- How does the college basketball look as the calendar turns to the final month of 2017? The season's first edition of our weekly Power Rankings resets the Top 25.
Welcome to SI.com’s weekly college basketball power rankings, which will take a closer look at 25 of the country’s best teams (and keep a running a mid-major top five as well). With the Thanksgiving tournaments in the rearview mirror and conference play fast approaching, we know enough to make some preliminary conclusions about the teams many thought were good enough to play deep into March.
* = game played at a neutral site
1. Duke (8–0)
Last Week: beat Portland State, beat Texas, beat No. 6 Florida
Next Week: at Indiana, vs. South Dakota, vs. St. Francis PA
The Blue Devils own the best win of this young season in the form of their 88–81 Champions Classic triumph over Michigan State that came largely sans Marvin Bagley III. Duke was able to handle the Spartans without its highly talented freshman, but Bagley showed at the PK80 Invitational just how immensely valuable he is, pouring in back-to-back games of 15 rebounds and 30-plus points to lead wins over Texas and Florida. Per Kenpom, he has taken 28.6% of Duke’s shots when on the floor so far; the next closest is Grayson Allen, at 22.0%. The last Blue Devil to take that high a percentage of shots over a full season was Jabari Parker (32.3%) back in 2013–14, so it will be interesting to see whether that number holds up for Bagley as this young team around him grows.
2. Villanova (6–0)
Last Week: beat Western Kentucky, beat Tennessee, beat Northern Iowa
Next Week: vs. Penn, at Saint Joseph’s, vs. No. 15 Gonzaga*
The Wildcats had to be a little disappointed that neither a semifinal against Purdue nor a final against Arizona materialized at the Battle 4 Atlantis, but they took care of business to win the tournament and did pick up a top-40 Kenpom and RPI win with their victory over the Vols. More importantly, junior Mikal Bridges continued his breakout start to the season despite the competition taking a step up. Bridges’s shot distribution has been largely the same as his sophomore season, but two key things are different: He’s doing it on a larger scale, and he’s shooting better from the floor. Whether he can keep up his hot shooting (70.6% efficient field-goal percentage, 50.0% three-point percentage) will be something to watch.
3. Michigan State (5–1)
Last Week: beat DePaul, beat UConn, beat No. 13 North Carolina
Next Week: vs. No. 5 Notre Dame, vs. Nebraska, at Rutgers
The Spartans’ defensive performance in their 63–45 win over UNC on Sunday was so good that they were able to cruise by 18 points despite committing a whopping 24 turnovers and shooting just 40%. Just about every Tar Heel had a bad day offensively, most notably Luke Maye. Maye had been carving up opposing defenses to start the season but shot just 3-of-13 from the floor Sunday. The Spartans—especially Jaren Jackson Jr.—defended him excellently, forcing him into tough shots and denying him the ball. In his 28-point-performance against Arkansas, Maye was able to attempt 10 shots in or just outside the paint. Against the Spartans, the number was six—and he only made three.
4. Texas A&M (6–0)
Last Week: beat Pepperdine, beat No. 14 USC
Next Week: vs. UT Rio Grande Valley at Arizona (in Phoenix)
The Aggies should’ve been on everyone’s radar after they dominated West Virginia without Robert Williams in their opener in Germany, but if you haven’t been paying attention, they haven’t slowed down. On Sunday, they took on then-top 10 USC and handed the Trojans a 16-point home loss. Sandwiched between those results were solid neutral court wins over Oklahoma State and Penn State, meaning Texas A&M—before the end of November—already owns four top-50 Kenpom wins. The Aggies have so far played the strongest schedule of any team from the top six conferences and have emerged unscathed, and they’ll get a chance at yet another good win next week against Arizona (even if the Wildcats have lost some of their shine).
