College basketball power rankings: Maryland moves into the top 10 and is looking better by the week

1 Previous: No. 1 | If Baylor wins at home vs. Oklahoma State on Saturday, as it should, it will improve to 21-1 and have the best start to a season in program history. Baylor’s 9-0 in the Big 12. The last time a Big 12 team won its first nine games? Bet you can’t guess it. The Texas Longhorns of 2010-11, with Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph as freshmen, Jordan Hamilton and J’Covan Brown as sophomores.       2 Previous: No. 2 | The Zags (23-1) got a good scare last Saturday at San Francisco but pulled away late to win 83-79. Corey Kispert — who is featured in this profile on players who wear No. 24 — had some Kobe Bryant-ish moments late to help seal the win. Gonzaga has won 16 straight road games. That’s the longest streak in college basketball by seven games. 3 Previous: No. 3 | It’s San Diego State’s nine-game road win streak that’s behind Gonzaga for the second-longest in hoops. Despite the 23-0 record, I can already feel the cynicism and doubt around SDSU starting to rise up. Because the Mountain West will struggle to be a two-bid league, skeptics of the Aztecs will cite the league affiliation. Here’s the truth: SDSU is currently No. 3 in wins above bubble, which is arguably the fairest metric evaluating team strength.  4 Previous: No. 4 | The Flyers’ (20-2) only game since last week’s power rankings was a 14-point win at home against Fordham. They stay put. The next two are at home: Saint Louis on Saturday, then a good one against tournament-hunting Rhode Island on Tuesday. 5 Previous: No. 5 | The Jayhawks held off Texas Tech last Saturday by three then shook off Texas on Monday (69-58). Kansas is 19-3 and will get TCU on the road Saturday, then West Virginia on the road next Wednesday. If the Jayhawks are 21-3 a week from now, they will be moving up in the power rankings. That WVU game is a big opportunity and a tougher road opponent than Gonzaga, SDSU or Dayton will face the rest of their respective regular seasons.  6 ⤴️ Previous: No. 7 | Chris Mack’s team is up to 20-3 and has done a wonderful job repairing its mildly tarnished reputation from a little more than a month ago. U of L started the season 9-0, then lost to Texas Tech, Kentucky and Florida State in a two-week span to found itself at 11-3. It’s suffered no losses since then, with an average win margin of 11.0 points. Virginia comes to town on Saturday. U of L rallied after a double-digit deficit against Wake Forest on Wednesday. Moving along! 7 ⤴️ Previous: No. 8 | The Seminoles play at Duke on Monday. The game will come two days removed from Duke playing at UNC. Who knows what happens there, but I get the sense that even if the Noles (19-3) win that game, they still won’t get their due. This is an obvious top-10 team in college basketball, yet even predictive metrics fail to put it inside the top 15. Humans and computers both need to just stop sleepin’.  8 ⤴️ Previous: No. 14 | By my estimation, Maryland is now the only Big Ten team with a realistic hope of playing for a No. 1 seed. With an 18-4 record and five-game winning streak, the Terps are 5-4 in Quad 1 and — according to — has played as the second-strongest team in college basketball since Jan. 15. Only Baylor’s been more dominant. 9 ⤴️ Previous: No. 11 | I saw Duke (19-3) slop its way to a 63-55 win on Tuesday at Boston College. The Blue Devils drooped their 3-point percentage this season to 35.4% after going 1-of-15 from deep against the Eagles. There are nights when Duke looks nothing like a top-10 team. But given the losses in the past five days within the AP Top 25, you have to have Duke in the top 10 of any ranking. KenPom still has this team No. 2, but I’m nowhere close to that.  10 ⤴️ Previous: No. 16 | I will reward record here. Auburn (20-2) is 20th in BPI, 31st at KenPom and 35th at Torvik, but I’m rewarding the win streak and overall ledger. Devoted readers of the power rankings understand that this assembly of teams is tiered out based on recent performances just as much as team strength and putting together wins. If it was anything else, it would merely be Bracketology or copying off KenPom, which is pointless and redundant.  