At the beginning of every college basketball season, we get excited as fans and analysts alike. College basketball is unique in that it has a history unlike any other sport; there are rivalries dating back to over 100 years ago between teams like Duke vs North Carolina, Kentucky vs UCLA and more. These games carry great weight with very little at stake due to the financial incentive for both schools involved, making these games feel a bit less meaningful than those in the NBA or NFL.
The “college basketball rankings net” is a website that provides college basketball news and information for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball. The website also offers power rankings for all conferences in college basketball.
Baylor provided some stability to the top of the Rankings of Influence after a rocky first month of the 2021-22 men’s college basketball season, which saw the No. 1 slot continually change teams. Throughout the first eight weeks of the season, the Bears seemed to be in complete control, carrying over their momentum from previous season’s national championship run. With two home games remaining and three easy road trips ahead, it looked like Scott Drew’s team would maintain its lead.
Then Baylor dropped those back-to-back home games, to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, and became the first AP No. 1 team ever to lose two home games in a week, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
So, what went wrong with Baylor?
Let’s begin with the people. Due to an ankle ailment, freshman Jeremy Sochan missed both games. Even though he only started one game this season, the forward presented a matchup challenge for opponents who can make plays on both ends of the court. Drew said after the game that James Akinjo was battling with an injury as a consequence of a hard fall in the Texas Tech game. Akinjo labored against Oklahoma State and then didn’t play in the closing minutes.
Offense was the biggest offender on the court. Baylor had two of its three worst offensive outings of the season, going 16-for-52 from 3-point range in the two games and shooting less than 50% from inside the arc for the first time since Thanksgiving Day. The Bears also didn’t get out as frequently as they usually do for easy buckets. Both the Red Raiders and the Cowboys turned the ball over on fewer than 20% of possessions after forcing turnovers on at least 21% of possessions in every game this season — and an average of 25% of possessions.
The loss of Akinjo and Sochan hurt, but the supporting cast also failed to deliver consistently. Adam Flagler, who had been outstanding for the previous six weeks, went 1-for-10 from the field against Oklahoma State; Matthew Mayer scored 16 points against the Cowboys, but it was the first time he had scored in double figures since Dec. 4; and Kendall Brown, one of the most impressive freshmen in the first half of the season, has averaged just 4.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in his last five games.
Those easy road games against West Virginia and Oklahoma this week now seem to be a little more intimidating for Baylor.
Oregon was ranked second in the Pac-12 heading into the season, including a pair of first-place votes in the preseason poll. The Ducks were a consensus top-25 team heading into the season, with a combination of significant returnees and one of the best transfer classes in the country. The enthusiasm was not dampened by a 23-point thrashing of SMU in their second game of the season. Then came a heartbreaking 31-point defeat to BYU in Portland, followed by a humiliating performance in the Maui Invitational, when they fell to Saint Mary’s and were thrashed by Houston. Oregon’s season was on life support after losses to Arizona State and Stanford in early December.
The Ducks have a pulse following a 3-0 week that included road victories over AP No. 3 UCLA and AP No. 5 USC. The week started with a road win against Oregon State, when the Ducks seized the lead with 13 seconds remaining on an Eric Williams 3-pointer, then held on for a two-point victory after a missed layup in the closing seconds. Jacob Young has 16 points to begin the week.
For someone like Timme to earn Player of the Week, it requires something exceptional. It’s too regular for him to have a couple of 20-and-10 performances; it’s anticipated. Timme, on the other hand, gets credit for facing two of the West Coast Conference’s top five teams in a three-day stretch and putting up astonishingly efficient back-to-back 30-point performances.
On Thursday, the junior forward scored 30 points on 13-for-14 shooting against BYU. His lone miss was a three-pointer, and he went a perfect 13-for-13 from beyond the arc. He also grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists. Timme shot 14-for-18 from the field (including a 3-pointer) and grabbed eight rebounds against Santa Clara on Saturday.
