Saturday should force you to take notice. All the people that Travis Steele bought beers for certainly did.

23. PURDUE (6-3, NR)

Purdue gave up 84 points in two games this weekend against Virginia and Northwestern. Matt Painter might be able to get to the NCAA tournament with my men’s league team.

24. FLORIDA STATE (7-2, 21)

Just when I was starting to buy in to the Florida State hype they go out and lose by 14 at Indiana, who promptly goes and loses by 20 to Wisconsin. I don’t know anymore.

25. MARQUETTE (7-2, NR)

I’ve been impressed with Marquette defensively. If you can guard and you have two players that are as good at getting a bucket as Markus Howard and Koby McEwen, you have a chance to win a bunch of games.

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 18 Butler, No. 23 Purdue, No. 25 Marquette
DROPPED OUT: No. 14 Michigan State, No. 23 Florida, No. 25 Colorado

Three Things To Know: The state of Indiana had a better night than Michigan

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On paper, it looked like tonight was going to be one of the best nights of the college hoops season.

Louisville-Michigan and Duke-Michigan State headlining a slate with a handful of other high-major showdowns? Yes, please.

The only problem?

None of the games that were worth watching ended up being, you know, worth watching.

Here are the three things you need to know from Tuesday’s college hoops action.


Indiana made a statement on Tuesday night.

The Hoosiers entered the ACC/Big Ten Challenge with an undefeated record, but there wasn’t much substance to their seven wins. The only team ranked in the top 175 on KenPom was No. 83 Louisiana Tech, and they had yet to leave the friendly confines of Assembly Hall.

But on Tuesday, No. 17 Florida State came to town and the Hoosiers ran them off the floor. Indiana used a 13-2 run in the final four minutes to blow open what had become a close game and take home an 80-64 win. The Seminoles had entered this game on a high note. They were coming off of wins over Tennessee and Purdue. They had won the Emerald Coast Classic. They were ranked. They were rolling, and then they ran into Archie Miller’s buzzsaw.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this yet. Indiana is ranked No. 20 on KenPom, but their marquee win came against a team that was in a prime letdown spot, returning from a November tournament that they had won.

Time will tell, but at this point we need to start paying more attention to the Hoosiers.

The same can be said for Butler, although I do think that we already knew the Bulldogs were pretty good. Before they went into Oxford and picked off Ole Miss, Butler had beaten Minnesota, Missouri and Stanford, the latter of which came in the Hall Of Fame Classic in Kansas City. This probably wasn’t even the most impressive win of their season.

But it did get them to 8-0.


I mentioned it earlier, but the standout games in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the games that we all were just so excited to watch, ended up being busts.

Louisville and Michigan never got going. They only cracked 100 points combined because Michigan fouled, down 13, with 19 seconds left. Michigan shot just 25.9 percent from the field. Louisville checked in at a crisp 36.7 percent. It was a rockfight, but one that Louisville, who had not been tested yet this season, needed to win. And they did so fairly easily.

Duke did the same thing to Michigan State, and while I think we all could have seen Louisville’s win coming, I’m not sure anyone predicted that the Blue Devils would go into East Lansing and go full hammertime. They were up by 16 points in the first half, but 20 in the second half and, outside of a 9-1 spurt to open the second half, were never actually tested.

Considering the way Duke played at home against Stephen F. Austin and Winthrop last week, and with the loss of Cassius Stanley to a leg injury, I just did not see this coming.


The Spartans were the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country this season, but after getting drubbed by Duke in East Lansing, they are now sitting at 5-3 on the season.

Those three losses?

A Duke team that lost at home to Stephen F. Austin. A Kentucky team that lost at home to Evansville. And a Virginia Tech team that was picked 14th in the ACC preseason poll. There are 15 teams in the ACC.


This is not the first time that we’ve talked about the issues that are currently plaguing the Spartans. I wrote a column about it just last week, and many of the things that were evident then are still evident now. This will, by no means, be a quick fix for Tom Izzo.

What’s wild about this, however, is that the biggest reason for the issues that Spartans are facing is that they have been completely incapable of replacing senior Matt McQuaid and Kenny Goins. Those two were so important, so valuable and so underrated, even if they were hardly the biggest names on that team. McQuaid developed into a lockdown defender, a knockdown shooter and a guy that could play a little bit on the ball and allow Izzo to run Winston at the two. And Goins? We talked all about his value here.

