College Basketball Power Rankings Update: Mustangs on a Charge

The SMU Mustangs notched their biggest win of the year on Sunday. How far did their defeat of Cincinnati move them up the ranks?

This season, the American Athletic Conference will send at least two teams to the NCAA Tournament. While the nation is familiar with the Cincinnati Bearcats, the SMU Mustangs fly under the radar.

Eric Dickerson or the "death penalty" are the first things that come to sports fans' minds when thinking about the Dallas-based school. However, with the play of a suffocating defense the Mustangs are ranked 19th in the nation by the Associated Press (AP) and poised to return to the big dance for only the sixth time in the last 50 seasons.

This week, we will take a closer look at SMU and four other teams making noise in college basketball.

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 a squad to win by against a league-average team.

25. Iowa State Cyclones (nERD: 13.71, Record: 15-9, Last Week: NR)
24. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (nERD: 14.02, Record: 19-7, Last Week: NR)
23. Butler Bulldogs (nERD: 14.25, Record: 19-6, Last Week: 22)
22. Arizona Wildcats (nERD: 14.42, Record: 23-3, Last Week: 21)
21. Oklahoma State Cowboys (nERD: 14.87, Record: 16-9, Last Week: 19)
20. Cincinnati Bearcats (nERD: 14.90, Record: 22-3, Last Week: 18)
19. Southern Methodist Mustangs (nERD: 15.13, Record: 22-4, Last Week: 23)

Ever since Cincinnati snapped SMU's 10-game winning streak on January 12th, the Mustangs have been biding their time, waiting for the rematch.

In the seven games in between the two meetings, the Mustangs crushed their opponents, winning by an average of more than 20 points per game. They used their top-10 defense -- they rank eighth in defensive rating and third in points allowed -- to limit their American Athletic Conference opponents to just 55.1 points per game in that span. They held both Connecticut and East Carolina to less than 50 points and 35% shooting.

On Sunday, they finally got their chance for revenge on the Bearcats.

In a 60-51 win, the Mustangs snapped Cincinnati's 15-game winning streak and took a slim lead over the Bearcats for first place in the AAC. The win was their first over a top-25 opponent since 2014 and basically cemented their place in the field of 68 come March. We currently projected SMU as a 9 seed with a 93.6% probability they will take part in March madness for just the second time in the last 24 years.

18. Creighton Bluejays (nERD: 15.39, Record: 21-4, Last Week: 20)
17. Wisconsin Badgers (nERD: 15.48, Record: 21-4, Last Week: 14)

Buoyed by a 10-2 start in Big 10 play, the Wisconsin Badgers had a stranglehold on first place in the conference. However, in their past three games, they haven't exactly been dominating the competition.

In a five-point win over the Indiana Hoosiers, the Badgers were off target all game long, making only 39.6% of their field goal attempts while sinking only 4-of-17 three-point attempts -- and Indiana isn't known for their stout defense. Wisconsin managed to pull the game out by dominating at the stripe, taking 31 free throws compared to only 12 by the Hoosiers.

In their next time out, against a 10-13 Nebraska Cornhuskers squad, the Badgers needed overtime to avoid the upset. The Badgers lost the battle on the glass (50 to 37) and were once again tossing up bricks (36.5% shooting). In their next game, the Badgers weren't able to overcome their persistent shooting woes as they fell at home to the Northwestern Wildcats, 66-59.

With a pair of matchups against top 40 teams on the docket this week -- Michigan and Maryland -- the Badgers need the get the offense going if they want to remain on top of the Big 10.

16. Oregon Ducks (nERD: 15.74, Record: 22-4, Last Week: 17)
15. Wichita State Shockers (nERD: 15.97, Record: 23-4, Last Week: 16)
14. Florida State Seminoles (nERD: 16.06, Record: 21-5, Last Week: 15)
13. UCLA Bruins (nERD: 16.13, Record: 23-3, Last Week: 13)

After a brief stumble in late January -- consecutive losses to Arizona and USC -- the UCLA Bruins have bounced back strong and have been rolling so far this month.

In a pair of road games versus Washington and Washington State, the nation's top offense was on fire, averaging 101.0 points per game while sinking 81 of 137 field goal attempts (59.1%). They committed only 6 turnovers versus the Cougars while dishing out 21 assists against the Huskies.

Next up was a revenge game versus the Oregon Ducks. The Ducks dealt the Bruins their first loss of the season in the Pac-12 opener. This time around, Steve Alford's crew come out on top, but it wasn't easy.

Down by as much as 19 points in the first half, the Bruins grabbed their first lead of the game with only four minutes remaining. After allowing 48 points in the first 20 minutes, the Bruins' sometimes suspect defense stepped up. They clamped down on the Ducks down the stretch, allowing just 15 points in the final 14 minutes. UCLA followed that up by holding the Oregon State Beavers to just 60 points, so maybe the Bruins' 166th-ranked defense has some teeth.

12. Duke Blue Devils (nERD: 16.63, Record: 20-5, Last Week: 12)
11. Baylor Bears (nERD: 17.10, Record: 22-4, Last Week: 11)
10. Purdue Boilermakers (nERD: 17.22, Record: 20-5, Last Week: 10)
9. Kansas Jayhawks (nERD: 18.30, Record: 23-3, Last Week: 9)

While the Kansas Jayhawks are have dominated the Big 12 lately -- 12 consecutive regular-season titles -- they have had to battle tooth and nail the past two weeks to remain on track for their 13th straight title.

After seeing their 54-game home winning streak snapped with an overtime loss to the Iowa State Cyclones on February 4th, the Jayhawks went down to the wire in their next three games, winning by a total of eight points. While the road wins over Kansas State and Texas Tech were impressive, no matter how small the margin of victory was, the improbable comeback against the West Virginia Mountaineers was one for the ages.

Down by 14 points with less than three minutes remaining, the Jayhawks looked poised to lose consecutive home games for the first time in the Bill Self era. However, by outscoring West Virginia 34-16 in the last three minutes plus overtime, Kansas proved their championship mettle and is now a win away from their 13 consecutive Big 12 banner. They face the second-place Baylor Bears on Saturday.

8. North Carolina Tar Heels (nERD: 18.36, Record: 21-5, Last Week: 8)
7. Virginia Cavaliers (nERD: 18.65, Record: 18-6, Last Week: 6)
6. Florida Gators (nERD: 19.16, Record: 20-5, Last Week: 5)
5. Louisville Cardinals (nERD: 19.24, Record: 21-5, Last Week: 3)
4. Villanova Wildcats (nERD: 19.27, Record: 25-2, Last Week: 7)

This past week, the NCAA released their top 16 seeds, at the moment, for the NCAA Tournament. Unsurprisingly, the Villanova Wildcats have an early hold on the top overall seed.

The defending champs are one of only three teams to rank in the top 15 of both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, according to They are undefeated at home -- currently riding a 17-game winning streak, stretching back to last season -- and are one of only two teams in all of Division I to have two or fewer losses. They are also riding a six-game winning streak, dominating their last four games by an average of roughly 13 points per game.

In their most impressive victory in the past week, the Wildcats held a top-30 offense in the Xavier Musketeers to just 57 points and 35% shooting from the field.

With only four regular-season games remaining, Nova is ending their season in stride and should be considered one of the favorites to cut down the nets again this season.

3. Kentucky Wildcats (nERD: 19.52, Record: 20-5, Last Week: 2)
2. West Virginia Mountaineers (nERD: 19.64, Record: 20-6, Last Week: 4)
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (nERD: 20.96, Record: 26-0, Last Week: 1)