Good morning, readers of Music City Drive-In, and welcome back to another edition of our weekly power rankings. Just when we thought that Baylor had solidified themselves atop our rankings, they drop two home games in a week. They are not the only top team to suffer losses this week, as this season continues to show that the only certainty about college basketball is uncertainty. For the first time in a while, there is a legitimate debate for the top spot between two teams. There will also be some huge games this week, as well, that should cause more fluctuation within the top 20. With that being said, let’s get into the rankings for this week. As usual, previous rankings are in parentheses.
- Gonzaga (2) – 14-2
Gonzaga barely edges out Auburn for the top spot, only because their consistency offensively has been shown since the beginning of December. A good BYU team came into town and put up 84 points on the Bulldogs. Gonzaga still beat them by 26 points. The Zags still leave a lot to be desired defensively, but when they are clicking on offense like that no team in the West Coast Conference stands a chance.
- Auburn (4) – 16-1
The Tigers have a legitimate case for number 1, as they have won 13 straight games. They are 5-0 in the SEC with wins over LSU and Alabama at the top of the conference. Auburn is the current favorite to win the SEC and for good reason. Jabari Smith continues to prove that he is number 1 overall pick material and Walker Kessler is finding his stride. Kentucky comes to town this Saturday for another chance at a statement win.
- Arizona (5) – 14-1
Arizona is just a tick behind the top two spots and if not for COVID pauses by UCLA and USC, they may have a legitimate case for number 1 if they had won those games. As it stands, the Wildcats took care of business against Colorado and Utah albeit in a different way than usual. Bennedict Mathurin took a back seat in both games to bench players that stepped up, showing that this team has more depth than we thought.
- Duke (7) – 14-2
After the eye-opening home loss to Miami, Coach K decided to switch up his starting lineup a bit. Heralded freshman AJ Griffin took over starting point guard duties, relegating Jeremy Roach to the bench. This move couldn’t have worked out better for the Blue Devils, as Griffin continues to show his ability as a potential one and done prospect. They are still the favorites in a weak ACC and get games at Florida State and against Syracuse this week.
- Purdue (8) – 14-2
With Michigan on COVID pause, Purdue only had the opportunity to play Nebraska last week and ran them out of West Lafayette. They have a huge game at Illinois that is essential for them to keep pace in the B1G race, as Illinois is currently undefeated in the conference. Scoring a road win against the Illini will solidify the Boilermakers as a top team in the country.
- Baylor (1) – 15-2
Baylor broke the wrong kind of record last week, becoming the first team ever to lose two home games in one week ranked as the number one team in the country. We can’t drop them too far as Jeremy Sochan, an integral piece off the bench, missed both games and Scott Drew dealt with inefficient outings from Adam Flagler and James Akinjo. A couple of road games in the Big 12 usually isn’t the recipe for get right games, so we will see if the Bears can bounce back.
- Kansas (10) – 14-2
Kansas’ quest for another Big 12 title got a boost with two losses by Baylor last week, but the real story is Jalen Wilson finally looking like the player he was last season. Without more consistent effort from him and David McCormack, however, Kansas’ ceiling is severely limited. If Remy Martin gets healthy and these two guys find their stride, the Jayhawks can win the Big 12.
- Wisconsin (12) – 14-2
Wisconsin has now won six straight games and sits at 5-1 in the B1G after winning by double digits against Ohio State last week. Johnny Davis is playing like the national player of they year, averaging almost 22 points per game so far. The sophomore is playing his way into being a lottery pick and the Badgers are never out of a game that Davis is playing.
- Houston (11) – 15-2
Houston cannot catch a break in the backcourt these days. With Marcus Sasser and Tremon Mark already out for the year, Jamal Shead had taken on a more significant role and started to shine in that role. However, he rolled an ankle against Tulsa in a game the Cougars ultimately gutted out a win in. If Shead misses any significant amount of time, Kelvin Sampson will have his thinnest backcourt yet.
- UCLA (3) – 11-2
UCLA is still trying to find their rhythm after their long COVID pause, and nothing shows that more than the play of Jaime Jaquez. He isn’t playing near to the level he was during last year’s Final Four run, and for Mick Cronin to get back there he needs the matchup problem that Jaquez creates. The loss against Oregon at home was bad, so they will need to bounce back in a big way this week.
