Rauf 25: Alabama’s rise to No. 3 highlights latest college basketball power rankings

Alabama had a decent amount of hype leading into the college basketball season, yet a slow 4-3 start kept it from being included in these power rankings up until a few weeks ago. Now, the Crimson Tide have made themselves impossible to ignore with their level of play.

Nate Oats’ squad has won nine consecutive games, almost all of which have come in impressive and convincing fashion. They’re now one of three teams that rank in the top 13 in both offensive and defensive efficiency (Baylor, Michigan) and have put themselves firmly among the nation’s best teams, which I go into more detail about in Friday’s Rauf Report.

We missed last week’s rankings due to some unfortunate unforeseen circumstances — the “last week” section notes where they were in my rankings two weeks ago — so there are plenty of major moves. Alabama is obviously the headliner, but Florida State also made a big move up while Kansas and Tennessee are tumbling.

So, without further ado, here’s my full top 25:

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25. Drake BulldogS (13-0)

Last week: NR
Games: None

Drake has not played since Jan. 4 due to COVID-19 protocols but enters the rankings because of the strength of its record and because other teams that would have taken this spot keep losing.

24. WINTHROP EAGLES (15-0)

Last week: 25
Games: Presbyterian (72-58 W, 78-66 W)

Winthrop continues to roll as one of the best mid-majors in the country. I think the Eagles will enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated as they only have UNC Asheville and Radford remaining on their schedule. Chandler Vaudrin (12.6 ppg, 7.6 apg, 6.9 rpg) is one of the best players you haven’t heard of yet.

23. BYU CougarS (13-3)

Last week: NR
Games: Portland (95-67 W), Pepperdine (65-54 W)

BYU has quietly put together an excellent season out in Provo. The Cougars have a road victory over San Diego State, three other notable wins (Utah State, Utah, St. John’s), and no bad losses. They’re clearly the second best team in the WCC and should be in line for an at-large bid.

22. Boise State BroncoS (13-1)

Last week: NR
Games: Fresno State (73-51 W)

Boise State has won 13 straight games since dropping its opener to Houston and has looked dominant since. This stretch includes a road victory over a good BYU team, too. BSU’s Mountain West schedule ramps up this week with two games at Colorado State.

21. VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES (11-3)

Last week: 19
Games: Wake Forest (64-60 W), Syracuse (78-60 L)

The Hokies have plateaued a bit, going 3-2 in their last five games. So far this season, the play of their defense has dictated their success. Virginia Tech is 9-0 when giving up fewer than 70 points and just 2-3 when giving up more.

20. KANSAS JAYHAWKS (10-5)

Last week: 7
Games: Baylor (77-69 L), Oklahoma (75-68 L)

Kansas simply doesn’t have it right now. The Jayhawks have lost three in a row for the first time since 2013 and have lost four of their last six overall. Their struggles offensively have been the biggest reason for this slide, and it doesn’t look to be fluky — this is who they are.

19. TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (10-3)

Last week: 6
Games: Florida (75-49 L), Missouri (73-64 L)

Tennessee closed 2020 with a dominant 20-point victory over Mizzou in a game that wasn’t even that close. Now, the Vols have to recover from two blowout losses, the latest coming against that same Tigers team. Their defense has regressed slightly, and their lack of shooting has made their half-court offense a struggle.

18. ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (10-5)

Last week: 9
Games: Penn State (79-65 W)

Illinois snapped a two-game losing streak with a convincing win over Penn State on Tuesday. The Illini have a chance to regain some serious momentum on Friday when Iowa comes to Champaign.

17. Ohio State Buckeyes (12-4)

Last week: NR
Games: Purdue (67-65 L), Wisconsin (74-62 W)

Ohio State has won four of its last five games, including impressive road victories over Illinois and Wisconsin. This stretch coincides with the arrival of freshman Meechie Johnson, who has provided needed depth in the backcourt.

16. SAINT LOUIS BILLIKENS (7-1)

Last week: 14
Games: None

Saint Louis did not play and hasn’t played since Dec. 23 due to COVID-19 protocols.