For the week, Timme averaged 31.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists, while shooting 84.4% from the field. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, he became the first Division I player to average 30 points on 80% shooting over a two-game span since Luka Garza last season, while Evan Miyakawa pointed out on Twitter how ridiculously efficient he was last week.
In his past 32 shots, Drew Timme has 62 points. That works out to 1.94 points per shot. That has to be incredibly unusual over any two-game timeframe, in my opinion.
January 15, 2022 — Evan Miyakawa (@EvanMiya)
Iverson Molinar of Mississippi State, who averaged 26.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists in victories against Georgia and Alabama last week, deserves a special note. The Bulldogs have now won six of their last seven games and are beginning to live up to their preseason expectations.
Until the Red Raiders’ 11-point setback against Kansas State on Saturday, Texas Tech seemed to be the overwhelming choice for Team of the Week. However, their win against Baylor on Tuesday in Waco was still the most spectacular of the week. Of fact, Oklahoma State accomplished the same thing, but Tech was the first to do so, shattering Baylor’s image of invincibility, so it gets the credit.
Mark Adams’ squad restricted Baylor to its second-worst offensive performance of the season at the time, despite scoring roughly 1.03 points per possession, the Bears’ second-highest rate this season. Terrence Shannon Jr., who had been sidelined for seven games before returning against Kansas State, was instrumental in the Red Raiders’ success.
Baylor surged out to an early double-digit lead, and it seemed like it would be business as usual in Waco, until Tech rallied with a 17-2 run spanning both halves to tie the game and eventually win by a single possession late. Adonis Arms had likely his greatest game in a Red Raiders shirt, finishing with 14 points, nine rebounds, and five assists, while a hobbled Kevin McCullar came off the bench to score 12 points and throw out five assists after missing the previous two games.
Murray State and/or Belmont haven’t won the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season title since 2009, hence these two teams’ meetings are more important than other mid-major rivalries.
It’s also why Murray State’s 82-60 thrashing of Belmont on Saturday is so important, as it cements McMahon’s team as the league’s favorite going forward. Murray State has a plethora of shot-making guards that can make plays once again: On Saturday, Justice Hill scored eight three-pointers and 36 points, while Tevin Brown, a known stud, had 18 points on 10 shots. KJ Williams, who is six feet ten inches tall, provides the Racers with serious size on the bottom end. He had three consecutive double-doubles before settling for 13 points and five rebounds versus Belmont, and he also assisted in limiting Nick Muszynski to 12 points. Belmont was restricted to 0.91 points per possession and had its poorest 3-point shooting outing of the season.
McMahon deserves some credit for Murray State’s road success, as he successfully prepared this team for nonconference play by arranging three real road games and participating in an MTE in Florida. Early in December, the Racers beat Memphis and stayed with Auburn for 25 minutes before succumbing just before Christmas.
Three groups were given questions.
Louisville Cardinals: After starting 4-0 in ACC play, the Cardinals have now lost three in a row — including a 16-point home defeat to NC State on Wednesday and a 12-point loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday. As Jeff Greer noted on Twitter, the loss to Pitt was Louisville’s worst KenPom loss in 20 years.
Pittsburgh, which entered today’s game ranked 177th in KenPom’s efficiency rankings, is the second-lowest-rated team to defeat Louisville in KenPom’s 20-year history. On Jan. 16, 2002, No. 183 East Carolina defeated the Cardinals.
This was Louisville’s worst defeat in the last two decades.
15 January 2022 — Jeff Greer (@jeffgreer)
“I don’t see a lot changing until I find out what inspires our squad,” head coach Chris Mack told reporters after the loss.
Oklahoma Sooners: I think Oklahoma is an NCAA tournament-caliber team. But the Sooners also lost games at Texas and TCU last week, and now have a brutal four-game stretch that includes home games against Kansas and Baylor, and road trips to West Virginia and Auburn. Could their losing streak grow to six games? It’s not completely out of the question.
