The Sak 25 curse continues with my new #1 Duke and #2 Gonzaga both losing to unranked and lower ranked opponents this past week. Whether you blame it on the curse or just pure coincidence, there is no denying that this is one of the most competitively balanced seasons in recent memory. And it is for the better.
The COVID rule allowed for seniors who competed last year to return for one more year. The NIL rule caused a lot of players who were on the fence of going pro to return, so they have a chance to improve their draft stock while still making money. NIL also caused several top freshman to choose to go to college instead of semi-pro options like the G League. All of this lead to us having a huge pool of talented and/or experienced players spread across the entire landscape college basketball.
While this makes for entertaining basketball, it makes it very difficult to make these top 25 rankings, because there is very little, if any, separation between these top teams. At least this week's #1 is easy...
#1 - Purdue (Previously 3)
Purdue not only remains undefeated, but continues to dominate pretty much every team the face. Zach Edey and Jaden Ivey are a duo more than capable of leading their team to a national championship. Matt Painter has always been a great coach who has his team playing better than their talent level and now he has his most talented team ever.
#2 - Duke (1)
I'm not going to penalize them too much for their first loss of the season at Ohio State. Duke exposed a lot of their flaws in this loss, such as what do they do when they get into foul trouble, poor guard play, and inability to close games when Paolo Banchero's shot isn't falling. These flaws haven't shown up in other games yet, and Duke still has two huge wins over Kentucky and Gonzaga, so they only drop 1 spot.
#3 - Baylor (5)
The Baylor Bears continue to not only win, but look more and more convincing in these wins. They have 2 opportunities to prove their top 3 ranking this week against Villanova and at Oregon.
#4 - UCLA (4)
UCLA became the first notable team to win a game after the other team had to forfeit due to COVID issues. While staying healthier than the other team is impressive, it is not enough to move the Bruins in either direction on this list. Games at Marquette and against North Carolina in Las Vegas will be the next opportunities for us to see if UCLA has improved from some of their earlier struggles, namely poor coaching.
#5 - Gonzaga (2)
A loss in consecutive weeks and a narrow win over 1-6 Tarleton warrants a drop in the rankings. However, I am going to take it easy on the Zags. Gonzaga has always been criticized for playing a week schedule. They have easily had the most difficult out of conference stretch by playing Texas, UCLA, Duke, and Alabama. I am not sure if there is a team in college basketball who could win all 4 at this stage of the season, so I reward them for their scheduling bravery and only drop them to #5.
#6 - Villanova (6)
Villanova had a couple of wins against weaker opponents this week. The convincing wins were enough for them to hold their spot over a couple of teams shooting up the rankings, but not enough for them to crack the top 5.
#7 - Kentucky (7)
I really want to move Kentucky up higher on this list because they continue to play better and better. With all of the other teams ahead of them, except undefeated Baylor, having ranked wins, it would be unfair to give Kentucky the nod as of now. Good thing for the Cats, opportunity is just around the corner. Coach Cal and crew travel to Notre Dame this weekend for their first true road game of the season, followed by taking on soon to be ranked Ohio State in Las Vegas.
#8 - Alabama (16)
What a weekend for the Tide. Shortly after taking down top ranked Georgia in football to earn the #1 seed in the College Football Playoff, Alabama basketball takes down Gonzaga in Seattle. Jaden Shackelford showed why he is one of the best scorers in the entire country by putting up 28 in the prime time matchup.
#9 - Arizona (15)
Arizona has moved up my rankings every single week and rightfully so. Convincing victory after convincing victory is putting the Wildcats on the map as a legit Final Four contender. Their matchup at Illinois this weekend will be a very telling game for both teams.
#10 - Kansas (9)
Kansas continues to be the most difficult team for me to rank and talk about every week. None of their games are that telling or convincing to me. They haven't impressed me at all in any of their wins, but they also really haven't done anything to warrant me dropping them down.
#11 - Texas (8)
#12 - Arkansas (11)
#13 - Tennessee (12)
#14 - Iowa State (14)
#15 - Ohio State (Unranked)
#16 - Houston (22)
#17 - Florida (22)
#18 - Illinois (19)
#19 - USC (Unranked) #20 - UConn (25)
#21 - Auburn (24)
#22 - LSU (Unranked)
#23 - BYU (13)
#24 - Seton Hall (20)
#25 - Wisconsin (Unranked)
Notable teams to get the boot:
Memphis (Previously 10) (Seriously Penny, what are you doing?)
Michigan (Previously 21)