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  • After five top-25 teams lost to unranked opponents, this week's rankings saw some movement, including Wichita State's tumble out of the top five.
By Molly Geary
December 20, 2017

We’re back with the latest edition of the SI.com college basketball power rankings. The carnage from Saturday made the biggest ripple in this week’s rankings, which saw Wichita State tumble out of the top five. We’ve got just one week until conference play officially begins en masse, which should bring a whole new level of unpredictability to this season. Until then, here’s our new top 25, plus five mid-major teams on the rise:

1. Villanova (11–0)

Last Week (1): beat Temple
Next Week: at Hofstra

The Wildcats had no problem on the road against a Temple team that had previously defeated Auburn, Clemson, South Carolina and Wisconsin this season. Check out the stat line redshirt freshman Omari Spellman had against the Owls: 27 points, eight rebounds, two assists, one steal and one turnover in 28 minutes, while converting on all seven of his shots inside the arc and hitting 4 of 7 from behind it. It was the most productive game of the big man’s young career and reflected how he’s heated up from distance of late, making 11 of his last 17 three-point attempts. Additionally, according to Synergy Sports data, Spellman is scoring 1.706 points per possession (PPP) on spot-up attempts, which leads Villanova and ranks 31st in the country.

2. Michigan State (11–1)

Last Week (2): beat Oakland, beat Houston Baptist
Next Week: vs. Long Beach State

The Spartans currently lead the nation in three key defensive statistics: effective field-goal percentage, two-point percentage and block percentage. All are areas they were pretty solid in despite a disappointing year last season, but the biggest change of the three in 2017–18 has been their block percentage, which has risen from 11.9% to 21.3%. A big reason for that improvement has been freshman Jaren Jackson, whose 14.4% mark not only leads the team but ranks 10th in the nation. Against an undersized Houston Baptist team Monday night Jackson racked up six of the team’s 16 blocks, with Nick Ward adding four.

3. Arizona State (11–0)

Last Week (3): beat Vanderbilt, beat Longwood
Next Week: vs. Pacific

As the Sun Devils continued to roll to a perfect 11–0 start, a user on Reddit pointed out something interesting: In its win over Vanderbilt on Sunday, ASU didn’t attempt a single mid-range jumper. Is this the norm for Arizona State? Per Hoop-Math.com, just 16.7% of the Sun Devils’ shot attempts on the season have been two-point jumpers, which ranks 328th in the country. The vast majority of their shots have come either at the rim (42.2%), where they’re hitting 64.0%, or from behind the arc (41.1%), where they’re shooting 39.3%. But what Arizona State is doing more than the vast majority of other teams is getting to the free-throw line. Nearly a quarter of its points have come from there, which ranks 13th nationally, and they have the third-best free-throw rate. So while ASU sometimes seems like a team that lives and dies by the three, it’s also been doing a good job of getting to the rim whether the treys are falling or not.

4. Duke (11–1)

Last Week (4): OFF
Next Week: vs. Evansville

The Blue Devils have had a week to reset from their surprising loss to Boston College before taking on Evansville in their final tune-up opportunity before the traditional start of ACC play.

5. North Carolina (10–1)

Last Week (7): beat Tennessee
Next Week: vs. Wofford, vs. Ohio State*

With so many questions surrounding their frontcourt before the season, it seemed reasonable to think the Tar Heels wouldn’t be the formidable team on the offensive boards this year that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. They were losing Kennedy Meeks, who posted the country’s 10th-best offensive rebounding rate, as well as Isaiah Hicks and Justin Jackson, leaving a lot of uncertainty. But behind the emergence of Luke Maye, who leads the team in both overall rebounding (10.3 per game) and offensive rebounding rate, and the contributions of freshmen Garrison Brooks and Sterling Manley, UNC’s team rate has only dropped off a little so far—from 41.3% to 37.7%, good for eighth overall. In its road win over Tennessee on Sunday, it grabbed 19 offensive boards, including a combined nine from Brooks and Manley.

6. Kentucky (9–1)

Last Week (6): beat Virginia Tech
Next Week: vs. UCLA*

The Wildcats prevailed in the first game of their ramped-up schedule, using a second-half burst to handle Virginia Tech. The Hokies’ strong offense got its buckets and had an overall good shooting day both inside and outside the arc, but it fell victim to a UK press that helped force 19 turnovers—or one on every four Virginia Tech possessions on average. The Wildcats tied their season-high with 36 points off those turnovers, compared to the Hokies’ 13. SI.com’s Chris Johnson recently explained why Kentucky’s long-distance shooting will be a key factor for them this season, and it attempted a season-high 22 threes in the win, making 11 of them (including four by Hamidou Diallo, who entered the day having made six total in his previous nine games).