5. Florida (5–1)
Last Week: beat Stanford, beat No. 15 Gonzaga, lost to No. 1 Duke
Next Week: vs. Florida State
The Gators made probably the biggest (positive) statement of a team that didn’t win its Thanksgiving week tournament, outlasting Gonzaga in a double-overtime thriller before taking No. 1 Duke down to the wire in a narrow loss. Florida’s offense is legit, already topping the 100-point mark three times (one game went to double OT) and ranking eighth in the country in three-point percentage. The Gators can really get up and down the floor and bury teams in transition, and they’ve been excellent so far at taking care of the basketball. In hanging with the Blue Devils, Florida proved it belongs among the nation’s best.
6. Kansas (6–0)
Last Week: beat Oakland, beat Toledo
Next Week: vs. Syracuse*
The Jayhawks are an interesting case right now. Highly-touted freshman Billy Preston has still yet to suit up as the school continues to hold him out while looking into a financial situation. Meanwhile, senior Devonte’ Graham finally broke out against Toledo on Tuesday after struggling to find his shot over Kansas’s first six games. After posting an efficient field-goal percentage of just 41.8% (for context, his percentage last season was 55.6%) and connecting on only eight of his first 28 three-point attempts, Graham rang up 35 points on 14 of 19 shooting against the Rockets’ porous D. If Graham has officially broken out of his slump, this Jayhawks team could really kick things into gear.
7. Notre Dame (6–0)
Last Week: beat LSU, beat No. 8 Wichita State
Next Week: at No. 3 Michigan State, vs. St. Francis (NY), vs. Ball State
After gutting out an impressive comeback win over Wichita State in Maui, the Irish have had a week to prepare for their biggest test yet in Michigan State. Notre Dame is in the rare position of having a chance to earn back-to-back wins over top-10 teams, but it won’t be easy. The battle down low between Bonzie Colson and Martinas Geben and the Spartans’ Nick Ward and Jaren Jackson Jr. should be fascinating, but the key for the Irish may lie in backcourt duo Matt Farrell and T.J. Gibbs. Michigan State’s Achilles’ heel so far has been taking care of the ball, an area Notre Dame excels in.
8. Wichita State (5–1)
Last Week: lost to No.5 Notre Dame, beat Savannah State
Next Week: at No. 16 Baylor, vs. South Dakota State
The Shockers blew a 16-point lead in the aforementioned loss to Notre Dame, part of a Jekyll and Hyde performance across three days at the Maui Invitational. Wichita State showed how explosive its offense can be in its 54-point second half against Cal, and then its defense held the high-powered Irish offense to just 23 points in the first half of that game. But things fell apart when the Shockers couldn’t crack Notre Dame’s 2–3 zone in the second half as the Irish stole the win. With Baylor looming on Sunday, the Shockers—who are still without Markis McDuffie—will get another big test against a zone soon.
9. Kentucky (6–1)
Last Week: beat Troy, beat Fort Wayne, beat Illinois-Chicago
Next Week: vs. Harvard
Calling the Wildcats young feels like an understatement. They start five freshmen and rank dead last in the country in experience, so it was almost a guarantee that they would go through growing pains even with all that five-star talent. For that reason, it’s going to be hard to know exactly how good this Kentucky team can be for a bit. This isn’t a team that’s likely to beat you from the perimeter—just 20.6% of the Wildcats’ shot attempts to date have been three-pointers, the lowest mark in the country, per Hoop-Math. Wing Kevin Knox has emerged as a dependable option both for the offense and for John Calipari—he’s leading the team in scoring (16.1 ppg) and playing by far the heaviest minutes.
10. Minnesota (7–0)
Last Week: beat UMass, beat No. 24 Alabama
Next Week: vs. Miami, vs. Rutgers, at Nebraska
The Gophers were one half of one of the most bizarre games in college basketball history on Saturday when their marquee matchup with Alabama turned into a five-on-three mess. It’s hard to ding Minnesota much for its near-meltdown despite having a two-player advantage, as the situation was so improbable that coach Richard Pitino admitted his team had never really prepared for the scenario. The most concerning aspect is probably just the number of jump shots the Gophers settled for—but again, it’s ultimately just a 10-minute span that went awry. When Alabama was at full strength, however, Minnesota played well, building as much as an 18-point lead. After their date with Miami Wednesday, the Gophers get a rather favorable start to Big Ten play.
