After about six weeks of college basketball, we are still left with many more answers than questions. Since the last installment of my power rankings, many top ten teams have fallen, and those that remain have been proven vulnerable…except for Kentucky…they still seem invincible. The Bluegrass State remains elite in college basketball, but the state of North Carolina is hoping they can change that as the season goes on.
Outside looking in: Texas and Kansas. Both of these teams are incredibly talented teams that I believe will finish their seasons as elite level teams. Kansas’ pure talent is enough to carry them far under the direction of Bill Self. Texas has too much size to keep themselves out of it this season. Myles Turner is more than just a freshman sensation, he’s a player with elite next level ability who will help guide the way for Texas.
10. Washington – The Huskies are a team that have surprised many this season. We all knew they were talented, but we didn’t think they’d be undefeated this far into the season. An impressive victory over a very talented Oklahoma team really opened a lot of eyes towards the potential of Washington this season. Guard Nigel Williams-Goss is certainly helping the cause, averaging nearly 14 points and 7 assists per game this season.
9. Wichita State – When this season began, I would’ve thought that the Shockers would find themselves undefeated at this juncture. However, as the season progresses, a loss on the road to Utah, well equipped to make a deep tournament run, will become less glaring as Utah continues to impress. The backcourt for Wichita State could be the best in the country, with Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet helping the Shockers continue to do what they do best – win.
8. Gonzaga – I keep the Zag Nation right where they were ranked in last week’s poll. Though their only loss came on the road against Arizona, a game that almost any college basketball expert would’ve tallied as a win for the Wildcats, Gonzaga battled all the way through; Arizona’s home crowd was just too much to overcome. The fight the Zags showed, and the poise of guard Kevin Pangos give me faith that they will remain a team that will contend all season.
7. Villanova – This is where picking teams got especially difficult. Villanova finds themselves undefeated through a few weeks of college basketball, and appear as though they’re on their way to another Big East Championship. With a win against Syracuse, Villanova has proven to the country that just because they don’t come from a power five conference, they deserve to be in the talks as one of the elite teams in the country.
6. Virginia – Another undefeated team playing in another great conference. How can they not crack the top five? I keep finding myself asking that same question. As a team coming off of an ACC Championship, the conference many believe to be the best in college basketball, the Wahoos have earned some respect. As we enter conference play, Virginia has the opportunity to prove they still have the edge and ability to enter the tournament as a number one seed.
5. Wisconsin – Bo Ryan’s Badgers remain in my top five this week because their loss to Duke is nearly irrelevant in my eyes. Yes, the Badgers lost a game in Madison that they had multiple chances to pull ahead in and gain some momentum. However, Duke is the forgotten team in the country with nine McDonald’s All-Americans whom I believe may be the only true hope to take a title away from Lexington, Kentucky in 2015. Frank Kaminsky is still a player that could win the Naismith Award as the nation’s best player, and I believe the Big Ten Championship’s road goes through Madison.
4. Arizona – Oh, how the mighty have fallen…one spot. Arizona entered last week as the No. 3 team in the country, and looked like they deserved to be there. This week, they find themselves with a slight blemish on their resume, a loss to unranked UNLV. However, college basketball fans know that UNLV seems to be a nagging team each season, and if you’re an Arizona fan, this is one of those games you had highlighted on your schedule as an upset alert. The Wildcats have too much talent and too much depth to not be a top four team at this point in the season, and I believe they’ve proven as much. Let’s not forget their sixth man, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, could be a player of the year candidate.
3. Louisville – The Cards hit road last week for their first road game, heading southwest down I-65 to take on Western Kentucky. Louisville showed their vulnerability, and Montrezl Harrell was ejected from the game after throwing a punch. However, two consecutive thirty point individual performances from Terry Rozier and Wayne Blackshear kept Louisville right on track. Defensively, the Cards are one of, if not the top team in the country. With freshman G/F Shaqquan Aaron joining the active roster this week, Louisville has a chance to prove their offense can play at the same level of the D, something that hasn’t happened yet this season.
1b. Duke – Jahlil Okafor. What else do you need? Add on eight additional McDonald’s All-Americans and you’ve got one of the most elite teams in Duke’s storied history in the eyes of Coach K. Freshmen Tyus Jones and Justice Winslow are making names for themselves in every game, proving that they deserve to be lottery picks next year along with fellow freshman Jahlil Okafor. When you throw in the leadership and big shot capability of senior guard Quinn Cook, the Blue Devils look primed to contend for the number one spot.
1a. Kentucky – For any other team in the country, losing a potential All-American like Alex Poythress would be absolutely devastating. For Big Blue Nation, it’s nearly insignificant. With Poythress’ season ending injury, freshman Trey Lyles enters the starting lineup. Lyles is a player who often gets overlooked among the plethora of talented freshmen in Lexington, and could be a spark for the Cats long term. They’re too talented, too deep, and simply too good for the rest of the country to a point that it’s nearly unfair. With a win in the annual matchup on the road in Louisville on Saturday, Kentucky could coast their way to a National Championship and an undefeated season.
*Section Photo credit to Jeff Gross, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Steven Bisig, USA Today Sports.