NCAA basketball rankings: Gonzaga stays No. 1, Duke vaults to No. 5

The opening week of the 2021-22 NCAA basketball season is already in the rear-view mirror. Before diving into the NCAA basketball rankings of the week, let’s take a second to be thankful to have college basketball back. The long offseason is complete, and arenas across the country are field with fans eager to support their teams after only being able to do so in limited capacities last year. All 358 teams in the country played at least one game last week: college hoops are back!

Now, to the point at hand. Heat Check CBB will be releasing a weekly Top 25 of our own throughout this season. Our entire staff — which includes Lukas Harkins (hey, that’s me!), Brian Rauf, Eli Boettger, Andy Dieckhoff, Riley Davis, Connor Hope and Jamie Shaw — will be voting each week to determine the best teams in the country. Former D-1 coach Brian Burton will also be contributing.

Harkins and Rauf will be covering the blurbs associated with each team throughout the season.

That’s enough introduction for this week, though. College basketball season here; let’s not waste any more time. This week’s Heat Check CBB Top 25 was compiled via the composite of seven voters.

Rauf Report: Villanova’s limitations, ACC’s woes, more
Bracketology: Projected field of 68 for 2022
Best Thing This Week: Campbell’s Ricky Clemons

Others receiving votes (for reference, our No. 25 teams earned 14 points): Seton Hall (12), Maryland (12), Ohio State (7), Mississippi State (5), Indiana (3), Florida State (2), UCF (1), and USC (1)

T25. Colorado State Rams

Highest vote: No. 20 | Lowest vote: Unranked

Colorado State is one of only 18 teams in the country that is already 3-0. The Rams dismantled Oral Roberts in their season opener and notched wins over Arkansas Pine Bluff and Peru State shortly after. They currently rank fourth in the country in effective field-goal percentage: 62.2 percent on 2-pointers, 47.5 percent on 3-pointers, and 88.6 percent from the free-throw line. Star guard David Roddy looks excellent to begin the year. -LH

Nonconference schedules to monitor: Colorado State

T25. Arizona Wildcats

Highest vote: No. 21 | Lowest vote: Unranked

Arizona played a pair of sub-300 KenPom opponents during its opening week. As such, its blowout victories did not leave much to evaluate for our NCAA basketball rankings. Still, the Wildcats displayed great tempo and ball movement in those games. Head coach Tommy Lloyd’s group recorded assists on 80.6 percent of its made baskets — second best in the country — while their offensive possessions lasted an average of only 13.5 seconds. This team is moving. Six-foot-seven guard Dalen Terry has dished 12 assists to just two turnovers thus far. -LH

24. Florida Gators

Highest vote: No. 19 | Lowest vote: Unranked

Mike White‘s squad put themselves on the map on Sunday with a 71-55 victory over Florida State. The Gators looked awesome defensively — Colin Castleton had six blocks — and could be a factor in the SEC. They’re as proven as anyone in that conference right now. -Brian Rauf

23. North Carolina Tar Heels

Highest vote: No. 16 | Lowest vote: Unranked

UNC is still undefeated, though that was in serious question as the Tar Heels trailed Brown for most of the game before pulling away late. Armando Bacot looks like a potential All-ACC player inside and both RJ Davis and Caleb Love appear to have taken steps forward offensively. Defensively, though, Carolina must improve. -BR

T21. UConn Huskies

Highest vote: No. 19 | Lowest vote: Unranked

UConn handled lesser competition the way a Top 25 team should, blowing out Central Connecticut State by 51 points and cruising past Coppin State by 35. Sophomore big man Adama Sanogo looks like he might be at the start of a breakout campaign after scoring 20 points in each of those contests. -BR

T21. Auburn Tigers

Highest vote: No. 10 | Lowest vote: Unranked

Auburn received fewer votes (2) than the seven teams behind them in our NCAA basketball rankings, including two unranked teams. The Tigers crack this Top 25, though, due to one of our voters being extremely high on their potential. Five-star freshman Jabari Smith is off to a solid start to lead the Tigers. He dropped 23 points in their win over Louisiana Monroe and has already flashed his shooting ability at 6-10; he is 5-for-8 from three. Auburn’s backcourt looks very solid as well. -LH

20. St. Bonaventure Bonnies

Highest vote: No. 18 | Lowest vote: Unranked

The Bonnies played with fire against Canisius and actually trailed for a good portion of the second half before asserting themselves down the stretch. It didn’t help that shot-blocking extraordinaire Osun Osunniyi missed most of the game with a back injury. But, considering just about everyone had at least one inconsistent performance during the season’s opening week, we’ll give this experienced group something of a pass — at least they got the job done, right? – BR

