Bottoms Line College Basketball Power Rankings: Spartans Rise Edition

It’s been a couple weeks since the last edition of my power ratings, and a whole lot has changed since then thanks to some surprising results from early conference play, meltdowns from Pitt and Xavier, and a couple more teams falling from the ranks of the unbeaten.

College Basketball Power Rankings

1. Syracuse (15-0, Previous Ranking: 1)

Depth continues to be the calling card for the Orange with 10 players logging at least 11 minutes per game and seven of them averaging at least 7.1 points.  Outside of a home game against Florida, you could argue the schedule hasn’t been very challenging, and the Orange play just one ranked team (Marquette on January 7th) between now and February 8th.

2. Kentucky (13-1, Previous Ranking: 3)

I tweeted a month ago that freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was Kentucky’s most important player, and with 24 points and 19 boards against Louisville, he made me look pretty smart.  You would be hard-pressed to find a more fierce competitor, and he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite players to watch.

3. North Carolina (13-2, Previous Ranking: 4)

The Heels have won seven straight since falling to Kentucky, and Duke appears to be the only challenger in the ACC, meaning UNC should be able to reel off quite a few more wins before the Blue Devils visit the Dean Dome on February 8th.

4. Ohio State (13-2, Previous Ranking: 2)

It’s tough to penalize the Buckeyes too much for losing at IU, and I still believe they’re one of the four best teams in the country.  Three-point shooting continues to be a struggle (33.8% this season), but they are tough defensively and have a favorable schedule over the next few weeks, which should allow them to get back on track.  And oh yeah, they have that Sullinger guy who is pretty good.

5. Duke (12-1, Previous Ranking: 6)

Duke has played just five games since the end of November, and as I mentioned above, it’s the Devils, Heels, and everyone else in the ACC.  They also don’t have to play either Miami or Virginia on the road during conference play, so don’t look for them to fall out of the Top Five anytime soon.  That said, I couldn’t rank Duke above an OSU team that beat them by 22 in November.

6. Baylor (13-0, Previous Ranking: 7)

The Bears have had close calls in their last two games, going to overtime against West Virginia and winning on a last-second layup against Mississippi State.  Pierre Jackson has come up big in both games, scoring 23 points against the Mountaineers and making the game-winner against the Bulldogs.  Road trips to Kansas and Kansas State in the next two weeks will test them even more.

7. Connecticut (12-1, Previous Ranking: 8)

Freshman big man Andre Drummond is averaging 14.4 points, 7.8 boards, and 2.0 blocks over the last five games, and the Huskies have won seven straight.  They head to Seton Hall and Rutgers this week for their second and third road games of the season.  They only beat South Florida by three in their first.

8. Missouri (13-0, Previous Ranking: 9)

The Tigers got all they could handle from Old Dominion in their first true road game last week.  They ranked first in effective field goal percentage and second in turnover rate, but just one of their wins has come against a team ranked better than 50th in the Pomeroy Ratings.  Saturday’s game at Kansas State should be a good one.

9. Georgetown (12-1, Previous Ranking: 12)

Since losing to Kansas in their Maui opener, the Hoyas have ripped off 10 straight wins, including a home win over Memphis and a road victory over Louisville in the last couple weeks.  Markel Starks (20 points) and Otto Porter (14 points, 14 rebounds) led the way against the Cardinals and give Georgetown additional weapons on offense.

10. Michigan State (13-2, Previous Ranking: 20)

You could argue the Spartans are playing the best basketball of anyone in the Big Ten right now, and they’ve now won 13 in a row since losing to UNC and Duke to start the season.  Keith Appling was phenomenal against Indiana with 25 points, seven assists, six rebounds, and disruptive defense against Jordan Hulls and the Hoosiers.  This has the look of a classic Izzo team that locks you down defensively and owns the glass.

draymond-green-keith-applingAl Goldis, AP via The Only Colors

11. Indiana (13-1, Previous Ranking: 18)

The Hoosiers bounced back from their first loss of the season to beat Ohio State on New Year’s Eve.  Perhaps even more impressive is that they did it without Will Sheehey who has been sidelined recently with an ankle injury.  They have another tough game on Thursday when Michigan comes to town, but the win over OSU proved the Kentucky game was no fluke.  This team is legit.

12. Louisville (12-2, Previous Ranking: 5)

After winning their first 12 games, the Cardinals have lost two straight, albeit against tough competition.  The good news is they’re starting to get healthy and have four winnable Big East games up next on the schedule.  The bad news is their offensive efficiency numbers are pretty ugly so far.

