College basketball power rankings: UConn goes to No. 1 in advance of maybe the best Saturday of regular season

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1 Record: 11-0 | Last week: 2. At this point, UConn has the resume and the look of the best team in college basketball. No. 1 team in multiple predictive metrics, including the wide-ranging Massey Composite. Dan Hurley’s not uncomfortable with long winning streaks. In 2017-18, his final year at Rhode Island, the Rams peeled off 16 straight. And in 2011-12, his final season at Wagner, the Seahawks had a span where they won 17 out of 18 games. Unlike those two spurts, this one is not signaling Hurley’s final season at this particular job. 2 Record: 10-0 | Last week: 1. The Boilermakers are second here but No. 1 in this week’s AP Top 25, which completed a plot twist in the first six weeks of the season that had never happened before and something we might not see again for decades. Never before had a team gone from preseason No. 1 to unranked by Week 5 (UNC), but beyond that, never before had a team gone from unranked in the preseason to No. 1 in six weeks, as Purdue has done. Boiler fans are loving it, Tar Heel fans are frustrated, but these storyline surprises are exactly why I love college hoops. (And we should’ve given Matt Painter more credit in the preseason.) 3 Record: 8-0 | Last week: 3. No results for the Wahoos since last week’s Nineteen. As mentioned above, the Cavs have a big-time game awaiting on Saturday. I don’t think you’re aware just how momentous this game actually is. Fifth-ranked Houston represents the first top-five foe to play at John Paul Jones Arena since … ever. In fact, get this: Virginia has NEVER hosted a top-five non-con opponent in its history. Until Saturday. 4 Record: 9-1 | Last week: 10. If Alabama beats Gonzaga this weekend, it’s going to have the best NCAA tourney dossier heading into Christmas. An undefeated Purdue would be second, followed by UConn at third (provided the Huskies win at Butler). If Alabama can beat Gonzaga for a second straight season (won last year in Seattle), it’s going to have to do it without sophomore guard Nimari Burnett (7.9 ppg), who’s going to be out for quite a while after undergoing wrist surgery. One less guard to wreak havoc is a bonus for Gonzaga, which will need to beat the Tide to get back into these rankings. 5 Record: 9-1 | Last week: 5. The Vols have the top-ranked per-possession defense at KenPom.com, allowing opponents an adjusted 81.3 points per 100 possessions. That’s stifling. It’s probably not sustainable (SEC competition will cause that number to probably nudge up to 85 or 86 points by March). But it’s a good thing UT is so stout; the team is shooting 47.1% in effective field goal shooting, ranking 279th nationally as of Thursday morning. After playing five games away from home so far, the first road test awaits on Saturday against Arizona. 6 Record: 9-1 | Last week: 8. The team behind the Vols is the team that lost to the Vols 64-50 on Nov. 25 in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game. Last week, the reigning national champs went into Mizzou Arena and won 95-67, giving KU its second-largest margin of victory in that building in history. (It won by 33 back in the ’50s.) It was also the best shooting performance (57.4%) by an opponent in that joint since at least the mid-1990s. The Border War is … technically back! 7 Record: 9-1 | Last week: 9. Vibes are swell in Tucson right about now. The basketball team is top 10-good and the program got word Wednesday that no major sanctions will be coming in the long-overdue IARP case resolution. On the court, a huge thank-you to Ken Pomeroy for digging up this nugget after I asked him Wednesday night. Saturday’s Tennessee-Arizona game will mark the eighth time the No. 1 KenPom defense has played the No. 1 KenPom offense dating back to 2010, with four of those matchups prior to the NCAA Tournament. 8 Record: 8-1 | Last week: 7. The horrible and horrifying alleged details of Chris Beard’s arrest will not have an impact on how Texas is ranked in this space moving forward. The Longhorns needed overtime at home to beat Rice 87-81 on Monday night and stave off a second loss in three games. The team travels Sunday to play Stanford in Dallas. 9 Record: 10-1 | Last week 4. It’s a little bit of a dip for the Coogs, given they blew a 15-point home lead to Alabama and gave up a season-high 71 points. Alabama outscored Houston 42-21 in the final 17 minutes. I promise you this team is not allowing another team to score 42 points in a 17-minute span the rest of this season. I don’t know what’s going to happen in Charlottesville on Saturday, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Houston responded to that loss by not playing a close game for another month. 