But the single most important point to make is that those two knew their roles, and they excelled in their roles as seniors.

The guys in those roles now are freshmen and sophomores that don’t know what they’re supposed to do or how they’re supposed to do it. They don’t excel, and it’s understandable. They’re freshmen and sophomores, and if Josh Langford’s foot was healthy and Joey Hauser had actually received a waiver like seemingly every other transfer in America, they would have another year to marinate before even being asked to excel in such a large role.

So I get it.

But it doesn’t change the fact that Michigan State is suddenly in a very bad spot.

And, if we’re being frank, probably should drop out of the top 25 on Monday morning.

Nwora’s 22 points lead No. 1 Louisville past No. 4 Michigan, 58-43

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It was hyped as one of the best games that we are going to get this college basketball season, and the showdown between new No. 1 Louisville and No. 4 Michigan was anything but.

It wasn’t pretty, not in the slightest. It was one of the ugliest basketball games that you are going to watch this season. It didn’t look a battle of top ten teams, it was the personification of what everyone in America thought Virginia basketball has been for the last half-decade. It was what Sloth from The Goonies is to iconic movie characters. It was as aesthetically pleasing as Jabba the Hut. 

And the best part about it, at least if you are Louisville head coach Chris Mack, is that pretty doesn’t show up anywhere in the win-loss column.

The Cardinals simply overwhelmed Michigan. The Wolverines had five points with seven minutes left in the first half. They didn’t reach double-figures until Isaiah Livers hit their first three of the game with 3:43 left in the half. As a team, they shot 25.9 percent from the floor and just 3-for-19 from three. Outside of Jon Teske and Zavier Simpson – who were a pedestrian 10-for-29 from the field, the rest of the Wolverines managed just a 5-for-29 shooting night.

That’s how you lose 58-43 as the No. 4 team in America.

And we’ll get to Michigan in a second.

Because I think there are some things that we need to discuss there.

But I want to make it clear: This win was about Louisville. The reason that the Wolverines struggled offensively were because of the defense the Cardinals played. Louisville is long and athletic and versatile. Michigan missed a number of open looks down the stretch, but the reason for that is because Louisville never allowed them to get into any kind of a rhythm.

This is important.

Chris Mack is one of college basketball’s best offensive minds. He has a favorite for National Player of the Year on his roster in Jordan Nwora. It was pretty safe to assume that the Cardinals were going to be able to score this year, even with the questions we have about their point guard play. At some point, you just trusted that good coaching ensure that Louisville would be fine.

But entering Tuesday night, Louisville was No. 2 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric, and I think there is a virtual certainty that number regresses as the season moves on. Louisville started the night with three players shooting better than 50 percent from three. That just isn’t sustainable, and even with some of the early success that he has had, I’m not convinced Darius Perry is the answer at the point. Michigan proved as much. The Wolverines are a real defense, as opposed to the seven sub-75 opponents that Louisville had feasted on to start the season. It’s not all that surprising, then, that they managed 58 points on 65 possessions while shooting 36.7 percent from the floor and 4-for-19 from three.

I say that to say this: I think that if Louisville can defend the way that they defended against Michigan, that’s the difference between being one of the best teams in college basketball in a year where No. 1 is a revolving door and truly setting themselves apart as the nation’s best.

The question then becomes whether or not this performance was matchup based.

Louisville did a terrific job defending Michigan’s ball-screen offense. Their length bothered Zavier Simpson, it took away passing lanes and it forced Michigan to play more 1-on-1 than they are comfortable with. Put another way, Simpson had been averaging nearly 10 assists per game by himself entering Tuesday night. As a team, Michigan finished with just six assists against Louisville.

It was a clinic.

But this is also a Michigan team that had just spent a bunch of time in the Bahamas. They had just played three games in three days, two of which came against top ten teams. The third game was on Friday. They had to fly back to Michigan before flying to Louisville for this game, which comes in the first game that the Cardinals were ranked No. 1 after everything that happened with the end of the Rick Pitino era.

I’ll say it again: This was the first meaningful game that the Cardinals have played all season long. They were fired up. They were ready to prove themselves to the country. This was a pretty clear letdown spot for the Wolverines.

