Upsets galore. Four out of the top five ranked teams in the country lost this past week, with all four of those losses coming at the hands of unranked opponents. While this week may have been chaotic for the perceived juggernauts in college basketball, it simultaneously paved the way for intriguing programs that are on the rise to take their rightful place at the top. The defensive-minded Virginia Cavaliers, in particular, made a strong case for themselves as being one of the best programs in the country. Dispatching both Virginia Tech and North Carolina this past week, the Cavaliers emphatically proved that an opportunistic defense and high-percentage shot taking is more than enough to overcome a lack of notable talent. Which team will be at the top of the college football rankings this week? Let’s find out.
1. Villanova Wildcats
By virtue of the two teams in front of them losing while beating Marquette last week, the Wildcats were able to reclaim the throne as the best team in college basketball. Although their finicky defense is somewhat of a concern (69.8 PAPG), it could be much worse overall and their highly productive offense has done a great job of covering up their defensive shortcomings (88.9 PPG).
2. West Virginia Mountaineers
After outscoring the top-tier offense of Oklahoma on Saturday, the Mountaineers have firmly asserted themselves as one of if not the most dynamically dominant programs in the country. While there is still a long a way to go until March Madness commences, it would be shocking to see the Mountaineers not obtain a one seed if they can continue to play this effectively on offense and defense.
3. Michigan State Spartans
Although getting blown out by a conference opponent is never ideal, the Spartans are still an elite program that can score and play defense at a top-tier level. While upsets do happen and should never diminish a well-balanced programs overall body of work, it will be compelling to see how the Spartans bounce back as they play a defensively sound Rutgers program next.
4. Virginia Cavaliers
While a loss to West Virginia a couple of weeks ago appeared to expose a glaring crack in Virginia’s game plan as an anemic offensive program, they have remarkably managed to maintain their dominant defensive ways without having to score on a consistent basis. With a win over a prolific offense in North Carolina, the Cavaliers have quieted all the doubters that suggested that their one-dimensional ways would not be enough to dispatch elite opposition.
5. Wichita State Shockers
Looking right at home in the American Atheltic conference, the Shockers have been sensational in conference play. Holding all three of their conference opponents to 63 points or less, the Shockers have emphatically asserted themselves as a stout defensive unit that can also score relentlessly and demoralize nearly any opponent that stands in their way (85.1 PPG).
6. Duke Blue Devils
Once again, Duke’s dreadful performance on defense cost them what should have been relatively easy win against NC State. What the Blue Devils have proven time and again this season is that no matter how much talent you have on your roster, it will ultimately never be enough to cover up poor defensive play. Luckily, the Blue Devils have defeated every ranked opponent they have faced, an impressive feat that will be sustainable if they do not become more effective on defense.
7. Purdue Boilermakers
With Michigan State losing on Sunday, the case can now officially be made for Purdue as the best team in the Big 10. Scoring 86.1 points per game and allowing just 63.3 points per game, the Boilermakers are a well-balanced and dominant program that has not shown any signs of slowing down. Allowing just one opponent to score more than 70 points against them during their 11-game winning streak, Purdue is well on its way to claiming the top spot in the country.
8. Arizona State Sun Devils
As long as the Sun Devils can score 85+ points per game, they will be one of the most exciting and productive programs in college basketball. However, when their offense takes the day off, their defense does not do nearly enough to carry them when they cannot hit perimeter shots. It’s a dangerous business living and dying by the three-point shot, but the Sun Devils have managed to persevere through their blatant weaknesses so far.
9. Xavier Musketeers
As is the case with college basketball teams that rely almost solely on a prolific offense, there will inevitably be moments where that type of scoring prowess falls flat. Although the loss to Providence was not pretty, it should hopefully be a wake up call for a program that is elite in every offensive category that matters.
10. Oklahoma Sooners
Unsurprisingly, the Sooners porous defense finally cost them a game to a reputable Big 12 opponent in West Virginia. Even with the best offense in the country at their disposal, the Sooners need to be at least half-way decent when it comes to defending the hoop. If nothing else, Oklahoma needs to discover a strong playmaker on their roster outside of Trae Young.
11. Texas Tech Red Raiders
With four wins against ranked opponents this season, the streaking Red Raiders have quickly emerged as an elite defensive program that can now score consistently enough to dispatch their respective opponents (81.1 PPG, 59.2 PAPG). With Oklahoma and West Virginia coming up next, the highly confident Red Raiders will get a grand opportunity to prove that they are the best team in the Big 12.
12. Kansas Jayhawks
Normally, giving up 85 points or more in a game would almost always result in a loss for an average college basketball program. Luckily, the Jayhawks are anything but average on offense (86.9 PPG) and have been able to defeat the likes of TCU and Texas as a result. With that being said, the Jayhawks will have to be dominant on both sides of the court if they hope to win the BIG 12 conference once again.
