- We're in the final weeks of the regular season, and the drama has shown no signs of slowing down. Who's No. 1 after another week of changes?
What a week, eh? Zion Williamson went down—then Duke went down. Kansas got demolished at a time when its Big 12 streak could hardly afford it. LSU played two overtime games, Iowa State and Louisville each lost twice and on a night when no one was looking out west, Nevada lost its second game of the year. As you may imagine, all of this led to plenty of movement in this week's Power Rankings, starting at the top for the second week in a row.
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:
North Carolina: Yes, yes, the Tar Heels' big win over Duke came without Zion Williamson, and his abrupt, bizarre early exit clearly had an adverse effect on his teammates. But UNC deserves credit for the way it went out and took that game from the Blue Devils on the road. The fast-paced nature of both teams left the final score a little deceiving—while the Heels scored 88 points, their 1.01 points per possession was actually quite modest. And while Duke scored 72, it had a season-low 0.83 points per possession. North Carolina then held Florida State to 0.84 PPP in a win on Saturday behind another excellent defensive effort.
Texas Tech: The biggest question around the Red Raiders this season has concerned their offense. Could they pair their No. 1 efficient defense with enough scoring to make a serious run to Minneapolis? They entered Saturday with their offense on the upswing but still ranked No. 66 on kenpom. Tech then went out and absolutely obliterated Kansas in a 29-point rout, posting an incredible 1.49 PPP, making 16 threes and shooting 61.5% from the perimeter while never letting up on the gas. The Red Raiders have now shot 49% from three over their last four games, making 50 total threes in that span. That rate is bound to drop off, but coach Chris Beard's team is that much more dangerous when opponents have to worry about the offensive explosiveness it has shown of late.
LSU: The Tigers lost to an underrated Florida team at home in overtime earlier in the week, but they make this list (and move up in our rankings) for beating Tennessee, also in OT, without having point guard Tremont Waters for that one. It was a gritty performance by LSU—Waters's backup, freshman Javonte Smart, exploded for a career-high 29 points—that proved the strides the program has made under Will Wade. Kentucky didn't mind the win, either, as it now sits in a three-way tie with the Vols and Tigers atop the SEC.
Virginia: The Cavaliers took care of their in-state rival Virginia Tech for the second time this season last Monday, then rallied back from a 10-point haltime deficit on the road at Louisville, using a dominant second half to earn a 12-point victory. Virginia couldn't buy a bucket from three against the Cardinals, making it all the more impressive that it still managed 1.12 PPP and a double-digit win. This team still hasn't lost to anyone but Duke and is back to the No. 1 spot in the kenpom.com rankings after the Blue Devils' Zion-less dud against UNC.
Michigan State: With Nick Ward sidelined, many pegged the Spartans as underdogs for their trip to Ann Arbor to play rival Michigan. Instead, Michigan State posted the highest PPP of any team this year against the Wolverines, spearheaded by Cassius Winston's 27-point, eight-assist performance. The Spartans have sometimes been a bit overlooked this year in comparison to many of the other teams believed to be in college basketball's top tier, but they sent a message on Sunday.
Not Their Best Work
Four teams from last week's top 25 that had a bad or middling week:
Kansas: The Jayhawks are going to want to burn the tape from their trip to Lubbock, which seems like the right idea considering they host Big 12 leader Kansas State just 48 hours later on Monday night. Their chances of extending their Big 12 title streak to 15 seasons are in doubt but alive, and the Wildcats will be eager to all but slam the door in Lawrence.
Iowa State: The Cyclones are one of this season's most intriguing teams, and not always for the right reasons. Back-to-back losses to Baylor and TCU have essentially taken Iowa State out of the Big 12 race, even though it beat conference leader Kansas State before those defeats. The computers love this team—it's ranked 13th on kenpom and 15th on NET—and there's no questioning its talent, but its inconsistency is a bit concerning. The Cyclones have now given up at least 1.0 PPP in five straight games and have been streaky from the perimeter of late.
Nevada: The Wolf Pack scored just 57 points in a road loss to San Diego State, and this isn't the SDSU team you're used to—while it has fared well in the Mountain West, it's ranked 132 on kenpom and 130 on the NET rankings, giving Nevada a Quadrant 2 loss. The Wolf Pack now have immense pressure on their matchup at Utah State on Saturday, as it's their only Quadrant 1 game of the entire season. They really need a victory to have something tangible to hang their hat on heading into the postseason.