11 ⤵️ Previous: No. 6 | A close but good win Wednesday at Georgetown brought Seton Hall to 1-1 since last week’s rankings. You’d be forgiven if you forgot, but the Hall (17-5) got stomped at home by Xavier (probably one of the three most surprising results of the past week) on Saturday. A slip was inevitable because of that, but at least back-to-back losses were dodged. Now Villanova awaits on Saturday and, well, I’ll get to Nova in a minute. Seton Hall hasn’t won at Villanova since … 1994! Can the streak end?! 12 ⤴️ Previous: unranked | Oh my god, I’ve got the Penn State Nittany Lions ranked No. 12. At 17-5 and riding a five-game win streak, most recently extended on Tuesday with the win at Michigan State, we have no choice but to stan. The Nittany Lions will be in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011. Pat Chambers, in his ninth season, is going to finally crack into the Big Dance.  13 ⤴️ Previous: No. 18 | Why not, right? Mountaineers rank 9.5 on average across the six team sheet metrics (NET, KPI, Strength of Record, KenPom, Sagarin, BPI). Bob Huggins’ team is 18-4 with the No. 2-ranked defense. It’s also the best offensive-rebounding team in college basketball thanks to freshman Oscar Tshiebwe and sophomore Derek Culver, who each average nine of them. WVU is turning Big 12 opponents over 24.5% of the time, comfortably best in the league. 14 ⤵️ Previous: No. 10 | The Ducks (18-5) took a bad loss at Stanford, but we’re into some tricky territory with other teams. Nobody under consideration at this stage has won more than three games in a row. It seems like half the sport is floating between the No. 5 and No. 12 line. Oregon in that group now. It’s still atop the Pac-12 standings. The Ducks have rival Oregon State on the road Saturday. 15 ⤵️ Previous: No. 9 | The 17-5 Wildcats take a slip but don’t get the boot. Despite back-to-back losses to Creighton and Butler (and at Butler, at the buzzer, against a team worthy of a No. 4 seed), Villanova still feels like a top-15 club. It’s No. 11 in offense, No. 11 in foul-shooting percentage, has only one home loss and is now 5-5 in Quad 1 with losses to projected tournament teams: Ohio State (by 25, yikes), Baylor, Marquette, Creighton, Butler. If VU falls to Seton Hall on Saturday, it’ll mark the first three-game losing streak involving at least two home games since 2012.    16 ⤵️ Previous: No. 12 | Well, yeah, it’s only one loss. You go on the road in the league and you take a nine-point defeat. It happens. Buuuuuuuut when you’re losing to Vanderbilt, giving the ‘Dores their first SEC win in 29 tries, it’s damaging for the business. Will Wade’s 17-5 Tigers slip. They play at Auburn on Saturday. Loser of that game will have no shortage of skeptics.   17 ? Previous: No. 17 | The most under-discussed aspect of Kentucky’s strength as a team this season is its foul shooting. The Wildcats (17-5) are making 78.3% of their freebies, which is No. 6 in the sport and easily ranks as the most accurate foul-shooting team of John Calipari’s career. Kentucky is stable after a 1-1 week: nine-point loss at Auburn, eight-point win vs. Mississippi State.                18 ⤴️ Previous: unranked | A four-point home loss to Providence isn’t looking so bad any more; Providence has won four games vs. Quad 1 opponents. With Butler’s buzzer-beating win Wednesday against Villanova, the Bulldogs got to 18-5 and kept their slim hopes of winning the Big East alive. Really, BU helped Seton Hall, as the Pirates’ win combined with Nova’s loss gave SHU a two-game lead in the standings. Butler has the No. 1 2-point defense in Big East play, holding foes to 43%.  19 ⤴️ Previous: unranked | Ben Jacobson’s Panthers are 20-3 and have lost once since Jan. 1, a two-point defeat at Southern Illinois. Their best win is at Colorado from early December. Jacobson’s been at Northern Iowa since 2006-07, but this year’s team could become his best 3-point squad yet. At 39.1% from deep, it currently ranks higher than any previous UNI team in that respect. If it gets to Selection Sunday with four losses and no auto bid, it will be in the field. 

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