With North Carolina struggling early, Houston takes over the top spot in the new Heat Check CBB Top 25 rankings.

After one week of college basketball, one thing is for certain: we never know what to expect next.

Sure, the preseason Top 25 largely held serve against lesser opponents, but there were plenty of close calls in the process. On opening night, TCU dug out of a 20-point hole against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, KenPom’s 360th-ranked team. Then, on Friday, No. 2 Gonzaga and No. 19 San Diego State came back from double-digit deficits while ranked teams No. 16 Villanova and No. 21 Oregon lost as comfortable favorites.

So even while the opening-week slate didn’t offer a ton of intrigue on paper, the unpredictability of the sport perseveres — just like the SWAC scoring two victories over the Pac-12 in the inaugural Pac-12/SWAC Legacy Series. Or maybe it’s the six comebacks of at least 19 points during the first week of the season. Or Brandin Podziemski averaging 32 and 10 in his first two games with Santa Clara.

Every Monday throughout the season, the Heat Check CBB staff will release its consensus Top 25 college basketball rankings. Our voters include Eli Boettger, Andy Dieckhoff, Lukas Harkins, Brian Rauf, Connor Hope and Riley Davis.

The Heat Check CBB preseason Top 25 is below.

Why each preseason Heat Check CBB Top 25 team will win the national title (and why they won’t)

Rauf Report: Jeremy Roach’s play, Pac-12’s struggles, more college basketball observations

Bracketology: 10 teams with critical opening weeks for their at-large hopes in 2023-23

Received votes: Saint Louis, Texas Tech, Michigan, Iowa, Michigan State, Toledo, James Madison, Memphis, Virginia Tech

25. Saint Mary’s Gaels

Few teams had an opening week more impressive than Saint Mary’s. The Gaels rolled through three consecutive KenPom top-120 opponents, increasing the point differential in each victory. They beat Oral Roberts by eight, Vermont by 26, and North Texas by 30. Freshman guard Aidan Mahaney starred in his career-opener and Alex Ducas is posting efficient numbers: 35 points on 23 shots with only two turnovers. -Lukas Harkins

24. Florida Gators

Colin Castleton might be the most underappreciated star in the country. The 6-11 big has posted 46 points, nine rebounds, six assists, seven blocks, and three steals through Florida’s first two games of the season. Head coach Todd Golden has a legit All-American-caliber center to build his team around. Dating back to last season, Kowacie Reeves is now shooting 40.6 percent from three (13 makes) over his last five games. A breakout could be coming for the sophomore. -LH

23. Villanova Wildcats

Villanova tumbles in our rankings after falling to Temple on the road. The Wildcats struggled to create anything offensively and had an uncharacteristically low amount of 3-point attempts. Luckily, star freshman Cam Whitmore is set to return from an offseason thumb surgery. He’s expected to provide Kyle Neptune’s squad with the offensive jolt they needed against the Owls. -Brian Rauf

22. UConn Huskies

No Andre Jackson? No problem. Even without the team’s leader on the wing, the Huskies have won their first two games by an average of 30 points. Adama Sanogo is having the early All-American season many predicted, averaging 23 points and 10.5 rebounds, and shooting an astounding 80 percent from the field. The competition will become more difficult, but the team’s 20th-ranked defense, per KenPom, should be stout enough to make every game interesting. -Connor Hope

21. TCU Horned Frogs

TCU was a preseason darling but showed some signs of weakness during the opening week. The Horned Frogs are still 2-0, but only boast a plus-12 scoring differential despite facing the No. 355 and 357 teams in the country, per KenPom. The minus-5.32 change in efficiency margin on KenPom since opening day is the largest drop in the country. -LH

20. Tennessee Volunteers

The opening week didn’t go as planned for the Vols. Tennessee took care of Tennessee Tech in the opener but had a miserable offensive outing in a 12-point loss to Colorado on Sunday in Nashville. Zakai Zeigler, a popular breakout candidate entering the year, is 8-of-26 from the field through two games, already prompting Rick Barnes to consider a lineup change. -Eli Boettger

