Welcome back to our college basketball power rankings here at MCDI. Hoping everyone reading had a wonderful holiday and are winding down the year relaxing and watching as much college ball as possible. Just like multiple programs already, my wife and I spent the holiday quarantining after a positive COVID test. Everyone is vaccinated and boosted, so only mild symptoms around the house. While we have had multiple teams announce already that they are canceling games with Omicron spreading like wildfire, hopefully we can at least get some games in this week. As usual, previous rankings are in parentheses. Now let’s get down to business with conference play looming and hope that the scheduled games this week actually happen.
- Baylor (1) – 11-0
Baylor wraps up another week with our #1 ranking. The Bears play one more game against Northwestern State before entering conference play with a bang. They go into Ames to face #8 Iowa State and their highly effective defense. Baylor is fluid on offense, and they seem to have hit their stride, but this first test in Big 12 play will say a lot about this team’s ceiling.
- Duke (2) – 11-1
Duke has already come out of the holiday break and canceled two games because of Covid-19 positives within their program. Until they can get back on the court, they’ll likely hold at the top of our rankings. AJ Griffin seems to be coming into his own for the Blue Devils, which could likely be the X-factor when it comes down to if this team can cut down the nets at the end of the year.
- Purdue (3) – 11-1
Purdue finishes up their non-conference schedule this week with Nicholls State and no other games on the docket. This should be their last tune-up to figure out if Trevion Williams and Zach Edey can spend any amount of time on the court together with Wisconsin coming to West Lafayette next Monday. I trust Matt Painter to figure this conundrum out, and it is a great problem to have.
- Gonzaga (6) – 10-2
Chet Holmgren may be figuring this whole college basketball thing out. The potential number 1 overall pick in next summer’s NBA draft hasn’t lived up to expectations in big games thus far but he is coming into his own offensively. This offense still runs through Drew Timme but if Holmgren can figure it out, the sky is the limit for Mark Few’s team.
- UCLA (5) – 8-1
The Bruins haven’t played over two weeks since a December 11th win against Marquette, so they will hold pat here at 5. Their two games against Arizona and Arizona State have already been canceled, so we will see if they get back on the court in early January.
- Kansas (7) – 9-1
Kansas, like so many other programs, did not play this week either. However, that is because their opponent last week (Colorado) had Covid-19 issues of their own. KU has Harvard on Wednesday before opening their fairly easy start to Big 12 play with a game against TCU at home on Saturday.
- Arizona (4) – 11-1
Arizona suffered it’s first loss of the season in one of my Games to Watch last week against Tennessee. That loss said more about how good the Volunteers’ defense is than anything about Arizona. This is a young team that is overachieving in Tommy Lloyd’s first year at the helm and with UCLA on pause for Covid, they will not play this week.
- Iowa State (8) – 12-0
The Cyclones haven’t played anyone of note, but the turnaround this team has gone from Steve Prohm’s final year to TJ Otzelberger’s first season is remarkable. Iowa State won two (2) games last year. Two! Things get significantly more difficult this weekend when Baylor comes to town and a tough start to Big 12 play. We are going to find out how for real this team is very quickly.
- USC (9) – 12-0
Like UCLA, USC is currently on pause due to Covid-19 issues within the program. Both of their games against Arizona and ASU have been canceled, so they will not play again earlier than January 6th.
- Michigan State (10) – 10-2
The Spartans have a little bit of a break from B1G play, beating Oakland in Detroit last week before hosting High Point on Wednesday. Tyson Walker has taken this team to another level, but Gabe Brown is the real star of the show in East Lansing. He’s making good on the flashes of promise he’s shown in his career. Let’s see if he can keep it up as they get into the meat of their schedule.
- Auburn (13) – 11-1
Allen Flanigan has returned, and it doesn’t look like it will take him long to get acclimated. Auburn took care of business while he was rehabbing his summer injury and he came back with a statement against Murray State. With Jabari Smith down low and Flanigan in the wings, this team can play with anyone.
