With college basketball in full swing, I will be writing a weekly power rankings article to get you up to speed on the risers and fallers of the week, along with any other important story lines to be aware of.
Happy New Year everyone! With 2021 officially in the rear view mirror, we are officially in a year where there will be March Madness. This means Bracketology updates will be posted around the corner, and it is time to start highlighting some mid-major teams to put on your radar for Cinderella potential come tourney time.
When I write these college basketball rankings, I write them based on how teams are in the moment, rather than based on where I expect them to be come March. I will mention my anticipation of future positive or negative regression, but the rankings themselves simply express teams’ rankings to date. Let’s take a look at early season rankings.
Movers & Shakers
Two undefeated teams went down last week in LSU and Iowa State. Both teams face top-50 teams this week, so the continuous data will help place where these teams truly lie now that they face more challenging opponents. I will continue to pound the Auburn drum and see them as great value to take down the SEC, sitting at +600 in some books.
Wisconsin and Purdue are both tough cookies to crack. Wisconsin’s margin of victory over Purdue was one point higher than it was four days prior to 202nd-KenPom-ranked Illinois State. The Badgers have had some impressive victories but seem to play at their opponents' level. Purdue on the other hand has an elite offense, and everyone was high on them this year, but only boast one impressive victory this season. If they are vying for a one-seed, they will have to improve their consistency and re-ignite that early-season flame.
This week we have more exciting matchups with conference play really taking off. Two ranked teams in LSU and Kentucky face off. I expect the Wildcats interior play to be too much for LSU to handle and for John Calipari and Co. to win a close one. With the cancellation of Gonzaga-San Francisco, the Dons will pivot, now playing Loyola Chicago in a matchup between two potential mid-major at-large bids. The weekend is chock-full of thrilling matchups that I plan on spending all day watching as well.
As Jared Berson pointed out on Twitter, for the first time in over 40 years, only one ACC team received a vote in the AP Poll. This is quite concerning for a league known for its excellence over the past 10-15 years. Miami FL might actually be the second-best team in the conference, as they are riding a seven-game winning streak to start 3-0 in the conference. UNC is the obvious threat to Duke’s shot at the ACC crown, but the Tar Heels haven’t exactly competed against the top-tier teams.
With 60-plus teams on pause due to coronavirus concerns, it will be difficult to pass down accurate judgment for when teams on pause resume play. Some games might even be canceled or changed by the time this article gets published. Of course, the hope is that teams will be able to play all scheduled games, but January may be a wild wild west scenario when it comes to the cancellation of games. Simply from the angle of rankings and when we look back on these games, remember how teams play after coming out of a COVID-19 pause, and perhaps take it with a grain of salt. Seton Hall is a good example as they lost both games after a short hiatus while they were short-handed. I have to imagine this will only continue impacting teams further with the Omicron variant sweeping the nation, so it is an important item to keep in mind when filling out your brackets come March.
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