19. Dayton Flyers

It’s been a balanced scoring attack thus far for Dayton. Even with Malachi Smith sidelined to start the year, five different Flyers are averaging at least nine points per game. Freshman Mike ​​Sharavjamts had 14 points and five assists in the season opener and followed it up with another solid outing in the SMU win. Dayton hits the road to take on UNLV in Las Vegas on Tuesday. -EB

18. Virginia Cavaliers

Virginia is back to looking like Virginia under Tony Bennett. The Wahoos are dead last in the country in pace, per KenPom, and boast a top-10 defense that has only allowed 103 points through two games. UVA fans should also take pride in the way their team has looked on the offensive end. Seven different players have already posted a double-digit scoring game, showcasing the balance of this experienced roster. A major step up in competition is on the horizon, though, with Baylor looming on Friday. -BR

17. Indiana Hoosiers

Indiana is yet to play a top 200 opponent – that comes on Friday against Xavier – but it looks the part through the first week. The Hoosiers made quick work of Morehead State (by 35) and Bethune Cookman (by 52). Trayce Jackson-Davis is still dominant inside, and the Hoosiers are shooting 40 percent from three. Highly touted freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino is still finding his footing as a scorer and is yet to make a trifecta but has dished 12 assists. Miller Kopp is also off to a hot start; the former Northwestern transfer is 6-for-8 from distance. -LH

16. Illinois Fighting Illini

Illinois hasn’t really been tested, but that’s a testament to the Illini after other top teams struggled with lesser competition this past week. Illinois beat Eastern Illinois and UMKC by 30 and 40, respectively, and may have found its go-to players in the process. Texas Tech transfer Terrence Shannon is delivering on the hype so far while Baylor transfer Dain Dainja is averaging 18.5 ppg on a remarkable 85 percent shooting. -BR

15. Auburn Tigers

Auburn’s struggles with South Florida certainly raised some eyebrows but we’ll chalk it up to an off-shooting night. The good news is that Wendell Green (18.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.0 apg) appears to have taken a step forward in the point guard spot. The Tigers need to find more consistent production from its new frontcourt but Johni Broome has shown flashes of being a dominant force inside. -BR

14. Texas Longhorns

After finally buying into Chris Beard’s defense late last season, the Texas Longhorns have thrived on that end of the floor through their first two games. Offensively, the team is averaging 77 points despite shooting just 19.4 percent from deep. The backcourt of Marcus Carr and Tyrese Hunter seems to be working early, and freshman Dillon Mitchell is the high-octane wing as promised. It’s the contributions from Sir’Jabari Rice off the bench that could raise the team’s ceiling as the season unfolds. -CH

13. San Diego State Aztecs

Darrion Trammell is already proving his impact in an Aztecs jersey. The Seattle U transfer led SDSU to a pair of grind-it-out wins to start the season, tallying 18 vs. Cal State Fullerton and 21 against BYU. Trammell’s efforts have helped San Diego State remain at a high level despite the modest opening week by Matt Bradley, who is 5-of-23 from the field after doing it all for the Aztecs offensively last season. -EB

12. Arizona Wildcats

Arizona is picking up right where they left off last season. The Wildcats are averaging 106 points through their first two games behind the nation’s second-best 2-point shooting percentage and top free-throw attempt rate. Azuolas Tubelis, Oumar Ballo and Pelle Larsson are all averaging over 16 points per game, and Kerr Kriisa has given up his volume-shooting tendencies in favor of dishing out 9.5 assists per game. Once Courtney Ramey is back from his suspension for playing unapproved basketball, Arizona will only get better. -CH

11. Alabama Crimson Tide

Jahvon Quinerly was Alabama’s lone inclusion on the 10-man All-SEC Preseason First Team. Even with Quinerly and fellow guard Dominick Welch sidelined, the Crimson Tide are looking strong. Head coach Nate Oats’ team dominated Longwood by 21 and Liberty by 36 in their opening week. They are playing at their patented tempo and defending at a high level. Freshman forward Brandon Miller is the real deal. Once Quinerly and Welch return, they will have even more firepower. -LH

10. Creighton Bluejays

Creighton trailed St. Thomas by a point with 10 minutes left in its season opener but promptly scored 14 unanswered points to cruise to victory. The Bluejays also took care of business against North Dakota in a 35-point blowout. After a pair of tuneups this week, Creighton’s schedule revs up in a big way with the Maui Invitational and games against Texas, Nebraska, BYU and Arizona State before conference play. -EB