Alabama Crimson Tide: It was just over a month ago that the Crimson Tide beat Gonzaga and Houston in back-to-back games and looked like a top-10 team and clear SEC favorite. They’ve now lost three games in a row after Saturday’s defeat to Mississippi State, and their defense has fallen off a cliff. A unit that ranked third nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency last season is 10th in SEC play this season, while allowing 83.7 points over its past three games.
Rankings of Influence
1. Auburn Tigers (16-1) Previous ranking: 5 This week: vs. Georgia (Wednesday), vs. Kentucky (Saturday)
There’s a serious No. 1 discussion for the first time in a month. For me, it’s a toss-up between Auburn and Gonzaga, with the Wildcats behind the Tigers and Bulldogs due to their lack of significant victories.
So, what draws you to Auburn?
Simply simply, I believe the Tigers have a somewhat stronger overall resume. They’ve won eight games on the road, compared to Gonzaga’s four. They have eight victories in Quadrants 1 and 2, three more than Gonzaga. The Zags are ranked No. 1 in NET, KenPom, BPI, and Sagarin, and have victories over Texas, Texas Tech, UCLA, and BYU, but Auburn barely edges them out for now. On Saturday, the Tigers face Kentucky in what is shaping up to be one of the finest conference games of the season. As I’ll explain later, Kentucky has been one of the greatest teams in the nation over the last month and will be seeking to dethrone Auburn.
2. Gonzaga Bulldogs (14-2) Previous ranking: 2 This week: vs. San Francisco (Thursday)
Gonzaga is very guaranteed to reclaim the top place at some point this season, so Zags supporters shouldn’t be too disappointed that I didn’t put them up there this week. Furthermore, it seems like the Bulldogs have recaptured their early-season swagger and enthusiasm. They’ve been scoring at an outrageously efficient rate over the last week and a half, putting up at least 110 points and 1.27 points per possession in each of their last three games. The last time the Zags scored less than 1.20 points per possession was against Texas Tech on December 18th. Gonzaga has shot at least 60% from two-point range, hit at least 10 three-pointers, and shot at least 40% from three-point range in each of its last three games.
Is there a better illustration of Gonzaga’s offensive brilliance than this? BYU had a great first half against Gonzaga on Thursday, hitting 10 three-pointers and scoring 49 points, but they still trailed by 12 at halftime.
3. Arizona Wildcats (14-1) Previous ranking: 3 This week: at Stanford (Thursday), at California (Sunday)
Arizona finally got in a two-game week after only playing one game in three weeks due to opponents dealing with COVID-19 difficulties and procedures. The Wildcats were able to show off their depth and variety of alternatives in those two convincing victories.
Arizona got production off the bench against Colorado on Thursday, and backup guards Pelle Larsson and Justin Kier might be effective again against Utah on Saturday with starter point guard Kerr Kriisa sidelined. On Thursday, Kier scored 14 points off the bench, and on Saturday, he had eight assists and just one mistake. Larsson, a former Utah transfer, scored 12 points and made two three-pointers against Colorado before playing a season-high 26 minutes against his old club.
Azuolas Tubelis had his finest game of the season, despite Bennedict Mathurin taking a back seat in both games. On Saturday, Tubelis had 32 points, eight rebounds, and five assists.
4. Duke Blue Devils (14-2) Previous ranking: 6 This week: at Florida State (Tuesday), vs. Syracuse (Saturday)
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski changed his lineup after a string of underwhelming performances that ended in a home defeat to Miami last weekend. The Blue Devils went on to beat Wake Forest and NC State last week. Freshman A.J. Griffin replaced starting point guard Jeremy Roach. Griffin had a breakthrough performance and two great victories as a consequence of it. The highly regarded recruit was injured in the preseason and had a difficult start in November, but he has now scored in double digits in six of his last eight games, including a 22-point, four-rebound effort against Wake Forest on Wednesday. He can score from the perimeter and makes plays on both sides of the court. Roach, on the other hand, came off the bench to provide some steadiness at point guard. He had five assists, two steals, and zero turnovers in two games.
