Coming off a relatively dull week in terms of reputable competition, week 2 ramped up the excitement with the Champions Classic, pitting several of the top-ranked teams against each other. In the end, both Duke and Kansas came away with fantastic victories against Michigan State and Kentucky respectively, establishing themselves as the two best teams in the country…for now. With each subsequent week, every notable program will have to face obvious and unforeseen tests that will ultimately determine their final seeding in the NCAA tournament. However, until that momentous day, die-hard fans will be rewarded nearly every day of the season with improbable buzzer beaters, unthinkable upsets and miraculous performances made by both the young and veteran talents of this mesmerizing sport.
1. Duke Blue Devils
The return of the dominant shooter in senior guard Grayson Allen (21.8 PPG, 53.1 3P%) along with the addition of number one recruit freshman forward Marvin Bagley III (18 PPG, 9,3 RPG), will allow the well-coached Blue Devils to be dominant on both offense and defense this season. Barring serious injuries, the Blue Devils will be rightfully considered the program to beat throughout the season.
2. Kansas Jayhawks
Although the Jayhawks lack notable depth, their starting five is as disciplined as it is proficient on both offense and defense. Senior guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk will be the obvious precision shooter for the Jayhawks (19.7 PPG, 47.8 3P%), while sophomore center Udoka Azubuike will do the dirty work as a physical rebounder (5.3 RPG) and defender (2 BPG). If the Jayhawks can remain this well-balanced, there will not be a limit to the multitude of ways this program can win basketball games.
3. Arizona Wildcats
Assuming the off the charts shooting accuracy of junior guard Allonzo Trier (30 PPG, 70 FG%) and rebounding prowess of freshman forward Deandre Ayton (11.7 RPG) remain this elite, the Wildcats could have the deadliest one-two punch in the country. As their non-conference schedule heats up, the Wildcats will attempt to produce at an immensely high level and be the team to topple in the PAC-12.
4. Michigan State Spartans
Despite a tough loss to Duke, Michigan State should not be at all discouraged as their defense combined with their skilled athletes will keep them in the conversation to win a National Title this season. The obvious benefits of returning sophomore guard Miles Bridges (19.7 PPG, 7 RPG) combined with the prolific shooting abilities of sophomore forward Nick Ward (19 PPG, 75.9 FG%) will be a constant hassle for opposing defenses to contain throughout the season.
5. Villanova Wildcats
The percentage shooting and ball movement of the Wildcats have been fantastic thus far and will be vital to their continued success going forward. With two guards that can both pass and shoot in juniors Mikal Bridgers (18.3 PPG, 3 SPG) and Jalen Brunson (17.7 PPG, 4.7 APG), the Wildcats have the ideal leadership intangibles and coveted depth to be dominant once again in the Big East.
6. Wichita State Shockers
While the Shockers high ranking in the preseason was a bit surprising, the first two contests for the Shockers this season have been indicative of a dynamic program that can potentially compete with some of the best teams in the country. The rebounding and scoring abilities of senior center of Shaquille Morris (17 PPG, 7.5 RPG) in conjunction with the high-volume shooting attack of senior forward Darral Willis Jr. (16.5 PPG) could prove to be consistently deadly as the Shockers progress through the season.
7. Florida Gators
With another great rebounding roster, the likes of senior guard Egor Koulechov (8 RPG) and junior forward Kevarrius Hayes (4.7 RPB, 2.7 BPG) will be instrumental in keeping this program competitive in what now appears to be a highly talented South Eastern Conference. Combined with the shooting abilities of junior guard Jalen Hudson (18.3 PPG), the Gators should have enough of an offensive output to allow their lengthy rebounders to do what they do best.
8. UNC Tar Heels
As long as senior guard Joel Berry II can continue to be an exceptional passer (6 APG), the Tar Heels will have an extremely potent offense that will be able to overwhelm some of the better defenses in college basketball. With the dynamic abilities of junior forward Luke Maye (23 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.5 BPG) and senior forward Theo Pinson (11 PPG, 4 RPG, 5.5 APG) on the roster as well, the Tar Heels have an experienced starting lineup that will look to defend their National Title this season.