So while it is very impressive that Louisville smothered Michigan to the point that a battle of top five teams was only competitive for the first five minutes of both halves, I am nowhere near ready to leap off of the Michigan bandwagon.

Best Bets: Previewing Michigan-Louisville and Michigan State-Duke

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No. 4 MICHIGAN at No. 1 LOUISVILLE, 7:30 p.m. ET

  • SPREAD: Louisville (-5.5)
  • TOTAL: 140
  • IMPLIED SCORE: Louisville 72.75, Michigan 67.25
  • KENPOM: Louisville 72, Michigan 64
  • TICKETS: Click here

Before we get into the actual basketball, we have to tackle the narratives.

Because there are quite a few.

For starters, this is a battle of top five teams in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but we all expected the top five show down to be the game that is being played later. So that’s fun, almost as fun as the new No. 1 team in the country – Louisville – taking on the team that was the trendy pick to receive that honor after winning the Battle 4 Atlantis – Michigan. And that is before you get into the stuff that doesn’t involve both teams: Like Chris Mack getting Louisville back to a No. 1 ranking in a year and a half, or Juwan Howard coaching the biggest game of his Wolverine tenure less than a month in.

This is what sports talk radio dreams of.

And then there is the actual matchup itself, which is even more interesting.

For me, the guy that nerds out about this stuff, the key to this game is going to come down to two things, and both involve Zavier Simpson.

Let’s start with the offensive side of the ball for Michigan, where Howard has really not changed all that much in terms of what Michigan does. He’s added some of his own wrinkles and flavor into the Michigan offense, but the truth is that the Wolverines are still one of the most ball-screen reliant teams in college basketball, and they are still running quite a few of the same sets that Beilein brought with him to Ann Arbor.

And they are great at this. I’ve mentioned it over and over again in the last week. Simpson and Jon Teske are both really good at what they are asked to do in ball-screens, and when you surround them with guys that are making 50 percent of their threes … good luck.

Where this gets interesting is that Chris Mack is, along with Tony Bennett and Sean Miller, one of the foremost proponents of the Pack-Line Defense in college basketball, and one of the tenets of the Pack-Line is hedging ball-screens hard. This is, in theory, the exact opposite of the way you want to defend someone like Simpson, whose shooting is not exactly a strength but who is an exceptional passer. We’ll see how that plays out.

On the other side of the ball, the biggest question mark for the Cardinals this season is and always has been the point guard spot. Freshman David Johnson is back, but he’s playing limited minutes, which means that it is still Darius Perry leading the way with Fresh Kimble working as his primary backup. None of that is ideal when going up against an on-ball defender like Simpson, especially when Michigan is one of the teams in the country that can match up with both Louisville’s size and athleticism.

Another key: The matchup at the four. Isaiah Livers is bigger, strong and more athletic than Jordan Nwora, but Nwora has beaten guys that are bigger, stronger and more athletic before.

But to be frank, at this point in the year, I think that a lot of that matchup stuff can be thrown out the window. Chris Mack is one of the best coaches in college basketball and he has a staff that can tweak what they do to tailer it to a specific game-plan.

And while I think Michigan is the best team in the country, they did play three games in three days over the Thanksgiving holiday, and after flying home from the Bahamas have to turn around and fly into Louisville. That’s strenuous.

PICK: This line opened at Michigan (+7) and is already down to Michigan (+5.5) as of this writing. It will be interesting to see where it ends up closing. I would probably lean Michigan (+5.5).

No. 10 DUKE at No. 11 MICHIGAN STATE, 9:30 p.m. ET

  • SPREAD: Michigan State (-6)
  • TOTAL: 146.5
  • IMPLIED SCORE: Michigan State 76.25, Duke 70.25
  • KENPOM: Michigan State 75, Duke 70
  • TICKETS: Click here

I think that Michigan State should be able to win pretty easily here, and there are a couple of reasons for that.

Michigan State runs a ton of ball-screens, and Duke has struggled to defend those actions this year, especially against Stephen F. Austin. Michigan State has the size inside to deal with Vernon Carey. Duke does not have the shooting to spread them out the way that Virginia Tech did.