5. Baylor Bears (15-2) Previous ranking: 1 This week: at West Virginia (Tuesday), at Oklahoma (Saturday)
Despite the two defeats, Baylor’s resume remains excellent, and the Bears remain a strong contender for a top-five rating and a projected first-round NCAA tournament seed. They’re in the top five in the NET and KenPom polls, have the most Quadrant 1 victories in the nation, and are 6-0 on the road. They have victories against Villanova, Michigan State, and Iowa State remaining to their credit. As a result, there should have been no actual anticipation that they would slip out of the top ten. However, in their two defeats this week, they exposed their flaws, some of which I outlined before. Drew will need Akinjo and Sochan to be totally healthy for the rest of the week. Part of what has made Baylor so successful over the last two and a half seasons has been the presence of guys who can create plays on their own; Akinjo may be the best at it on the squad, and Sochan is an X factor.
6. Kansas Jayhawks (14-2) Previous ranking: 7 This week: at Oklahoma (Tuesday), at Kansas State (Saturday)
Jalen Wilson and David McCormack must continue to play like they did against West Virginia on Saturday if Kansas is to be a threat in New Orleans in early April. Wilson, one of the team’s breakthrough performers last season, was banned for the first three games of this season and only scored in double figures after he returned. Against the Mountaineers, though, the sophomore guard had a career-high 23 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and three three-pointers. Meanwhile, McCormack’s exasperating inconsistency continued, as he followed up his one-point, 10-minute performance against Iowa State on Tuesday with 19 points, 15 rebounds, and three assists against West Virginia.
Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun have been outstanding this season, and Remy Martin has to stay healthy, but Kansas has a bigger potential with Wilson and McCormack delivering regularly.
7. Purdue Boilermakers (14-2) Previous ranking: 8 This week: at Illinois (Monday), at Indiana (Thursday), vs. Northwestern (Sunday)
Given Illinois’ recent form, Purdue’s trip to Champaign on Monday is practically a must-win for the Boilermakers if they still have Big Ten championship chances. In conference play, the Fighting Illini are 6-0, while the Boilermakers have already lost two games. Losing three games in a row might be difficult to overcome. Purdue will need to get a little more from the supporting cast that was so effective early in the season to prevent that. Sasha Stefanovic, a 40 percent 3-point shooter, has gone 5-for-20 from three in his last three games and is shooting 26.7 percent in Big Ten play. Isaiah Thompson has never been a prolific scorer, but he can knock down a shot and keep defenders honest; he has gone scoreless in two of his last three games and is 1-for-12 from three-point range in that time. However, Caleb Furst’s ten points versus Nebraska is encouraging.
8. Villanova Wildcats (13-4) Previous ranking: 12 This week: vs. Marquette (Wednesday), at Georgetown (Saturday)
Jay Wright’s club has now won six straight games and is coming off its most complete effort of the season. On Sunday, the Wildcats defeated Butler by 40 points, hitting 12 three-pointers and shooting over 63 percent from outside the arc while restricting Butler to 0.72 points per possession. Sure, Butler’s defense has crumbled in the last month, but rediscovering Villanova’s outside shooting stroke will be crucial in the next two months of the season.
Three of Butler’s worst defensive games in the previous 20 years have happened in the last 30 days, according to KenPom. pic.twitter.com/6nVzaq4e2m
January 16, 2022 — John Gasaway (@JohnGasaway)
The Wildcats made double-digit 3-pointers for the first time since Dec. 7, a feat they accomplished seven times in the first nine games of the season. It’s also worth mentioning that big man Eric Dixon, who had 14 points and four assists against Butler after going for 15 points and 10 rebounds against Xavier on Wednesday, is beginning to provide some inside production for Villanova.
