If everyone loses, does anyone move down?
While the task at hand isn’t that deep, a wild first full week of conference play has brought the most changes to Power Rankings since the beginning of the season.
Teams ranked No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 5, No. 6, No. 7, No. 9 and No. 10 all lost at least once in the past week, including North Carolina (7) and Texas A&M (10) falling twice. Villanova and Purdue were the only top-10 teams not to lose this week. Six other top-25 teams also lost at least once.
Even with the shuffling around in November and December, we’ve generally had the same teams near the top of the rankings. Michigan State, Villanova and Duke have been near there pretty much all season, while Arizona State moved up after beating Kansas on Dec. 10.
But first, who’s the new No. 1?
Well, Villanova is the only team in last week’s top-7 that didn’t actually lose — so the Wildcats get the nod. Their resume isn’t that much better than the rest of the field, but they’ve been the most consistent since the start of the season. They have neutral-site wins over Gonzaga and Tennessee, which have held up pretty well. The loss at Butler isn’t bad at all. Moreover, Jay Wright’s team has played 10 of its 15 games away from home — and won nine of them. They move up top this week.
None of the top-five teams that lost drop out of the top 10, which seems strange — but again, that’s what happens when everyone else loses too.
We did need several replacements, though.
West Virginia might be the hottest team in college basketball. The Mountaineers haven’t lost since the season opener to Texas A&M, with 14 straight wins — capped by Saturday’s victory over Oklahoma. West Virginia now has high-level wins over Virginia and Oklahoma, as well as victories over Kansas State, Missouri and Oklahoma State away from home.
Purdue is one of just three teams nationally with four “RPI Group 1” wins, which includes home wins over teams ranked 1-30, neutral-site wins over teams ranked 1-50 and road wins over teams ranked 1-75. West Virginia and Kansas are the only other teams with four. The Boilermakers don’t really have a headlining win, but they have beaten Arizona, Maryland, Butler and Marquette away from home, and also took care of Louisville in West Lafayette.
Virginia and Texas Tech are the two other teams rising rapidly, after each team’s biggest win of the season: Virginia beating North Carolina at home, and Texas Tech going into Lawrence to hand Kansas a 12-point home loss. Neither team has a slew of great wins, but they all have only one loss also, with Virginia’s coming at West Virginia and Texas Tech’s coming against Seton Hall in New York.
The craziest part of the latest rankings: Only one of the four teams we just discussed was even in the top 10 last week. And now they’re all ranked in the top six.
That’s the 2017-18 college basketball season in a nutshell.
1. Villanova Wildcats
Last week: 4
Villanova bounced back from its loss to Butler by putting up 100 points in a win over Marquette on Saturday. The Wildcats now get to host Xavier on Wednesday. The Musketeers are Villanova’s biggest competition for a Big East crown, but their four losses at Villanova since joining the Big East have come by an average of 23 points.
2. West Virginia Mountaineers
Last week: 13
Maybe we underrated the Mountaineers before last week, but we’ve rectified that — and their win over Trae Young and Oklahoma helped in a big way. Jevon Carter is a legitimate All-American candidate, by the way. He’s posed back-to-back 10-assist efforts, averaging 16.6 points on the season, and is the best defender in the country.
3. Purdue Boilermakers
Last week: 8
Purdue might not have any elite-level wins, but the victory over Arizona on a neutral site will always look great, and the high number of quality wins away from home is impressive. The Boilermakers will face their stiffest competition of the past month on Tuesday, when they travel to Ann Arbor to play Michigan.
4. Michigan State Spartans
Last week: 1
We thought Michigan State would be No. 1 for several weeks, given the injuries piling up around the Big Ten and the way the Spartans’ league schedule was set up. We thought wrong. Fortunately, Tom Izzo’s team will have an opportunity to bounce back: Their next three games are at home, against Rutgers, Michigan and Indiana.
5. Virginia Cavaliers
Last week: 15
We’ll admit it. We were somewhat leary of moving Virginia too high in the rankings before this week. The Cavaliers hadn’t really beaten anyone, and there was some concern their impressive metrics were inflated. A blowout win at Virginia Tech and a win at home over North Carolina eased all those concerns.
6. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Last week: 19
Chris Beard is an absolute coaching stud, and the Red Raiders are playing like a team that could push for a Big 12 title. It wasn’t just the road win by double-digits at Kansas, but the way they jumped out to a huge lead early against Kansas State showed they wouldn’t fall victim to the upset bug that plagued the top 25 all week.
7. Oklahoma Sooners
Last week: 6
Trae Young needs more help from his teammates if the Sooners are going to win big games in conference play. Getting a combined 17 points from Christian James, Brady Manek and Kameron McGusty is tough to overcome, especially against a defense like West Virginia’s that was geared to make life difficult for Young.
8. Duke Blue Devils
Last week: 2
It’s tough to drop Duke too far in the rankings, despite a loss at NC State on Saturday. The Blue Devils still own a neutral-court win over Michigan State, as well as victories over Florida State and Florida. And they’re still a Final Four favorite. That defense, though. Mike Krzyzewski might have to go zone for 40 minutes.
9. Arizona State Sun Devils
Last week: 3
We said the road trip to Colorado and Utah was going to be sneaky-difficult, and it lived up to expectations. Colorado knocked them off in overtime, but the Sun Devils bounced back nicely to win arguably the tougher of the two games. Interesting note: Nine of their final 15 games are at home.
