NCAA basketball rankings: Baylor lands at No. 1; Arizona keeps climbing

Baylor is the newest team to top our NCAA basketball rankings. Arizona and Tommy Lloyd continue to impress as well.

Gonzaga could not hold down our No. 1 spot for long. Neither could Duke. Nor Purdue. Now, it’s time for the defending national champions to take the top spot. Baylor holds a 9-0 record and recently demolished Villanova en route to landing the top spot in the Heat Check CBB Top 25 this week.

Some of the other biggest movers of the week were Arizona and Alabama. These two high-powered, up-tempo offenses both secured major victories and have launched into our collective top 5. As far as teams sliding, Kentucky fell out of our rankings and Arkansas nearly did the same.

As a reminder, Heat Check CBB will be releasing a weekly Top 25 of our own throughout this season that is a composite of our entire staff — which includes Lukas Harkins, Brian Rauf, Eli Boettger, Andy Dieckhoff, Riley Davis, Connor Hope and Jamie Shaw. Former D-1 coach Brian Burton will also be contributing.

Now, what does college basketball’s new pecking order look like? Here’s this week’s Heat Check CBB Top 25, with blurbs provided by Harkins and Rauf.

CSU’s Stevens leading the Rams to new heights
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—DPI: Game Predictions | 1-500 Player Rankings

Others receiving votes (For reference, our T-24 teams received 14 points each): Kentucky (12), Texas Tech (10), Loyola Chicago (7), Minnesota (7), Wisconsin (6), Oklahoma (3), West Virginia (2), Florida (1), and Providence (1).

T-24. Arkansas Razorbacks (9-1)

Highest vote: No. 20 | Lowest vote: Unranked

The Razorbacks faced their first stiff test of the season over the weekend and failed miserably, falling 88-66 to Oklahoma. This is still a talented team, but they won’t be tested again — or have a chance to redeem themselves — until conference play. -Brian Rauf

T-24. UConn Huskies (9-2)

Highest vote: No. 16 | Lowest vote: Unranked

UConn went on the road for the first time this week and fell at West Virginia before bouncing back with a win over St. Bonaventure this weekend. Both came without starters Adama Sanogo and Tyrese Martin, who are recovering from injury. When healthy, the Huskies should shoot back up these rankings. -BR

23. San Francisco Dons (10-0)

Highest vote: No. 21 | Lowest vote: No. 25

Our lowest-ranked undefeated team, the Dons are one of four teams in the country that have already reached 10 wins. Jamaree Bouyea is one of the best players in the mid-major ranks and leads this experienced group. Road tests against Grand Canyon and Arizona State loom this weekend. -BR

22. Xavier Musketeers (9-1)

Highest vote: No. 18 | Lowest vote: Unranked

Xavier continued to impress this week with wins over Ball State and Cincinnati, both in dominant fashion. The Musketeers’ lone loss of the season vs. Iowa State has aged better than anyone could have predicted at the time. They hold three KenPom top-50 wins to date, including one on the road. Big man Jack Nunge is performing as one of the best transfer additions nationwide. -Lukas Harkins

21. Tennessee Volunteers (7-2)

Highest vote: No. 11 | Lowest vote: Unranked

Our split on Tennessee is perfectly encapsulated by what we’ve seen from the Vols in their last three games. That stretch is bookended by absolutely dominant wins over Colorado and UNC Greensboro. In the middle? An offensively putrid performance in a loss to Texas Tech. Consistency on that end of the court has escaped this group. -BR

20. North Carolina Tar Heels (7-2)

Highest vote: No. 14 | Lowest vote: Unranked

North Carolina defeated Elon in its only game of the week, lengthening its winning streak to five. The Tar Heels are yet to secure a signature win because of how much Michigan has struggled, but they have still looked promising recently. Their only losses are to teams ranked ahead of them in this poll. UNC is sixth nationally in 3-point efficiency at 41.7 percent. A neutral-site matchup with UCLA is ahead. -LH

