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  • Some of the most notable movement in this week's Power Rankings came from a trio of SEC teams, including the one that knocked off the nation's No. 1 team.
By Molly Geary
December 10, 2018

How about that Gonzaga-Tennessee game? The Bulldogs and Vols played a matchup in the desert on Sunday that had the distinct feel of March, but as CBS Sports’s Jon Rothstein will be the first to remind you, this is only December. That's never a bad thing to keep in mind, however, because it's often far too easy to overreact to any individual result at this point in the season. For example, you'll notice the Zags remain ahead of Tennessee below—while head-to-head matters, so does overall résumé, where Gonzaga's four top-50 wins dwarf the Vols' two. Still, in taking down the Bulldogs the Volunteers picked up one of the young season’s best wins, one that will reverberate all the way until NCAA tournament seeding time in March (where, it's worth adding, we wouldn't mind getting a rematch, hopefully with both sides' missing pieces healthy).

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Our Week 5 Power Rankings are below, but first, some notable performances—for better or for worse—from last week's top 25...

Five on the Rise

The five most impressive team performances of the last week:

Tennessee: No one picked up a more impressive win in the past seven days than the Vols, who knocked off No. 1 Gonzaga on a neutral court in Phoenix. Tennessee looked to be on the ropes multiple times late in the contest, including when it was down nine with six minutes to go or when Grant Williams fouled out as the Bulldogs took a two-point lead with 2:49 remaining. But on the back of Admiral Schofield, who hit six threes as part of a stellar 30-point performance, the Volunteers rallied for a gutsy victory. This Tennessee team is for real, and the SEC should be on notice.

Marquette: The Golden Eagles continued their improved play of late by taking down Wisconsin at home, their second straight win in the in-state rivalry. They won despite a rough day from the field by Markus Howard, who needed 29 shots to get 27 points. Instead, the Hauser brothers stepped up, with Sam and Joey combining for 28 on 10-of-19 shooting, and Marquette limited the Badgers' non-Ethan Happ players to secure the victory in OT.

Michigan State: This was an important week for the Spartans, who had a ranked Iowa foe at home and Florida on the road, and they aced the test with two victories. Michigan State easily handled the Hawkeyes behind a strong game from Nick Ward, and then gutted out a much closer one in Gainesville. Also importantly, it got Matt McQuaid back in the latter after the senior sharpshooter missed three games with a thigh injury.

Mississippi State: Clemson has been a disappointment through the first five weeks of the season, but beating the Tigers on a neutral court is still a solid win for a program aiming for its first NCAA tournament berth since 2009. The Bulldogs won behind a barrage of threes, making an astounding 19 of 30 (including 8 of 11 by Lamar Peters). Perimeter shooting is not necessarily how Mississippi State is going to win the majority of games (its three-point rate is a bit above the Division I average), but it's certainly a weapon that can be one of its team strengths.

Nevada: The Wolf Pack got what may wind up as their best win of the season come March by coming from behind to beat a ranked (and previously unbeaten) Arizona State team. Jordan Caroline continues to show that he's severely underrated nationally, while Jazz Johnson has proven to be a valuable transfer from Portland, averaging 11.9 points and shooting 52.4% from three so far. The only concern for Nevada right now is its tendency to get off to slow starts—something it can afford with its schedule but must clean up in the long run.

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Not Their Best Work

Three teams from last week's top 25 that had a bad or middling week:

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs losing by three to a top-10 team without two players isn't an issue, but I do want to use this space to bring to attention something a bit concerning about Gonzaga so far: its defense. The Zags currently rank 54th nationally on kenpom.com in defensive efficiency, a notably low number for them (last year they finished at No. 18; in 2016–17, No. 1). They've played a tough schedule, which has no doubt factored in early on, but this officially crossed into "concerning" territory when Washington came to Spokane and scored 79 points and 1.18 points per possession last Wednesday. The Huskies are far from an offensive juggernaut, but Gonzaga has now given up at least 1.12 PPP in four of its last five games. That only happened four times all of last season.

Kansas State: The good news for the Wildcats: They own the third-most efficient defense on kenpom.com. The bad: they lost at Tulsa, a sub-100 team, on the road on Saturday for their second straight defeat. Both of those were away from Manhattan, but Kansas State has now squandered an already-weak non-conference slate. At most, its best victory heading into Big 12 play could be one over a Darius Garland-less Vanderbilt team in a couple weeks—a game that now becomes an absolute must-win.

