Men’s Power Rankings: Arizona stays No

  • Jeff Borzello, ESPN Staff WriterDec 11, 2023, 09:00 AM ET


    • Basketball recruiting insider.
    • Joined ESPN in 2014.
    • Graduate of University of Delaware.

Men’s college basketball saw chaos two weekends ago. This past weekend, in contrast, didn’t feature as many upsets at the top of the Power Rankings, though six teams in the rankings still suffered defeats, and five undefeated squads lost their first game of the season. The weekend ahead? It might be the most loaded slate of the entire regular season, meaning these rankings should look awfully different seven days from now. Here’s what’s at stake:

Nonconference game of the year: No. 1 Arizona takes on No. 3 Purdue in Indianapolis, with the winner likely claiming the top spot in these rankings come Monday.

None of the top six on campus: While Arizona-Purdue is the big game of the weekend, the other four teams in the top six are all playing off campus. Kansas has a true road game against Indiana, Houston faces Texas A&M at the Bayou City’s Toyota Center, UConn heads to Seattle to take on Gonzaga and unbeaten Baylor goes to Detroit to play Michigan State. The top six could either solidify or fluctuate dramatically.

Kentucky or North Carolina to make a statement: Both the Wildcats and Tar Heels have had games where they’ve looked like potential Final Four teams. And both are still ranked inside the top 12 of the Power Rankings. But they need to so consistently to be fixtures in the top 10 moving forward. They will face each other in Atlanta.

Litmus test for Creighton: Despite lacking any real quality wins, Creighton is ranked inside our top 10. The Bluejays will put that to the test at home against Alabama. Expect plenty of 3s, regardless.

On to this week’s awards and rankings …



Washington hangs on for the upset after Gonzaga’s late turnover

Gonzaga’s Nolan Hickman turns the ball over after a bad pass securing a 78-73 upset victory for Washington.

This is a crucial season for Mike Hopkins’ future with the Huskies. With his guaranteed money down to about $3 million after this season, it is a must-win campaign. And Hopkins prepared like it, adding a slew of transfers from the portal this spring. Sahvir Wheeler, Paul Mulcahy and Moses Wood joined transfers Keion Brooks Jr. and Franck Kepnang, both of whom arrived following the 2021-22 season. As expected, there’s been some inconsistency and growing pains. But this past week, we saw this team’s ceiling.

The Huskies opened with an 85-61 win over Montana State then had one of the biggest triumphs of Hopkins’ tenure: a 78-73 decision over Gonzaga, which ended the Bulldogs’ 16-game winning streak versus Pac-12 teams. The Zags were in control for most of the game, even leading by 11 in the second half. But Washington turned up its defense down the stretch, holding Mark Few’s squad — which made just one of its final 12 field goal attempts — to two field goals in the final 11:40. Brooks led the team in scoring with 17, but Wheeler hit multiple big shots late, and Kepnang held his own down low with 14 points, 7 boards and 5 blocks. This is an experienced team with talent. Could this week be a turning point for the Huskies?

Zach Edey has dominated men’s college basketball all season, but his performance in Purdue’s past two games make naming him Player of the Week even more appropriate. John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

A case could probably be made for Zach Edey to win this nearly every week, but sometimes he puts together a performance to remind America — and Canada — why he’s the Wooden Award favorite by some distance. The Toronto native was as dominant as ever in the Boilermakers’ win over Alabama on Saturday, finishing with 35 points and seven boards while making all 11 of his free throw attempts. The Crimson Tide simply had no answer for Edey, with both of their big men fouling out.

And as good he was against Alabama, Edey was arguably more impressive offensively in Monday’s victory versus Iowa. He finished with 25 points (9-of-10 from the field), grabbed 12 boards (including nine on the offensive end) and blocked 3 shots.



Terrence Shannon Jr., Marcus Domask each score 33 vs. FAU

Terrence Shannon Jr. and Marcus Domask combine for 66 points in Illinois’ 98-89 win over FAU.

Illinois nearly pulled off one of the most impressive weeks of anyone in college basketball this season. Despite the loss at Tennessee on Saturday, the Illini’s win over FAU in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday ranks as the best of the week. The Owls entered the week on a five-game winning streak, were fully healthy and looked like the team that won 35 games last season. But the Illini played like they needed a statement win — and they got it.