But the biggest concern for Michigan State here is not how they matchup with Duke, it’s whether or not Tom Izzo will buy into the way they need to play if they want to be at their best. Duke is, at the very least, going to try and spread them out, and if Izzo insists on playing Thomas Kithier, Julian Marble and Marcus Bingham at the four, I think he’ll be playing a suboptimal lineup. For my money, Michigan State’s best five will have Cassius Winston, Xavier Tillman and Aaron Henry on the floor with two of Rocket Watts, Kyle Ahrens and Gabe Brown.

We’ll see how often we see that group.

PICK: Michigan State has already gone from (-5) to (-6). Get it as quick as possible.

CBT Podcast: Monday’s Overreactions on Michigan, Maryland and overrating Maui

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Rob Dauster and Bobby Reagan are back to overreact to everything that happened in college basketball over the course of the holiday weekend, from the Battle 4 Atlantis to the Maui Invitational to the runs made by Maryland and Florida State.

Here is the rundown:

OPEN: Sunday Nightcap and the IPA of the Day

11:00: Michigan is the best team in the country

24:45: The Maui Invitational results always get overrated

31:30: Maryland is awesome, and so is Markus Howard

51:00: The ACC/Big Ten Challenge is going to be awesome

Bracketology: Michigan State headlines opening Field of 68

AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Every Selection Sunday journey begins somewhere.  This year, that somewhere is East Lansing.

To no one’s surprise, Michigan State headlines our preseason edition of Bracketology.  The Spartans have the talent, experience and depth to reach another Final Four.

MSU is joined at the top of the bracket by Kentucky, Louisville and Kansas.  A host of other familiar names are close behind: Duke, Florida, Gonzaga, Maryland and North Carolina.  Other top four seeds include reigning National Champion Virginia and runner-up Texas Tech.

From there, the bracket is an open canvas.

The Big East figures to be a gauntlet – with seven or even eight teams in the mix.  The Atlantic 10 and American conferences should place multiple teams in the field; both leagues are deeper than a year ago.  It’s also highly likely that the Pac-12 returns to a more normal five or six bids.

Considering those points, and factoring in some capable at-large mid-majors, the odds of a power conference harnessing eight (or more) bids seems unlikely.  At this point, on paper at least, expect a more balanced bracket come March.


MIDWEST REGION Arizona State vs. Illinois
WEST REGION Ole Miss vs. Notre Dame

MIDWEST Indianapolis   EAST – New York                 
Cleveland Cleveland
8) NC State 8) Washington
9) Creighton 9) Florida State
Sacramento Tampa
5) Arizona 5) Baylor
4) Xavier 4) Villanova
Greensboro St. Louis
6) Houston 6) Saint Mary’s
11) Arizona St / Illinois 11) Texas
3) North Carolina 3) Ohio State
Tampa Greensboro
7) Davidson 7) Auburn
10) Wisconsin 10) Iowa State
2) Florida 2) Duke
WEST – Los Angeles SOUTH – Houston
Omaha St. Louis
8) Marquette 8) Colorado
9) Cincinnati 9) Providence
Sacramento Omaha
5) Purdue 5) MEMPHIS
4) Virginia 4) Texas Tech
Spokane Albany
11) Ole Miss / Notre Dame 11) Michigan
Spokane Albany
7) Tennessee 7) VCU
10) Dayton 10) Alabama
2) GONZAGA 2) Maryland

Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Iowa State Ole Miss Georgetown Georgia
Alabama Illinois USC Iowa
Texas Arizona State Oklahoma State South Florida
Michigan Notre Dame Wichita State Mississippi State

TOP SEED LINE: Michigan State is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Kentucky, Louisville and Kansas

Breakdown by Conference …

Big 10 (7): MICHIGAN STATE, Maryland, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois

SEC (7): KENTUCKY, Florida, LSU, Auburn, Tennessee, Alabama, Ole Miss

ACC (7): LOUISVILLE, Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, NC State, Florida State, Notre Dame

Big East (6): SETON HALL, Villanova, Xavier, Marquette, Providence, Creighton

BIG 12 (5): KANSAS, Texas Tech, Baylor, Iowa State, Texas

Pac 12 (5): OREGON, Arizona, Colorado, Washington, Arizona State

American (3): MEMPHIS, Houston, Cincinnati

Atlantic 10 (3): VCU, Davidson, Dayton

West Coast (2): GONZAGA, Saint Mary’s

Mountain West (1): UTAH STATE


Bracketing principles: read them for yourself at