7. Texas A&M (10–1)

Last Week (8): beat Savannah State, beat Northern Kentucky
Next Week: vs. Buffalo

The Aggies picked up two wins in the last week, but the big news out of College Station was that junior guard Admon Gilder will miss two to three weeks after needing surgery Monday to repair a torn lateral meniscus. Gilder has been A&M’s starting shooting guard, and in his absence freshmen guards JJ Caldwell and TJ Starks will be counted on more (however, Starks sat out Tuesday’s game with leg tightness). Per KenPom, Starks is actually taking the team’s highest percentage of shots when on the floor (at 29.7%), but he’s only been averaging 15.7 minutes thus far and is shooting 33.8%. Gilder’s injury puts his status for Texas A&M’s SEC opener at Alabama on Dec. 30 in doubt, as well as potentially its key home showdown with Florida on Jan. 2 and more.

8. Xavier (11–1)

Last Week (9): beat East Tennessee State, beat Marshall
Next Week: at Northern Iowa

The Musketeers played a pair of too-close-for-comfort games against East Tennessee State and Marshall over the last week, needing a second-half rally to edge the former. That’s not overly encouraging with Xavier’s first Big East opponent sitting just a week away, but its overall body of work over nonconference play suggests those close calls won’t be predictive. The Musketeers have the talent to give Villanova a run over the next two months, but they'll need to tighten up defensively, where they currently surrender 97.9 points per 100 possessions as compared to the Wildcats’ 91.1.

9. Purdue (11–2)

Last Week (13): beat Butler
Next Week: vs. Tennessee State

The Boilermakers put a beating on in-state foe Butler at the Crossroads Classic, leading by as much as 26 at one point. In that game, 44% of their points came on two-pointers, which is only a bit below what they’ve been doing on average this season. But it’s significantly smaller when you isolate it to shots at the rim, where Purdue’s 25.5% ranks 343rd in the country, per Hoop-Math. That’s very similar to its 26.7% mark last year, but the Boilermakers are getting to the free-throw line at a much higher rate in 2017–18. This has been led by Carsen Edwards and Isaac Hass, who have taken the most trips to the line, but Vincent Edwards, Dakota Mathias and P.J. Thompson have all also seen an improved free-throw rate so far as compared to last season.

10. Miami (9–0)

Last Week (10): beat George Washington
Next Week: at Hawaii

The Hurricanes have one game left in an uninspiring nonconference slate that ranks 313th in the country in strength, but they have to their credit played multiple true road games. The bad news, though, is that their only real résumé-boosting win so far, at Minnesota, has currently lost a bit of shine. The obvious question is whether this team is battle-tested enough heading into ACC play, but the real takeaway may be that Miami is going to need to make the most of the conference schedule. It has a favorable ACC slate, only facing top contenders Duke, UNC, Virginia, Notre Dame and Louisville once—only two of which are on the road—but that makes those games all the more crucial as the ‘Canes hope to build a CV worthy of a top NCAA seed.

11. West Virginia (9–1)

Last Week (12): OFF

Next Week: vs. Coppin State, vs. Fordham

The Mountaineers had a quiet week before closing out their nonconference slate with two home games that will likely be a breeze.

12. Virginia (10–1)

Last Week (14): beat Davidson, beat Savannah State
Next Week: vs. Hampton

Devon Hall is quietly having a heck of a start to his senior season. He’s upped his scoring from 8.4 ppg to 13.3, his shooting percentage from 40.8% to 52.9% and his three-point percentage from 37.2% to 47.1%, despite taking nearly one more three per game on average. The shooting improvements hold up in more advanced stats—his effective field-goal percentage and true shooting percentage have also both seen big gains from his junior year. What may be most intriguing though are the statistical player comparisons KenPom has given for Hall’s season so far. Of the five comparisons given, one is Joe Harris’s senior year and another is Malcolm Brogdon’s senior year. Have Virginia fans ever heard of those guys?

13. Gonzaga (10–2)

Last Week (15): beat North Dakota (OT), beat IUPUI
Next Week: at San Diego State

The Zags had a big scare when they trailed North Dakota by eight with four minutes to go before winning in overtime at home on Saturday night, but they shook off any lingering concerns in a 30-point destruction of IUPUI on Tuesday. What happened against the Fighting Hawks, though? For one thing, the Bulldogs had an uncharacteristically poor shooting night until overtime, allowing their opponent to hang around. But amazingly, North Dakota was able to do something no one—not even Villanova—has done against Gonzaga this season: shoot 60% from inside the arc. It was the perfect conditions for a massive-upset-that-wasn’t.