Illinois used a 9-0 run in the first half and a 14-0 stretch in the second half to get some separation, and FAU simply had no answer for the duo of Terrence Shannon Jr. and Marcus Domask. Each player finished with 33 points, on a combined 25-of-35 shooting. According to ESPN Stats & Information data, they were the first pair of Division I teammates to score 30 points apiece on 70% shooting since Marist’s Thomas Kenney and Drew Samuels did so in January 1999. It was a truly elite offensive performance from Shannon and Domask and a stellar offensive showing from the whole team.



Grand Canyon Antelopes vs. Liberty Flames: Full Highlights

Grand Canyon Antelopes vs. Liberty Flames: Full Highlights

A sleeping giant under Dan Majerle, Grand Canyon has turned into a perennial WAC championship contender and NCAA tournament team under Bryce Drew. And this season, the Lopes might have their best team yet. This past week was one of the best a mid-major squad has put forth so far. It started with a win over San Diego State on Tuesday, as the Lopes pulled away down the stretch for a marquee home victory. GCU backed that up with a road victory on Saturday against Liberty, snapping the Flames’ 20-game home winning streak.

Drew’s entire starting lineup is made up of transfers, but he has done a masterful job making sure all the players fit. Ray Harrison has been fantastic for the second season in a row, while Tyon Grant-Foster is one of the most impactful transfers in the country.

Three teams with questions

Michigan State Spartans: Tom Izzo’s team hit rock bottom Sunday night, losing at Nebraska to fall to 4-5, just five weeks after opening the season ranked No. 4 in the AP poll. According to ESPN Stats & Info research, that is tied for the worst start by a preseason top-five team over the past 40 years and is the worst since 1980-81 Louisville began 2-7.

Florida State Seminoles: One of the eyebrow-raising results on Saturday was South Florida dominating the Seminoles by 16 points. USF had previously won twice all season, falling to the likes of Central Michigan and Maine. But FSU is now on a three-game losing streak since beating Colorado, and a third straight season without an NCAA tournament appearance seems increasingly likely.

Louisville Cardinals: Well, they lost to DePaul on Saturday. That might be all that needs to be said. With that defeat, the Cardinals remain winless away from home in the season and a half under Kenny Payne.

Power Rankings



Oumar Ballo’s block sets up the Caleb Love 3

Arizona goes up 18 as Oumar Ballo swats the AJ Storr layup, leading to the Caleb Love 3-pointer.

1. Arizona Wildcats (8-0)
Previous ranking: 1
This week: at Purdue in Indianapolis (Saturday)

Arizona’s offensive performance against Wisconsin on Saturday was nothing short of incredible. The Wildcats’ 98 points were the most points Wisconsin had allowed since 1994. Arizona shot better than 58% from the field, made a dozen 3s at a 46.2% clip, had 26 assists on 35 made baskets and turned the ball over just seven times. Five guys scored in double figures. And it will likely go unmentioned, but Arizona now has the No. 2 defense in college basketball, holding yet another opponent to below 1.00 point per possession.



Mizzou battles valiantly before falling at No. 2 Kansas

Missouri starts and ends fast before a rabid, hostile crowd, but the Jayhawks rule in between and lead by as many as 18 points before holding on for a 73-64 victory.

2. Kansas Jayhawks (9-1)
Previous ranking: 2
This week: at Indiana (Saturday)

Bill Self has spoken publicly about his need for players outside of his top four to show some level of consistency, but that was magnified during Saturday’s game against Missouri. The Jayhawks played only five players for more than seven minutes, with four of the five starters seeing at least 35 minutes. Fortunately for Self, he did get some pop from his fifth starter, Elmarko Jackson. The freshman put up 11 points in 26 minutes, this coming after he made some key plays in the close win over UConn earlier this month. Self will need reliable depth at some point, however.

3. Purdue Boilermakers (9-1)
Previous ranking: 3
This week: vs. Arizona in Indianapolis (Saturday)

Editor’s Picks

2 Related

Purdue responded to its loss at Northwestern with two of its best offensive performances of the season this week. Zach Edey was his usual self, totaling 60 points and 19 boards in the games against Iowa and Alabama. But it was Braden Smith who made a difference against the Crimson Tide in the second half of that matchup. After struggling late against the Wildcats and scoring only two points against the Hawkeyes, Smith had 27 points and eight assists versus the Tide, hitting some big shots late in the contest.

4. Houston Cougars (10-0)
Previous ranking: 4
This week: vs. Texas A&M (Saturday)

Kelvin Sampson’s rotation has been fairly stable so far, although he reinserted Emanuel Sharp into the starting lineup for the past three games in place of Damian Dunn, who started the previous four. And Sharp has responded. He scored in double figures against both Xavier and Rice then truly broke out against Jackson State over the weekend, making five 3-pointers and eight free throws en route to a career-high 25 points.