9. USC Trojans
While the Trojans needed every bit of their offense to overcome a persistent Vanderbilt program, it was a great test for senior guard Jordan McLaughlin (19.7 PPG, 2.3 SPG) and junior forward Chimezie Metu (18.3 PPG, 2 BPG) to prove that they were ready to be featured more prominently for this USC program. With Texas A&M coming up on November 26th, the aforementioned dynamic athletes will get a grand opportunity to elevate their team to top-5 status early in the season.
10. Kentucky Wildcats
There is no denying how young (youngest team coach Jim Calipari has ever had) or raw this Wildcats program is right now. However, as is always the case every year, the Wildcats always find a way to be one of the top contenders in college basketball despite their inexperience. Freshman guard Quade Green (11.5 PPG) will most likely be the Wildcats go to sharpshooter while freshman forward Kevin Knox (15 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.5 SPG) will be this programs gifted two-way athlete that will lead this team to several well-earned victories as the season progresses.
11. Cincinnati Bearcats
Although it’s difficult to become too excited over the Bearcats overall numbers considering their easy schedule thus far, the fact that they are a top-four program in scoring (102 PPG), rebounding (54.3 RPG) and assists (23.7 APG) cannot be completely discounted. The overall depth of their roster, combined with their versatile starting line up that is led by sophomore guard Jarron Cumberland (16.3 PPG, 6 RPG, 50 FG%) should allow this program to be consistently competitive as the difficulty of their schedule ramps up in December.
12. Miami Hurricanes
With this type of defensive dominance (53 PAPG, tied for 7th in the nation), the Hurricanes should be one of the top contenders in the ACC. Thanks to the tenacity of sophomore forward Dewan Huell as a rebounder (12.7 PPG, 7.7 RPG) and junior guard Anthony Lawrence II (6 RPG, 1 SPG), the Hurricanes have been able to dominate the opposition without a true scorer to carry them offensively.
13. Minnesota Golden Gophers
As far as being versatile is concerned, the Golden Gophers do not appear to have any issues in that department as their proficient offense (94.3 PPG, 20th in the nation), skillful ball movement abilities (19.3 APG, 36th in the nation) and aggressive rebounding capabilities (45 RPG, tied for 24th in the nation) look to be consistent attributes for this program going forward. As long as junior forward Jordan Murphy can continue to be dominant as a scorer (24.8 PPG) and rebounder (12.8 RPG), the Golden Gophers will be in a favorable position to compete for a BIG 10 title by the end of the season.
14. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Although the Fighting Irish have not exactly been tested this season, the proven offensive efficiency of senior forward Bonzie Colson (20 PPG, 11 RPG) and sophomore guard Temple Gibbs (17.7 PPG, 50 3P%) cannot be denied. Luckily, the Fighting Irish will get to emphatically prove that their prolific offense is the real deal as they will take on a defensively oppressive Michigan State program by the end of the month.
15. Xavier Musketeers
The relentless offense of the Musketeers (94 PPG, Tied for 22nd in the nation) was on full display on the road against Wisconsin as senior guards Trevon Bluiett (25.3 PPG, 54.2 3P%) and J.P. Macura (17.3 PPG, 69.2 FG%) attacked the Badgers defense with a seemingly endless shooting barrage. With two important contests against Baylor and Cincinnati coming up at the end of the month and going into the month of December, the Musketeers will continue to confidently overwhelm opposing defenses with their incredibly talented shooters.
16. Texas A&M Aggies
Although the Aggies have only played two games on the young season, their formidable starting roster that is highlighted by junior center Tyler Davis (18.5 PPG, 9.5 RPG) and Junior forward DJ Hogg (21.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG) are physical and tenacious on both sides of the court. With an intriguing test against Oklahoma State coming up, the Aggies will look to continue their versatile dominance while increasing their already impressive notoriety.
17. Gonzaga Bulldogs
An elite rebounding program (49.3 RPG, 6th in the nation), the Bulldogs have been able to consistently keep the ball out of the hands of the opposition thanks to sophomore forward Killian Tillie (8.7 RPG, 1.3 BPG) and freshman forward Corey Kispert (6 RPG, 11.7 PPG). However, in order for the Bulldogs to be truly dominant going forward, they will need senior guard Silas Melson (11.7 PPG) and junior guard Josh Perkins (13.3 PPG) to be consistent ball-facilitators.
