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Power Rankings: Duke Leads the Way After a Compelling Opening Week

Who shined in week one of the college basketball season? Now that games are underway, we combined what we learned with the preseason expecations we still think might pan out to make the first in-season top 25 of 2018–19.

Welcome to our 2018–19 college basketball power rankings! The highlights of a busy opening week started with the Champions Classic and ended with Vanderbilt edging USC in Los Angeles on Sunday night. Now that every team has at least one game under its belt, we can better assess where everyone falls at this early point of the season.

Our Week 1 power rankings are below, but first, some notable performances—for better or for worse—from the top 25...

Five Kudos

The five most impressive team performances of the last week:

Duke: What else is there to say about the Blue Devils? They got off to the best start possible with a statistically mind-boggling 34-point blowout of Kentucky at the Champions Classic, after the Wildcats had been perceived to have the advantage going into the opening night showcase. Zion Williamson & Co. followed it up with a 94–72 win over Army on Sunday that may have revealed a few defensive concerns going forward, but that’s often the aspect of any young team that takes the longest to jell. When you have as much offensive firepower as the Blue Devils do, you have a measure of leeway on the other end that most teams can't afford.

GREENE: Why College Hoops Needs Duke's Dominance

Auburn: After knocking down 18 of 38 three-point attempts (47.4%) in a blowout win over South Alabama, the Tigers defended their home court against a very capable Washington squad that entered the night ranked No. 25 in the AP poll. Auburn looked in control from the start en route to an 88–66 win, scoring 1.26 points per possession, grabbing 19 offensive rebounds and forcing 18 turnovers, including eight steals. I was admittedly a little skeptical of how Auburn would look to start the year after losing both Mustapha Heron and Desean Murray, but it made a nice statement against the Huskies.

Florida State: The Seminoles put on a defensive clinic against rival Florida in their opener, taking a game that was supposed to be the best non–Champions Classic matchup of opening night and turning it into a rout. They then took an early road trip and handled Tulane behind a double double from Terance Mann. Much like it did last March, FSU’s length is going to give opponents fits all season.

Kansas: The new-look Jayhawks were impressive in their Champions Classic win over Michigan State, even if they did let the Spartans back into the game in the second half. It had to be an encouraging sign to see freshman guards Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson shoot a combined 9 of 15 from three, and Udoka Azubuike and the Kansas frontline limited Michigan State centerpiece Nick Ward to just nine points and five rebounds in 25 minutes. Dedric Lawson will have much better shooting nights and yet still managed 20 points.

Buffalo: The Bulls picked up one of the best wins of opening week by marching into Morgantown and rallying to knock off West Virginia in overtime. CJ Massinburg (43 points, 9-of-15 shooting from three) had one of the week's best performances anywhere in the country, and as Arizona and now WVU have learned, Buffalo is not a team high-majors want to face, whether in November or in March.

Not Their Best Work

Three teams that had a bad or middling week:

Kentucky: The Wildcats’ big loss to Duke was interpreted to be more about the Blue Devils than UK, and for good reason, but a 12-point win over Southern Illinois revealed cracks that need to be cleaned up. Kentucky was wildly careless with the ball in the first half and racked up 19 turnovers on the night, needing a late push to pull away from a Saluki team that is no slouch. The ’Cats are young and full of new parts, so it’s not entirely surprising that they’re having some issues out of the gate, but they have to use their upcoming slew of easier games to start getting in a rhythm.

West Virginia: The post–Jevon Carter era got off to a rocky start as the Mountaineers lost their home opener for the first time since 1989. Buffalo is legit (see above), but giving up 99 points (even with an extra five minutes) and 1.15 points per possession and forcing only 11 turnovers is a sign that Bob Huggins needs to make some adjustments.

Michigan State: I’m not going to ding the Spartans too much here, as they were going against the preseason AP No. 1 and did make a valiant second-half comeback, but there were times during Tuesday’s opener that it was clear Michigan State isn’t quite on the Jayhawks’ level right now. The bigger question is whether this roster will be able to get there going forward.