Mid-Major To 25 rankings: St. Bonaventure

19. BYU Cougars

Highest vote: No. 19 | Lowest vote: No. 23

BYU looks rock-solid under head coach Mark Pope once again and are quickly moving up our NCAA basketball rankings. This week, the Cougars added a pair of strong wins to their early-season resume by taking down Cleveland State and San Diego State. Alex Barcello is already poised to make good on dark-horse All-American hype; he recorded 41 points in two games this week. Barcello is a high-scoring, high-efficiency machine at the point guard slot. BYU’s matchup with Oregon looms this week, and everyone — not just those on the West Coast — should be paying attention. -LH

18. Virginia Tech Hokies

Highest vote: No. 16 | Lowest vote: No. 21

Virginia Tech is one of the more patient and efficient offensive teams in the country. Head coach Mike Young is comfortable playing at his pace — he has ranked sub-250 in tempo for 15 straight years — and his teams excel at creating quality looks. Junior guard Hunter Cattoor is already showing what he can do in a starting role after coming off the bench during his prior two seasons; the sharpshooter netted 16 points on 5-for-7 from distance in the Hokies’ win over Navy. He has also added nine assists to zero turnovers in two games. –LH

17. Arkansas Razorbacks

Highest vote: No. 14 | Lowest vote: Unranked

Outside of a slow start in the opener against Mercer, the Razorbacks have taken care of business through two games against lesser competition. Things haven’t always been pretty as Eric Musselman incorporates this season’s batch of transfers and newcomers, but this group has shown all the promise we thought we’d see in the preseason. -BR

16. Houston Cougars

Highest vote: No. 11 | Lowest vote: No. 19

Houston needed a late comeback and overtime to get past Hofstra in its season opener, then appeared to take its collective frustrations out on Rice in a 33-point victory. Marcus Sasser has taken the step forward the Cougars were hoping and is now this team’s leader. He’s also a dark horse All-American candidate, averaging 25.5 points through two games. -BR

15. Tennessee Volunteers

Highest vote: No. 12 | Lowest vote: No. 17

Tennessee thoroughly dominated both of its opening-week games, taking down UT-Martin (90-62) and East Tennessee State (94-62) in similar scoring games. The Volunteers looked great on both ends of the floor and notably showed out on the offensive glass and from 3-point range. The backcourt duo of Santiago Vescovi (7-for-18 3P) and Kennedy Chandler (6-for-7 3P) has been impressive from beyond the arc. The freshman Chandler has been superb so far; he recorded 36 points and ten assists in his first 48 college minutes. -LH

14. Illinois Fighting Illini

Highest vote: No. 7 | Lowest vote: No. 19

Illinois made quick work of Jackson State and Arkansas State to begin its season, taking them down by 24 and 39 points, respectively. The Fighting Illini are once again looking potentially elite defensively, and their mid-major opponents to date have had no answer for them on the glass. Even without Kofi Cockburn, Illinois ranked second nationally in offensive rebounding rate and 57th on the defensive end. Sophomore forward Coleman Hawkins has been superb to begin this season. He has taken over to post 30 points, 20 rebounds, seven assists, five blocks, and five steals in his first 56 minutes of the year. -LH

13. Memphis Tigers

Highest vote: No. 8 | Lowest vote: No. 18

As expected, Memphis was able to overwhelm both Tennessee Tech and NC Central with its athleticism, pace and pressure defense. The freshman duo of Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren looks dominant, though the Tigers will get a much stiffer test this week when Saint Louis comes to town. -BR

12. Kentucky Wildcats

Highest vote: No. 8 | Lowest vote: No. 24

It felt like Kentucky never controlled the game in its loss to Duke in the Champions Classic, yet the Wildcats still showed signs of promise defensively and with their 3-point shooting. Projections in our NCAA basketball rankings were slightly lowered for the Wildcats this week, however, following news that Iowa transfer CJ Fredrick would miss the season with a hamstring injury. -BR

11. Oregon Ducks

Highest vote: No. 8 | Lowest vote: No. 16

Oregon notched victories over Texas Southern (by 17) and SMU (by 23) in the season’s opening week, showing very few signs of struggle. Head coach Dana Altman has a tremendous track record of success, and it appears as though he has another big year atop our NCAA basketball rankings. Senior guard Will Richardson is already torching the nets to the tune of 8-for-13 shooting from three through two games. The Ducks have an experienced and talented backcourt triumvirate with Richardson, De’Vion Harmon and Jacob Young. -LH

