NCAA basketball rankings: Duke snatches No. 1 spot, Arizona rises in latest Top 25

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke

After an impressive win over No. 1 Gonzaga, Duke slides into the top spot of the latest Heat Check CBB NCAA basketball rankings.

Feast Week is in the rear-view mirror and the NCAA basketball landscape is looking a bit less murky. There is still a lot to be sorted out in the coming months, but teams are either starting to make good on preseason expectations or are struggling to answer that call. Preseason darlings Purdue and Baylor remain in the top 5 while the likes of Virginia and North Carolina have already dropped out of the rankings.

Florida and Arizona have been two of the best early-season performers. Both squads are undefeated to this point while securing their fair shares of high-quality victories. These powerhouse programs could be experiencing resurgent years into the nation’s spotlight.

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 (me!) and Rauf.

CBB player rankings: Johnny Davis shining
—RAUF REPORT: Bobby Hurley, Duke’s X-Factor, more
—BRACKETOLOGY: Latest field of 68 projections

Others receiving votes (For reference, our No. 25 team received 22 points): Indiana (17), Iowa State (12), Wisconsin (11), Ohio State (4), Marquette (3), and Saint Bonaventure (2).

25. Memphis Tigers (5-1)

Highest vote: No. 16 | Lowest vote: Unranked

Turnovers sunk Memphis against Iowa State as the offensive problems that have plagued the Tigers throughout Penny Hardaway’s tenure continue to hamper the program. Road games against Georgia and Ole Miss await as Memphis looks to right the ship. -Brian Rauf

24. LSU Tigers (7-0)

Highest vote: No. 17 | Lowest vote: Unranked

LSU has jumped out to an impressive undefeated record with several quality victories, including a 30-point win over Belmont. The Tigers might not boast a sure-first first-round pick this season but they do have plenty of balance. Cincinnati transfer Tari Eason has been awesome on both ends to begin the year, averaging 13.9 points and 8.3 rebounds alongside senior Darius Days. -Lukas Harkins

T22. USC Trojans (6-0)

Highest vote: No. 18 | Lowest vote: Unranked

The Trojans validated their undefeated start with a 15-point victory over San Diego State on Friday. They have a top-10 defense while Boogie Ellis has emerged as a needed perimeter threat on the offensive end. -BR

T22. Auburn Tigers (5-1)

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

Auburn suffered its first loss of the season this past week in double overtime to UConn. The Tigers recovered impressively, though, with back-to-back wins over Loyola Chicago and Syracuse. Head coach Bruce Pearl’s team is playing well even in the absence of Allen Flanigan. Watch out for how good this team could be once he returns. -LH

21. UConn Huskies (6-1)

Highest vote: No. 18 | Lowest vote: Unranked

UConn experienced a major uptick in its competition this week when it traveled for the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. The Huskies lost a tough battle to Michigan State and needed three combined overtimes to take down Auburn and VCU. Was it a perfect week? No, but UConn maintained a strong record and added a resume-building win over Auburn. RJ Cole posted 50 combined points in the two wins. -LH

20. Michigan Wolverines (4-2)

Highest vote: No. 11 | Lowest vote: No. 25

On one hand, Michigan’s losses to Seton Hall and Arizona don’t look awful as both the Pirates and Wildcats have proven to be good teams to this point in the season. On the other, the Wolverines haven’t beaten anyone of note. Wednesday’s game against North Carolina will be very telling. -BR

19. Seton Hall Pirates (5-1)

Highest vote: No. 15 | Lowest vote: No. 25

Speaking of Seton Hall, the Pirates remain highly regarded as a last-second loss to Ohio State remains the team’s only defeat. Their next test figures to come in a Dec. 9 showdown against Texas. -BR

18. Michigan State Spartans (5-2)

Highest vote: No. 16 | Lowest vote: Unranked

Some of Michigan State’s best teams over the years have come following lower preseason expectations. Head coach Tom Izzo spoke about that before this campaign and his group seems to be answering the call so far. The Spartans have two early losses, but both came to top-10 teams in the country at neutral sites. They rank second nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency and boast wins over Butler, Loyola Chicago and UConn. -LH

17. Tennessee Volunteers (4-1)

Highest vote: No. 14 | Lowest vote: Unranked

Tennessee handled its business with a double-digit victory over Tennessee Tech during its lone game of the past week. The Volunteers are having a very difficult time earning free-throw attempts in the early going but still appear to be one of the better SEC teams. Santiago Vescovi has already hit 17 3-pointers. -LH

16. Colorado State Rams (7-0)

Highest vote: No. 16 | Lowest vote: Unranked

The Rams now hold the crown as the highest-ranked non-WCC mid-major program following St. Bonaventure’s loss to Northern Iowa. Led by a top-15 offense, Colorado State followed up its Paradise Jam championship with a solid home victory over Northern Colorado. Saturday’s home game vs. Saint Mary’s will reveal more about this group’s legitimacy. -BR

15. Arkansas Razorbacks (6-0)

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

It hasn’t always been pretty, yet here the Razorbacks sitting undefeated with nonconference wins over Kansas State and Cincinnati. JD Notae has emerged as a star and looks like an All-SEC caliber player. -BR

