College Basketball Power Rankings Update: Tough Times at Duke
The Duke Blue Devils season was not supposed to be this challenging. After making a Sweet 16 appearance last season and adding three of the top 10 high school recruits in the nation, the 2016-17 campaign was supposed to be Duke's year. They even started the season as the AP's preseason top-ranked squad.
But between another bout of unsportsmanlike play from co-captain Grayson Allen and losing coach Mike Krzyzewski for at least a month, falling to Virginia Tech in the ACC season opener seems to be the least of the Blue Devils concerns at the moment.
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 a league-average team.
25. Minnesota Golden Gophers (nERD: 13.30, Record: 13-2, Last Week: NR)
Three years removed from their last NCAA Tournament appearance and fresh off an 8-23 season, the Minnesota Golden Gophers have stunned the Big 10 with their play as of late. After going 12-1 in non-conference play with solid wins over top 75 teams Vanderbilt, UT-Arlington, and Arkansas, Richard Pitino's crew lost by a single point to Michigan State in their conference opener before knocking off then 15th-ranked Purdue in West Lafayette.
In the 91-82 overtime thriller over the Boilermakers, Nate Mason played the game of his life, scoring 31 points with 11 assists, and 6 rebounds. Over his last four games, the junior has heated up, averaging 20.0 points with 7.3 assists, and 1.5 steals. Mason's offensive punch is balanced out nicely by the rim protection of Reggie Lynch. The Illinois State transfer blocked five shots versus Purdue and ranks first in the nation in block percentage (16.2%) and fourth in blocks per game (3.4).
Mason, Lynch, and the rest of Pitino's crew don't have time to sit back and savor the moment as they have another Big 10 challenge awaiting them on Thursday -- a trip to Evanston to face the 40th-ranked Northwestern Wildcats awaits them.
24. Indiana Hoosiers (nERD: 13.31, Record: 10-4, Last Week: 15)
23. Texas Christian Horned Frogs (nERD: 13.63, Record: 11-2, Last Week: 24)
22. Clemson Tigers (nERD: 13.70, Record: 11-2, Last Week: NR)
21. Wichita State Shockers (nERD: 14.38, Record: 12-3, Last Week: 21)
20. Xavier Musketeers (nERD: 14.42, Record: 12-2, Last Week: NR)
19. Creighton Bluejays (nERD: 14.79, Record: 13-1, Last Week: 17)
18. Arizona Wildcats (nERD: 14.84, Record: 13-2, Last Week: NR)
From the start of the season, the Arizona Wildcats depth has been tested. Due to injuries and a suspension to sophomore Allonzo Trier, the Wildcats have had only six players play in all 15 games this season. If the situation wasn't bad enough, four of those six players are true freshmen who have had to adjust to the college game on the fly. What they lack in experience, however, Sean Miller's squad makes up for it with defensive intensity and energy.
In their 15 games, the defense has not allowed a team to score 70 points while opponents own a 43.7 effective field goal percentage. Arizona owns the 29th-best defensive rating, but they shoot up to ninth when adjusted for opponents, per kenpom.com. In their last three games, the Wildcats have harassed and pressured opponents to shooting only 32.0% from the field including locking down the New Mexico Lobos to an abysmal 26.2% performance.
Already 2-0 in the Pac-12, with a win over California and a nearly 40-point trouncing of Stanford, Arizona faces a soft patch in their schedule over the next three games before making a trip to Southern California to take on the AP top-25 ranked USC and UCLA Bruins.
17. Wisconsin Badgers (nERD: 14.94, Record: 12-2, Last Week: 18)
16. Florida State Seminoles (nERD: 15.52, Record: 14-1, Last Week: 20)
Behind a top-20 offense -- 15th in points per game (86.2) and 18th in offensive rating -- the Florida State Seminoles have gotten out to their best start in nearly 30 years and currently own a 10-game winning streak. Besides shooting over 50% from the field, FSU's offense has been getting to the line at an impressive rate. On seven different occasions, they have made more free throws than its opponent has attempted. In their latest game, a 60-58 victory over 12th-ranked Virginia, the Seminoles took 24 free-throws compared to the Cavaliers' 5.