19. Iowa State Cyclones (10-0)

Highest vote: No. 14 | Lowest vote: No. 24

Iowa State has put the nation on notice with its undefeated start. The Cyclones are defending at an exceptionally high level, as was evidenced during this past week. They held Iowa’s potent offense to just 53 points and then Jackson State to 37 in their two wins. Freshman guard Tyrese Hunter has made a major impact as one of the best on-ball defenders in the country. With two tune-up games left before Big 12 play, everyone should have their home matchup with Baylor on Jan. 1 circled on their calendars — two undefeated teams could be doing battle. -LH

18. Texas Longhorns (6-2)

Highest vote: No. 13 | Lowest vote: Unranked

We know Texas has talent. We also know the Longhorns have only played two teams that rank in the KenPom top-180 (Gonzaga, Seton Hall) and have now lost both. Chris Beard’s squad should cruise through the rest of a lacking nonconference schedule before starting Big 12 play on Jan. 1. -BR

17. Ohio State Buckeyes (8-2)

Highest vote: No. 13 | Lowest vote: Unranked

Ohio State demolished Wisconsin in the second half of their matchup in Columbus during this past week. Head coach Chris Holtmann’s group is now riding a four-game winning streak that includes a pair of victories over then-ranked opponents. EJ Liddell is arguably the frontrunner to win National Player of the Year so far. Watch out for the Buckeyes once they’re healthier. -LH

16. Michigan State Spartans (9-2)

Highest vote: No. 10 | Lowest vote: Unranked

Michigan State’s only two losses this season are against KenPom top-3 opponents. The Spartans also hold wins over Butler, Loyola Chicago, UConn, Louisville, Minnesota and Penn State. Marcus Bingham Jr. is making his presence felt as possibly the best defender in the Big Ten, plus the team has found its rhythm from three. Turnover issues are still prevalent but this group is ahead of schedule. -LH

15. Villanova Wildcats (7-3)

Highest vote: No. 11 | Lowest vote: No. 20

Villanova has played one of the most rigorous schedules in the country so far, but it hasn’t exactly helped prove it belongs among the national title contenders. The Wildcats led most of their contests against UCLA and Purdue before eventually losing, but that was not the case against Baylor. The Bears suffocated the Wildcats into just 36 total points and arguably the program’s worst offensive performance under Jay Wright. Villanova is still plenty talented and is one of the top contenders in the Big East, though. -LH

14. Colorado State Rams (10-0)

Highest vote: No. 10 | Lowest vote: No. 19

Colorado State notched yet another impressive win this week, taking down Mississippi State on a neutral court in a strong comeback effort. The Rams are now 10-0 on the year and can boast three KenPom top-65 wins. Head coach Niko Medved’s team did not get lost in some of the preseason hype and is the clear favorite to win the MWC at this time. David Roddy is one of the top players nationwide. An upcoming matchup with Alabama should be a blast. -LH

13. Seton Hall Pirates (9-1)

Highest vote: No. 10 | Lowest vote: No. 20

Seton Hall’s road victory over Michigan has not aged as well as many people had expected. In order to counterbalance, the Pirates defended their home court this week with back-to-back wins over Texas and Rutgers. Head coach Kevin Willard’s team is elite defensively and holds a sparkling 9-1 record. The X-factor of the group has been Bryce Aiken. He appears to finally be healthy and came up with big-time late buckets in both of their wins this week. He can be a difference-maker when available, which has unfortunately not been often in his career. -LH

12. Auburn Tigers (8-1)

Highest vote: No. 9 | Lowest vote: No. 22

Auburn blew the doors off Nebraska in Atlanta, routing the Cornhuskers 99-68. However, the program’s biggest victory came Friday when the NCAA announced it would not be hitting the Tigers with another postseason ban as a result of the FBI investigation. Bruce Pearl will miss one more game after being suspended by the NCAA, but this team appears ready to take off. -BR

11. LSU Tigers (9-0)

Highest vote: No. 11 | Lowest vote: No. 15

This is Will Wade’s fifth season in Baton Rouge and the 2018-19 team (59th) is the only one in his tenure that ranked in the top 120 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. So far this season, LSU ranks third in that category. This could be his best team yet. -BR