11. North Carolina (5–1)
Last Week: beat Portland, beat Arkansas, lost to No. 3 Michigan State
Up Next: vs. Michigan, vs. Davidson*, vs. Tulane
The Tar Heels’ offense ran into a buzzsaw in Michigan State, posting the lowest field-goal percentage (24.6%) in program history and scoring a dismal 0.62 points per possession. The question now is if this can be chalked up to a bad night against a great team or reason for real concern going forward. UNC cruised offensively against decent competition before Sunday, but the Spartans were able to slow the Heels down and stymie them in the half court. North Carolina notched 21 points off 24 Michigan State turnovers, meaning only 53% of its scoring on the night wasn’t off an opposing miscue. UNC won’t face a defense like the Spartans for a while, but other teams will surely try to take notes from Michigan State.
12. Gonzaga (5–1)
Last Week: beat Ohio State, lost to No. 6 Florida (2OT), beat Texas (OT)
Next Week: vs. Incarnate Word, vs. No. 25 Creighton, vs. No. 4 Villanova*
What national title game appearance hangover? The Zags are reloaded and already making everyone who thought this was the year Saint Mary’s would win the WCC look like fools. Their double-overtime loss to Florida was probably the best game of the season so far, and the Gators went on to nearly knock off Duke. The Bulldogs didn’t get that marquee win, but they impressed at the PK80 and get a crack at Villanova next week. Johnathan Williams and Josh Perkins are making the most of their larger roles in the offense, and Williams looked like a star in his 39-point, 12-rebound effort against Florida.
13. Cincinnati (7–0)
Last Week: beat Richmond, beat Wyoming, beat Alabama State
Next Week: at No. 21 Xavier
The Bearcats flew largely under the radar during last year’s 30-win season, but an improved American conference spearheaded by the addition of Wichita State should help them garner more attention this time. Cincinnati has a chance to make a major statement in December: Starting Saturday, it has a four-game run against crosstown rival Xavier, Florida, Mississippi State and UCLA. The Musketeers and Gators both boast top-10 efficient offenses that will collide with the Bearcats’ elite defense. One particularly intriguing matchup to watch in the Crosstown Shootout is the battle inside the paint: Xavier leads the nation in two-point percentage, while Cincinnati is second in two-point defense.
14. Miami (5–0)
Last Week: beat LaSalle, beat North Florida
Next Week: at No. 12 Minnesota, vs. Princeton, vs. Boston University
It’s hard to glean much from the Hurricanes’ season so far, as they’ve yet to play a team inside the Kenpom top 100 (that will change Wednesday night against Minnesota). Defense has been a major strength, with Miami holding opponents to the lowest effective field-goal percentage in the nation (38.7%), albeit against weak competition. Something that’s been surprising so far has been the role of Lonnie Walker. The highly-touted freshman, who had surgery over the summer for a knee injury, has only scored 10 points once in five games and has been used on just 15% of Miami possessions when on the floor, the lowest mark among the team’s rotation. Will he grow into a larger role going forward?
15. Arizona State (6–0)
Last Week: beat Kansas State, beat No. 21 Xavier
This Week: vs. San Francisco
The Pac-12 has had a rough start to the season overall, but a big November bright spot for the conference has been the Sun Devils. ASU wasn’t in SI’s preseason projected NCAA tournament field, but it has already impressed with wins over San Diego State, Kansas State and, most notably, Xavier by 16 point on a neutral court. The Sun Devils are lighting up the scoreboard, scoring at least 90 points in all six games so far, ranking 11th in adjusted offensive efficiency, third in effective field-goal percentage (63.4%) and 15th in three-point percentage (43.0%). Why should you believe in Arizona State? Even if that shooting isn’t sustainable, this is a veteran-led squad with a talented senior backcourt in Tra Holder and Shannon Evans that appears to have added exactly the right pieces.