18. Purdue Boilermakers
Scoring more than 100 points in three out of their last four games, while holding their respective opponents to 74 points or less in all four of their victories, the Boilermakers currently possess one of the most opportunistic teams on both offense and defense in college basketball. Senior center Isaac Haas has the size (7’2″) and ability (13.5 PPG, 6 RPG, 1.3 BPG) to lead this team to new heights while sophomore guard Carsen Edwards (18.5 PPG, 58.7 FG%, 47.4 3P%) has the makeup of an elite scorer. With a relatively tough stretch upcoming on their schedule (Tennessee, Louisville, Maryland), the Boilermakers will look to continue their dominance over the opposition.
19. Seton Hall Pirates
What the Pirates lack in rebounding efficiency (38.3 RPG, tied for 155th in the nation) they make up for with a strong defense (63.5 PAPG, tied for 59th in the nation), which is led by senior center Angel Delgado. With an intriguing matchup against Rhode Island coming up, the Pirates will look to quietly continue playing their brand of basketball until they face a tenacious Louisville program in early December.
20. Louisville Cardinals
While the Cardinals have two immensely talented forwards in juniors Ray Spalding (10.5 PPG, 2 BPG, 2.5 SPG) and Deng Adel (20.5 PPG, 6 RPG), their lack of a true ball-facilitator (12.5 APG, tied for 240th in the nation) could come back to haunt them when they have to play a defensively disciplined Purdue program (62.8 PAPG) by the end of the month.
21. Saint Mary’s Gaels
As has always been the case for Saint Mary’s, the success of their program is predicated on their players being efficient on the defensive end (65 PAPG) while being unselfish when it comes to finding the open man on the offense (18.5 APG). With versatile junior center Jock Landale being the Gaels leading scorer (17.5 PPG) and rebounder (8 RPG), this program has one of the most underrated anchors in college basketball. If junior forward Calvin Hermanson can continue to be the consummate sharpshooter for the Gaels (19 PPG, 71.4 FG%, 60 3P%), this program could potentially challenge Gonzaga for a conference title by the end of the season.
22. Creighton Blue Jays
With a shootout win over a ranked Northwestern program, the offensively tenacious Blue Jays looked like the real deal as junior guard Khyri Thomas (17.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG) led his team on both sides of the court. However, while the Blue Jays aforementioned superstar will be essential to this teams continued success, it is their impressive depth led by freshman guard Ty-Shon Alexander (47.1 FG%, 46.23P%) that will allow this program to flourish as the season progresses.
23. West Virginia Mountaineers
After a surprising blowout loss to Texas A&M earlier in the season, the Mountaineers were grateful to have an opportunity to take out their frustrations on two cupcake programs (American University, Morgan State). While senior guard Daxter Miles Jr. has been electric as a mid-range shooter (18.3 PPG, 60.6 FG%), and senior guard Jevon Carter (16.3 PPG, 4.7 APG, 6.3 APG, 5 SPG) has the potential to be one of the best two-way players in college basketball, neither of these veteran stars will be tested until they take on Virginia on December 5th.
24. Baylor Bears
If the Bears can continue to play this brand of defense (57.7 PAPG, 19th in the nation) and offense (85 PPG, tied for 80th in the nation) they will be a serious force to be reckoned with in the BIG 12. Senior forward Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. (12 PPG, 10.3 RPG) provides the physicality and length to rebound consistently while senior guard Manu Lecomte (20.7 PPG, 46.2 3-Point%) is a deadly sharpshooter that can demoralize opposing defenses. However, the Bears have not been tested this season and their next three games (Wisconsin, Xavier and Wichita State) will be strong indicators of just how dynamically dominant this program actually is.
25. UCLA Bruins
While the depleted Bruins did not succumb to any of their two respective opponents this week (Central Arkansas, South Carolina State), the ongoing distraction of how this program will discipline three of their star freshmen will likely affect this teams success at some point. Although freshman guard Jaylen Hands has performed valiantly in his teammate’s absence (15.3 PPG, 54.8 FG%), the Bruins lack of depth cannot be ignored as their next matchup will be against an offensively potent Creighton Blue Jays program.