Kentucky: The Wildcats' first game against a Power 5 opponent in more than a month didn't work out in their favor. A half-court heave by Keldon Johnson sent Kentucky–Seton Hall to overtime, but UK came up just short at Madison Square Garden. The loss brings more questions about this Kentucky team, whose best win remains UNC Greensboro. The most striking stat right now is the Wildcats' perimeter defense, where opponents are hitting 40% of their threes. That's skewed a bit by some big-time performances, but it's hard not to view it as a concerning trend. Kentucky will return to Rupp Arena for what should be a win against Utah, but after that, this team will enter sink-or-swim territory.

Mid-Major Thumbs Up

A mid-major team outside the top 25 that nonetheless deserves praise for its week:

San Francisco: The Dons rebounded from their first loss of the season (to Buffalo by four) by dismantling Cal, on the road, by 29 last Wednesday. They even did it with serious flair. The Bears might not be the most fearsome Power 5 opponent, but winning in a rout on the road is impressive (and Cal went on to earn a respectable win over San Diego State). San Francisco may not be able to a win a WCC that Gonzaga seemingly has on lock, but it's shaping up to make real noise there and challenge Saint Mary's and BYU as the Zags' top threat.

Top 25 Power Rankings

1. Kansas (8–0)

Last Week (1): beat Wofford, beat New Mexico State
Up Next: vs. Villanova

2. Gonzaga (9–1)

Last Week (2): beat Washington, lost to Tennessee
Up Next: at North Carolina

3. Duke (9–1)

Last Week (3): beat Hartford, beat Yale
Up Next: OFF

4. Tennessee (7–1)

Last Week (7): beat Gonzaga
Up Next: at Memphis

5. Michigan (10–0)

Last Week (4): beat Northwestern, beat South Carolina
Up Next: vs. Western Michigan

6. Virginia (9–0)

Last Week (5): beat Morgan State, beat VCU
Up Next: OFF

7. Nevada (9–0)

Last Week (6): beat Arizona State, beat Grand Canyon
Up Next: vs. South Dakota State

8. Auburn (8–1)

Last Week (8): beat UNC Asheville, beat Dayton
Up Next: vs. UAB*

9. Michigan State (8–2)

Last Week (11): beat Iowa, beat Florida
Up Next: vs. Green Bay

10. Florida State (8–1)

Last Week (10): beat Troy, beat UConn
Up Next: OFF

11. Buffalo (9–0)

Last Week (12): beat D-II Le Moyne, beat St. Bonaventure
Up Next: vs. Southern Illinois

12. Texas Tech (8–0)

Last Week (13): beat Arkansas Pine Bluff
Up Next: vs. Northwestern State, vs. Abilene Christian

13. Virginia Tech (8–1)

Last Week (16): beat VMI, beat South Carolina State
Up Next: vs. Washington*

14. North Carolina (7–2)

Last Week (17): beat UNC Wilmington
Up Next: vs. Gonzaga

15. Kentucky (7–2)

Last Week (9): lost to Seton Hall
Up Next: vs. Utah

16. Arizona State (7–0)

Last Week (15): lost to Nevada
Up Next: at Georgia

17. Mississippi State (8–1)

Last Week (23): beat McNeese State, beat Clemson
Up Next: vs. Cincinnati

18. Wisconsin (8–2)

Last Week (18): beat Rutgers, lost to Marquette
Up Next: vs. Savannah State

19. Furman (10–0)

Last Week (20): beat Elon, beat USC Upstate
Up Next: vs. Charleston Southern, vs. UNC Wilmington

20. Villanova (8–2)

Last Week (21): beat Temple, beat Saint Joseph's
Up Next: at Penn, at Kansas

21. Ohio State (8–1)

Last Week (24): beat Minnesota, beat Illinois
Up Next: vs. Bucknell

22. Indiana (8–2)

Last Week (NR): beat Penn State, beat Louisville
Up Next: vs. Butler*

23. Marquette (8–2)

Last Week (25): beat UTEP, beat Wisconsin
Up Next: OFF

24. Nebraska (8–2)

Last Week (20): lost to Minnesota, beat Creighton
Up Next: vs. Oklahoma State*

25. Syracuse (7–2)

Last Week (NR): beat Northeastern, beat Georgetown
Up Next: vs. Old Dominion

Dropped Out: Purdue, Kansas State

Next Man Up: Oklahoma, Cincinnati, Purdue

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