NCAA basketball rankings: Purdue leaps to No. 1; Alabama makes a splash in latest Top 25

Matt Painter, Purdue

Purdue is the top team in the land of college basketball while Alabama enjoys an uptick in our latest NCAA basketball rankings.

We have a new No. 1 team in America for the third consecutive week. Gonzaga has dropped two of its last three games, Duke lost on the road to Ohio State, and now it is Purdue’s chance to hold down the top spot in college basketball.

The Boilermakers have risen thanks to their star frontcourt, lottery-caliber wing, and tremendous supporting cast. Their top-ranked status will be at risk when they face Rutgers and NC State this week.

Several others teams also made moves up the rankings this week. Perhaps most notably, Alabama is creeping up on the top 5 following its cross-country win over Gonzaga. Undefeated Pac-12 squads in Arizona and USC also continue to rise. From the blue-blood realm, North Carolina has re-entered the rankings following a strong stretch.

Wisconsin also received votes from all of our writers this week; despite this, though, the Badgers did not receive enough total points to crack our Top 25.

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.

Mid-Major Top 25 rankings
Five rising stars on top teams
—DPI: Game Predictions | 1-500 Player Rankings

Others receiving votes (For reference, our T-24 teams received 15 points each): Iowa State (14), Wisconsin (10), Xavier (2), and Minnesota (1).

T-24. North Carolina Tar Heels (6-2)

Highest vote: No. 20 | Lowest vote: Unranked

North Carolina returns to our Top 25 this week following impressive victories over Michigan and Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels won those games by 21 and 17 points, respectively. It appears as though Hubert Davis’ team is finding its rhythm following back-to-back losses to Purdue and Tennessee earlier in the year. Backcourt buddies Caleb Love and RJ Davis are combining to shoot 33-for-72 (45.8 percent) from three so far this season. -Lukas Harkins

T-24. UConn Huskies (8-1)

Highest vote: No. 18 | Lowest vote: Unranked

UConn faced a pair of sub-300 opponents this past week and defeated both of them to move to 8-1 on the season. The Huskies’ lone loss came against Michigan State and their double-overtime win over Auburn is aging very well. A grueling stretch of schedule approaches as the Huskies will play four of their next five games away from home. They will also be without star big man Adama Sanogo; as a result, it would be impressive for them to remain in the rankings by next week. -LH

23. Ohio State Buckeyes (6-2)

Highest vote: No. 17 | Lowest vote: Unranked

The Buckeyes picked up the biggest win of the week by knocking off top-ranked Duke in Columbus. Ohio State does have something of a ceiling due to its inconsistent guard play, yet the victory over the Blue Devils should serve as a reminder this is still a very good team led by EJ Liddell and Zed Key. -Brian Rauf

22. Seton Hall Pirates (7-1)

Highest vote: No. 14 | Lowest vote: No. 25

Seton Hall propelled into our rankings a few weeks back following its impressive win over Michigan. However, as the Wolverines have fallen off, the Pirates have also dipped; they do not have another KenPom top-100 victory. That could change this week, though, when they host Texas on Dec. 9. Seton Hall is excellent defensively and Jared Rhoden has taken the leap into stardom. -LH

21. Michigan State Spartans (7-2)

Highest vote: No. 11 | Lowest vote: Unranked

Some of Tom Izzo’s best teams over the years have been those that did not enter a season with high expectations. His Spartans can already boast four KenPom top-100 victories, including a pair of excellent ones over Loyola Chicago and Connecticut. Their lone two losses have come against teams ranked in our top 7. Only four of MSU’s nine games have been at home. Michigan State is an elite defensive unit that is beginning to find its 3-point range offensively. -LH

20. Florida Gators (6-1)

Highest vote: No. 16 | Lowest vote: Unranked

Florida suffered its first defeat on Wednesday, falling on the road to a good Oklahoma team. It was a performance that did raise some questions about Florida’s offense, but we know the Gators are very good defensively and have a pair of really good wins (Florida State, Ohio State). This is a surefire top-25 team. -BR

