NCAA basketball rankings: Villanova tumbles as Baylor holds onto No. 1

Baylor stays atop our NCAA basketball rankings while Villanova is in free fall following another loss.

For the first time in a month, the No. 1 team in our NCAA basketball rankings will remain as such for another week — though that’s not to say it wasn’t close. Baylor went to Eugene and trailed Oregon for a majority of their showdown on Saturday night before pulling away late, solidifying their spot atop our rankings. In fact, most of our top teams took care of business.

Villanova, however, is a notable exception. The Wildcats had shown warts in losses to UCLA, Purdue and Baylor, but those were other top 10 teams. And in the first two of those games, Villanova held double-digit leads in the second half. Then Jay Wright‘s squad lost by 20 against Creighton on Friday night, showing that those warts might be very real and not so much a product of who the Wildcats had been playing.

Villanova takes the largest tumble down our rankings because of that performance.

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 Rauf and Dieckhoff (who is pinch-hitting this week).

CSU’s Stevens leading the Rams to new heights
NSU’s Jones: From 50 Cent promos to March Madness
—DPI: Game Predictions | 1-500 Player Rankings

Others receiving votes (For reference, our No. 25 team received 13 points): Oklahoma (7), West Virginia (7), Minnesota (6), West Virginia (4), Illinois (1), and San Francisco (1).

25. Villanova Wildcats (7-4)

Highest vote: No. 20 | Lowest vote: Unranked

The aforementioned Wildcats have the most losses of any team in these rankings. Villanova already had depth and size issues, but now even its shooting is struggling. Jay Wright’s squad has combined to shoot 23 percent from 3-point range in the last three games. They will be tested again Tuesday against a Xavier team you’ll see later in our rankings. -Brian Rauf

24. Wisconsin Badgers (9-2)

Highest vote: No. 21 | Lowest vote: Unranked

Wisconsin returns to our rankings despite struggling at home against Nicholls without Johnny Davis. But a win is a win, and many of the Badgers’ past victories are aging well — namely the victory over Houston. Wisconsin will face Morgan State and Illinois State to close the calendar year. -BR

23. Loyola Chicago Ramblers (9-2)

Highest vote: No. 22 | Lowest vote: Unranked

Ramble on, Loyola! Drew Valentine‘s squad has won four straight D-1 games since Thanksgiving, including victories over high-major outfits such as Arizona State, DePaul and Vanderbilt. Unfortunately, due to a COVID freeze, the team will eventually have three weeks off between the Vanderbilt win on Dec. 10 and the MVC opener against Southern Illinois on Jan. 2. Will they thaw out in time? -Andy Dieckoff

22. Providence Friars (11-1)

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

Suddenly and somewhat surprisingly, Ed Cooley has Providence looking like a potnetial contender in the Big East. The Friars now have wins over Wisconsin, Northwestern, Texas Tech and Connecticut. Nate Watson and AJ Reeves are bolstered by the arrival of transfer Aljami Durham and the improved play of Noah Horchler. -AD

21. Kentucky Wildcats (8-2)

Highest vote: No. 16 | Lowest vote: No. 22

Oh, hey Kentucky! After dipping out of the rankings for a bit, the Cats are back. Credit that jump to an absolute annihilation of North Carolina this past weekend. The performance against the Heels was a welcome sight for a team that was previously boasting Ohio as its best win of the season. -AD

20. Xavier Musketeers (11-1)

Highest vote: No. 16 | Lowest vote: No. 23

The Musketeers have quietly put together a really nice resume at 11-1. The Ohio State win is this group’s validation, yet it also has victories over four other KenPom top-75 teams. Jack Nunge and Dwon Odom combined for 32 points off the bench to lead Xavier to its latest such victory (Marquette) this weekend. -BR

19. Tennessee Volunteers (8-2)

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

Thanks to a couple questionable performances — namely, an 18-point loss to Villanova and a nearly unwatchable 57-52 overtime loss to Texas Tech — the Vols present as a hard team to peg. Their top-tier defense will be put to the test this week when the Arizona Wildcat basketball machine comes to town. -AD

18. Texas Longhorns (8-2)

Highest vote: No. 15 | Lowest vote: Unranked

Is Texas back or not? To be perfectly honest — I have no idea. Probably? The weak schedule makes it difficult to know. Texas is now just 1-2 in games versus KenPom top-100 teams. That sole victory came this past weekend versus Stanford, a team in a different stratosphere than the two that beat Texas: Gonzaga and Seton Hall. -AD

17. Iowa State Cyclones (11-0)

Highest vote: No. 13 | Lowest vote: No. 24

The Cyclones rolled past Southeastern Louisiana on Sunday to keep their undefeated start intact. Led by a top-10 defense, Iowa State should enter Big 12 play unblemished assuming it can beat Chicago State this week. -BR

16. Michigan State Spartans (9-2)

Highest vote: No. 9 | Lowest vote: No. 23

Michigan State had off this week due to final exams. Sparty will finish its nonconference schedule (Oakland, High Point) to close the calendar year before getting back into Big Ten play. -BR

15. Ohio State Buckeyes (8-2)

Highest vote: No. 13 | Lowest vote: No. 18

The Buckeyes have been on a COVID pause, so they haven’t played since Dec. 11, when they beat the brakes off Wisconsin (the version with Johnny Davis). It’s a tough break, too, because there was some positive momentum going after the Duke win and the strong followup. -AD