Cam Spencer T’d up after nailing a 3

Cam Spencer T’d up after nailing a 3

5. UConn Huskies (9-1)
Previous ranking: 5
This week: at Gonzaga in Seattle (Friday)

Cam Spencer has emerged as one of the best portal transfers from the spring, a late addition to the Huskies after leaving Rutgers in late May. Dan Hurley badly needed some experience and perimeter shooting, two things Spencer has brought to Storrs. He also brings an edge, as evidenced by his energy against North Carolina. He was terrific in the Huskies’ two wins of the week, going for 23 points and six assists against UNC then making five 3s versus Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

6. Baylor Bears (9-0)
Previous ranking: 6
This week: at Michigan State in Detroit (Saturday)

Just over a month into the season, Baylor ranks No. 1 in adjusted offensive efficiency at KenPom. The last time the Bears were this good on the offensive end was in 2021, when they won the national championship. That was also the last time they ranked No. 1 nationally in 3-point percentage. That’s exactly where they rank right now too, making better than 46% of their outside attempts through nine games. They’ve drained 48 treys in their past four games.

7. Marquette Golden Eagles (8-2)
Previous ranking: 7
This week: vs. St. Thomas (MN) (Thursday)

Top stories of the week from

Get exclusive access to thousands of premium articles a year from top writers.
• Barnwell: Worry time for 4 NFL teams? »
• Way-too-early NBA All-Star rosters »
• How will Angels move on from Ohtani? »
More ESPN+ content »

The loss at Wisconsin on Dec. 2 certainly didn’t linger, with the Golden Eagles hammering Texas by 21 then cruising by Notre Dame this week. Shaka Smart had to make his first lineup change of the season against the Fighting Irish, with Stevie Mitchell out due to a hamstring injury. Chase Ross earned the start in his place and produced eight points, eight boards and a pair of 3s. That performance came after Ross had 12 points off the bench versus the Longhorns.

8. Creighton Bluejays (8-1)
Previous ranking: 11
This week: at UNLV (Wednesday), vs. Alabama (Saturday)

It came in a 45-point blowout win, so the numbers must be taken with a grain of salt, but keep an eye on Isaac Traudt following his 18-point breakout performance. The 6-foot-10 Virginia transfer came out of high school with a reputation as a shooter, and he is now up to 51.6% from 3 on the season after making five treys against Central Michigan. Mason Miller had 17 points of his own versus the Chippewas, so his starting spot is likely not in peril, but Traudt provides an intriguing dimension for the frontcourt.



Aaron Bradshaw has a mean rejection vs. Penn

Aaron Bradshaw gets air for a huge block against Penn.

9. Kentucky Wildcats (7-2)
Previous ranking: 13
This week: vs. North Carolina in Atlanta (Saturday)

It’s safe to say John Calipari is done easing in freshman big man Aaron Bradshaw. After missing the first seven games due to injury, Bradshaw played just 13 minutes in the loss to UNC Wilmington in his debut. Against Penn, though, it didn’t appear he had any restrictions. He came off the bench to play 29 minutes, finishing with 17 points, 11 boards — five on the offensive end — and three blocks. Kentucky has sorely missed a presence like his at both ends of the floor so far.



Jonas Aidoo gets the and-1 to fall

Jonas Aidoo gets the and-1 to fall

10. Tennessee Volunteers (6-3)
Previous ranking: 15
This week: vs. Georgia Southern (Tuesday), vs. NC State in San Antonio (Saturday)

Jonas Aidoo is playing the best basketball of his Tennessee career in recent weeks, averaging 14.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in the past three games. He had 17 points (including two 3s), 8 boards and 4 assists in the victory against George Mason then finished with 14 points and 7 rebounds in the win over Illinois. Aidoo was crucial against the Illini, protecting the rim and constantly attacking the offensive glass to keep possessions alive.

11. North Carolina Tar Heels (7-2)
Previous ranking: 10
This week: vs. Kentucky in Atlanta (Saturday)

North Carolina’s offense wasn’t the issue in its loss to UConn last week, as the Tar Heels ended up with their worst defensive performance since February 2022, according to KenPom. The Huskies scored 1.23 points per possession, hurting UNC on the offensive glass and at the rim. Registering the two best offensive outings against the Heels this season, Tennessee and UConn had a ton of success in the paint. The Vols shot 74.3% from 2 versus UNC, while UConn made 68.6% of its 2s.