- Kentucky (18) – 14-3
The Wildcats had one of the best offensive performances of the season against UT and their number 2 ranked defense according to KenPom. Kentucky scored 107 points and shot over 70% from the field and 60% from 3. It was an absolute clinic on the day that we lost a legend in Joe B. Hall. Coach Cal came out with a rolled-up program and started off in Hall’s trademark 1-3-1 defense to pay his respects to the former Kentucky head coach. With a game at Auburn on Saturday, the Wildcats get another chance to climb these and the SEC ranks.
- Villanova (15) – 13-4
Remember a few weeks ago when everyone, including myself, wrote off Villanova because of their 4 losses? That was fun. Jay Wright’s squad has now won 6 in a row and sits atop the Big East by themselves at 6-1. Collin Gillespie has found his stride and is looking like an All-American again. They beat Butler by 40(!) points on Sunday after giving Xavier another in the loss column on Wednesday.
- Michigan State (9) – 14-3
Michigan State looked the part of a top 10 team for a long time, with Gabe Brown showcasing a breakout season. That all came crashing down on Saturday with a loss to Northwestern at home. Tom Izzo teams just do not do that normally, so we need to temper our expectations with this squad. In order to challenge for a B1G title and ultimately a Final Four berth, someone will need to step up to help Brown.
- LSU (13) – 15-2
When it comes to LSU, it is hard to peg just how good this team can be. Yes, they have beaten Kentucky and Tennessee in SEC play because of their defensive ability. However, if they are not forcing turnovers and getting out on the fast break, they struggle to score points. They dropped a home game to a reeling Arkansas team on Saturday, letting the Razorbacks finish the game on a 17-2 run. Without Xavier Pinson in the lineup, it seems the Tigers are limited offensively.
- Texas Tech (17) – 13-4
Texas Tech had the best win of the week, going into Waco and handing Baylor their first loss since before the previous NCAA tournament. The Red Raiders followed that and a big win against Oklahoma State up with a baffling loss to Kansas State where they only scored 51 points. We can chalk that one up to an aberration if they can beat Iowa State and West Virginia at home this week.
- Iowa State (14) – 14-3
The Cyclones have had as hard of a conference slate to date as anyone and sit at 2-3 in the Big 12. They had a nice win over Texas last week after dropping a close one to Kansas. In a rematch of the defensive battle two weeks ago, Iowa State gets Texas Tech again this week before the schedule softens up significantly.
- Illinois (NR) – 13-3
After starting off the season in the top 10 nationally, Illinois dropped two of their first four games to drop off everyone’s radar. The Illini have no signature wins, but with the B1G heating up their 6-0 start looks better and better. The time will come when this team is ranked higher, but until then we have them inside our top 20.
- USC (6) – 14-2
After starting the season 13-0 with a lengthy COVID pause mixed in, USC dropped two of three against Stanford (unacceptable) and Oregon (slightly less unacceptable). The Trojans risk falling out of the rankings entirely if they cannot get a couple of road wins against Colorado and Utah this week.
- Ohio State (16) – 11-4
There are worse things in the world than losing to Wisconsin this season, and Ohio State avoided a second straight loss on Sunday against Penn State. EJ Liddell is playing as good as anyone in the country, but Chris Holtmann is going to need to find some help for him if they are going to compete with the rest of their conference.
- Xavier (NR) – 13-3
Xavier has only lost two games in the Big East, both to Villanova. They seem to be the second-best team in the conference, though, and with no games left against the Wildcats we will see if they can steal a conference championship. One thing we know about the Big East, however, is that it will be a dog fight. This is a good, albeit beatable team.
Teams that Dropped Out: Seton Hall (19), Tennessee (20)
Three Games to Watch this Week:
San Fransisco @ (1) Gonzaga – Thursday 1/20 @ 11 PM EST
The much-anticipated matchup from earlier in the year that got canceled because of a COVID issue within Gonzaga’s program, this will be one of the tougher games for the Zags in the WCC. If the Dons pull off the upset, we may see the WCC as a three to four bid league for the first time in a long time.
(13) Michigan State @ (8) Wisconsin – Friday 1/21 @ 9 PM EST
Michigan State gets another opportunity for a statement win on the road against Johnny Davis and the Badgers. We’ve said it before, but for the Spartans to pull off the upset Gabe Brown is going to need some help from his counterparts.
(11) Kentucky @ (2) Auburn – Saturday 1/22 @ 1 PM EST
The game of the week, the Wildcats are playing as good as anyone in the country right now. Oscar Tshiebwe will try to muscle up against Jabari Smith in this one, and Kentucky looks to continue their hot shooting ways to knock off Auburn. If Auburn pulls the win out, they may grab the number 1 spot no matter what Gonzaga does.