10 Record: 9-1 | Last week: 13. In our Wednesday Dribble Handoff post, the CBSSports.com college hoops foursome of myself, Kyle Boone, Gary Parrish and David Cobb picked the player who’s surprised them the most. Parrish went with Arkansas’ Ricky Council (19.2 ppg), and he’s as good of a choice as anyone at this point. Council’s contributions will be even more critical moving forward, now that Trevon Brazile is done for the season (ACL). 11 Record: 7-2 | Last week: NR. I nearly put UCLA in the top 10 after what it did on the road against Maryland on Wednesday night. What a bludgeoning that was: 87-60. The Bruins led by as many as 38. It was their largest win over a ranked team since 2000 — a 105-70 win over, welp, Maryland, in the NCAA Tournament. That’s how you tune up for Kentucky. I’m all the more eager to see this team in person at the Garden.  12 Record: 8-0 | Last week: 14. It’s a tender and somber week in Starkville after the death of football coach Mike Leach. Small comfort can be found in the men’s hoops team, which is off to one of its best starts in program history. The Bulldogs got a good fight on Wednesday against Jackson State — in Jackson, Mississippi — before winning 69-59. JSU’s 59 points are the most scored against MSU this season. 13 Record: 10-1 | Last week: 15. The Hurricanes have been included in the first three editions of this season’s Hey Nineteen, but they’re still floating under the radar at the moment despite their quality record. That will end Tuesday, when The U welcomes in Virginia. Jim Larrañga’s itching to get a victory in that spot. Miami last won at home against the Cavaliers in 2016. 14 Record: 10-1 | Last week: 16. Bobby Hurley’s managed a semi-regular habit of making ASU a trendy December storyline. A big reason for that is his willingness to schedule aggressively and pay off with big wins. The Sun Devils have played seven top-10 teams in nonconference play under Hurley. In the 17 years before he got there, ASU had one such game. What’s more, Hurley’s 15 games against ranked non-con teams is second-most in the Pac-12 since he got there, behind UCLA. 15 Record: 10-2 | Last week: 18. Jon Scheyer’s not rushing this whole head coaching thing, and by that I mean: them Blue Devils are taking their time. According to BartTorvik.com, the final four seasons under Mike Krzyzewski, Duke averaged 70 possessions per game. Through the first near-third of this season, against some opponents that would in theory give Duke reason to push the tempo, the Blue Devils are much slower overall: 66.0 possessions, rankings 292nd in the nation. It’s working so far, but I’m not sure anyone thought this team would play with this much deliberation. 16 Record: 10-1 | Last week: 19. Mike Young’s loving life right now. He’s never gotten off to a 10-1 start. I mean ever. On any team he’s been a coach — head or assistant. How do I know? I called and asked him Wednesday, just to double check. His response? “Not a chance in hell.” Virginia Tech’s pretty damn good and might be capable of working its way to a top-four seed come March. Would not stun me. 17 Record: 8-0 | Last week: NR. The Mountain West has a troika of teams still with undefeated records. The best of them is Utah State, which ranks third in the KPI, 12th in the NET, 33rd at Torvik and 41st at KenPom. My primary regret with this team is that I considered putting it in the top 60 of my top 101 preseason rankings, only to second-guess myself and slip it all the way down to 82nd. Shame on me. 18 Record: 9-0 | Last week: NR. Road wins over SMU and Saint Mary’s, in addition to Monday’s neutral-court takedown of a decent San Francisco team, highlight the profile for the Lobos, who last started out this hot in 2012-13. On a loaded weekend of games, another fun one will happen Sunday in The Pit when Rick Pitino’s 7-2 Iona Gaels come in to play. Iona is ranked higher in predictive metrics. I love that the Pitinos are doing this. And the winner will get a material boost to a fledgling at-large profile. 19 Record: 9-0 | Last week: NR. Note: The Hey Nineteen does not list nor give credit for teams that record wins over non-Division I competition. Thus, UNLV is 9-0. The Runnin’ Rebels last got off to a start this good in 1990-91. You may recall that team went on to not lose a game until the Final Four. That won’t be happening with this group in 2023, and there is no Larry Johnson-type in Rebs threads now, but it’s looking like this team will have a great chance to dance for the first time since 2013.



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