13. Arizona Wildcats
Despite a recent loss to Colorda, the Wildcats have largely looked like the competitive Pac-12 program they were supposed to be coming into this season. Although the unintimidating defense is still a problem (72.7 PAPG), their offense has been potent enough to allow them to beat the elite competition (83.8 PPG), with their recent victory over Arizona State being exhibit A.
14. Seton Hall Pirates
While it’s easy to heap praise on the likes of Villanova and Xavier for their electric and productive offenses, the Pirates have been a well-balanced program throughout the season that has lost just two games this season. Considering they are the only program in the Big East with a blemishless conference record, the Pirates have more than proven their worth as a top-tier team within their deep conference.
15. Cincinnati Bearcats
Undefeated in conference play (3-0) the physical defense of the Bearcats appear to be hitting its stride as they have held their last six opponents to 63 points or less. If Cincinnati can be slightly more prolific on offense (79 PPG), they could not only be the team to beat in the American Athletic Conference but could also become one of the elite programs in the country in the near future.
16. Miami Hurricanes
If the Hurricanes had taken care business in their two losses to opponents they should have beaten, they would be ranked right up there with the Cavaliers as having one of the deadliest and most potent defenses in the country. Still, Miami has overcome both ranked opponents they have faced this season (Minnesota, Florida State), suggesting that this program is more of a contender than a pretender in the ACC
17. Florida State Seminoles
While you could point to shoot out losses to Duke and Miami and rightfully discern that the Seminoles have no business in the top-25, a closer look at their overall statistics suggests that this program is a sleeping giant on the verge of waking up. Ranking 47th or better in the country in points, rebounds, and assists per game, the Seminoles only glaring weakness is an inconsistent defense, something that only needs to be slightly better for them to be truly competitive in the ACC.
18. North Carolina Tar Heels
Similar to their hated Rivals in the Duke Blue Devils, the Tar Heels are equally proficient when it comes to scoring and rebounding the basketball (82.6 PPG, 43.8 RPG), but struggle mightily when it comes to playing defense consistently (71.6 PAPG). While there is still a long way to go in conference play, the Tar Heels need to reevaluate their deficiencies and at least be average when it comes to defending the hoop.
19. Gonzaga Bulldogs
At some point in the near future, you would think the Bulldogs would get a promotion to at least a reputable Group of Five conference. Until then, Gonzaga will continue to cruise through the likes of Santa Clara and Pepperdine without receiving any recognition for their potent offense (89.9 PPG) and tremendous rebounding skills (40.9 RPG).
20. TCU Horned Frogs
Without a reputable defense, any college basketball program will be doomed to lose in devastating fashion at some point during the season. After just barely overcoming the Baylor Bears early last week, the Horned Frogs luck ran out as they eventually lost a shootout to Kansas on Saturday. If the Horned Frogs want to get back on track in the BIG 12, they must become more disciplined on the defensive end of the court, lest they become lost in arguably the most competitive conference in college basketball (75.1 PAPG).
21. Clemson Tigers
Although the Cavaliers are currently and rightfully considered the best defense in the country, the underrated Tigers are quietly making a name for themselves as serious defensive force (63.5 PAPG). Allowing just two opponents to score more than 70 points during their current 10-game winning streak, the Tigers are easily one of the most fundamentally sound and competitively consistent programs in the nation.
22. Kentucky Wildcats
While it’s unsurprising that a team rife with freshmen would have inconsistency issues from time to time, it’s definitely somewhat disconcerting when those immensely talented youngsters are unable to do enough to beat the lesser opposition. The talent is clearly there, but the overall team oriented continuity is clearly lacking thus far in the season.
23. Tennessee Volunteers
For every devastating loss the Volunteers have to an Auburn or Arkansas, they somehow manage to persevere and beat either a Kentucky or Wake Forest to keep themselves in the conversation as a competitive program. While their defensive issues need to be rectified if they hope to stay relevant in the SEC (69.9 PAPG), their explosive offense has certainly done more than enough to make them a respectable giant killer this season.
24. Baylor Bears
It’s certainly been a wonky season for the Baylor Bears. Simply put, the Baylor Bears have been one of the most inconsistent teams on offense and defense this season. Luckily, their rebounding prowess has been able to keep them afloat in a brutal Big 12 Conference (39.2 RPG), something that will have to continue in earnest until the Bears can establish some continuity in the other facets of their game.
25. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Since losing to Indiana a couple of weeks ago, the resurgent defense of the Fighting Irish has been nothing short of sensational during their five-game winning streak. Holding four out of their last five opponents to under 60 points, Notre Dame has mercilessly man-handled their respective opposition despite their offense being a bit inconsistent (79.8 PPG).