Villanova: After falling on the road by double digits to both Georgetown and Xavier last week, the Wildcats have lost four of five and done nothing to solve the crux of their offensive problems, which is that they rely way too much on the three and have little consistent scoring outside Eric Paschall and Phil Booth. On the whole, their offense is not bad—far from that actually, checking in at No. 14 on kenpom—but that's certainly helped in part by the fact that the Big East doesn't have a single top-40 kenpom defense. Right now, it's hard to see this team having success if it gets matched up against a strong D in March.
Mid-Major Thumbs Up
A mid-major team outside the top 25 that nonetheless deserves praise for its week:
VCU: There's some debate over whether the Atlantic 10 should be considered a mid-major, but given that it's likely going to be a one-bid conference this year, we'll spotlight the Rams. VCU is an interesting team that could be a very tricky first-round matchup for a higher seed in March, and that's because of its defense. The Rams are ranked fourth nationally in kenpom's adjusted defensive efficiency, and they rank second in defensive three-point percentage and 10th in defensive two-point percentage. They also force turnovers on 23.3% of opposing possessions, higher than all but 11 other teams. VCU's offense is a concern (No. 183 on kenpom, though it's been better in A-10 play, where it ranks second), but its defense is going to be a thorn in anyone's side.
Top 25 Power Rankings
1. Gonzaga (27–2)
Last Week (2): beat Pepperdine, beat BYU
Up Next: at Pacific, at Saint Mary's
2. Duke (24–3)
Last Week (1): lost to North Carolina, beat Syracuse
Up Next: at Virginia Tech, vs. Miami
3. Kentucky (23–4)
Last Week (3): beat Missouri, beat Auburn
Up Next: vs. Arkansas, at Tennessee
4. Virginia (24–2)
Last Week (5): beat Virginia Tech, beat Louisville
Up Next: vs. Georgia Tech, vs. Pittsburgh
5. North Carolina (22–5)
Last Week (10): beat Duke, beat Florida State
Up Next: vs. Syracuse, at Clemson
6. Michigan State (23–5)
Last Week (11): beat Rutgers, beat Michigan
Up Next: at Indiana
7. Tennessee (24–3)
Last Week (4): beat Vanderbilt, lost to LSU
Up Next: at Ole Miss, vs. Kentucky
8. Houston (26–1)
Last Week (7): beat South Florida
Up Next: at East Carolina, vs. UCF
9. Marquette (23–4)
Last Week (8): beat Butler, beat Providence
Up Next: at Villanova, vs. Creighton
10. Michigan (24–4)
Last Week (9): beat Minnesota, lost to Michigan State
Up Next: vs. Nebraska, at Maryland
11. LSU (22–5)
Last Week (13): lost to Florida, beat Tennessee
Up Next: vs. Texas A&M, at Alabama
12. Purdue (20–7)
Last Week (14): beat Indiana, beat Nebraska
Up Next: vs. Illinois, vs. Ohio State
13. Nevada (25–2)
Last Week (6): lost to San Diego State, beat Fresno State
Up Next: vs. UNLV, at Utah State
14. Kansas State (21–6)
Last Week (18): beat West Virginia, beat Oklahoma State
Up Next: at Kansas, vs. Baylor
15. Texas Tech (22–5)
Last Week (23): beat Kansas
Up Next: vs. Oklahoma State, at TCU
16. Wisconsin (19–8)
Last Week (20): beat Illinois, beat Northwestern
Up Next: at Indiana, vs. Penn State
17. Kansas (20–7)
Last Week (12): lost to Texas Tech
Up Next: vs. Kansas State, at Oklahoma State
18. Maryland (21–7)
Last Week (24): beat Iowa, beat Ohio State
Up Next: at Penn State, vs. Michigan
19. Virginia Tech (21–6)
Last Week (17): lost to Virginia, beat Notre Dame
Up Next: vs. Duke
20. Cincinnati (23–4)
Last Week (25): beat UCF, beat UConn
Up Next: at SMU, vs. Memphis
21. Iowa (21–6)
Last Week (19): lost to Maryland, beat Indiana
Up Next: at Ohio State, vs. Rutgers
22. Florida State (20–5)
Last Week (22): beat Clemson, lost to North Carolina
Up Next: vs. Notre Dame, vs. NC State
23. Buffalo (24–3)
Last Week (NR): beat Ohio, beat Kent State
Up Next: vs. Akron, at Miami-OH
24. Iowa State (19–8)
Last Week (15): lost to Baylor, lost to TCU
Up Next: vs. Oklahoma, at Texas
25. Wofford (24–4)
Last Week (NR): beat Furman
Up Next: at Chattanooga, at Samford
Dropped Out: Villanova, Louisville.
Next Man Up: Mississippi State, Louisville, Florida.