Here is my first weekly look at the state of college basketball, the 12 teams I think are playing the best right now. A few ground-rules:
A – This is a weekly look at the game. Therefore, there can be wild changes in rankings from week-to-week based on results from only a few games.
B – When at all possible, I’ll try to rank teams higher than teams they’ve beat. For example, I’ve got Gonzaga ahead of Georgia Tech and Oklahoma State this week. I do not, however, have Missouri above Gonzaga. If I thought Mizzou was one of the 12 best teams in the country right now, though, they would be higher than Gonzaga. Make sense? These head-to-head games have a shelf life of 2-3 weeks, but if Gonzaga and Oklahoma State are in pretty similar situations six weeks from now, their game last week may still be a tie-breaker.
3 – As always, I’m right and you’re wrong if you disagree.
This week’s rankings:
12: Washington. I have my doubts about their long-term abilities, but they’ve been impressive to this point.
11: Syracuse. I needed a Big East team I guess.
10: Duke. I laughed out loud when Dick Vitale casually mentioned that no one was talking about Duke this year. Two reasons. One, everyone else knows you’ll do all the talking for them, Dick. Two, compared to many other top teams, they’ve played an easier schedule (In the 50-60 range in most ratings). It’s not like they’ve been waxing Illinois and Kentucky. Good, but not great.
9: Arizona. They can’t totally fall apart two years in a row, can they?
8: Georgia Tech. Nothing to be ashamed of in losing to Gonzaga and at Kansas. Still a good team, although they need more inside presence.
7: Oklahoma State. Realistically, they’re higher than this. But my head-to-head rules drop them to seven for now. Ranked above Tech since GT has two losses.
6: Gonzaga. I was ready to hop on the bandwagon until the loss to Mizzou. Some atrocious shooting numbers in the box score from Columbia, so perhaps that night was an aberration.
5: Kansas. The performance Saturday kept them from dropping to the bottom of the list due to Wayne Simien’s absence. Still a threat. Replace Kentucky with Baylor on Sunday, and I would drop the ‘Hawks next week. A win in Lexington gives them a chance to remain this high.
4: Wake Forest. Impressive against Virginia yesterday. No shame in losing to Illinois, either, although they could have at least made it a game.
3: Kentucky. Better than I expected. UK fans may not be in love with Tubby, but there’s no doubt he knows how to coach big men. If they get consistent perimeter play, they’re as dangerous as anyone in the country.
2: North Carolina. Aside from the shock loss to Santa Clara, they’ve been almost as impressive as Illinois so far. Of course, it’s early and their coach is Roy Williams.
1: Illinois. No question. They’ve destroyed two very good teams, beaten another good team, and three decent teams. Amazing their cupcakes have been weak enough to pull their SOS down to the 50s too. It will be interesting to see if Wisconsin, Michigan State, or Iowa can give them a run for the Big 10 title.