College Basketball Power Rankings Update: Best in the West
The West Coast Conference is by no means your traditional power conference. In fact, they rank 10th among all Division-I conferences in terms of average RPI. The conference owns only two teams in AP Top-25, while seven teams rank outside of the top 140, based on nERD.
At 15-0, the Zags are one of only two undefeated teams remaining in college basketball, with Baylor being the other. With a friendly schedule ahead, they have a legitimate chance of reaching the NCAA Tournament undefeated. But before we jump ahead two months, let's take a closer look at Gonzaga and what makes them the best in the west.
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 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: 13.59, Record: 15-2, Last Week: 25)
24. St. Mary's (CA) Gaels (nERD: 13.60, Record: 14-1, Last Week: NR)
23. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (nERD: 13.81, Record: 14-2, Last Week: NR)
22. Xavier Musketeers (nERD: 14.15, Record: 13-2, Last Week: 20)
21. Oregon Ducks (nERD: 14.37, Record: 15-2, Last Week: NR)
After suffering two losses in their first four games, the Oregon Ducks have rattled off 13 straight victories, including four to open the Pac-12 season. In their conference opener against the UCLA Bruins, the Ducks did the impossible and knocked off the then-unbeaten Bruins, 89-87. Oregon may not have been able to slow down the nation's top offense in terms of efficiency, but they did beat them at the line, making more free throws (18) than the Bruins even attempted. (12).
The following three games for the Ducks weren't as thrilling, nail-biting or exhilarating as the UCLA game. USC, Washington, and Washington State all provided no resistance whatsoever to Dana Altman's team, as Oregon won all three games by an average score of 84.0-62.7.
The upcoming schedule does not appear to be daunting for the AP's 13th-ranked Ducks, as they face only one team in our top-50 -- California -- in their next six contests. With such a soft upcoming slate, there is a strong possibility Oregon could be looking for their 20th win in a row when 16th-ranked Arizona comes to Eugene on February 4.
20. Wichita State Shockers (nERD: 14.42, Record: 14-3, Last Week: 21)
19. Arizona Wildcats (nERD: 14.64, Record: 15-2, Last Week: 18)
18. Wisconsin Badgers (nERD: 15.22, Record: 13-3, Last Week: 17)
In the past week, the Wisconsin Badgers have taken on two nationally ranked opponents (Indiana and Purdue), but had mixed results. Against the Hoosiers, they were out-rebounded (32-25) and out-shot from the field (53.1%-50.0%) but managed to win 75-68 by going 10-for-20 from three and taking care of the basketball (seven turnovers).
Against the Boilermakers, they couldn't capitalize on the 18 turnovers by Purdue as the Badgers shot 39.0% from the field including a horrible 2-for-14 (14%) from three as they lost in the waning moments, 66-65. The loss ended a nine-game winning streak and dropped the Badgers' record versus RPI top-50 ranked teams to 0-3.
While there may not be one dominant team in the Big 10 this year, the conference is overflowing with above-average teams, and the Badgers have three tough outs up next on the docket in Ohio State, Michigan, and Minnesota.
17. Florida State Seminoles (nERD: 15.61, Record: 15-1, Last Week: 16)
16. Creighton Bluejays (nERD: 15.71, Record: 15-1, Last Week: 19)
15. Cincinnati Bearcats (nERD: 16.40, Record: 13-2, Last Week: 14)
14. UCLA Bruins (nERD: 16.46, Record: 16-1, Last Week: 11)
13. Butler Bulldogs (nERD: 16.52, Record: 14-2, Last Week: 15)
With early-season wins over Arizona, Indiana, and Cincinnati in the books and embarrassing upsets at the hands of Indiana State and St. John's, Butler was in desperate need for a statement win to remind college basketball they were a team to be feared. They did that last Wednesday.
When Butler defeated Villanova 66-58, they snapped the defending national champion's 20-game winning streak. Known as more of an offensive team -- 21st in offensive efficiency and 18th in effective field goal percentage -- the Bulldogs surprised the Wildcats with their suffocating defense, limiting them to a season-low in points. They allowed 'Nova only to shoot only 37.3% from the field while making only 6-of-26 from beyond the arc.
Next up for the Bulldogs is a road trip to Omaha to face the 15-1 and eighth-ranked Creighton Bluejays on Wednesday. If they make it out unscathed, they have a chance to take over the top spot in the Big East when 15th-ranked Xavier comes to town on Saturday.
12. Purdue Boilermakers (nERD: 16.66, Record: 11-2, Last Week: 13)
11. Florida Gators (nERD: 16.77, Record: 12-3, Last Week: 12)
10. Virginia Cavaliers (nERD: 17.61, Record: 12-3, Last Week: 7)
9. Duke Blue Devils (nERD: 17.64, Record: 14-2, Last Week: 10)
8. Louisville Cardinals (nERD: 18.12, Record: 13-3, Last Week: 6)
7. Gonzaga Bulldogs (nERD: 18.38, Record: 15-0, Last Week: 9)
The 15-0 Bulldogs have won 12 of their 15 games by double-digits, including their last four by an average of 25.5 points. They are crushing teams by scoring 85.5 points per game while they own the 11th-best defensive rating adjusted for opponent, per KenPom.com.
They have cruised through their three West Coast Conference games, beating San Francisco, Pacific, and Pepperdine by 15, 20 and 30 points respectively. Against San Francisco, they received a career-high 36 points on nearly impeccable 12-for-15 shooting from Washington Huskies-transfer Nigel Williams-Goss. The junior guard easily won the WCC Player of the Week honors despite playing only one game. Gonzaga's contest versus Portland was postponed due to inclement weather.
After a warmup versus Loyola Marymount on Thursday, the Zags face just their third top-50 RPI ranked opponent of the year when St. Mary's comes to Spokane on Saturday in one of college basketball's must watch games of the week.
6. Baylor Bears (nERD: 18.67, Record: 15-0, Last Week: 3)
5. Villanova Wildcats (nERD: 18.70, Record: 15-1, Last Week: 4)
4. Kansas Jayhawks (nERD: 18.95, Record: 14-1, Last Week: 5)
3. North Carolina Tar Heels (nERD: 19.60, Record: 14-3, Last Week: 8)
After a 12-point loss to Georgia Tech to open the ACC schedule, North Carolina lost some of their luster as a National Championship contender. However, after a pair of wins over RPI top-50 schools in the past week, the Tar Heels have regained their spot in our top three.
In a three-point overtime win over Clemson, the Tar Heels needed a career performance from Joel Berry -- 31 points with 7 three-pointers -- to pull out the victory. It also didn't hurt that the country's leading rebounding team (45.9 boards per game) crushed the Tigers on the glass 51-32.
In their next game, against in-state rival NC State, the Tar Heels poured on the points from the start and never looked back. Roy Williams' crew tied a season-high in scoring as they delivered the Wolfpack the second-worst defeat in school history, 107-56.
The path to an ACC crown doesn't get any easier for North Carolina this week as they go on the road to take on the 40th-ranked offense in the nation, regarding efficiency, in Wake Forest. Then on Saturday, they welcome ninth-ranked Florida State and their 3-0 record versus top-25 teams to Chapel Hill.
2. West Virginia Mountaineers (nERD: 20.90, Record: 13-2, Last Week: 1)
1. Kentucky Wildcats (nERD: 22.56, Record: 13-2, Last Week: 2)