College Basketball Power Rankings: Auburn and LSU climb to the top, Villanova re-enters, Illinois makes debut

Thu, Jan 13, 2022
NCAAB News (AP)

College Basketball Power Rankings: Auburn and LSU climb to the top, Villanova re-enters, Illinois makes debut

We are nearly 2,900 games into the season -- essentially at the halfway point -- and north of 95% of the scheduled nonconference games are in the books. Non-league play shapes computer-based rankings, in addition to how conferences stack up. While teams across the nation have a dozen-plus opportunities to improve their dossiers, what's already been decided outside of conference play is going to wind up having significant impact on the bracket two months from now.

That's right: Selection Sunday is exactly two months away.

What are the nonconference wins that carry the most weight? There are metrics that measure these things. The Kevin Pauga Index (KPI) is one of them. It also weighs wins on team strength and situation (home, road, neutral). Here are the 10 best non-league wins with winning team listed first.

  1. Providence @ Wisconsin
  2. Arizona @ Illinois
  3. Virginia (neutral site) vs. Providence
  4. Kansas (neutral site) vs. Michigan State
  5. UConn (neutral) vs. Auburn
  6. Gonzaga (neutral) vs. UCLA
  7. Dayton (neutral site) vs. Kansas
  8. UCF @ Miami
  9. Tennessee @ Colorado
  10. Iowa State (neutral site) vs. Xavier

Let's get to this week's Nineteen.

Hey Nineteen Power Rankings

Reminder: My rankings are not solely about whom I think is "best." (Our Top 25 And 1 already does that daily.) The Hey Nineteen is a weekly encapsulation of the 19 hottest, most successful and/or most interesting teams in college basketball, combining team quality with win quality but also having no shame for recency bias and rewarding significant winning streaks.

