college hoops power rankings

By Ken Davis

Louisville apparently did not enjoy the burden of being ranked No. 1. The Cardinals played a bad half at Connecticut, then lost to Syracuse and at Villanova. Villanova? Four teams received first-place votes in the Associated Press poll this week. The choice here is Kansas. The Jayhawks are 17-1 overall, 5-0 in the Big 12, and have three conference road victories after Tuesday night’s 59-55 win at Kansas State (No. 11 AP, No. 13 Coaches). The Jayhawks haven’t lost since Nov. 13, when Michigan State knocked them off 67-64 on a neutral court.

1 Kansas Jayhawks 17-1 +1

Kansas State guard Rodney McGruder had averaged 21.5 points in his last four games. That was before Kansas’ Travis Releford had the opportunity to guard him. Releford held McGruder to 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting as the Jayhawks went into Manhattan and defeated their rivals in a hostile environment. Not a pretty win, but still impressive.

2 Michigan Wolverines 17-1 +1

The Wolverines have played just once since losing at Ohio State on Jan. 13. John Beilein’s team gets back at it on Jan. 24 against Purdue. Michigan ranks fourth in the nation in field goal percentage and ninth in points per game – quite the winning combination.

3 Syracuse Orange 18-1 +2

Without suspended senior James Southerland, coach Jim Boeheim has called upon his freshmen to contribute, and they have. But C.J. Fair, Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams were out of this world in the upset of No. 1 Louisville and the home win over Cincinnati.

4 Florida Gators 14-2 +5

Saturday was a day for buzzer-beaters and instant classics, but the Gators made noise with a whipping of Missouri, the team that was supposed to challenge Florida for the SEC title. When Billy Donovan’s team gets healthy, the Gators might run away and hide from the pack.

5 Duke Blue Devils 16-1 -1

Simply not buying Duke as the No. 1 team without Ryan Kelly. The Blue Devils had an amazing early resume, but that first ACC road game at North Carolina State ended in the first loss of the season. Duke is on the road again for Wednesday night’s big examination at Miami.

6 Indiana Hoosiers 16-2

The Hoosiers bounced back from that loss to Wisconsin at home with a 67-59 win at Northwestern. Somehow, that doesn’t seem like enough because people are expecting Indiana to blow out every opponent. Home games against Penn State and Michigan State might help in the confidence department.

7 Arizona Wildcats 16-1

Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson did their job on offense, combining to lead the Wildcats past rival Arizona State. Arizona’s defense forcing 17 turnovers helped, too. The Wildcats will need to be solid at both ends of the floor again when UCLA visits on Thursday night.

8 Butler Bulldogs 16-2 +6

If you didn’t celebrate the magic of Butler basketball over the weekend, you are either a loyal Gonzaga fan or you aren’t into college hoops. People doubted the Bulldogs without leading scorer Rotnei Clarke. But they forgot about Roosevelt Jones.

9 Louisville Cardinals 16-3 -8

Did you see the postgame video of Rick Pitino after the loss to Syracuse? He admitted he was “pissed.” Tuesday night in Philadelphia, the Cardinals got “Yacoubou-ed” by Villanova and 50 percent free throw shooting. Back-to-back losses? Seems the No. 1 ranking was a curse for The ‘Ville.

10 Gonzaga Bulldogs 17-2 -2

This is still an exceptional team, despite the loss at Butler. Better execution on that final inbound pass and we are probably praising the Bulldogs for winning on the road. That’s why we are keeping Gonzaga in the Top 10.

11 Michigan State Spartans 17-3 +8

Lost a lot of confidence in the Spartans after those November losses to Connecticut and Miami, but it seems Tom Izzo’s squad is pulling it together. Consecutive wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin have the Spartans on top of the Big Ten and headed to Bloomington on Sunday.

12 Minnesota Golden Gophers 15-3 -2

It won’t be easy for the Gophers to snap their two-game losing streak with road games against Northwestern and Wisconsin this week. Minnesota couldn’t stop Michigan’s Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., but the Gophers aren’t alone in that club.

13 Creighton Bluejays 17-2 -2

The Bluejays drop two spots after the loss at Wichita State. The game really said more about the Shockers and the fact they are going to hang around in the conference race. It’s not always easy to get the ball to your national player of the year candidate.

14 Oregon Ducks 16-2 +8

The Ducks are flying up in the power rankings. Oregon stands as the only undefeated team in the Pac-12 and has positioned itself well with victories over favorites Arizona and UCLA.

15 Virginia Commonwealth Rams 16-3 +5

The Rams still haven’t lost since Duke and Missouri dealt them consecutive defeats in late November. Last week, the Rams crushed Duquesne and knocked off Saint Joseph’s in OT.

16 Ohio State Buckeyes 14-4  -1

After consecutive games in the 50s, the Buckeyes broke out a bit on offense Tuesday night with a 72-63 home victory over Iowa. The Ohio State players weren’t happy with the way they finished, but they found a way to win.

17 Kansas State Wildcats 15-3 -1

The Wildcats missed a big opportunity Tuesday with a home game against rival Kansas. K-State has a few scoring options, but when Rodney McGruder isn’t on track, the Wildcats will have a difficult time winning.

18 New Mexico Lobos 16-2 +3

If you haven’t been paying attention to the Mountain West, it may sound bad that the Lobos got pushed to overtime by Boise State. That’s a quality Boise State team, however. There’s another tough game coming up Wednesday night at home against Colorado State.

19 Wichita State Shockers 17-2 (unranked last week)

Coach Gregg Marshall continues to impress, and the Shockers showed a lot of toughness in their big win over Creighton. Wichita State dodged a couple of 3-point bullets at the end, but they were fired up by Ethan Wragge, not Doug McDermott.

20 Mississippi Rebels 15-2 +4

Maybe the Rebels won’t stick round in the power rankings, but the fact is they are 4-0 in the SEC, and that’s their best conference start since the 1936-37 season. Remember the name Marshall Henderson. He averages almost 19 points a game.

21 North Carolina State Wolfpack 15-4 -9

Since the big win over Duke, the Wolfpack have gone 1-2, with road losses at Maryland and Wake Forest. Wake hadn’t knocked off a ranked opponent in almost three years. A home game against North Carolina is next for the Wolfpack.

22 UCLA Bruins 15-4 -7

The Bruins are 5-1 in Pac-12 games and clinging to second place as they head into the McKale Center for a huge game with Arizona on Thursday night. Five of UCLA’s next eight games are on the road.

23 Miami Hurricanes 13-3 (unranked last week)

We welcome the first-place team in the ACC to the power rankings this week. It might be a short stay because Duke visits the BankUnited Center Wednesday night. But the Hurricanes have a chance to prove they belong.

24 Colorado State Rams 15-3 (unranked last week)

The Rams have won nine of their last 10, the only loss coming to San Diego State in overtime on Jan. 12. Just like Miami, we welcome the Rams as they prepare for their biggest game of the season, Wednesday night at New Mexico. First place in the Mountain West is on the line.

25 Missouri Tigers 14-4 -7

Sure, the Tigers were missing Laurence Bowers, but they really stunk it up at Florida on Saturday. And when they were trailing South Carolina by 13 points at home Tuesday night, they were on the verge of exiting the rankings. Missouri rallied to win 71-65, earning the Tigers a reprieve.