15. CREIGHTON BLUEJAYS (11-4)

Last week: 10
Games: Providence (74-70 L), UConn (74-66 W)

The Bluejays snapped a brief two-game losing streak with a win over a shorthanded UConn team. This group has proven they’re a good team, but also proven that they’re a step behind the top 15.

14. MISSOURI TIGERS (10-2)

Last week: 19
Games: South Carolina (81-70 W), Tennessee (73-64 W)

Missouri has bounced back from its bad loss to Mississippi State with three straight convincing wins, the latest coming in impressive fashion at Tennessee. Alabama is the clear favorite in the SEC, but the Tigers look like the second best in the conference right now.

13. WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS (10-4)

Last week: 15
Games: Kansas State (69-47 W)

West Virginia returned from a COVID break of its own with a dominant victory over a bad Kansas State team, as expected.

12. fLORIDA STATE sEMINOLES (9-2)

Last week: NR
Games: Louisville (78-65 W), Clemson (80-61 W)

Florida State has been unstoppable since returning from a COVID-induced pause. The Seminoles have won all four games since in convincing fashion, reemerging as perhaps the best team in the ACC.

11. WISCONSIN BADGERS (12-4)

Last week: 12
Games: Northwestern (68-52 W), Ohio State (74-62 L)

The bad news for Wisconsin is that it’s 2-2 in the last four games. The good news is that both losses came against KenPom top 15 teams. The Badgers have yet to pick up a victory of that ilk, however.

10. TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (11-4)

Last week: 22
Games: None

Texas Tech did not play a game this week but had risen following its win over Texas and great performance against Baylor.

9. VIRGINIA CAVALIERS (10-2)

Last week: 13
Games: Georgia Tech (64-62 W)

Virginia has turned a corner in 2021, ripping off six consecutive wins — all in ACC play — since falling to Gonzaga. While the Cavs defense still isn’t at typical Virginia levels, their offense ranks No. 12 nationally in efficiency.

8. HOUSTON COUGARS (13-1)

Last week: 8
Games: UCF (75-58 W), Tulsa (86-59 W), Temple (68-51 W)

Houston continues to prove it’s head-and-shoulders above everyone else in the American. The Cougars are led by the nation’s No. 3 defense.

7. IOWA HAWKEYES (12-3)

Last week: 5
Games: Northwestern (96-73 W), Indiana (81-69 L)

The Hawkeyes lost their first home game of the season on Thursday. However, I’m not going to dock them too much because it was simply one of those nights where this dominant offense — the most efficient in the country — couldn’t make their usual shots. With that said, their defense continues to be a major Achilles’ heel.

6. MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (13-1)

Last week: 11
Games: Maryland (87-63 W), Purdue (70-63 W)

Michigan’s loss to Minnesota last weekend was jarring, yet it has bounced back by blowing out its next opponents. The Wolverines will be heavy favorites over the next few weeks until their schedule really ramps up in mid-February.

5. TEXAS LONGHORNS (11-2)

Last week: 4
Games: None

Texas did not play a game this past week.

4. VILLANOVA WILDCATS (10-1)

Last week: 3
Games: Seton Hall (76-74 W), Providence (71-56 W)

Villanova didn’t look dominant in either game this week, but what else did you expect from a team coming off a 27-day, COVID-induced layoff? The bottom line is the Wildcats took care of business.

3. ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (13-3)

Last week: 17
Games: LSU (105-75 W), Mississippi State (81-73 W)

Fight me. There are only two teams playing better basketball than Alabama right now. I go in-depth on the Crimson Tide here.

2. BAYLOR BEARS (14-0)

Last week: 2
Games: Kansas (77-69 W), Oklahoma State (81-66 W)

It was another strong week for Baylor as a whole, yet it was Jared Butler who had the best week individually. The preseason All-American scored 30 points against Kansas and 22 against Oklahoma State, leading Baylor’s second-half charge in the OSU win.

1. GONZAGA BULLDOGS (15-0)

Last week: 1
Games: Pacific (95-49 W)

Another week, another dominant performance from the best team in the country.

Brian Rauf
Brian Rauf

Heat Check CBB Lead National Writer



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