14. Oklahoma (9–1)

Last Week (25): beat No. 11 Wichita State, beat Northwestern State
Next Week: vs. Northwestern

What a week for Trae Young and the Sooners. On Saturday, they went on the road and took down the nation’s then-third ranked team, a game in which Young scored 29. Then on Tuesday night against Northwestern State, Young scored 26 points and dished out an astounding 22 assists, tying the NCAA single-game record. His assist rate of 54.6% now leads the country, and he’s being used on 37.6% of Oklahoma’s possessions when on the floor—the second-highest mark in the country. Consider this: in Tuesday’s win, Young made nine shots from the field and five from the free-throw line in addition to the 22 dimes, the latter of which helped create 50 points. That means he was responsible for scoring or assisting on 76 of the Sooners’ 105 points in the win, or 72%.

15. TCU (11–0)

Last Week (16): beat Texas Southern
Next Week: vs. William & Mary

The Horned Frogs are ranked the lowest here of the four remaining undefeated teams, but they actually own the nation’s longest winning streak going back to their NIT title last season. They’ll enter Big 12 play having yet to play a Power 5 opponent—which is not to say that wins over SMU and Nevada weren’t quality—and will be immediately greeted with games against upstart Oklahoma, on the road at Baylor and at home vs. Kansas. The Big 12 is looking as tough and deep as ever this year (in fact, while strength of schedules vary, the only conference school with three losses is Texas), and TCU won’t be able to afford many off nights from its 12th-ranked offense, especially since it’s currently giving up more adjusted points per 100 possessions than seven of its conference peers.

16. Wichita State (9–2)

Last Week (5): lost to Oklahoma, beat Arkansas State
Next Week: vs. Florida Gulf Coast

Markis McDuffie seems to be nearing a return to the court, and that’s great news for the Shockers, who are clearly hurting defensively without him. It was predictable that the nation’s leading scorer, Trae Young, would get his way when Oklahoma visited Wichita over the weekend, but it wasn’t just Young who burned the Shockers. The Sooners poured in 54 points in the first half, including 16 from freshman forward Brady Manek. Then on Tuesday night, Arkansas State rang up 1.19 points per possession and Wichita State, also down Conner Frankamp, needed a comeback to win. McDuffie isn’t going to magically fix everything, but he led the Shockers last season in defensive win shares and could go a long way to stabilizing this team’s Jekyll & Hyde tendencies.

17. Arizona (9–3)

Last Week (18): beat New Mexico, beat North Dakota State
Next Week: vs. Connecticut

Hello, Rawle Alkins. It didn’t take the sophomore much time to shake off the rust after returning from injury, posting a career-high 26 points against New Mexico in his second game back and hitting all three of his long-distance tries. Alkins absolutely brings a different dynamic to the Wildcats and gives them what should be their most consistent third option behind Allonzo Trier and DeAndre Ayton. Trier, by the way, left Monday’s game against North Dakota State after a scary moment when he banged knees with an opposing player, but was later announced to be day-to-day with a bone bruise. His status is of critical importance in the near future with a Dec. 30 showdown with Arizona State looming.

18. Seton Hall (9–2)

Last Week (11): lost to Rutgers
Next Week: vs. Wagner, vs. Manhattan

Last week, we cited the Pirates’ improved offense this season and the fact that they’d yet to have a game where they scored under 1.0 PPP. But against Rutgers on Saturday, it finally happened. Seton Hall managed just 0.89 PPP, shot a season-low 47.5% inside the arc, turned the ball over a season-high 18 times and gave up a season-high 19 offensive rebounds in a surprising six-point road loss. In a nutshell, a lot of things went wrong in what amounted to a quite uncharacteristic performance by the Pirates. It created the kind of perfect storm that made them ripe for an upset in Piscataway.

19. Kansas (9–2)

Last Week (20): beat Nebraska, beat Nebraska Omaha
Next Week: vs. Stanford*

The Jayhawks needed a three from Svi Mykhailiuk in the final 30 seconds to survive Nebraska in Lincoln—but survive they did. It was a crucial win as Kansas looks to reset itself following rare back-to-back losses, but even better news may be on the horizon for the Jayhawks. After Monday’s win over Omaha, Bill Self said he hopes both Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa will be able to suit up for Big 12 play, with De Sousa perhaps being available for their Dec. 29 opener at Texas. Getting one or both of the big men on the court soon would be huge for Kansas, which has been playing small and severely lacking frontcourt depth behind Udoka Azubuike. It could also potentially help the team’s dismal free-throw rate get out of the Division I basement.

20. Cincinnati (10–2)

Last Week (21): beat UCLA, beat Arkansas Pine Bluff
Next Week: vs. Cleveland State

The Bearcats got their first road win of the year over the weekend at UCLA, also marking their best victory of the year so far. Cincinnati’s résumé thus far lags behind fellow American teams Wichita State, SMU and Temple, but it will have more opportunities for quality wins during AAC play than a season ago. Against the Bruins, the Bearcats were able to do something they failed to do in their loss to Xavier, and that was to largely keep UCLA off the charity stripe, where it attempted just nine free throws to Cincy’s 23.