14. Florida Gators (6-0)

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

Florida notched wins over California, Ohio State and Troy this week to reach their undefeated 6-0 status. The Gators have looked tremendous defensively while also building on some of last season’s success by ramping up the offensive tempo. Penn State transfer Myreon Jones is proving to be an excellent addition. -LH

13. Houston Cougars (5-1)

Highest vote: No. 12 | Lowest vote: No. 14

Houston was not penalized much for what was essentially a poor shooting half against a surprising Wisconsin team in the Maui Invitational. The Cougars outscored the Badgers by 18 points in the second half, but it wasn’t enough. Dominant victories over Virginia, Butler and Oregon reveal this team’s potential. -BR

12. Kentucky Wildcats (5-1)

Highest vote: No. 9 | Lowest vote: No. 17

Kentucky has looked the part since losing a close game to Duke in the Champions Classic, winning five straight games in blowout fashion against lesser competition. UK’s schedule doesn’t heat back up for another few weeks, so expect that trend to continue. -BR

11. Alabama Crimson Tide (6-1)

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

Is it possible that Iona and Rick Pitino are simply a bad matchup for Alabama and Nate Oats? The Gaels upset Alabama after nearly doing so in the NCAA Tournament last season, but the Crimson Tide rebounded with resounding victories over Drake and Miami. Up next? A showdown with Gonzaga in Seattle. -BR

10. Arizona Wildcats (6-0)

Highest vote: No. 5 | Lowest vote: No. 16

Arizona rose up the national rankings behind victories over Wichita State and Michigan. The Wildcats only played one game during this past week, but it was a romping of Sacramento State, winning by 46 points. Arizona is recording assists on 73.8 percent of its made baskets so far this season — best in the country — behind Kerr Kriisa’s playmaking emergence. -LH

9. BYU Cougars (6-0)

Highest vote: No. 8 | Lowest vote: No. 13

BYU answered the call of sliding into our top 10 by recording victories over Texas Southern and Utah over the past week. The victory over the Utes was not only of the rivalry fashion but also signified the Cougars’ first true road win of the year. Caleb Lohner (0-for-9) is yet to make a 3-pointer after hitting 19 last season. Te’Jon Lucas appears to be finding his range with 36 points over his last two games. -LH

8. Texas Longhorns (4-1)

Highest vote: No. 5 | Lowest vote: No. 14

The Longhorns continue to grow following their loss to Gonzaga in Spokane, soundly beating an overmatched Cal Baptist team this week. We’ll find out more about exactly how much this team has improved in that Dec. 9 game against Seton Hall. -BR

7. Kansas Jayhawks (5-1)

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

Kansas looked like an elite team against Michigan State and against Iona, which, of course, knocked off Alabama. The Jayhawks looked elite for a half against Dayton, too, before falling apart and losing to the Flyers. This is a good team that needs to become more consistent defensively. -BR

6. Villanova Wildcats (4-2)

Highest vote: No. 5 | Lowest vote: No. 15

Villanova remains the best two-loss team in the country. The Wildcats feature arguably the best backcourt in the nation with Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore, who are shooting a combined 36-for-81 from three so far this season. Villanova, as a team, is shooting 42.2 percent from three on the 27th-highest attempt rate in the country. Brandon Slater is emerging as the team’s breakout performer this year and has been among the most efficient players nationwide. -LH

5. UCLA Bruins (6-1)

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

There’s no shame in losing to Gonzaga despite how overmatched a shorthanded UCLA team looked. Following that up with a blowout victory over UNLV shows this group is still on the right track. -BR

4. Baylor Bears (7-0)

Highest vote: No. 4 | Lowest vote: No. 6

Baylor has once again asserted itself as one of the best teams in the country. After easily dispatching three tune-up opponents, the Bears have now rattled off consecutive wins over Stanford, Arizona State, VCU and Michigan State. All but one of those victories was by double figures. James Akinjo has been excellent so far while LJ Cryer (19-for-39 from three) is the breakout star in Waco. The freshmen class has been superb as well. -LH

3. Purdue Boilermakers (6-0)

Highest vote: No. 1 | Lowest vote: No. 3

Purdue is undefeated and worthy of some No. 1 overall consideration as tthe Boilermakers already hold neutral-site victories over North Carolina and Villanova. They have been incredible offensively to begin this campaign, ranking in the top 52 in every single notable offensive statistic except turnover rate. Once it cleans up non-steal turnovers, Purdue will be even better. Matt Painter‘s team does it all offensively. -LH

2. Gonzaga Bulldogs (6-1)

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

Gonzaga-Duke was the best game of this early college basketball season. Someone had to be on the losing end, though. While there is still an argument to be made for the Bulldogs as the best team in the country, their defeat at the hands of the Blue Devils knocks them down a peg for now. Gonzaga will not go undefeated this season — and perhaps eliminating that narrative is a good thing — but they are still elite. Nothing about their loss to Duke expressed major concerns. -LH

1. Duke Blue Devils (7-0)

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

To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man. Duke did just that Friday night by upsetting Gonzaga in Las Vegas behind 21 points from Paolo Banchero (20 in the first half), a dominant display from big man Mark Williams, and all-around excellent defensive effort. There are still questions about Duke’s shooting but the Blue Devils have been as good as anyone so far. -BR