Disclaimer: All rankings were accurate at the time of publication
This basketball season has already had 4 teams ranked #1, many upset losses, and much controversy with the NCAA. The preseason #1 team is struggling while former unranked teams are thriving. Here is who made the top 10 list up to this point:
The Oregon Ducks were poised to have a good year after landing 4 high-profile recruits this offseason. Recruits have been the key to success in the past years, but this year, the Ducks are being led by senior guard, Payton Pritchard. He is averaging 18.8 points a game, which is why the Ducks are currently ranked number one in the Pac-12.
So far this season, the Ducks are 7-2 with big wins over #13 Memphis and #22 Seton Hall, though they did lose to #17 North Carolina and #6 Gonzaga. These wins and losses tell a mixed story about the Ducks season so far, but this Saturday, the Ducks have a chance to show the country they’re the real deal while playing #5 Michigan.
The reigning national champs lost their three best offensive players from last year, who together averaged 44.2 points per game. This year, the Cavaliers have one of the worst offenses in the country, but they have overcome that fault with the best defense in the country. They only average giving up 41 points per game, which is remarkable in modern-day college basketball.
The Cavaliers experienced a surprising loss to Purdue a couple of weeks ago when they only scored 40 points. This low point total is believed not to work against the high powered offenses of the ACC. This belief was proven as possibly false when Virginia beat UNC (an ACC high powered offense) by 56-47. If Virginia’s defense can carry them through the rest of the season, they could be back-to-back National Champions.
This season started off on a high note for Kentucky when they beat the preseason #1 team, Michigan State, 69-62. The following week, Kentucky gained the number one ranking, but they lost this ranking when they suffered a devastating loss to an unranked team in Evansville. After that loss, Kentucky is on a five-game winning streak while only playing below 500 unranked teams.
Despite suffering an upset loss, this Kentucky team has a huge upside. Their top two leading scorers are both freshmen. Nick Richards and Tyrese Maxey both average 14 points per game. If this Kentucky team can find some senior leadership/scoring, they could be the team to beat in March.
This Duke team doesn’t have the superstars they had last year, but they have more senior leadership and scrappiness than in the years before. Duke’s season started out with a great win over Kansas, which was followed up by beating California and Georgetown to win the 2K Empire Classic. Within three weeks they were the #1 team in the country. Everything was looking up for the team, but in their 7th game of the season, they lost to an unranked SF Austin. This loss snapped a 150 non-conference game winning streak at home. It was the loss of the decade.
After losing to SF Austin, Duke went on the road and beat Michigan State 87-75. Beating Michigan State in their arena by double digits doesn’t happen often. The best thing about this Duke team is that they have proved that they can win in multiple ways. They have won with their defense and with their post play through Vernon Carey. Also, they have relied on freshman in certain games and upperclassman in others. This Duke team will be scary during ACC play once their freshman gain more experience.
Gonzaga has one player from Russia, two from France, one from Serbia, one from Mali, and one from Lithuania. 6 out of Gonzaga’s 14 players aren’t from the US. No other top 10 team has anything close to this. The way coach Mark Few of Gonzaga is able to recruit foreign players and turn them into US college basketball players is remarkable. Gonzaga’s best player right now is from Serbia. Filip Petrusev is averaging 16 points per game and 8 rebounds per game. Both stats in which are leading his team.
Gonzaga is 10-1 as of right now, with key wins over Oregon and Washington and a loss to Michigan. Their next two games are against two ranked opponents in UNC and Arizona. If Gonzaga can get through their next two games with two wins, they most likely will be ranked inside the top 10 for the rest of the year.
The Wolverines started the year as unranked. They had hired a new coach and this year was thought to be a rebuilding year for them. They struck down that narrative by beating UNC and Gonzaga within a week to win the Maui Invitational, which was a crazy start to the season, but their early success was brought to a halt when they lost to #1 ranked Louisville by 18 points.
Michigan didn’t bring in a phenomenal recruiting class like other top 10 teams, but they have more upperclassman scoring contributors than most do. Junior Isaiah Livers leads the team with 16 points per game. He and many other Michigan players are making first-year head coach Juwan Howard look extremely good.
Most top 10 teams have played a somewhat hard schedule so far this season, but Maryland hasn’t played a single ranked team. Don’t get me wrong, Maryland is a very good basketball team, but they haven’t been tested yet. Their first tough game of the season doesn’t come until January 7th when they play #3 Ohio State.
When the new rankings come out, Maryland could possibly drop out of the top 10 because they just lost to unranked Penn State. They lost because of their lack of bench scoring. Their bench combined for only 13 points. If Maryland’s bench doesn’t become more productive, they won’t have the greatest season.
3: Ohio State
Ohio State is one of the last undefeated teams in the country. They are 9-0 and first place in the Big Ten. They have played against UNC and Villanova, who are both ranked. So far this season, they have crushed every team they have played. They beat UNC by 25, which doesn’t happen often.
The Buckeyes are led by a pair of juniors, CJ Walker and Kaleb Wesson. They bring leadership, scoring, assists, rebounds, and so much more to this team. Ohio State is the current favorite to win the Big Ten, which they haven’t won since 2013.
Kansas had a tough start to their season when they lost to Duke 68-66. In this loss, they turned the ball over 28 times. This may have been due to Duke’s defense or to first-game jitters from Kansas. Whatever the case is, Kansas has bounced back from their loss with 8 straight wins.
Kansas should stay in the top 10 for the rest of the year. They have the easiest schedule compared to most top 10 teams with only playing 4 ranked teams for the rest of the year. Kansas will enter March with one of the best records in the country, but with less experience than other teams. Their record will look nice, but it won’t win them a championship.
The Cardinals have had an extremely easy schedule to start their season because they only played one ranked team throughout 10 games. They did win this game by double digits, but Louisville might be in for a rude awakening once ACC play starts.
Louisville recently became the fourth #1in the country to lose. This all happened within the first 6 weeks of the season. Louisville lost to unranked Texas Tech 70-57. During ACC play, Louisville will be tested every week while playing teams like Duke, UNC, and Virginia. If they win the ACC, they will be the #1 ranked team going into the playoffs.
These rankings will fluctuate throughout the season with new teams entering the top 10. Up to this point in the season, teams like Kansas and Michigan have impressed, but teams like UNC and Michigan State have disappointed. Teams aren’t worried about where they’re ranked right now, but where they will be ranked in March.