In that game, the offense was taken over by sophomore guard Dwayne Bacon. He scored 29 of the team's 60 points as he made a career-high six three-pointers. He is averaging 26.0 points on 57.6% shooting in the team's two conference games this year. Add in freshman phenom Jonathan Isaacs and junior swingman Xavier Rathan-Mayes, and coach Leonard Hamilton has three reliable scoring weapons he can turn to on a nightly basis.
The win over Virginia was just the start of perhaps one of the most difficult stretches in all of college basketball as the Seminoles face an AP Top-25-ranked team in their next five games, starting with Virginia Tech on Saturday.
15. Butler Bulldogs (nERD: 15.72, Record: 12-2, Last Week: 15)
14. Cincinnati Bearcats (nERD: 15.73, Record: 12-2, Last Week: 16)
13. Purdue Boilermakers (nERD: 16.48, Record: 12-3, Last Week: 11)
12. Florida Gators (nERD: 17.05, Record: 10-3, Last Week: 13)
11. UCLA Bruins (nERD: 17.07, Record: 14-1, Last Week: 12)
10. Duke Blue Devils (nERD: 17.25, Record: 12-2, Last Week: 8)
What a wild past a couple of weeks for Duke. Between losing their co-captain and second leading scorer, Allen, indefinitely due to suspension and now Coach K needing a leave of absence to recover from back surgery, their off-court drama has overshadowed how poorly they have been on the court.
Against Tennessee State, Duke shot only 37.3% from the field and less than 60% from the free-throw line in what should have been a romp at Cameron Indoor but ended up being a 65-55 win. Follow that up with a 36.5% shooting night against the 219th-ranked Elon Phoenix defense and 35.9% shooting performance from everyone not named Luke Kennard against Virginia Tech and the red flags are there for interim coach Jeff Capel.
Luckily for Duke, they have a couple of home games against teams ranked outside of the top 125 coming up next on the docket. That should give Capel and company plenty of time to fix their ailing offense before the meat of their ACC schedule arrives in mid-January.
9. Gonzaga Bulldogs (nERD: 18.35, Record: 14-0, Last Week: 9)
8. North Carolina Tar Heels (nERD: 18.54, Record: 12-3, Last Week: 4)
7. Virginia Cavaliers (nERD: 18.76, Record: 11-2, Last Week: 7)
6. Louisville Cardinals (nERD: 18.81, Record: 12-2, Last Week: 6)
5. Kansas Jayhawks (nERD: 19.33, Record: 12-1, Last Week: 5)
During their current 12-game winning streak, the Kansas Jayhawks have tightened up their defense, giving up only 65.6 points per game. They limited the Georgia Bulldogs to 54 points on 31% shooting and shut down UNLV, allowing only 53 points on 34.5% shooting. While the defense has stiffened lately, the real key to the Jayhawks' run has been the offense.
Scoring 86.5 points per game, Bill Self's squad has been hot from the floor, making 51.0% of their shot attempts, good for the fifth-best mark in the nation. Their three-point shooting has been off the charts, too, as they have sunk over 40% of their long-distance tries, led by National Player of the Year candidate Frank Mason's 48.2% success rate. The senior is also leading the Big 12 Conference in scoring and assists with averages of 19.8 points and 5.9 dimes per game.
Fresh off an 86-80 win over our 23rd-ranked TCU, the Jayhawks schedule doesn't lighten up -- as it won't all year in the Big 12 -- as they host in-state rival Kansas State (12-1) on Tuesday, followed up with Texas Tech.
4. Villanova Wildcats (nERD: 19.37, Record: 14-0, Last Week: 3)
3. Baylor Bears (nERD: 19.54, Record: 13-0, Last Week: 10)
2. Kentucky Wildcats (nERD: 21.27, Record: 11-2, Last Week: 2)
1. West Virginia Mountaineers (nERD: 21.84, Record: 12-1, Last Week: 1)