9. Kentucky Wildcats (14-3) Previous ranking: 15 This week: at Texas A&M (Wednesday), at Auburn (Saturday)
Kentucky’s offensive performance against Tennessee on Saturday was among the best we’ve seen this season in college basketball. The Wildcats scored 107 points against the Volunteers, who had the country’s No. 2 defense before Tuesday. Tennessee had allowed 79 points all season before the game, a total Kentucky surpassed with more over 12 minutes left. The Wildcats made 71.1 percent of their two-point attempts, 61.1 percent of their three-point attempts, and 95.2 percent of their free throw attempts, while forcing 20 turnovers. Kentucky played aggressively and quickly, scoring on a regular basis before Tennessee could get organized. According to BartTorvik.com, only Gonzaga has a greater adjusted efficiency rating than Kentucky since the Wildcats defeated North Carolina on Dec. 18 — a stretch that encompasses their last eight games.
10. Wisconsin Badgers (14-2) Previous ranking: Waiting in the lobby This week: at Northwestern (Tuesday), vs. Michigan State (Friday)
After Wisconsin knocked off Purdue, Iowa and Maryland two weeks ago, the Badgers were right on the precipice of moving into the Rankings of Influence. A 10-point win over Ohio State on Thursday sealed it. And while Wisconsin’s performance-based metrics aren’t all that impressive when compared with some of the other teams in this range, the Badgers’ résumé-based metrics have few peers at this point in the season. They’re ranked No. 2 in ESPN’s Strength of Record, which judges overall body of work. They have five Quadrant 1 wins, tied for the most in the country, and nine Quadrant 1 and 2 wins, which are the most in college basketball. Wisconsin has knocked off Houston, Purdue, Iowa, Ohio State, Saint Mary’s, Indiana, Marquette and Texas A&M — with four of those wins coming away from home.
11. Houston Cougars (15-2) Previous ranking: 14 This week: vs. South Florida (Tuesday), vs. East Carolina (Saturday)
Houston couldn’t afford another perimeter injury after losing Tramon Mark and Marcus Sasser to season-ending injuries last month, but that’s exactly what occurred against Tulsa on Saturday. Jamal Shead, who had started the previous 12 games and had scored in double digits in seven consecutive games before the weekend, fell down in the first half with an ankle injury and did not return. That might be devastating for a squad that already lacks perimeter depth. Kelvin Sampson and the Cougars, on the other hand, were able to sort things out and come out on top. Freshman Ramon Walker came off the bench for 31 minutes, while Kyler Edwards, a former Texas Tech transfer, played all 40 minutes and ended with 29 points and seven 3-pointers. Shead’s injury isn’t expected to keep him out for long.
12. UCLA Bruins (11-2) Previous ranking: 4 This week: at Utah (Thursday), at Colorado (Saturday)
UCLA hasn’t completely recovered from its early-season struggles, and it cost the Bruins against Oregon on Thursday. In a tense contest, the Bruins rallied in the last minute to force overtime, but they lacked the legs to cross the finish line. Some of the team’s recent troubles have coincided with Jaime Jaquez’s ankle ailment and inconsistency that might be linked to it. Jaquez has averaged 8.7 points and 3.0 rebounds in three games after returning from a 26-day layoff, and sat out UCLA’s victory against Oregon State on Saturday. Mick Cronin will need a healthy Jaquez for the stretch run, as he is one of the hardest matchups in the Pac-12. UCLA has replaced him with Jaylen Clark and Peyton Watson. In Saturday’s defeat against Oregon, Clark started and scored 11 points, while Watson had one of his finest games of the season, scoring 10 points and grabbing eight rebounds off the bench.
13. LSU Tigers (15-2) Previous ranking: 11 This week: at Alabama (Wednesday), at Tennessee (Saturday)
When it comes to potential problem places for LSU, one item that leaps out to opposition coaches is the Tigers’ failure to establish consistent offense in the half court. It doesn’t usually matter since they have the best defense in the nation and are in the top 10 in steal % and block percentage. They’re fantastic at transitioning and generating quick-break possibilities. And it seemed to be more of the same against Arkansas on Saturday, until the Razorbacks stopped turning the ball over in the second half and began scoring. They went on a 17-2 run to end the game and deliver LSU a seven-point home defeat. Arkansas had 19 turnovers overall, but it was able to hold LSU in the half court late in the game, and the Tigers were unable to score. The injury to Xavier Pinson has further exacerbated the problem.
