College basketball power rankings: UCLA, USC, Virginia, Florida State and Alabama make big jumps

1 馃攧Last week: No. 1 | Record: 14-0. The Zags got out of Saint Mary’s with a 73-59 win Saturday night, and in fact it was fairly lackluster. It marked the first time this season GU failed to hit at least 85 points. Yet GU won by 14 against its league rival, on the road, with most of the starting lineup playing in a sub-par fashion. At this point it’s safe to project that Gonzaga will get a No. 1 seed come March, which will be the program’s fourth (2013, 2017, 2019). 2 馃攧Last week: No. 2 | Record: 13-0.聽What a showing from Jared Butler on Monday night in BU’s 77-69 win over Kansas. Butler scored 30, one point away from his career high, but it’s his penchant for showing up specifically vs. Kansas that’s a great sign for Bears fans. Butler, a junior, is averaging 13.6 points in his college career. But in five games against Kansas — even accounting for his freshman season, when he was a role player — Butler puts up 23.2 vs. the Jayhawks. He and Kevin Durant are the only players in the past 25 seasons to have two 30-point games against Kansas. (H/T, ESPN.) (As for KU, it’s out of the rankings this week and that loss means it’s got basically no shot at winning the Big 12 regular-season title.) 3 猡达笍Last week: No. 6 | Record: 10-1.聽I didn’t know what to do with the No. 3 hole this week; I had five teams under for consideration. The Vols win out, though I think they’ve got a close one awaiting them Tuesday night at Florida. Tennessee‘s defensive rating at KenPom is 87.1, No. 2 nationally. Rick Barnes’ team is blocking 17.6% of opponents’ shots, the most frequent rate in college basketball.聽 4 猡达笍Last week: No. 5 | Record: 8-1. The Wildcats last played on Dec. 23 but that drought ends on Tuesday night with a home tilt against Seton Hall. The good news for VU fans: sophomore shooting guard Bryan Antoine is going to play Tuesday night. He’s been out the season so far due to a right shoulder injury, but it seems he’s ready to make his debut, which should take Villanova to another level — and I already think this team is a clear notch or two above all others in the Big East.聽 5 猡达笍Last week: No. 7 | Record: 12-2. The Hawkeyes are riding a five-game winning streak, with three of those victories coming on the road: Rutgers, Maryland and Northwestern. Fran McCaffery’s team is a No. 2 seed聽in the most recent bracket projection published by our Jerry Palm, which went up Monday.聽 6 馃敾Last week: No. 3 | Record: 11-2. The Longhorns got picked off last Wednesday by a last-second shot from Texas Tech‘s Mac McClung. Good game, tough loss, nothing embarrassing about it. UT responded with a 15-point home win over K-State over the weekend. At TCU is next, on Saturday. If you missed it,聽let me direct you to the most recent Court Report, which led with Texas and the story behind the story of Andrew Jones.聽 7 猡达笍Last week: No. 8 | Record: 11-1. The Cougars have a claim to be as high as No. 3 in the Hey Nineteen. Not only do they continue to win, they’ve separated entirely from the rest of the teams in their conference in the predictive metrics. Houston‘s projected end-of-regular-season record is 20-3. If it does that and wins the American Athletic Conference auto bid, I believe this team will be a No. 2 seed.聽 8 馃敾Last week: No. 4 | Record: 11-1. I want to see how the Wolverines respond Tuesday night at home against Maryland after their pasting at Minnesota (75-57) on Saturday. I don’t take too much stock into that loss. Minnesota’s good and it’s also beaten Iowa, Saint Louis, Michigan State and Ohio State. But I think you learn about a team’s long-term viability in how it responds to a bad loss. If Michigan is elite, it beats Maryland by double digits. 聽 9 猡达笍Last week: No. 17 | Record: 11-2. A reminder that these rankings do not heavily weigh a team’s entire body of work when it comes to ranking. (That’s what bracketology is for.) This is more about scanning a team’s most recent output in the past month or so and putting a value on that,聽with a nod to previous big wins or losses taken into account. So, that in mind, UCLA is 9-1 in its past 10 games with its only loss on a neutral court to a good Ohio State team. Mick Cronin’s doing this without his best player (Chris Smith). Time to start paying attention.