1
Auburn
Record: 15-1 | Last week: 5th. The only team with a rightful claim to the top spot this week. Auburn's only loss took two overtimes on a neutral floor against a UConn team that is probably NCAA Tournament-bound. The Tigers have won 12 straight, which ties another Hey Nineteen team for the longest active win streak. In Tuesday's win at Alabama, freshman phenom Jabari Smith added to his resume reel by posting a career-high 25 points to go with six rebounds and four blocks. It was the true moment of national arrival for this season's Tigers team. Auburn has never been ranked No. 1, and it probably won't get there on Monday unless Gonzaga and UCLA lose before then.
2
LSU
Record: 15-1 | Last week: 10th. The top of the SEC is really good. The main story of Will Wade's Tigers to this point is how they've flipped their defensive aptitude season-over-season. In 2020-21, LSU earned a No. 8 seed after going 18-9 with a pedestrian-at-best defense. This season: LSU ranks No. 1 in defensive efficiency in multiple metrics and is holding opponents to 56.5 points per game. This flip has been necessary, as the team isn't nearly as good of a shooting outfit now as it was 12 months ago.
3
Baylor
Record: 15-1 | Last week: 1st. Baylor's 15-0 start marked the first time since Syracuse in 2010-11/2011-12 that a team went back-to-back seasons with 15-0 starts, but of course that's now over after BU was upset by Texas Tech on its home floor Tuesday. So ends a 21-game winning streak and a 22-game home winning streak. Baylor also became the first team since Duke in 2002 to win the national title and be the final unbeaten team in the ensuing season. The Bears still have the strongest NCAA Tournament resume this season, and big picture: Scott Drew's team is 19-4 since 2019-20 against ranked opponents.
4
Gonzaga
Record: 12-2 | Last week: 7th. The Zags have their first big game in almost a month on Thursday night, as GU welcomes in 14-3 BYU. When I say BYU-Gonzaga, you might think, "Yeah, the Cougars at least put up a good fight against the Zags in most years." That's ... only sort of true. BYU's record vs. the Zags in their last 15 games: 3-12. I'm interested to see how close Mark Pope's team can keep it in the Kennel tonight.
5
Duke
Record: 12-1. Last week: 2nd. The Blue Devils had an eventful week since we last convened. On Saturday, the surprising home upset to Miami, a team that could be NCAA Tournament-good ... but we don't know yet. For Duke to lose at home to the U was eyebrow-raising, of course. On Wednesday, a nice rebound effort by beating Wake Forest on the road 76-64. A.J. Griffin's emerging now. He had a career-high 22 points vs. Wake. Paolo Banchero, ho-hum, another 24-point night. When Duke is clicking with everyone healthy, it's one of the four best teams in the country.
6
UCLA
Record: 10-1. Last week: 11th. As UCLA finally gets back into a rhythm of playing a mostly normal schedule, let's put a spotlight on one of the more underrated point guards out there, Tyger Campbell. The reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week averaged 14.0 points and 7.0 assists in UCLA's two most recent wins. He also is shooting 50% from 3-point range this season and ranks third in assist-turnover ratio (4.88) in men's basketball. A long time ago, it was believed that Daishen Nix was coming to run this offense. Then he bailed to play with G League Ignite and it wound up, probably, being the better thing for this program.
7
Michigan St.
Record: 13-2 | Last week: 16th. Quietest pretty-good MSU team in a long while, right? That should change in the next week, I'd think. The Spartans got a great game out of Minnesota on Wednesday night. MSU went cold down the stretch, then Joey Hauser sank the winning bucket off a great dish by A.J. Hoggard to win 71-69. The Spartans are 5-0 in Big Ten play and have won eight consecutive games. A better team than plenty anticipated back in October.
8
Arizona
Record: 12-1 | Last week: 8th. The Wildcats have been patiently waiting to play after losing Pac-12 opponents to COVID pauses and then being afforded no substitutes in league and in nonconference. Tommy Lloyd's team has played once since Dec. 22, a 95-79 home win vs. Washington on Jan. 3. Thursday night brings the Colorado Buffaloes to Tucson. Arizona will follow that with a home date against Utah on Saturday.
9
Wisconsin
Record: 13-2 | Last week: 13th. Wisconsin's only loss since Nov. 16 came on the road against Ohio State a little more than a month ago. A home rematch vs. the Buckeyes comes Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Greg Gard's guys have won five straight with two of those wins on the road against Purdue and Maryland. Old-school KenPom.com followers will remember how Wisconsin used to rank highly in that metric even when tallying more losses than other teams occupying the top 10 of Pomeroy's rankings. Those days are gone, as UW sits at No. 30 despite a very good record through half its schedule.
10
Houston
Record: 14-2. Last week: 17th. The Cougars are loved by the predictive metrics and merely respected by the results-based ones. I don't know how many realize this, but yeah, UH is the No. 1 team in the country, per BPI. Houston's No. 3 at KenPom, No. 4 in the NET and No. 5 at Sagarin. In KPI, which isn't predictive, the Coogs are 33rd. And in the always-informative Strength of Record: 19th. Regardless, Sampson's guys haven't slowed since losing key players to season-ending injuries.
11
Texas Tech
Record: 12-3 | Last week: N/R. You knew the Red Raiders would storm into these rankings. TTU's past two games have featured wins over top-seven KenPom teams, with one of those wins coming on the road. That kind of back-to-back win accomplishment is something we say maybe two or three times in a regular season. Mark Adams' team has done this without leading scorer Terrence Shannon Jr., who's been sidelined with a sore back for a few weeks. As of today, it's hard to argue: Chris Beard's former team is better than his current one, but we'll see if that holds true two months from now.
12
Kansas
Record: 13-2. Last week: 6th. The Jayhawks went 1-1 in the past week. On Saturday, a loss at Texas Tech. On Tuesday, a good fight at home vs. Iowa State (the last team out of the rankings this week) that ended with a one-point margin. Bill Self needs to figure out how to get consistent performance out of David McCormack. It seems to be the thing preventing Kansas from being that top-three-level type of team. That, and getting Remy Martin back on the floor and playing with regularity.
13
USC
Record: 13-1. | Last week: 4th. The Trojans didn't respond well to the program's first top-five ranking since 1974, promptly losing on the road in an empty Maples Pavilion to a Stanford team that hadn't played in three weeks. I'm not convinced this loss will amount to much of anything or signal any kind of tangible dip for USC, though. I expect Andy Enfield's team to wind up as a No. 4 seed or better two months from now. Isaiah Mobley (15.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg) is a dark horse All-American candidate at the halfway point of the regular season.
14
Purdue
Record: 13-2 | Last week: 15th. The Boilermakers were the subject of item No. 3 in this week's Court Report. A near-freebie vs. Nebraska awaits on Friday night, then Monday will bring a glorious road test at Illinois. We'll get to see Kofi Cockburn face Trevion Williams and Zach Edey. Should be fascinating. Purdue will need to win its next two to maintain its title-contender status in the near-term here.
15
Davidson
Record: 13-2 | Last week: N/R. You like this surprise? Read the disclaimer above: we reward significant winning streaks 'round these parts. With 12 straight wins, Davidson's tied with the Auburn Tigers for the longest active winning streak in men's D-I. It will be tough to keep it going, though. Bob McKillop's team is scheduled to play its next three on the road in the Atlantic 10, beginning Friday at Richmond and followed Tuesday at VCU. Wildcats-Rams could be the best game of the conference in January. At 41.4% from behind the arc, Davidson ranks second nationally in 3-point accuracy.
16
Illinois
Record: 12-3 | Last week: N/R. It's the season debut in the Hey Nineteen for the Illini, winners of 10 of their past 11. Illinois and Michigan State are the only unbeaten teams standing in Big Ten play. With its 5-0 league mark, Illinois is off to its best start in Big Ten competition since the 2004-05 team began 15-0. Tuesday night's win at Nebraska featured a season-high 29 points from Trent Frazier. The veteran is picking up much slack, as expected, with Andre Curbelo's elongated absence over the past month-plus. On Friday night, Illinois welcomes Michigan to town in a game that's more than a year in the making.
17
Villanova
Record: 12-4. Last week: N/R. The predictive metrics never shifted off Villanova, even with the four losses in the first 11 games. Villanova swept Xavier with its 64-60 win at Xavier on Wednesday night. Collin Gillespie had yet another 20-point game; he's averaging a career-best 17.1 points. Against Xavier, Justin Moore had 19 points, Eric Dixon with 15. Travis Steele is 1-6 vs. Villanova since becoming Xavier's coach; the Musketeers and Wildcats did not meet at all last season due to COVID cancellations.
18
Providence
Record: 14-2 | Last week: 18th. I'm keeping the Friars around for another week. Ed Cooley's team is on a pause after its Tuesday game at Creighton was postponed. ICYMI: PC's win last Saturday against St. John's gave Cooley his 300th career win. The man is 52 and has sworn to me you will not see him coaching deep into his 60s. But he's going to get to 400, minimally. One of the great success stories in college coaching.
19
Colorado St.
Record: 12-1 | Last week: 9th. The 30-point loss at San Diego State was stunning. Just stunning. And while I debated dropping CSU all the way out, the team was coming off a COVID pause and did manage to win by five at home on Wednesday against a good-enough Utah State team. David Roddy, as valuable as almost any other small-ball 5, had 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting. He was hampered with four fouls down the stretch but was clutch yet again - as were his teammates. The Rams made their final 14 free throws.
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