14. Michigan State Spartans (14-3) Previous ranking: 9 This week: at Wisconsin (Friday)
It was tough to totally join the Michigan State bandwagon even when the Spartans were on a nine-game winning run and rated in the top ten. In some of those games, the Spartans labored, and they haven’t defeated an NCAA tournament team since Thanksgiving. However, Gabe Brown had established himself as a go-to player, Max Christie was on the rise, Tyson Walker or AJ Hoggard were capable point guards, and Tom Izzo had a plethora of frontcourt alternatives. As a result, there was a sense of hope in East Lansing.
After the weekend, it seems to be a bit less prevalent. On Saturday, Michigan State lost a home game to a Northwestern team missing Pete Nance, scoring 62 points on 67 possessions. It was the Spartans’ worst offensive performance since November, with 17 turnovers and a 6-for-21 shooting percentage from outside the arc. Starting with Wisconsin and Illinois, they’ll play four of their next five games on the road. What will the Spartans’ reaction be?
15. Texas Tech Red Raiders (13-4) Previous ranking: Waiting in the lobby This week: vs. Iowa State (Tuesday), vs. West Virginia (Saturday)
A one-week stretch that started with a win over Kansas and included a road win at previously undefeated Baylor and a blowout of Oklahoma State somehow ended with an 11-point loss at Kansas State. But it’s still enough to get the Red Raiders into the Rankings of Influence, as they have a top-20 NET with wins over Baylor, Kansas and Tennessee. A potential trouble spot on their résumé could be their road/neutral record, as they’re one of just two teams in the top 16 below .500 away from home (Kentucky is the other). But given that they beat Baylor in Waco, I don’t imagine it’s a long-term problem. After dominating the paint in the wins over the Jayhawks and the Bears, most of Tech’s offensive issues against Kansas State stemmed from their lack of efficiency inside the arc. Bryson Williams dominated, but the supporting cast didn’t step up like it had in previous games.
16. Iowa State Cyclones (14-3) Previous ranking: 13 This week: at Texas Tech (Tuesday), vs. TCU (Saturday)
Iowa State was 12-0 entering Big 12 play and probably the greatest surprise of the first half of the season. However, the Cyclones’ first six conference games are as difficult as any six-game run anybody will face all season. So the story was clear: how TJ Otzelberger’s squad handled the opening three weeks of Big 12 play would decide whether or not the Cyclones were a real threat in the league. Iowa State did a good job of it through five of the six games. After rebounding back from a painful one-point road defeat at Kansas on Tuesday with a good home victory against Texas, the Cyclones are now 2-3 in conference action. The six-game gauntlet comes to a close on Tuesday with a trip to Texas Tech, before things settle down for a few of games. A 3-3 record would be an impressive start to Big 12 play.
Dropped out: USC Trojans (No. 10), Ohio State Buckeyes (No. 15)
Waiting in the lobby
Illinois Fighting Illini: The only thing keeping Illinois from moving much higher up the rankings is a lack of signature wins. Right now, the Fighting Illini’s best win is over Iowa. That can change as soon as Monday night, when Purdue visits Champaign. A win there and at Maryland on Friday, and Illinois will be the clear-cut favorite for the Big Ten title.
Ohio State Buckeyes: Ohio State dropped out of the rankings following its loss at Wisconsin on Thursday, but then bounced back with a five-point win over Penn State on Sunday. The Buckeyes should roll out a couple of wins this week against IUPUI and Nebraska, which should give Zed Key — who has notched back-to-back double-figure scoring games — a chance to continue his momentum.
Xavier Musketeers: The only two losses for Xavier since Thanksgiving came at the hands of Villanova, including a tough four-point defeat to the Wildcats on Wednesday. But Travis Steele’s Musketeers can make a strong case that they’re the second-best team in the Big East. They’re 7-3 against Quadrants 1 and 2, with top-20 rankings in the NET, KenPom, BPI and ESPN’s Strength of Record.
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