13. UNLV (15-2, Previous Ranking: 22)

Their only two losses have come on the road in tough environments against Wisconsin and Wichita State, and the Rebels have beaten North Carolina, Cal, and Illinois by double-digits.  They look like the favorites in a top-heavy Mountain West thanks to solid three-point shooting, the duo of Mike Moser and Chace Stanback, and nine players averaging at least 5.3 points.

14. Florida (11-3, Previous Ranking: 11)

The Gators lost in double overtime to Rutgers, and some of the team’s guards might need to be re-introduced to big man Patric Young.  The talented sophomore is shooting 62.0 percent from the field, yet there are stretches where he only touches the ball after getting an offensive rebound.  Instead, Florida is taking nearly 44 percent of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc.

15. Kansas (10-3, Previous Ranking: 15)

I recognize that the Jayhawks were only playing North Dakota, but that doesn’t make Thomas Robinson’s 30-point, 21-rebound effort any less impressive.  He’s now averaging 17.7 points and 12.2 boards on the season.  Depth is the main concern entering Big 12 play, which Kansas opens against K-State this week.

16. Mississippi State (13-2, Previous Ranking: 16)

The Bulldogs acquitted themselves well against Baylor, but they failed to get a good shot on the game’s final possession.  Arnett Moultrie continues to impress, and freshman Rodney Hood is one of the nation’s most underrated newcomers.  He’s second on the team in rebounding (5.4 rpg), third in scoring (12.3 ppg) and assists (2.1 apg), and shoots 44.4 percent from deep.

17. Harvard (12-1, Previous Ranking: 19)

Harvard’s comeback win over Saint Joseph’s is better than many people realize.  Forwards Keith Wright and Kyle Casey combined for 42 points, 15 rebounds, and four blocks against the Hawks.

18. Michigan (12-2, Previous Ranking: 21)

With just one win against Pomeroy’s Top 45 and none against the Top 30, it’s hard to get a read on just how good the Wolverines are, but with their next two games against Indiana and Wisconsin, they will have a chance to prove themselves.  Freshman Trey Burke came up big on Sunday with 27 points in a win over Minnesota.

19. Marquette (12-2, Previous Ranking: 13)

The Golden Eagles looked awful in a home loss to Vanderbilt, which was their second loss in three games after winning their first ten.  They bounced back to beat Villanova, but things don’t get any easier with road games against Georgetown and Syracuse up next on the docket.  Shooting woes (particularly from three-point range) and struggles on the defensive glass have plagued them recently.

20. Wisconsin (12-3, Previous Ranking: 17)

After losing just one game at the Kohl Center over the past two seasons, the Badgers have already lost there twice this season, including Saturday’s stunning loss to Iowa.  They went just 3-of-28 from beyond the arc against the Hawkeyes, which compounds their troubles  getting to the free throw line and grabbing offensive rebounds.

21. Creighton (11-2, Previous Ranking: 23)

The Bluejays lost their conference opener at home to Missouri State but bounced back to win a tough road game against Wichita State on Saturday.  It looks like we are in for another hard-fought season in the Missouri Valley.

22. San Diego State (12-2, Previous Ranking: 25)

The Aztecs have been feasting on cupcakes since beating Cal in early December.  That all changes when they open MWC play at home against UNLV and on the road against New Mexico, but that doesn’t start until January 14th.

23. Murray State (14-0, Previous Ranking: 24)

Even though the Racers should keep on winning, their competition won’t do much to move the dial on people’s impressions of them.  A lot will ride on who they face in the BracketBusters in February.

24. Kansas State (11-1, Previous Ranking: N/A)

The Wildcats knocked off a talented Long Beach State squad to win the Diamond Head Classic, but things only get tougher for K-State with their first three Big 12 games against Kansas, Missouri, and Baylor.  Frank Martin’s team has been tough defensively and has four players scoring in double figures on offense.

25. Virginia (12-1, Previous Ranking: N/A)

After a disappointing loss to TCU in the Paradise Jam, the Cavs have won 10 straight.  However, outside of a home win over Michigan, they really haven’t played anyone.  Upcoming games against LSU, Miami, and Duke will give a better idea of just how good this team can be.

**********

Follow me on Twitter (@andybottoms) for more thoughts on college hoops, and check out the latest edition of the Bottoms Line podcast.



About Andy Bottoms

While Andy was born and raised in Indiana, he would like to point out that he grew up shooting hoops in his driveway and not against the side of a barn like you see in all the March Madness promos or in the middle of a field like Jimmy Chitwood. Andy ranks among the top bracketologists according to the Bracket Matrix and has provided his projections to Fox Sports for the past three seasons. When not compiling excuses for missing work during the NCAA Tournament, Andy enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters. He is a proud IU graduate and co-hosts The Assembly Call postgame show following every IU game. Twitter: @AndyBottoms

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