9. UCLA Bruins

Just as everyone predicted, Jaime Jaquez is the fourth-leading scorer for the undefeated UCLA Bruins. Tyger Campbell has been the team’s leading shot-taker but Jaylen Clark has been the best player through the first two games. Behind a .684/.400/1.000 shooting line, Clark leads the Bruins in total points, rebounds, assists and steals through the first two games. If Clark can continue to excel in his role on the wing, this is a Final Four team. -CH

8. Arkansas Razorbacks

Two games, two blowout victories for talented Arkansas even without projected lottery pick Nick Smith. Wichita State transfer Ricky Council has settled in nicely and led the Razorbacks in scoring in each contest. But it has been what Eric Musselman’s squad has done on the defensive end that is most impressive. Arkansas kept both North Dakota State and Fordham below 60 points and ranks in the top 10 in turnover rate. -BR

7. Kansas Jayhawks

If you want to nitpick the defending champs, you can look to a slow start against Omaha and some poor free-throw shooting. However, the Jayhawks have checked off a lot of boxes early. Both victories have come in blowout fashion and both Jalen Wilson and Gradey Dick are playing like legitimate go-to offensive options. KJ Adams has been effective as a small-ball five, too, though he will be tested Tuesday against Duke. -BR

6. Duke Blue Devils

Picked to finish second in the preseason ASUN poll, Jacksonville could have posed a bit of a threat to Duke in its season opener. The Blue Devils weren’t having it, though. Jon Scheyer’s team opened up a double-digit lead within the first 10 minutes and never looked back, beating the Dolphins by 27 without Dereck Lively. Duke followed that up with a 46-point romping of USC Upstate. Jeremy Roach shot 15.8 percent from three over his final seven games last year but is 6-of-13 in Duke’s first two games this season. -LH

5. Kentucky Wildcats

It must feel good for Kentucky to have CJ Fredrick back this season. The Iowa transfer is already showcasing his flamethrowing ability after missing last year with an injury. He started both of Kentucky’s opening-week wins – over Howard and Duquesne – and notched 34 points on 6-of-12 from three. Illinois State transfer Antonio Reeves has also been blistering from deep. The duo makes a huge difference in opening up the floor, which will be all the more important once Oscar Tshiebwe returns from injury. -CH

4. Gonzaga Bulldogs

It should be the consensus opinion by now that college basketball shouldn’t be played on aircraft carriers. Gonzaga went into the half down 38-31 against Michigan State before National Player of the Year candidate Drew Timme willed the Zags to a one-point win in San Diego. The Zags’ young guards are experiencing growing pains but their veteran players — Timme, Julian Strawther, Malachi Smith and Rasir Bolton — are showing why the Zags were a top 5 team entering the season. -CH

3. North Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina has yet to look the part of the preseason No. 1 team. The Heels limped past UNCW in a disjointed opener and then trailed the College of Charleston by seven points at halftime in Chapel Hill. UNC finally flashed its dominance by outscoring the Cougars by 23 points in the second half. It’s good to know the Tar Heels can still flip that switch when needed but this group is still looking to settle into the new season. It’s been a disappointing start for a group that returns so much from last season’s national runners-up team. -BR

2 Baylor Bears

The early returns on stud freshman Keyonte George are extremely intriguing. Following up a 13-point, 7-assist, 6-rebound outing in Baylor’s 117-53 win over Mississippi Valley State, George paced the Bears with 23 points, another seven assists and three steals to help beat Norfolk State with ease. At the center position, Flo Thamba and freshman Josh Ojianwuna have done a commendable job on the offensive boards. -EB

1 Houston Cougars

Houston hasn’t trailed once through 80 minutes this season, going wire-to-wire in easy victories over Northern Colorado and Saint Joseph’s to start the year. Freshman Jarace Walker is already making an impact with a 23-point, 8-rebound outing in his second game at the D1 level. It’s a challenging week ahead for the Cougars, who take on a pair of capable mid-majors in Oral Roberts and Texas Southern before a road date with Oregon on Sunday. -EB