19. BYU Cougars (7-1)

Highest vote: No. 14 | Lowest vote: Unranked

The momentum surrounding BYU’s stellar 8-1 start faded significantly this week following an overtime loss to Utah Valley. Victories against San Diego State, Oregon and Utah also don’t look as good as they did a few weeks ago. BYU is still a very, very good team and will look to regain some of that lost momentum this week against Utah State and Creighton. -BR

18. Colorado State Rams (9-0)

Highest vote: No. 12 | Lowest vote: No. 23

The Rams validated their 9-0 record with a 16-point victory over a very good Saint Mary’s team. This is an elite offense that leads the nation in 3-point shooting and has an elite inside/out duo with David Roddy and Isaiah Stevens. Niko Medved’s squad can validate themselves further against Mississippi State on Saturday. -BR

17. LSU Tigers (8-0)

Highest vote: No. 12 | Lowest vote: No. 20

LSU has been among the most underrated teams in the country to begin this season. The Tigers have leaped out to an 8-0 record and boast several strong wins. While they have not notched a signature victory yet, winning performances against Liberty, Belmont, Penn State, Wake Forest, and Ohio make up a strong collection. The Tigers are defending extremely well to begin the year. Tari Eason is proving to be one of the nation’s best transfer additions. -LH

16. Arkansas Razorbacks (8-0)

Highest vote: No. 11 | Lowest vote: No. 22

The Razorbacks are a perfect 8-0 on the year despite not clicking on all cylinders offensively. They’ll need to get that figured out ahead of their showdown on Saturday against Oklahoma, which will be their toughest test of the season so far. -BR

15. Auburn Tigers (7-1)

Highest vote: No. 10 | Lowest vote: No. 22

Auburn’s only defeat came in double overtime against UConn. Since then, the Tigers have picked up three KenPom top-60 victories and blew out Yale, the favorite in the Ivy League. Bruce Pearl has a deep team that’s playing at a high level and they’ll only get better once Allen Flanigan returns later this season. -BR

14. Tennesee Volunteers (6-1)

Highest vote: No. 12 | Lowest vote: No. 19

Tennessee is yet to play a single-digit game so far this season. The Volunteers were blown out by Villanova earlier for their lone loss and have handled all of their other opposition. Their quality wins include taking down North Carolina by 17 and Colorado by 15. Kennedy Chandler is living up to his five-star billing while Santiago Vescovi is thriving alongside him. Tennessee holds the third-best adjusted defensive efficiency rating in the country. Matchups with Memphis, Arizona, Texas and Texas Tech still loom in the nonconference slate. -LH

13. USC Trojans (8-0)

Highest vote: No. 13 | Lowest vote: No. 20

USC is 8-0 and rattled off three straight victories over San Diego State, Utah, and Washington State over the past two weeks. The Trojans are not forcing many turnovers but have otherwise done just about everything right defensively. Horrid free-throw shooting (57.0 percent; 354th nationally) is potentially holding them back and is a key area for improvement. Boogie Ellis has emerged as the team’s top scorer, shooting 13-for-32 (40.6 percent) from distance. -LH

12. Kentucky Wildcats (6-1)

Highest vote: No. 9 | Lowest vote: No. 18

Kentucky will close its string of tune-up games against Southern on Tuesday. Notre Dame looms on Saturday with real tests against Ohio State and Louisville to follow. -BR

11. Houston Cougars (7-1)

Highest vote: No. 9 | Lowest vote: No. 13

Houston beat Northwestern State and Bryant by an average margin of 54 points this week. And no, that’s not a typo. Alcorn State will likely meet the same fate with a showdown against Alabama looming on Friday. -BR