10. Baylor Bears

Highest vote: No. 5 | Lowest vote: No. 13

The Bears did not show much in the opening week, defeating Incarnate Word by an expected 27 points, but they are loaded even with substantial offseason losses. Adam Flagler and Matthew Mayer, most notably, are poised for massive breakout years in more prominent roles. Add in freshman forward Kendall Brown already cracking the starting lineup and the arrival of transfer James Akinjo, and there is a lot to like here. It also helps to be the defending national champs. -LH

9. Purdue Boilermakers

Highest vote: No. 6 | Lowest vote: No. 12

The biggest question surrounding the Boilermakers this offseason was how Matt Painter was going to handle Trevion Williams and Zach Edey. Through two games, the answer has been to bench the preseason All-Big Ten selection (Williams) and roll with Edey in the starting lineup, and that has been paying dividends. Sophomore Jaden Ivey also looks to be having the breakout season many expected. -BR

8. Alabama Crimson Tide

Highest vote: No. 5 | Lowest vote: No. 11

Alabama came away with two of the most underrated victories in the country during the opening week. Not only did the Crimson Tide take down a pair of mid-major conference favorites in Louisiana Tech and South Dakota State, but they did so convincingly, winning by 29 and 16 points, respectively. Head coach Nate Oats has the Tide rolling so far. Keon Ellis has been very impressive; he posted 33 points, 22 rebounds, and six assists in two games. -LH

7. Texas Longhorns

Highest vote: No. 6 | Lowest vote: No. 11

There’s no denying that Texas was taken to the woodshed by Gonzaga, though that might be a reflection of just how good Gonzaga is more than anything else. There’s also no denying that the Longhorns won the second half and showed a lot of fight by making the game interesting. This group still needs time to mesh and fully establish roles, but the potential is obvious. -BR

Where Texas needs to grow after Gonzaga loss

6. Villanova Wildcats

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

Villanova led for a good portion of its loss to UCLA last week before sputtering down the stretch and falling in overtime. Nonetheless, the Wildcats put together a pretty good performance on the road against an excellent team. Collin Gillespie is Nova’s most notable player, but Jermaine Samuels and Justin Moore are also All-Big East caliber players. Eric Dixon was thrust into playing 38 minutes against the Bruins as essentially the only big in the rotation; he will have to play well this season for the Wildcats to be national title contenders. -LH

Why lack of depth could limit Villanova

5. Duke Blue Devils

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

No team raised its national perception in our NCAA basketball rankings like Duke did with its victory over Kentucky in the Champions Classic. Paolo Banchero looks like an All-American, yet it has been the emergence of fellow freshman Trevor Keels as a slasher/elite wing defender that has raised Duke’s projected ceiling. The Blue Devils are the team to beat in the ACC. -BR

4. Kansas Jayhawks

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

A dominant second half against Michigan State without Jalen Wilson gave us a glimpse at the potential of this Jayhawks team. Remy Martin is the perimeter creator Kansas was lacking last season, while Ochai Agbaji looks like one of the very best two-way players in the country and David McCormack holds his own inside. This team likely won’t be tested again until December but are showing us all the right stuff. -BR

3. UCLA Bruins

Highest vote: No. 3 | Lowest vote: No. 4

Any doubts about UCLA’s ability to maintain their level of play from March were quelled in the Bruins’ victory over Villanova on Friday night. Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez Jr. form one of the nation’s best duos, yet the steady point guard play from Tyger Campbell and the interior defense from Myles Johnson help put it all together for Mick Cronin’s squad. -BR

2. Michigan Wolverines

Highest vote: No. 2 | Lowest vote: No. 4

Big man Hunter Dickinson picked up right where he left off to begin his sophomore season, netting 27 points in a season-opening win over a good Buffalo team. The Wolverines then took down Prairie View A&M in convincing fashion. Highly touted freshman Caleb Houston scored in double figures in both victories, shooting 5-for-12 from beyond the arc; it looks like he will be the team’s top perimeter threat this season. -LH

1. Gonzaga Bulldogs

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

Gonzaga looked the part of the preseason No. 1 team in the country during the opening week. The Bulldogs jumpstarted their campaign by bullying Dixie State at home before totally controlling nationally ranked Texas in one of the most highly anticipated nonconference games of the season. National Player of the Year frontrunner Drew Timme imposed his will with 37 points against the Longhorns. Sophomore Julian Strawther is the breakout star to watch for the national title favorites. -LH



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