21. Texas Tech (10–1)

Last Week (24): beat Kennesaw State, beat Rice, beat Florida Atlantic
Next Week: vs. Abilene Christian

After a 3–0 week, the Red Raiders are set up to match last season’s 11–1 start—but that needs some deeper context. After playing the country’s weakest nonconference schedule in 2016–17, it’s been only marginally stronger this year, ranking 327th on KenPom. The Raiders’ weak schedule thus far casts doubt on the sustainability of their current top-10 adjusted efficient defense, but one area that could potentially be key is whether they can keep up the turnover pace they’ve been forcing. Texas Tech opponents have turned it over on 26.4% of their possessions, with the Raiders creating a steal on 14.0% of opponent’s possessions—both of which rank fourth nationally. The challenge now will be maintaining this high level, or something close to it, against Big 12 competition.

22. Clemson (10–1)

Last Week (NR): beat Florida, beat South Carolina
Next Week: vs. Louisiana Lafayette

Is this the year Clemson gets back to the NCAA tournament? The Tigers’ only blemish thus far has been a neutral-court loss to Temple, but they beat Ohio State on the road in November before going 2–0 against the SEC this past week with wins over Florida and South Carolina. Along the way, they’ve improved their KenPom standing from No. 47 to start the season to No. 31 as of Tuesday night. Of course, a season ago Clemson got off to an 11–2 start before getting chewed up in the deep ACC. Will the defensive improvements they’ve made so far this season carry over to conference play? Time will tell, but one area they’ve particularly grown in so far has been defensive rebounding, which will be put to the test by a number of ACC teams.

23. Florida State (10–1)

Last Week (17): lost to Oklahoma State, beat Charleston Southern
Next Week: vs. Southern Miss

A one-point loss on a tip-in is a tough way to get your first loss of the season, but that was reality for the Seminoles on Saturday against Oklahoma State. Two of the game’s final possessions were microcosm of one of FSU’s biggest strengths and one of its biggest weaknesses, both pertaining to rebounding. Florida State ranks 23rd in offensive rebounding, and it was Terance Mann’s offensive put-back with 12.6 seconds remaining that put it in position to win. But then on the other end, the ‘Noles allowed Mitchell Solomon to tip-in the game-winner despite having a four-on-two advantage in the paint. While offensive rebounding has been a strength, they rank 311th on the defensive boards—and it cost them on Saturday.

24. Tennessee (7–2)

Last Week (23): Lost to North Carolina
Next Week: vs. Furman, at Wake Forest

The Vols couldn’t close things out against the Tar Heels in Sunday’s marquee matchup, squandering a chance at their biggest win under Rick Barnes. Tennessee hung with the defending champs for 40 minutes, validating the fact that it should be a surprise factor in the SEC this year, but was undone by its shooting going cold for much of the second half. Overall, the Vols made just 16 of their 42 shots inside the arc, where leading scorers Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield combined to go 8 for 22. Williams, who leads the Vols in fouls drawn per 40 minutes, was also kept off the free-throw line, tying his season low with just two attempts.

25. Baylor (9–2)

Last Week (NR): beat Savannah State
Next Week: vs. Southern

The Bears return to the power rankings after a two-week absence. They haven’t had any real competition since their back-to-back losses to Xavier and Wichita State, but they’re yet another Big 12 team that should be right in the thick of things in a crowded conference. Baylor isn’t quite the offensive rebounding juggernaut it’s been in recent years now that Johnathan Motley is gone, but 7-footer Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. and freshmen Mark Vital and Tristan Clark keep them dangerous in that area. Lual-Acuil has stepped into a larger offensive role this season, taking 25.3% of the team’s shots when he’s on the floor as compared to 18.9% a year ago and increasing his scoring average from 9.1 ppg to 15.8.

DROPPED OUT: Florida, Notre Dame

NEXT FIVE OUT: Creighton, Arkansas, Louisville, SMU, Notre Dame


Mid-Major Meter

1. Gonzaga: The Zags needed overtime to beat a bad North Dakota team, but avoided what would’ve been a significant upset.

2. Nevada: The Martin twins are averaging a combined 33.4 points and 11.7 rebounds for the 10–2 Wolf Pack, with Caleb hitting 46.3% of his threes.

3. Saint Mary’s: The Gaels used a strong second half to earn their best win in over a month by beating Dayton. Their uber-efficient offense continues to hum.

4. Northern Iowa: The Panthers continue to test themselves but couldn’t take down Iowa State on a neutral court. They close out their tough nonconference slate at home against Xavier on Friday.

5. Towson: The Tigers have won 10 in a row since a season-opening loss to Old Dominion but are about to close out nonconference play with two of their toughest tests yet in road trips to Oakland and Pitt.

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