12. Gonzaga Bulldogs (7-2)
Previous ranking: 8
This week: vs. Mississippi Valley State (Monday), vs. UConn in Seattle (Friday)

There are some clear similarities in the Zags’ two losses, to Purdue and Washington: They’re the only games this season in which they scored fewer than 1.00 point per possession. Most glaring, however, is the perimeter shooting. Gonzaga was 6-for-32 from behind the arc against the Boilermakers and 5-for-18 against the Huskies. On the season, Gonzaga is shooting better than 35% from 3. It’s also fair to say this team has a bit of a turnover problem against stiffer competition. The Zags have had more turnovers than assists in four games this season, all against high-major opponents.



Javian McCollum shows off the range on trey

Javian McCollum shows off the range on trey

13. Oklahoma Sooners (9-0)
Previous ranking: In the waiting room
This week: vs. Green Bay (Saturday)

Oklahoma rolled to another pair of wins this past week, knocking off high-major opponents Providence and Arkansas. Siena transfer Javian McCollum continues to be the catalyst. He had 19 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists against the Friars and followed it up with 20 points, 5 boards and 4 assists versus the Razorbacks. McCollum can also be a spark defensively, racking up three steals against Providence.



Ian Schieffelin gets the and-1 bank shot to go for Clemson

Ian Schieffelin makes a quick move to create space, then he rises to knock down the and-1 bank shot.

14. Clemson Tigers (9-0)
Previous ranking: In the waiting room
This week: at Memphis (Saturday)

Clemson handed both of its opponents their first loss of the season this past week, felling South Carolina on Wednesday and TCU on Saturday. Ian Schieffelin continues to emerge as a consistent option for Brad Brownell, going for 14 points, 9 boards and 5 assists against the Horned Frogs. He is averaging 10.2 points and 12.4 boards over his past five games. That’s useful when one of the big three — Joseph Girard III, PJ Hall, Chase Hunter — has an off day, as Hunter did against TCU.

15. Colorado State Rams (9-1)
Previous ranking: 9
This week: vs. Colorado State Pueblo (Sunday)

Colorado State’s personnel absences finally caught up to it on Saturday, with the Rams suffering their first loss of the season, at home to Saint Mary’s. Josiah Strong, who started the first eight games, is out for several weeks after sustaining a broken wrist, while Jalen Lake, the team’s sixth man, will miss a few weeks due to a broken finger. The Rams had their worst offensive performance of the campaign against the Gaels, scoring below 1.00 point per possession, making just five 3s and shooting 41.9% inside the arc.

Terrence Shannon Jr. has been key to getting Illinois into the Power Rankings, despite the loss to Tennessee. Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

16. Illinois Fighting Illini (7-2)
Previous ranking: Unranked
This week: vs. Colgate (Sunday)

They couldn’t follow their impressive win over Florida Atlantic with a road victory versus Tennessee, but that the Illini were in the game despite the shooting woes of Terrence Shannon Jr. and Marcus Domask (who combined 7-for-27 from the field and 1-for-11 from 3) in Knoxville is a positive sign. Brad Underwood could use a reliable and consistent third option, however. Moving forward, will Quincy Guerrier be the player who scored four points against FAU or the player who put up 22 against Tennessee?

Dropped out: Florida Atlantic Owls (No. 12), BYU Cougars (No. 14), Wisconsin Badgers (No. 16)

In the waiting room

Florida Atlantic Owls: The strides Vladislav Goldin has taken since last season should be promising for FAU come NCAA tournament time. The 7-foot-1 big man has scored in double digits in all but one game this campaign, notching three double-doubles in the first month. He also has had some of his biggest games against the Owls’ toughest competition, including going for 23 points in the loss to Illinois during the week.

BYU Cougars: BYU suffered its first loss on Saturday, falling on the road to Utah. It was by far the Cougars’ worst offensive performance, as their first game scoring fewer than 1.05 points per possession. They simply couldn’t make shots. They made just seven 3s at a 23.3% clip, after draining double-digit treys and shooting at least 34% from 3 in each previous outing.

Virginia Cavaliers: Tony Bennett’s team has turned things around since losing by 24 to Wisconsin last month with four consecutive victories after shoring things up on the defensive end. The shooting of sophomore guard Isaac McKneely has been a boost offensively; during his past two games, he has averaged 22.0 points and shot 12-for-16 from 3.

Previous Article
Next Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.