16. Virginia (7–0)
Last Week: beat Vanderbilt, beat Rhode Island, beat Wisconsin
Next Week: vs. Lehigh, at No. 19 West Virginia
The Cavaliers put on a defensive clinic against the Badgers on Monday night, holding them to just 37 points—0.65 per possession—on 31.3% shooting. Virginia’s defense looks as strong as ever, having yet to allow more than 67 points in a game, holding six of its seven opponents to under 1.0 point per possession and holding opponents to 40.6% shooting. The offense is more of a work in progress; it had some troubles against a pretty good Wisconsin defense and will face a major challenge when the Hoos travel to Morgantown next week to face West Virginia and its press.
17. USC (4–1)
Last Week: beat Lehigh, lost to No. 9 Texas A&M
This Week: at SMU
The Trojans were another team that had a dismal offensive performance on Sunday, hitting just 29.5% of their shots inside the arc and 25.9% outside of it against a Texas A&M team that has been markedly improved on defense so far. As good as the Aggies have been to start the season, losing by 16 at home was far from an encouraging result for a veteran USC team. Additionally, it took overtime and a heroic performance from senior Jordan McLaughlin for the Trojans to defeat Vanderbilt in OT on the road. USC could use sophomore guard De'Anthony Melton, a strong defender and glue-guy type who has been held out this season in connection to the college basketball FBI investigation.
18. Xavier (6–1)
Last Week: beat George Washington, lost to No. 20 Arizona State, beat No. 16 Baylor
This Week: vs. No. 11 Cincinnati
The Musketeers rebounded nicely from their loss to the Sun Devils with a double-digit home win over Baylor. Xavier’s offense is clicking big-time right now, with the fifth-best effective field-goal percentage in the country and seventh-best offense in adjusted efficiency. A big part of that has been senior JP Macura, who’s having an excellent start to the season. Per Kenpom, he currently ranks among the top 100 players in offensive rating, efficient field-goal percentage, true shooting percentage and two-point percentage. It will be tough for him to keep up that pace, as all of those are all way up from what he recorded as a junior, but even a more modest improvement over the long run could be pivotal for this Musketeers team.
19. West Virginia (6–1)
Last Week: beat Marist, beat UCF, beat Missouri
Next Week: vs. NJIT, vs. Virginia
After a rude awakening to the season, the Mountaineers have won six straight (and are poised to make it seven) ahead of their showdown with Virginia next week. WVU hasn’t faced top competition since the Texas A&M loss, but it decimated a pretty decent UCF team last week. Then on Sunday, Press Virginia did what it does best to rally back from a 16-point deficit to Missouri with just over seven minutes remaining: It forced turnovers. The Mountaineers got the Tigers to cough the ball up nine times in a critical four-minute span, then officially took the lead on a late three by Jevon Carter. The nature of the comeback was a good reminder of why this team is always dangerous.
20. Texas Tech (6–0)
Last Week: beat Wofford, beat Savannah State
Next Week: vs. Seton Hall*, vs. Nevada
One of the most eye-opening results of November was the Red Raiders’ 85–49 destruction of a ranked Northwestern team a couple weeks ago. The win was a showcase for senior point guard Keenan Evans, who hit four of five threes on his way to a game-high 25 points. But what could really make a difference this season for Texas Tech, which is coming off a 6–12 mark in Big 12 play, is an improved defense. It’s early, but right now the Red Raiders’ D has been top-10 in adjusted efficiency and is holding opponents to just a 38.9% effective FG percentage. Outside of the Wildcats, the competition has been weak, but upcoming games against Seton Hall and Nevada will be good measuring sticks.