14. Colorado State Rams (10-0)

Highest vote: No. 10 | Lowest vote: No. 17

Colorado State was forced to cancel Saturday’s game against Tulsa and this coming Tuesday’s showdown with Alabama due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the team. It’s a tough break for an undefeated and really good Rams team that leads the nation in 3-point shooting and effective field-goal percentage. They aim to return Dec. 28 against New Mexico. -BR

13. Seton Hall Pirates (9-1)

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

It was incredibly tempting to think of SHU as some flash-in-the-pan team after their loss to Ohio State; however, the Pirates have won five straight D-1 games, including a win over Texas and a triumph over Rutgers in the Jersey Super Bowl. Next up? Big East play starts this week against a feisty DePaul squad. -AD

12. LSU Tigers (11-0)

Highest vote: No. 10 | Lowest vote: No. 14

LSU continues to be one of the more surprising storylines through the first six weeks of the season. The program still has its black cloud, but it’s also got an 11-0 start. Sure, the strength of schedule is weak, but that is not excuse to disregard this team. The wildest part may be that they’re doing it without top transfer target Adam Miller. -AD

11. Auburn Tigers (10-1)

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

The Tigers went on the road against a solid Saint Louis team this weekend and came back to win behind a 19-point, nine-rebound, four-block performance from Walker Kessler. A double overtime loss to UConn back in November is the only thing that is sitting between Auburn and a perfect 11-0 start. -BR

10. USC Trojans (12-0)

Highest vote: No. 9 | Lowest vote: No. 15

USC wasn’t dominant in its victories over UC Irvine and Georgia Tech this week, yet here it is at 12-0 and in the top 10 in our rankings. The Trojans will finish their nonconference schedule Tuesday against Oklahoma State. -BR

9. Alabama Crimson Tide (9-2)

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

Alabama falls a bit following its loss to Memphis, but the Crimson Tide simply may have been a victim of playing the Tigers at the wrong time. They also had one of their worst 3-point shooting outings of the season (30.3 percent). Alabama replaced Colorado State with Davidson for its game on Tuesday, the last before starting SEC play on Dec. 29. -BR

8. Houston Cougars (10-2)

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

It’s not all that often that a team jumps up after a loss, but anyone who watched Houston against Alabama saw both teams excel. It’s a shame that contest had to end in controversy, but the loss shouldn’t hurt too bad going forward. -AD

7. UCLA Bruins (8-1)

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

Thanks to a COVID pause, the Bruins have only played three games since their pre-Thanksgiving loss to Gonzaga. UCLA racked up some OK wins in that stretch (UNLV, Colorado, Marquette), but none really jump off the page. You know who does jump off the page? Arizona, which comes to Pauley on Dec. 30. -AD

6. Kansas Jayhawks (9-1)

Highest vote: No. 5 | Lowest vote: No. 7

The Jayhawks held on against a pesky Stephen F. Austin team on Saturday for their fifth straight victory. A road test against Colorado awaits and will be the highest-rated team KU has played since that loss to Dayton, per KenPom. -AD

5. Gonzaga Bulldogs (9-2)

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

The Zags are either at the tail end of the college basketball’s uppermost echelon, or they are the top team in Tier 2. Either way you slice it, they’re a step or two off the pace the program set last year. This Gonzaga team looks inexperienced at times, but they showed growth by taking care of the ball against a pesky Texas Tech defense in the last major test of the nonconference season. -AD

4. Arizona Wildcats (11-0)

Highest vote: No. 2 | Lowest vote: No. 7

Slow starts against both Northern Colorado and Cal Baptist raised some eyebrows across the country, yet they ended in 25-point and 24-point victories, respectively, for the Wildcats. Arizona has passed every test with flying colors so far, but now comes the toughest test yet — a three-game road trip against Tennessee, UCLA and USC. The Wildcats will either validate their unexpectedly hot start or come back down to Earth during this stretch. -BR

3. Duke Blue Devils (10-1)

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

The Blue Devils caught some flak this week after their original game with Cleveland State was canceled due to COVID-19 issues in the Vikings’ camp. In response, Duke went looking for a new dance partner — but they kept their gaze frustratingly low, at least in the eyes of those wanting to see Coach K orchestrate a marquee game. Instead, Duke first tabbed Loyola Maryland as the replacement. Then, after the Greyhounds also went on pause, the Blue Devils ended up playing Elon. -AD

2. Purdue Boilermakers (10-1)

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

After losing to Rutgers and struggling against NC State, the Boilermakers got back to being dominant in a 77-48 win over Butler. Jaden Ivey looked like a first team All-American with 22 points, including a perfect 6-for-6 from 3-point range. Purdue closes the calendar year against Incarnate Word and Nicholls before getting back into Big Ten play. -BR

1. Baylor Bears (10-0)

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

In an incredible turn of events, the No. 1 team in the country managed to make it an entire week without losing. The Bears flirted with disaster, though, falling behind to a struggling Oregon team before putting them away — and covering the spread. The loss of the ‘Big 3’ from last season feels less and less like a problem with each passing day. Thanks to new faces such as James Akinjo, Kendall Brown and Jeremy Sochan, folks in Waco are rightfully dreaming of a repeat title run. -AD