Mid-Major Thumbs Up

(Mid-major team outside the top-25 that nonetheless deserves praise for its week)

Stony Brook: How about those Seawolves, who have already earned a pair of road wins? After outlasting George Washington in overtime in their opener, they went to Columbia and knocked off South Carolina behind 24 points from Akwasi Yeboah.

Top 25 Power Rankings


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Duke (2–0)

Last Week: beat Kentucky, beat Army
Up Next: vs. Eastern Michigan


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Kansas (1–0)

Last Week: beat Michigan State
Up Next: vs. Vermont, vs. Louisiana


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Gonzaga (2–0)

Last Week: beat Idaho State, beat Texas Southern
Up Next: vs. Texas A&M


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Tennessee (2–0)

Last Week: beat Lenoir-Rhyne (D-II), beat Louisiana
Up Next: vs. Georgia Tech


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Virginia (2–0)

Last Week: beat Towson, beat George Washington
Up Next: vs. Coppin State


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Nevada (2–0)

Last Week: beat BYU, beat Pacific
Up Next: vs. Little Rock


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Auburn (2–0)

Last Week: beat South Alabama, beat Washington
Up Next: vs. Mississippi College


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North Carolina (2–0)

Last Week: beat Wofford, beat Elon
Up Next: vs. Stanford, vs. Tennessee Tech


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Villanova (2–0)

Last Week: beat Morgan State, beat Quinnipiac
Up Next: vs. Michigan, vs. Furman


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Kentucky (1–1)

Last Week: lost to Duke, beat Southern Illinois
Up Next: vs. North Dakota, vs. VMI


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Florida State (2–0)

Last Week: beat Florida, beat Tulane
Up Next: OFF


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Kansas State (1–0)

Last Week: beat Kennesaw State
Up Next: vs. Denver, Paradise Jam


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Michigan State (1–1)

Last Week: lost to Kansas, beat Florida Gulf Coast
Up Next: vs. Louisiana Monroe, vs. Tennessee Tech


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Oregon (2–0)

Last Week: beat Portland State, beat Eastern Washington
Up Next: vs. Iowa, vs. Syracuse/UConn


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Michigan (2–0)

Last Week: beat Norfolk State, beat Holy Cross
Up Next: at Villanova, vs. George Washington, vs. Providence/South Carolina


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Mississippi State (2–0)

Last Week: beat Austin Peay, beat Hartford
Up Next: vs. Long Beach State


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Clemson (2–0)

Last Week: beat The Citadel, beat NC Central
Up Next: vs. Sam Houston State


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UCLA (2–0)

Last Week: beat Purdue Fort Wayne, Long Beach State
Up Next: vs. St. Francis PA


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Syracuse (2–0)

Last Week: beat Eastern Washington, beat Morehead State
Up Next: vs. UConn, vs. Oregon/Iowa


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LSU (2–0)

Last Week: beat Southeastern Louisiana, beat UNC Greensboro
Up Next: vs. Memphis, vs. Louisiana Tech


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Purdue (2–0)

Last Week: beat Fairfield, beat Ball State
Up Next: Charleston Classic


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Buffalo (2–0)

Last Week: beat St. Francis (PA), beat West Virginia
Up Next: at Southern Illinois


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West Virginia (0–1)

Last Week: lost to Buffalo
Up Next: Myrtle Beach Invitational


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Nebraska (2–0)

Last Week: beat Mississippi Valley State, beat Southeastern Louisiana
Up Next: vs. Seton Hall


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Marquette (2–0)

Last Week: beat UMBC, beat Bethune Cookman
Up Next: at Indiana, vs. Presbyterian

Next Man Up

Threeteams on the top-25 fringe:

Iowa State: The Cyclones picked up a nice 17-point home win over Missouri as transfer Marial Shayok led all scorers with 20.

Wisconsin: Ethan Happ had a triple double in the Badgers’ opener, and now an intriguing road test at Xavier awaits.

Indiana: After a pair of wins over cupcakes, things ramp up in a big way for the Hoosiers when they take on Marquette on Wednesday.