21. Baylor (5–1)
Last Week: beat No. 25 Creighton, lost to No. 21 Xavier
This Week: vs. No. 8 Wichita State, vs. Sam Houston State
The Bears suffered their first loss at Xavier Tuesday night, but a pair of neutral-court wins over Wisconsin and Creighton made their November a success. After a sizzling start to the season, senior guard Manu Lecomte had a pair of so-so games against ranked foes. Lecomte had two turnovers and no assists with 11 points against Xavier and was outplayed by counterpart Quentin Goodin, who not only helped keep Lecomte at bay but also doled out nine assists without a turnover. Baylor can’t afford to have its senior point guard have too many off nights, and he’s going to have to adjust better against future opponents that have the defensive length of the Musketeers.
22. TCU (6–0)
Last Week: beat New Mexico, beat St. Bonaventure
This Week: vs. Belmont, vs. Yale, vs. SMU
The Horned Frogs have now won 11-straight dating back to last season as they look to parlay their NIT win into bigger things in 2017–18. TCU brought back much of its production, setting the expectations for its first NCAA tournament bid in 19 years. Like some others on this list, it’s hard to really gauge right now how much this team may have improved, as the Horned Frogs have yet to play a top-70 opponent. But they’ve taken care of business despite the fact that two weaknesses from last year—offensive turnovers and free-throw shooting—appear to still be an issue.
23. Purdue (6–2)
Last Week: lost to Tennessee, lost to Western Kentucky, beat Arizona, beat No. 17 Louisville
This Week: at Maryland, vs. Northwestern
The Boilermakers looked like the team everyone expected them to be when they outlasted Louisville in a defensive slugfest Tuesday night, an important win for them (and the Big Ten) after their showing at the Battle 4 Atlantis. How about freshman Matt Haarms? The 7' 3" center has been a pleasant and valuable surprise for Purdue so far, giving Matt Painter the ability to substitute 7' 2" Isaac Haas with another capable 7-footer. Haarms already has 25 blocks on the season (3.13 per game) and his 16.2% block rate ranks 10th among all Division I players.
24. Louisville (4–1)
Last Week: beat St. Francis (PA), lost to Purdue
Next Week: vs. Seton Hall
The Cardinals got their first test of the season in a tough road environment in West Lafayette, coming up short in the final minutes. It was not a good night for point guard Quentin Snider, who turned the ball over four times and scored just three points on six shots across 39 minutes. The senior has been a bit slow to get going this season and is shooting just 31.6% of the floor, though he’s certainly not the only Cardinal who’s struggling in that area. Freshman Darius Perry has shown some good flashes so far as the backup at point, but in atmospheres like Mackey Arena coach David Padgett is going to want to be able to lean on his senior.
25. Alabama (5–1)
Last Week: beat UT Arlington, beat BYU, lost to No. 12 Minnesota
This Week: vs. Louisiana Tech, vs. UCF
The other side of Minnesota’s inability to capitalize on its two-player advantage on Saturday was star freshman Collin Sexton nearly single-handedly willing his team to a comeback. Sexton poured in 40 points on 22 shots, the latest in his strong start to the season. Lost in that, though, was that the Crimson Tide were getting nearly run off the floor for most of the game before the chaos broke out. With Sexton, John Petty and Dazon Ingram leading the way, this is a very talented Alabama team, but like Kentucky, it’s also an extremely young one that has plenty of growing to do.
NEXT FIVE OUT: Creighton, Arkansas, Texas, Nevada, Seton Hall.
(For this exercise, the definition of ‘mid-major’ is any team outside the Power 5, Big East, American and Atlantic-10.)
1. Gonzaga: The Zags already look ahead of schedule ,despite what they lost from their national title runner-up team.
2. Nevada: The Wolf Pack are 6–0 with wins that include Rhode Island and Davidson. Games against Texas Tech and TCU next week will be big tests.
3. Northern Iowa: The Panthers had a very successful showing at the Battle 4 Atlantis, defeating SMU and NC State and playing a tight first half against No. 4 Villanova in the final.
4. UT Arlington: The Mavericks gave a good Alabama team a run for its money in a one-point loss and own a double-digit road win over BYU.
5. Vermont: The Catamounts opened the season with a three-point loss to Kentucky at Rupp and have gone 5–0 since.