10. Texas Longhorns (6-1)

Highest vote: No. 7 | Lowest vote: No. 17

The Longhorns have not been tested since losing to Gonzaga, handling a string of lesser opponents in the manner you’d expect. That next test comes Thursday when Texas hits the road to take on Seton Hall. We’ll learn a lot more about this group then. -BR

9. Villanova Wildcats (6-2)

Highest vote: No. 7 | Lowest vote: No. 15

Villanova continues to dominate the Big 5 of Philly, notching three straight wins over La Salle, Penn and Saint Joseph’s after its loss to Purdue. The Wildcats are 6-2 overall and their dominant win over Tennessee is aging well. Brandon Slater is emerging as a star and a crucial piece of the puzzle. -LH

8. Arizona Wildcats (7-0)

Highest vote: No. 4 | Lowest vote: No. 13

Arizona’s win over Michigan is not aging quite as well as once thought. With that said, though, the Wildcats are 7-0 and have made it look easy for the most part. All of their wins have been by double digits except an overtime victory over Wichita State. Head coach Tommy Lloyd is off to a great start and Kerr Kriisa looks like a perfect fit in his system as a creator. -LH

7. Kansas Jayhawks (6-1)

Highest vote: No. 5 | Lowest vote: No. 10

St. John’s was supposed to test Kansas and did for about 30 minutes. Then the Jayhawks kicked it into another gear, turning a close game into a 20-point blowout. That’s what really good teams do. -BR

6. Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1)

Highest vote: No. 5 | Lowest vote: No. 12

Alabama is yet to face a single opponent rated outside of the KenPom top 175. And while playing such a rigorous schedule included a neutral-site loss to Iona, the Crimson Tide have bounced back extremely well since. Wins over Drake, Miami-FL, and Gonzaga all away from home have raised their status. Alabama has not played a home game since Nov. 19. -LH

5. UCLA Bruins (7-1)

Highest vote: No. 4 | Lowest vote: No. 7

There is no shame in losing to Gonzaga, UCLA’s lone loss this season, and the Bruins have looked the part since. A convincing win over Colorado this week is the latest such victory for this talented group that will be tested again on Saturday against Marquette. -BR

4. Gonzaga Bulldogs (7-2)

Highest vote: No. 4 | Lowest vote: No. 8

Gonzaga is mortal and looked legitimately flawed for the first time over the weekend against Alabama. The Zags still have two elite victories over Texas and UCLA, yet losses to Duke and Alabama in their last three games signal there is still work to do. -BR

3. Baylor Bears (8-0)

Highest vote: No. 2 | Lowest vote: No. 3

Baylor is picking up right where it left off after winning the national title last season. The Bears are 8-0 and made quick work of four KenPom top-100 opponents; their wins over Stanford, Arizona State, VCU, and Michigan State were by an average of 18.8 points. Head coach Scott Drew’s roster is loaded once again. LJ Cryer has been a blessing of a breakout star. -LH

2. Duke Blue Devils (7-1)

Highest vote: No. 2 | Lowest vote: No. 3

The Blue Devils showed they weren’t invincible this week as a poor shooting display sunk them on the road against Ohio State. Still, with Paolo Banchero leading the way, Duke has solidified itself as one of the nation’s top teams. They close their nonconference schedule with three cupcakes before starting ACC play on Dec. 22. – BR

1. Purdue Boilermakers (8-0)

Unanimously voted our No. 1 team this week.

Welcome to the No. 1 spot, Purdue! The Boilermakers entered this season with sky-high expectations and they have found a way to reach that bar so far. Head coach Matt Painter has guided his team to an 8-0 start that includes wins over North Carolina, Villanova, Florida State and Iowa. They hold the nation’s best adjusted offensive efficiency rating behind 62.2 percent effective shooting. Trevion Williams and Zach Edey are both outstanding, yet are still getting out-covered by sophomore stud Jaden Ivey. Sasha Stefanovic is shooting 46.0 percent from three and distributing at a high rate. There is so much to like. -LH