- Ohio State (11) – 8-2
The Buckeyes, like UCLA, have not played since December 11th. The break has may forgetting the season that EJ Liddell is having in Columbus, so hopefully they are able to play New Orleans on Tuesday and get this season back on track.
- Tennessee (18) – 9-2
Tennessee may now be the owner of the best win of any SEC team this season, completely shutting down Arizona and their high-octane offense in Knoxville this past week. Some may say that Arizona is a young team that was playing their first true road game, but the Volunteers looked dominant and the final of 77-73 was not indicative of that. It was not nearly that close for about 38 minutes.
- Seton Hall (14) – 9-1
Seton Hall has a huge week after being on Covid pause since the middle of December. They have games against Providence and Villanova, and if they can get back on the floor and win both games, they will be in the driver’s seat in the Big East.
- Houston (15) – 11-2
The injury bug has bitten Houston hard. Kelvin Sampson will have his work cut out for him trying to replace Tramon Mark and Marcus Sasser. For the time being, we will have the Cougars holding at 15 but that is more about the coach Sampson is than knowing what this team will be moving forward. The door is now open for other AAC teams.
- Texas (16) – 9-2
Chris Beard has his team whole before going into Big 12 play this weekend, with Dylan Disu making his debut over the last week to patrol the middle for the Longhorns. With last year’s rebounding leader in the SEC now in the fold, we’ll see how high this team can climb.
- Kentucky (20) – 9-2
Oscar Tshiebwe doesn’t believe that he has earned the moniker “The Machine” that Kentucky fans have taken to calling him, but that is exactly what he was against WKU this past week. He out-rebounded the Hilltoppers by himself, tallying 28 boards to their 27 as the Wildcats beat one of the better C-USA teams by 35 points. The heat ratchets up very quickly as SEC play starts, with a trip to Baton Rouge on the horizon after this week’s games against Mizzou and High Point.
- LSU (19) – 12-0
Like Iowa State, LSU hasn’t really played anyone of note just yet. That changes this week as Will Wade’s Tigers travel to Auburn to face Bruce Pearl’s Tigers. We won’t truly know how good this team is until they get into the meat of the SEC, but I have a feeling they’re as good as advertised.
- Alabama (12) – 9-3
The Crimson Tide have some truly baffling losses to go along with their two signature wins against Gonzaga and Houston. Alabama dropped one to Davidson this past week, which exposed the biggest flaw with Nate Oats’ team. If the threes are not falling for the Tide, then they are going to have a hard time scoring the ball.
- Colorado State (NR) – 10-0
Colorado State has been on the radar for a few weeks now, which makes it all the worse that they had to pull out of their game against Alabama because of Covid protocols. The last time we saw them they were beating a Mississippi State squad that could make some noise in the SEC, so we move the Rams into our rankings.
Team that Dropped Out: Xavier (17)
Three Games to Watch this Week:
(18) LSU @ (11) Auburn – Wednesday 12/29 @ 7 PM EST
This one is going to be fun. LSU gets their first opportunity to prove the 12-0 record is legit and we get to see how ready Allen Flanigan is for SEC play. Buckle up, because there are going to be a lot of points scored in this contest.
(13) Tennessee @ (19) Alabama – Wednesday 12/29 @ 9 PM EST
Alabama gets another chance to redeem themselves after that baffling loss to Davidson, with the Volunteers coming to Tuscaloosa on Wednesday. We know how good UT is defensively, but if the offense they showed against Arizona shows up then it’ll be a long night for the Crimson Tide.
(1) Baylor @ (8) Iowa State – Saturday 1/1 @ 2 PM EST
I have had this game circled for a while now, as Iowa State faces their first test against Baylor’s efficient offense. If the Cyclones come out and play their game defensively, they can pull off the upset against the Bears.