聽 10 猡达笍Last week: No. 14 | Record: 11-2. The Trojans continue to somewhat quietly pace their way to a really good NCAA Tournament seed and are in the thick of the Pac-12 race, which seems destined to be a close one between four teams (USC, UCLA, Oregon, Colorado). USC is one game behind UCLA. The Bruins are yet to lose a league game. The Trojans are squeezing in a makeup roadie Tuesday night at Oregon State, and the Beavers just beat Arizona State at home over the weekend, so USC won’t be caught overlooking them. 11 猡达笍Last week: No. 16 | Record: 11-2. The Hokies almost messed around and took a tail-between-the-legs loss at Wake Forest on Sunday, but Mike Young’s team got out with a four-point win to remain ranked in both polls and continue along in solid standing here. Young is going to get VT to the NCAAs in his second season, and the fan base could not have asked for anything better than what he’s produced to this point. Hokies just announced a COVID pause, so no games for the next week. 12 猡达笍Last week: N/R | Record: 9-2. I’m still astonished by this fact: Virginia’s 85-50 win at Clemson on Saturday was the second-largest margin of defeat for a ranked team at home in the 72-year history of the AP poll. That’s wowing. (Coincidentally, No. 12 Virginia’s 41-point home loss to then-unranked UConn in 1993 is the worst.) Anyway, as a result of that win, and how convincing it was, UVA vaults into this week’s party.聽 13 猡达笍Last week: N/R | Record: 8-2. The Seminoles’ last three games: a 32-point home win over NC State; a seven-point home win over North Carolina; a 13-point road win over Louisville. Monday night’s takedown of the Cardinals was authoritative. Leonard Hamilton’s team is yet again rounding into dangerous form and figures to be a threat to win the league’s automatic bid if/when the league tournament is played in March. 14 猡达笍Last week: N/R | Record: 11-3. Alabama guard John Petty Jr. won SEC Player of the Week after contributing 20.0 points and 4.5 rebounds, along with nine 3s, in wins against Kentucky and Arkansas. Petty has made 265 triples in his career, a program record. The Tide are a fun, must-watch team this season and are the only ones left without a loss in the SEC. Alabama has the conference’s best field goal percentage D (36.6%) and top 3-point D (25.9%). If Alabama beats LSU on Tuesday night the Tide’s nine straight wins would be the school’s longest run in 18 seasons.聽 15 馃敾Last week: No. 9聽| Record: 11-3. Since we last ranked Wisconsin: Badgers lost by 23 at Wisconsin and won by six at Rutgers. So, a slip, but by no means are we kicking this team out of the proceedings. Greg Gard’s guys have a prime opportunity this week with two homes games (against Northwestern and Ohio State) to stay within an arm’s grasp of Michigan and Iowa for the top spot in the Big Ten. D’Mitrik Trice has jumped to potential All-Big Ten first team status in the past six games, averaging 20.3 points and 4.0 assists.聽 16 猡达笍Last week: N/R | Record: 10-2. The Tigers can draw even with Alabama in the SEC standings with a win Tuesday night. It’s the game of the night for me. Will Wade’s team is led by Cameron Thomas, who is one of the five best freshmen in America this season. Thomas is putting up 22.1 points per game and has effortlessly transitioned from quality prep player to high-major contributor. The fact he’s done despite returnees Trendon Watford (18.7 ppg) and Javonte Smart (15.2 ppg) continue to get theirs makes it all the more impressive. 17 猡达笍Last week: N/R | Record: 11-3. The Buckeyes were destined to jump in after their win at Illinois. Chris Holtmann is currently without starting PG C.J. Walker and backup Jimmy Sotos but this team is safely in top-20 territory despite that. And you wouldn’t think State to be this offensive brute, but it is. The Buckeyes rank sixth nationally in points per possession. Losing Kaleb Wesson has unexpectedly improved this team’s flexibility on O.聽 18 馃敾Last week: No. 12聽| Record: 10-3. Well, the OT road loss at sub-.500 Butler was less than ideal. But I’m going to stop short of booting the Jays from the Hey Nineteen this week because Creighton did not have its best player, Marcus Zegarowski, in that game on Saturday. If he’s there, it wins. So I’ll slot Creighton ahead of Xavier (which has been idle) by a narrow margin at this stage. Next up: hosting Providence on Wednesday. 聽聽 19 猡达笍Last week: N/R | Record: 12-1. I’m going to give the Broncos some benefit of the doubt here. Winners of 12 straight, including a nice one at BYU, but they’ve yet to play the toughest teams in the Mountain West. Still, that’s 12-1 in a multi-bid league that will have a decent shot at sending three teams to the NCAAs. Leon Rice’s troop聽has two games upcoming this week at home vs. Fresno State, then its fate in these rankings will be determined the week after with two road games against Colorado State.

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