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  • A chaotic and dramatic week in college basketball paved the way for a new No. 1 in our power rankings, and the effect reverberated through the top 10.
By Molly Geary
February 18, 2019

Last week, we explained that we would give Tennessee a chance to respond to Duke's two wins over Virginia before dethroning it from No. 1. Well, the Vols got their shot in Lexington and fell well short, suffering their first loss since Nov. 23. It's no reason to sound the alarms on what remains a high-level Tennessee team, but it was plenty enough to bring change at the top of our power rankings for the first time since Jan. 21. And the team that was the beneficiary was, of course, Duke, a team that avoided a road embarrassment of its own with a comeback for the ages.

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The rest of our latest Power Rankings are below, but first, some notable performances—for better or for worse—from last edition's top 25...

Five on the Rise

The five most impressive team performances of the last week:

LSU: Before Kentucky's win over Tennessee, the Tigers crashed the SEC party by downing the Wildcats on a controversial tip-in at Rupp Arena. It was the kind of signature win LSU had been looking for, and one that officially announced its presence in the SEC race. The Vols' loss on Saturday means the Tigers now control their own destiny, entering this week tied for first at 11–1. And look who's coming to Baton Rouge on Saturday: co-leader Tennessee.

Kentucky: The Wildcats are on the rise despite their loss to LSU given how impressive their win over Tennessee was. Kentucky essentially led wire-to-wire and looked dominant at times against the nation's No. 1 team. Its defense did a great job on Grant Williams, who attempted a season-low two shots inside the arc, and forced the Vols into taking more threes (25) than they had in a game since Dec. 9.

Duke: What else is there to say about Duke after it turned a surreal blowout loss at Louisville into a remarkable comeback win? The Blue Devils' ability to turn a game on its head at a moment's notice has to be terrifying to any opponent, and America has now been served notice to never consider a lead over Duke safe. Oh, and for good measure, Zion Williamson dropped 32 and R.J. Barrett had the first Blue Devils triple double in 13 years on Saturday against NC State.

Michigan State: The Spartans had a great week on the court, beating a tough Wisconsin team in Madison and surviving the loss of Nick Ward to stymie Ohio State on Sunday, but after the game it was announced that Ward is out indefinitely with a hairline fracture in his hand. Michigan State has to feel snakebitten at this point, having lost Joshua Langford for the season and dealt with other knocks throughout the year. When on the court, Ward's usage in the MSU offense is on par with that of point guard Cassius Winston's, and he draws more fouls per 40 minutes than all but three players nationally (per kenpom). The Spartans will need Xavier Tillman and Kenny Goins to step up in his absence.

Iowa State: The Cyclones did their counterparts in the Big 12 race a favor by beating conference leader Kansas State on the road over the weekend. The result tightened the standings, leaving Iowa State, Texas Tech and Kansas all only a game back in the loss column with three weeks to go. Unlike the first time these teams met, the Cyclones were able to unlock the Wildcats' tough defense this time around, largely thanks to a parade of threes by Talen Horton-Tucker and Lindell Wigginton. On the whole, Iowa State made 14 of 24 behind the arc and logged 19 assists on the day.

BONUS—Virginia: It happened a week ago, but the Cavaliers deserve a shoutout here for the way they rebounded from their home loss to Duke by going to Chapel Hill 48 hours later and beating North Carolina on its own floor. In the process, they held a very good Tar Heels offense to its lowest points per possession (1.02) in a month.

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Not Their Best Work

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

Villanova: Here's the big concern for the Wildcats as March nears: Against St. John's on Sunday, they made five of their first 10 three-point attempts, building a 26–9 lead midway through the first half. After that, 'Nova went 6 for 25 from the outside, and the Red Storm outscored it 62–39 en route to an impressive comeback win. Villanova's three-point rate ranks second nationally, behind only the famed chuckers of Savannah State, and the Wildcats are getting a lesser percentage of their points from two-pointers than all but one team out of 353. Jay Wright's team was able to ride a three-point barrage to the national title last year, but that was a historically elite offense that shot 40% from three. This year? They're at 36%.

Michigan: The Wolverines ultimately rescued their week with a bounce-back home win over Maryland, but it doesn't erase the sting of losing to the Big Ten's last-place team, Penn State, on the road. With offensive concerns threatening Michigan's postseason potential, it's fair to wonder if at times the Wolverines' balance can be a detriment. Having varied offensive weapons makes it easier to overcome poor individual nights, but when Michigan is stalling and needs a bucket, who will it turn to? Keep an eye on Charles Matthews, who's played much better in his last three games.

