Hello again readers of Music City Drive In, welcome back to another edition of our college basketball power rankings. This past week had a lot of action, with a handful of top 10 teams all falling in upsets. This might be the biggest shakeup we have had this season and reminds us why we tune into the games in the first place. Hopefully we do not have any new COVID-19 pauses now that we have most of the nation back and playing basketball again, including two top 10 squads from out west who had been on pause since before Christmas. Now that we are getting into the thick of the conference slate, here are the rankings for this week. Like every week, previous rankings are in parentheses.
- Baylor (1) – 15-0
This team just keeps on winning. The unanimous number 1 team in the country right now, the Bears are wining with just about everyone contributing. They’ve been able to avoid any major injuries thus far, but Jeremy Sochan’s ankle injury will be one to monitor for this team’s depth moving forward.
- Gonzaga (4) – 12-2
Gonzaga seems to be hitting their stride, which is what they normally do coming into WCC play. They were on pause for a couple of weeks but got an overmatched Pepperdine team that they ran out of the gym upon coming back. There will be a few tough games during conference play, but it would be a surprise if they didn’t win their league again.
- UCLA (5) – 10-1
It hasn’t been pretty, but the Bruins have been able to come out of their COVID pause and notch a couple of wins over Long Beach State and Cal. They get both Oregon schools this week so look for them to try and get back to the fluid offense they were showcasing before the pause.
- Auburn (9) – 14-1
Auburn looks to be the class of the SEC thus far this season. They are 3-0 in conference play and have a big one this week on the road at Alabama. With Allen Flanigan slowly but surely coming along, this team hasn’t even played their best basketball so far this season.
- Arizona (7) – 11-1
The Wildcats have had a tough time even getting on the court because of COVID pauses by their opponents but were finally able to get a game in last week. They handled Washington easily and Bennedict Mathurin looks like a legitimate All-American candidate.
- USC (8) – 13-0
USC, like UCLA, was able to finally get back on the court after being shut down right before Christmas. The were able to avoid the upset bid by Cal, pulling away in the second half to win by 14 points. There seems to be three teams at the top of the PAC 12 that will battle it out for the conference title.
- Duke (2) – 12-2
What a game by the Miami Hurricanes, who came into Cameron Indoor and handed Coach K and the Blue Devils only their second loss of the season. Duke will need to start being more consistent from the outside to challenge for a national championship and will need to clean up the turnovers. This is a very talented team that will have to put it all together to reach their ceiling.
- Purdue (3) – 13-2
There was not much Purdue could do to stop Johnny Davis last week, but not many teams are successful at doing that right now anyway. However, struggling defensively against Penn State after losing to Wisconsin was not the performance they needed to show. They will have to have a more concentrated effort at that end of the floor to survive the B1G
- Michigan State (10) – 13-2
Michigan State did not get a chance to make a statement against Michigan, with the Wolverines going on pause before Saturday’s game. For some reason, it feels like Tom Izzo’s team is flying under the radar in a loaded B1G conference but that can change in a hurry with a few more wins for the Spartans.
- Kansas (6) – 12-2
Consistency is the name of the game for the Jayhawks. If they can get consistent production out of David McCormack and consistent availability for Remy Martin, Kansas can play with just about anyone. When either one – or against Texas Tech on Saturday, both – happen then they are very vulnerable against good defensive teams.
- Houston (12) – 14-2
Kelvin Sampson can flat out coach. Not many teams could lose their two leading scorers for the rest of the season and somehow keep it together, let alone win. It seems that multiple guys have been able to step up in their absence, so the Cougars are still the team to beat in the AAC.
- Wisconsin (NR) – 13-2
Wisconsin is our highest climber this week, going from unranked up to number 12 in one week mainly because of Johnny Davis. The sophomore guard has put the Badgers on his back the last few weeks, culminating in the best three game stretch of the year for him which includes his 37-point outburst against Purdue.
- LSU (NR) – 14-1
Another high riser this week, LSU rode their smothering defense to two top-20 wins over Kentucky and Tennessee this past week. This is a classic Will Wade team that is long and disruptive on the defensive end while scoring just enough points to win. LSU’s only SEC loss so far is to Auburn and the Tigers seem to be their biggest challenger in the SEC.
- Iowa State (11) – 13-2
The Cyclones had an up and down week after a gut-wrenching loss at home to Baylor. When their defense is engaged and disruptive, they can beat anyone. However, they just do not have enough offensive firepower to take a night off at that end of the floor. Against Oklahoma, their offense fell asleep as their defense got sloppy, leading to a 13-point loss.
- Villanova (20) – 11-4
This is what a Jay Wright-led Villanova squad looks like. They seem to have put it all together in the last few weeks after losing 4 games in the early going. Collin Gillespie is starting to play like the preseason Big East Player of the Year everyone expected him to be this year.
- Ohio State (13) – 10-3
It took a few games, but EJ Liddell is playing like the guy before Ohio State’s COVID pause. When he is on, like he was against Northwestern, he plays like a legitimate NPOY candidate. That is the guy that the Buckeyes need to show up night in and night out to stay competitive in the B1G.
- Texas Tech (NR) – 11-3
The defense has not skipped a beat since Chris Beard left, with new head coach Mark Adams coaching the same way he did as the top assistant at Texas Tech last year. The Red Raiders lost a close one to Iowa State but bounced back in a major way, holding Kansas to one of their worst offensive performances of the year.
- Kentucky (16) – 12-3
Yes, the Wildcats lost to LSU on the road to begin last week, but it is tough to take anything in that game seriously when Sahvir Wheeler left the game before the first TV timeout. TyTy Washington was thrust into the starting PG role after, and he clearly wasn’t ready. Even still they had a chance to win at the end of the game before a baffling final minute.
- Seton Hall (NR) – 11-3
Kevin Willard seems to have his team on the right track after a couple of losses immediately following their COVID pause. The backcourt this team has can put up points in a hurry, which is what they did in their win against UCONN. They are staring up at 4 teams in the Big East but figure to be one of the biggest challengers to Villanova.
- Tennessee (19) – 10-4
The Volunteers took one on the chin against LSU on Saturday after struggling to put away Ole Miss. Rick Barnes has a good team but needs Kennedy Chandler to play older than his freshman status for Tennessee to stay atop the SEC. Otherwise it is going to be a long year on Rocky Top and short stay after this in the top 20.
Teams that Dropped Out: Texas (14), Providence (15), Alabama (17) and Colorado State (18)
Three Games to Watch this Week:
(17) Texas Tech @ (1) Baylor – Tuesday 1/11 @ 7 PM EST
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? We are going to find out when the Red Raiders travel to Waco to face the offense Baylor puts out there every night. Texas Tech should keep it close but will need a good offensive night to pull of the road upset.
(4) Auburn @ Alabama – Tuesday 1/11 @ 9 PM EST
Auburn gets another chance to cement themselves as a national title contender when they go down the road to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama. The Crimson Tide need a win badly to right the ship on their season, as Nate Oats looks to contend for a repeat SEC championship.
(15) Villanova @ Xavier – Wednesday 1/12 @ 6:30 PM EST
Xavier is ranked in the top 20 and is currently tied in the loss column with Villanova in the Big East. A win here will show that Xavier is for real but if Villanova can pull it out all questions about the Wildcats will be answered.