Despite a fairly light schedule in terms of both volume and high-profile matchups, we saw three top ten, blue blood teams stumble over the past week. We warned you last week that seemingly quiet weeks can lead to unexpected things, and that proved true. Naturally, this led to some big changes in this week’s rankings, as several teams continue their ascent while another pair joins the party for the first time.
1. Villanova (12-0) Last week: 1
The Wildcats maintain the top spot after easily dispatching Hofstra. While Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges have garnered the headlines, and rightfully so, a less heralded pair of players have been playing a big role. Phil Booth, who missed virtually the entire season last year, looks fully healthy and is playing like the player who was the overshadowed hero of the 2016 national title game. Meanwhile redshirt freshman Omari Spellman has strung together a series of impressive performances and is showing why he was such a highly-regarded recruit. If the pair can continue this type of play for the rest of the season, it’s hard to see ‘Nova anywhere but at or near the top of these rankings.
2. Michigan State (12-1) Last week: 2
Defeated Houston Baptist and Long Beach State
Michigan State remains right on Villanova’s heels. The Spartans have won 11 straight and continue to be impressive in every facet of the game. It’s hard to find a weak spot in what they’re doing right now. They have two more expected wins in the non-conference before getting back into Big Ten play.
3. Arizona State (12-0) Last week: 3
Defeated Longwood and Pacific
The Sun Devils and their prolific offense continue to answer every call. Blowouts over Longwood and Pacific have gotten Arizona State to 12-0, one of just three unbeaten teams remaining. While Arizona State has played a very respectable non-conference schedule, it’s been a few weeks since the Sun Devils have faced a true test. That will change this week when they open Pac-12 play at No. 18 Arizona.
4. Duke (12-1) Last week: 4
Duke had a long layoff following its upset loss to Boston College, and Evansville was in the unenviable position of being next in line. The Blue Devils blasted the Purple Aces 104-40. Freshman Wendell Carter Jr. scored a career-high 27 points, proving Duke isn’t just the Marvin Bagley/Grayson Allen show. Duke gets a test against No. 24 Florida State in its next game.
5. Oklahoma (10-1) Last week: 10
Defeated Northwestern State and Northwestern
Trae Young and company continued their winning ways, beating Northwestern State and Northwestern by a combined score of 209-146. Young dropped 26 points and 22 assists against Northwestern State and followed that up with 31 and 12 against Northwestern. He has played his way into Player of the Year consideration, and has made Oklahoma one of the most fun teams to watch in college basketball in the process. We’ve been saying this every week, but for those who haven’t listened we’ll say it again: you need to be watching Oklahoma every time it plays.
6. Texas A&M (11-1) Last week: 8
Defeated Northern Kentucky and Buffalo
A&M managed two wins this week despite being without a trio of players, including leading scorer D.J. Hogg, who were held out due to team-issued suspensions in the Buffalo game. Discipline has been a problem for the Aggies this season, as this marked the second time Hogg and freshman J.J. Caldwell have been suspended this season. In addition, NBA hopeful Robert Williams has also served a team-issued suspension this year. The number of suspensions, and the fact that once wasn’t enough for several of the players, is concerning. But the good news is that the Aggies have navigated the off-court distractions to the tune of an 11-1 record that includes several impressive wins.
7. West Virginia (11-1) Last week: 9
Defeated Coppin State and Fordham
The Mountaineers picked up two easy wins last week before heading into Big 12 play. West Virginia has been solid at both ends of the court, and Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. form one of the best and most experienced backcourts in the country.
8. TCU (12-0) Last week: NR
Defeated William & Mary
The undefeated Horned Frogs finally make their debut in these rankings. Solid ball movement lays the foundation for a balanced TCU attack, as five Horned Frogs currently average double figures. TCU’s schedule hasn’t produced too many tests, but that will change quickly as Big 12 play opens. The Horned Frogs open conference play against Trae Young and Oklahoma.
9. Xavier (12-1) Last week: NR
Defeated Marshall and Northern Iowa
The Musketeers fell from the rankings last week after a close call with ETSU. But they quickly return thanks to an impressive road win against Northern Iowa and the stumbles of some teams ahead of them. Xavier has a ton of experience and Trevon Bluiett is a big-time player. Now the Musketeers turn their attention to trying to unseat Villanova as Big East champions.
10. Purdue (12-2) Last week: NR
Defeated Tennessee State
The Boilermakers finally overcome their disastrous trip to the Bahamas to make their debut in these rankings. Since losing to Tennessee and Western Kentucky in the Battle 4 Atlantis, Purdue has reeled off eight-straight victories. Purdue holds wins over Arizona, Northwestern, Maryland, Louisville and Butler. The Boilermakers are solid at both ends of the floor, ranking in the top 31 in both points for and against. The quartet of Carsen Edwards, Isaac Haas, Dakota Mathias and Vincent Edwards is as solid as any in the country.
Lurking: Texas Tech, Florida State, Kansas, Wichita State, Kentucky, North Carolina, Miami
Dropped from rankings: Kentucky, North Carolina, Miami
It was a rough week for some blue bloods, as Kentucky fell to a middling UCLA team while North Carolina suffered a shocking home defeat to Wofford. Meanwhile, Miami fell from the ranks of the unbeatens after stumbling against New Mexico State. There’s a lot to like about all three of these teams, and they should be fine going forward and formidable in March. They’ll almost certainly find themselves back in these rankings, but for now they are on the outside looking in.
Conference play kicks off in earnest this week, and with it comes the return of high-profile matchups and incredibly important games. For many teams in these rankings, there will be no easing in to conference play. Expect the volatility in the TSFJ power rankings to increase as we head into the new year. Be sure to check in next week to see what has changed.
Josh Naso aka The Silver Fox has a love for all things sports that borders on disorder. Here, he aims to share his thoughts on and passion for those sports with you.