Purdue: The Boilermakers could be in the driver's seat for the Big Ten title, but they had a putrid offensive night on the road at Maryland on Tuesday. Despite taking 19 more shots than the Terps (thanks in part to 17 offensive rebounds), they shot just 20 for 71 from the floor (28%), 21% from three and had five total assists. Carsen Edwards needed 27 shots to get 24 points, and Purdue was outscored 40–18 in the second half. With their defense being more middle-of-the-pack, the Boilermakers can't afford for their offense to no-show like that going forward.

Mid-Major Thumbs Up

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

Wofford: It's time to get acquainted with Wofford, America. With Fletcher Magee leading the way, the Terriers are 23–4 overall and undefeated in a Southern Conference that is one of the best mid-major leagues this year (on kenpom, it's even rated above the Atlantic 10). They have a case for an at-large bid should they lose in the SoCon tournament and could wind up underseeded in March. Wofford is 29th in the NET rankings, 28th on kenpom, 36th on T-Rank and 22nd in ESPN's BPI. The Terriers were a No. 9 seed in SI.com's latest Bracket Watch and are currently averaging a 10 seed in the Bracket Matrix composite. Wofford's average among the above rankings is 29; if you lined that up to a tournament seeding list, you'd be the strongest No. 8 seed. The Terriers aren't afraid to pull the trigger early and often from the perimeter, where they rank second nationally at 41.9%. That will be an unwelcome sight for whoever draws them in the first round.

Top 25 Power Rankings

1. Duke (23–2)

Last Week (2): beat Louisville, beat NC State
Up Next: vs. North Carolina, at Syracuse

2. Gonzaga (25–2)

Last Week (3): beat Loyola Marymount, beat San Diego
Up Next: vs. Pepperdine, vs. BYU

3. Kentucky (21–4)

Last Week (4): lost to LSU, beat Tennessee
Up Next: at Missouri, vs. Auburn

4. Tennessee (23–2)

Last Week (1): beat South Carolina, lost to Kentucky
Up Next: vs. Vanderbilt, at LSU

5. Virginia (22–2)

Last Week (5): beat North Carolina, beat Notre Dame
Up Next: at Virginia Tech, at Louisville

6. Nevada (24–1)

Last Week (6): beat Wyoming
Up Next: at San Diego State, vs. Fresno State

7. Houston (25–1)

Last Week (9): beat UConn, beat Tulane
Up Next: vs. South Florida

8. Marquette (21–4)

Last Week (10): beat DePaul
Up Next: vs. Butler, at Providence

9. Michigan (23–3)

Last Week (7): lost to Penn State, beat Maryland
Up Next: at Minnesota, vs. Michigan State

10. North Carolina (20–5)

Last Week (8): lost to Virginia, beat Wake Forest
Up Next: at Duke, vs. Florida State

11. Michigan State (21–5)

Last Week (13): beat Wisconsin, beat Ohio State
Up Next: vs. Rutgers, at Michigan

12. Kansas (20–6)

Last Week (14): beat TCU, beat West Virginia
Up Next: at Texas Tech

13. LSU (21–4)

Last Week (15): beat Kentucky, beat Georgia
Up Next: vs. Florida, vs. Tennessee

14. Purdue (18–7)

Last Week (11): lost to Maryland, beat Penn State
Up Next: at Indiana, at Nebraska

15. Iowa State (19–6)

Last Week (18): beat Kansas State
Up Next: vs. Baylor, at TCU

16. Villanova (19–5)

Last Week (12): beat Providence, lost to St. John's
Up Next: at Georgetown, at Xavier

17. Virginia Tech (20–5)

Last Week (17): beat Georgia Tech, beat Pittsburgh
Up Next: vs. Virginia, at Notre Dame

18. Kansas State (19–6)

Last Week (16): beat Texas, lost to Iowa State
Up Next: at West Virginia, vs. Oklahoma State

19. Iowa (20–5)

Last Week (21): beat Rutgers
Up Next: vs. Maryland, vs. Indiana

20. Wisconsin (17–8)

Last Week (19): lost to Michigan State
Up Next: vs. Illinois, at Northwestern

21. Louisville (17–7)

Last Week (20): lost to Duke, beat Clemson
Up Next: at Syracuse, vs. Virginia

22. Florida State (20–5)

Last Week (22): beat Wake Forest, beat Georgia Tech
Up Next: at Clemson, at North Carolina

23. Texas Tech (21–5)

Last Week (23): beat Oklahoma State, beat Baylor
Up Next: vs. Kansas

24. Maryland (19–7)

Last Week (25): beat Purdue, lost to Michigan
Up Next: at Iowa, vs. Ohio State

25. Cincinnati (21–4)

Last Week (24): beat Wichita State
Up Next: vs. UCF, at UConn

Dropped Out: None.

Next Man Up: Buffalo, Wofford, Mississippi State.

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