10. USC Trojans (10-0)

Highest vote: No. 10 | Lowest vote: No. 15

USC slipped eight spots on KenPom this week but maintained its undefeated record with double-digit victories over Eastern Kentucky and Long Beach State. The Trojans rank third nationally in effective field-goal percentage, as they are dominating the paint for the third straight year. Head coach Andy Enfield has found his sweet spot for success in that department. Tough matchups with UC Irvine, Georgia Tech and Oklahoma State finish USC’s nonconference schedule. -LH

9. Houston Cougars (8-2)

Highest vote: No. 8 | Lowest vote: No. 11

The Cougars were one questionable call away from beating Alabama in Tuscaloosa but performed admirably enough to solidify themselves as a top-10 team. Their two losses (the other vs. Wisconsin) have now come by a combined three points. -BR

8. Kansas Jayhawks (8-1)

Highest vote: No. 4 | Lowest vote: No. 9

Kansas has very much looked the part of an elite team since the loss to Dayton, culminating in a 102-65 romp over Missouri this past weekend. The Jayhawks have now scored at least 95 points in three of their last four games. -BR

7. UCLA Bruins (8-1)

Highest vote: No. 4 | Lowest vote: No. 9

UCLA cruised to a solid win over Marquette, the latest in a string of convincing victories since the Gonzaga defeat. An upcoming matchup with North Carolina on Saturday is this group’s next chance to make a statement on the national stage. -BR

6. Gonzaga Bulldogs (8-2)

Highest vote: No. 5 | Lowest vote: No. 8

The Zags got back on track with a win over Merrimack this week, but the aftertaste of their loss to Alabama still lingers. Saturday’s game against Texas Tech will be Gonzaga’s last test before entering conference play, and it will be important for them to make a statement against the Red Raiders. -BR

5. Alabama Crimson Tide (8-1)

Highest vote: No. 3 | Lowest vote: No. 8

Alabama has done an impressive job proving its Iona loss was just a one-time blip. The Crimson Tide are currently riding a four-game winning streak with each victory coming over a KenPom top-100 opponent. Namely, victories over Gonzaga and Houston in back-to-back games have propelled the Tide into our top 5. Head coach Nate Oats is once again leading an up-tempo powerhouse built around elite guard play. Alabama has tested itself against one of the nation’s toughest schedules and answered the call with an 8-1 record. -LH

4. Arizona Wildcats (9-0)

Highest vote: No. 2 | Lowest vote: No. 8

Arizona continued its undefeated start to the season with a pair of impressive performances this week. First, they demolished previously undefeated Wyoming by 29 in a game that was over within the first 10 or so minutes. The Wildcats followed that performance by knocking off Illinois in a true road win. Head coach Tommy Lloyd is doing an excellent job and his up-tempo system fits perfectly with his offensive talent. Kerr Kriisa, especially, has been a revelation as the team’s point guard. That position had been a preseason concern. -LH

3. Duke Blue Devils (7-1)

Highest vote: No. 2 | Lowest vote: No. 5

Duke has not played since the loss to Ohio State. The Blue Devils return to the court with three home games this week against lesser competition that will close the nonconference portion of their schedule. -BR

2. Purdue Boilermakers (9-1)

Highest vote: No. 1 | Lowest vote: No. 4

This time last week, Purdue was our unanimous No. 1 team. Ron Harper Jr. made sure that wouldn’t happen again on Monday as his buzzer-beater capped Rutgers’ upset victory over the Boilermakers. Trevion Williams had an incredible performance in Sunday’s overtime win over NC State to ensure the Boilers wouldn’t end the week winless. This still looks like an elite team. -BR

1. Baylor Bears (9-0)

Highest vote: No. 1 | Lowest vote: No. 2

Baylor holds a 9-0 record with four KenPom top-100 wins. Dominant performances against Michigan State and Villanova stand out as crowning achievements thus far. The Bears are superb defensively, forcing a ton of turnovers and overall limiting quality shots. Offensively, they wreak havoc on the offensive glass and feature enough playmaking and shooting to be dangerous. James Akinjo has been a star in Waco and LJ Cryer continues to hit nothing but net. -LH



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