10. Xavier Musketeers
Last week: 5
Chris Mack saw his team’s 10-game winning streak snapped at Providence over the weekend, and now the Musketeers have to go to Philadelphia to face Villanova. They’ll need much more from Trevon Bluiett, who was scoreless after halftime against the Friars. Xavier can be susceptible from the perimeter; that’s not ideal when facing Villanova.
11. Wichita State Shockers
Last week: 11
Dominating Houston from the opening tip is more impressive than it looks on paper, but it was tough for the Shockers to make inroads up the rankings. They simply don’t have the marquee wins that other teams do. From the committee’s perspective, their two best wins are over Marquette and at Oklahoma State.
12. Kansas Jayhawks
Last week: 12
There’s a strange trend developing with the Jayhawks. All three of their losses have come at places where Kansas is considered the home team (two at Phog Allen, one at the Sprint Center in Kansas City). And their four best wins (Kentucky, TCU, Texas, Syracuse) have come on the road or at neutral sites. For what it’s worth, they’re home for two games this week.
13. Seton Hall Pirates
Last week: 21
Seton Hall’s seniors are just on another level this season. The trio of Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez combined for 76 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists in a comeback win at Butler on Saturday. Those three are going to be enough to beat teams most nights. And as a result, Kevin Willard doesn’t seem stressed at all.
14. North Carolina Tar Heels
Last week: 7
If you think North Carolina should be lower, we couldn’t blame you. The Tar Heels lost to Florida State and Virginia Last week: , giving them four on the season. But Roy Williams’ club still has wins over Tennessee and Arkansas, which is better than most. Three of their next four are at home, giving them a chance to get some momentum.
15. Arizona Wildcats
Last week: 9
After looking like the team everyone expected in the preseason, Arizona fell at Colorado on Saturday night — prompting Sean Miller to make some interesting comments about his players. On the plus side, the Wildcats’ schedule eases up considerably. They should be favored by five or more in each of their next 10 games.
16. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Last week: 17
Gonzaga is leaving no doubt about who the West Coast Conference favorite should be this season, winning its first four league games by an average of 32.8 points. Their toughest non-Saint Mary’s/BYU game of conference play comes on Saturday, when they’ll travel to San Francisco.
17. Auburn Tigers
Last week: NR
What a coaching job Bruce Pearl has done with the Tigers this season. They’re the first SEC team in the power rankings this week, after beating Tennessee on the road and then coming home and taking care of business against Arkansas. They have just one loss on the season, a neutral-site defeat to Temple in November.
18. TCU Horned Frogs
Last week: 14
After starting 12-0, the Horned Frogs have lost two of their past three — a win at Baylor sandwiched around home losses to Oklahoma and Kansas by a combined five points. Jamie Dixon still has a very good team on his hands, but they will need to make a statement in road games at Texas and Oklahoma this week.
19. Tennessee Volunteers
Last week: 20
A mixed bag for the Volunteers, losing by 10 at home to Auburn — and then turning around and beating Kentucky by 11. Rick Barnes’ team has had trouble closing out games so far this season (late losses to North Carolina and Arkansas), but they outscored Kentucky by 19 after halftime on Saturday night.
20. Clemson Tigers
Last week: 24
Brad Brownell’s team is now at 14-1 after holding off Louisville in overtime on Saturday. The Tigers don’t have a standout win yet, with victories over Florida and Ohio State atop the ledger. The fan base, however, is focused on Jan. 20. That’s the date No. 2 prospect Zion Williamson makes his college decision. There’s a legitimate chance the South Carolina native chooses the Tigers.
21. Cincinnati Bearcats
Last week: 25
Cincinnati picked up its most impressive win of the season on Sunday, beating SMU at home. And that’s the lone problem with the Bearcats’ profile right now. There’s not much meat to it, and that’s unlikely to change until mid-February, when they play Wichita State twice in the span of two weeks.
22. Florida Gators
Last week: NR
Welcome back to Mike White & Co. The Gators fell out of the rankings after losing four of five in late November and early December, but they have since won five in a row — including back-to-back road wins over Texas A&M and Missouri this week. Those non-conference wins over Gonzaga and Cincinnati look very good, too.
23. Arkansas Razorbacks
Last week: 16
We’re probably overvaluing Arkansas, but the Razorbacks still have impressive wins over Oklahoma and Tennessee — and therefore stay in the rankings despite back-to-back losses to Mississippi State and Auburn. Road woes have been a staple under Mike Anderson, and it hasn’t changed this season.
24. Kentucky Wildcats
Last week: 18
Really, what has Kentucky done this season? Home wins over Virginia Tech and Louisville looked better on the day they happened than they do now, and there’s nothing else to really hang their hat on. The young Wildcats have shown signs of improvement, though, and they get a slumping Texas A&M bunch on Tuesday.
25. Ohio State Buckeyes
Last week: NR
Ohio State beats out Creighton for the last spot, simply based on the fact the Buckeyes have a signature win — Sunday’s win over Michigan State. They also knocked off Michigan, and none of their four losses are bad. Creighton, meanwhile, has its best win over UCLA on a neutral, but the Bluejays do have upcoming chances to make statements.
Dropped out: Texas A&M, Miami, Creighton