College Basketball Power Rankings Update: Season's Greetings
As the holiday season approaches, the college basketball season is turning into high gear. After spending the first six-plus weeks of the season playing local rivals and other non-conference opponents, the battle for conference supremacy is just around the corner.
So what better time than now to take our first glimpse into the happenings with the college basketball's top 25 teams?
Every week, we will take a look at the top 25 schools in our power rankings, while breaking down the performance of five of the most notable programs in the country.
You will find that our rankings can sometimes be much different from the AP Top 25 or the USA Today Coaches Poll. Our power rankings here at numberFire are not subjective or influenced by the latest hype; we put our faith and trust in our algorithms. Each week, we’ll list the top 25 teams in Division I from worst to best based on our nERD metric, a predictive measure that projects the number of points we would expect that squad to win by against an average team.
25. Iowa State Cyclones (nERD: 13.54, Record: 7-3)
24. Florida State Seminoles (nERD: 14.06, Record: 12-1)
23. Saint Mary's (CA) Gaels (nERD: 14.09, Record: 8-1)
22. Miami Hurricanes (nERD: 14.29, Record: 8-2)
21. Creighton Bluejays (nERD: 14.61, Record: 11-0)
The Creighton Bluejays are one of only six undefeated teams remaining in all of college basketball, thanks to their high-scoring and efficient offense. No matter who they face, nobody has been able to slow down their balanced attack as they rank eighth in the nation with an average of 89.3 points per game.
If there has been one thing Creighton can count, it is their shooting. Even in by far their worst offensive performance of the year -- a 66-65 win over the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles -- the team went 28-for-58 from the floor for 48.3 percent. They are shooting over 53.8 percent on the season and can't be stopped from beyond the arc. Coach Greg McDermott's squad is the best three-point shooting team in the country, making long distance shots at a 44.4 percent clip.
With two not-so-difficult matchups on the horizon, a New Year's Eve showdown with the AP's top-ranked team, the Villanova Wildcats, could be a battle of unbeatens as the Bluejays look to put their stamp on the Big East early this season.
20. Wichita State Shockers (nERD: 14.63, Record: 9-3)
19. South Carolina Gamecocks (nERD: 14.96, Record: 9-1)
18. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (nERD: 15.03, Record: 10-2)
After a 9-0 start, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish played their first games of the year against a ranked opponent and promptly lost. Against top-ranked Villanova, they held a five-point halftime lead but went cold, making only 2-of-11 three-point tries in the second half and were outscored 38-25.
Their next time out, versus the then 15th-ranked Purdue Boilermakers, the second-half woes continued as they went to the locker rooms up 52-38 but ended up losing by five after being out-rebounded 40-30. In each game, one of the Irish's top three scorers went missing in action. Against Nova, senior V.J. Beacham went 2-for-11 for 4 points. In the Purdue loss, the team's second-leading scorer registered just 3 points as he went 1-for-8.
On Monday, the Irish got back on track with a 15-point win over Colgate Raiders. However, with tough ACC matchups against the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Louisville Cardinals looming, the Irish will need to prove they can perform well against top notch competition.
17. Wisconsin Badgers (nERD: 15.13, Record: 10-2)
16. Indiana Hoosiers (nERD: 15.97, Record: 9-2)
15. Butler Bulldogs (nERD: 16.36, Record: 10-1)
14. Cincinnati Bearcats (nERD: 16.67, Record: 9-2)
13. Florida Gators (nERD: 17.01, Record: 8-3)
12. Purdue Boilermakers (nERD: 17.23, Record: 10-2)
11. Baylor Bears (nERD: 17.78, Record: 11-0)
10. Gonzaga Bulldogs (nERD: 18.27, Record: 11-0)
9. UCLA Bruins (nERD: 18.45, Record: 12-0)
Led by a pair of dynamic freshman, T.J. Leaf and Lonzo Ball, the UCLA Bruins have gotten out to their best in nearly 10 years with 12 straight wins. They haven't been just cruising either. In the 10 of the 12 victories, they have won by double-digits including four by 37 or more points.
Scoring has not been a problem as they are averaging 96.9 points per game, second in the nation. Making over 55 percent of their field goal attempts, the Bruins are the best shooting team in all of college basketball. Their two leading scorers, Leaf and Jordan Hamilton are shooting over 60 percent from two, while they have five players making over 40 percent from three.
The young squad also has possibly the most impressive victory of any team in the country with their 96-92 win over Kentucky Wildcats in Rupp Arena. Despite turning the ball over 17 times -- compared to the Wildcats' 9 -- UCLA completely outshot Kentucky, making 35-of-66 shots, including a 43.5 percent accuracy from three.
8. Duke Blue Devils (nERD: 19.00, Record: 11-1)
7. North Carolina Tar Heels (nERD: 19.24, Record: 10-2)
6. Louisville Cardinals (nERD: 19.25, Record: 10-1)
5. Virginia Cavaliers (nERD: 19.82, Record: 9-1)
4. Kansas Jayhawks (nERD: 20.22, Record: 10-1)
3. Villanova Wildcats (nERD: 20.23, Record: 11-0)
The defending National Champion Wildcats own the longest winning streak in college basketball -- and school history -- with 17 consecutive wins, stretching back to their NCAA Tournament run last season. Their 11 wins so far this season haven't been easy either. While they have four wins by 20 or more points, they have had a couple of nail-biters as well.
In the second game of the year, Purdue took them to the final seconds with Nova holding on for the 76-73 victory. Against old Big East foe Notre Dame, the Wildcats were down by as many as 11 before a furious second-half rally gave them the 8-point victory. The common denominator in both games has been the clutch play of National Player of the Year contender Josh Hart.
Against Purdue, Hart calmly nailed four free-throws to ice the game for Jay Wright's squad. Versus the Irish, the senior guard went off for a career-high 37 points. In that game, he was 10-for-14 from the floor and 14-for-14 from the line as he willed the Wildcats to victory. On the year, Hart is averaging 20.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game while posting a 68.4 percent true shooting percentage.
The Wildcats have two more games before they take their fifth-ranked offensive rating into Omaha to face off with fellow unbeaten Creighton.
2. Kentucky Wildcats (nERD: 20.92, Record: 10-1)
1. West Virginia Mountaineers (nERD: 21.94, Record: 9-1)
To the casual fan, to see the West Virginia Mountaineers ranked at the top over the six unbeaten squads and other perennial powerhouses may come as a shock. However, if you dive into how they are destroying their opponents, you will gain new found respect for Bob Huggins' squad.
Ranked fifth in both points scored (92.6) and points allowed (58.1), the Mountaineers have the highest scoring margin of any of the 351 Division I schools. Keyed by their aggressive trapping defense, the Mountaineers are causing a ridiculous 26.1 turnovers per game with 13.9 steals per game; both lead the nation. When the defense is not creating easy buckets for the offense, West Virginia's 16.7 offensive rebounds have led to plenty of second-chance points.
While their strength of schedule has not been the best, they do have some impressive wins on their resume, as they beat a top-50 school in Illinois by 32 points and also defeated our fifth-ranked Virginia Cavaliers in a road game on December 3. With the Big 12 Conference having seven teams in our top 30, the Mountaineers will have plenty of challenging opponents to beat shortly.