Men’s Power Rankings: So how excellent, really, is Houston?

  • Jeff Borzello, ESPN Personnel WriterJan 8, 2024, 09:25 AM ET Close Basketball recruiting expert.
  • Joined ESPN in 2014.
  • Graduate of University of Delaware.The official start to conference play

    for every league throughout the country always brings some clarity. This previous week was no different, and the list of unbeatens decreased to simply one after James Madison and Ole Miss suffered beats Saturday.That leaves Houston as the only unbeaten team left in Division I guys’s college basketball in

    2023-24, but how great, actually, are the Cougars?They have the best defense in the nation by some margin, ranking No. 1 in adjusted protective effectiveness, turnover portion, 2-point defense, block percentage and take portion– and a lowly No. 4 in 3-point defense. Only one opponent (Texas A&M )cracked the 1.0 point-per-possession barrier. Those metrics are going to be enough to carry Kelvin Sampson’s team to a win most nights, however there’s also a top-15 system at the other end of the flooring with elite offending rebounders and high-level guards.The huge question with the Cougars is their résumé: Who have they beaten? Their best wins are over Dayton, Utah and the previously mentioned A&M. And the latter two are having a hard time. The Cougars have only one true

    roadway win, at Xavier, and they’re increasing a level by moving from the AAC to the Big 12. From my viewpoint, they’re as good as it gets in the sport. Sampson has been to the Sugary food 16 or even more in each of the past 4 NCAA competitions, and Jamal Shead and L.J. Cryer form an elite backcourt. They’ll be preferred in

    all but one or two games the rest of the season. Trip in the Big 12 are a substantial difficulty, nevertheless, and that begins today with games at Iowa State and TCU.On to today’s awards and rankings … play 0:23 Seton Hall manages upset win after Marquette’s expensive turnover Marquette turns the ball over on its final belongings as Seton Hall upsets the Golden Eagles on the roadway. Editor’s Picks 2 Associated One month into 2023-24, things weren’t looking extremely assuring for Seton Hall. The Pirates were 5-4 and had actually simply lost in the house to in-state competing Rutgers. Shaheen Holloway was 22-20 since taking over as head coach 2 springs back. Ever since, it has been declaration win after statement win. Seton Hall beat UConn by

    15 at home prior to


    , then recuperated from a loss at Xavier with two big wins this past week: at Providence and home vs. Marquette.Providence lost star forward Bryce Hopkins midway through that game, however the Friars’home court is known as among the most difficult places to play in college basketball, and Seton Hall brought out a success. The Pirates got rid of among their worst offensive performances of the season by restricting Providence to simply 0.83 points per belongings. And then the Hall held serve against Marquette,

    stifling Tyler Kolek(5 points )and getting big efficiencies from guards Al-Amir Dawes and Kadary Richmond. The Pirates are directly in the NCAA tournament hunt now. play 0:14 Great Osobor gets the basket plus the nasty Great Osobor gets the basket plus the foul When Osobor followed Danny Sprinkle over from Montana State in 2015, he was an underrated pickup. The 6-foot-8 England native had actually balanced10.1

    points and 4.6 rebounds in just 18.9 minutes off the bench for

    the Bobcats. In theory, with more playing time, those

    numbers could skyrocket.Well, it’s playing out that way. Osobor was dominant in a set of Mountain West wins for the Aggies this previous week, going for 32 points, nine rebounds and 4 assists in a 28-point victory over Air Force and after that completing with 20 points and 14 boards in a statement success over Colorado State. Osobor assisted manage the

    paint in the latter, grabbing seven offending rebounds. He’s up to 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, balancing 31.5 minutes for Sprinkle. play 1:48 Cincinnati Bearcats vs. BYU Cougars: Full Highlights Cincinnati Bearcats vs. BYU Cougars: Complete Highlights While BYU was getting more notoriety as a mystery team entering conference play, Cincinnati sort of fell in the exact same bucket. The


    were 11-2 to end nonconference play, with losses to in-state rivals Xavier and Dayton. They hadn’t beaten a top-100 KenPom team yet this season. On the other hand, BYU was 12-1 with wins over San Diego State and NC State and a loss to Utah.But it’s Cincinnati coming out of the weekend with a bit more buzz in the Huge 12, after the Bearcats went into Provo and knocked off BYU by 11. The Cougars led for most of the very first half and were up by 10 early in the 2nd half. After that, it was all Cincinnati. The Bearcats were called in defensively, holding BYU to its worst offending efficiency of the season by a broad margin. Mark Pope’s group made just four of its last 22 3-point attempts, and Cincinnati dominated around the rim, outscoring BYU in the paint 30-12. Viktor Lakhin(17 points)blazed a trail, however Jizzle James (12 points )offered a real spark off the bench. play 0:23 Meechie Johnson ices game for South Carolina with late take Meechie Johnson rips away the ball from Mississippi State’s Dashawn Davis to ice the game for South Carolina. Year 1 in Columbia was a tough one for Paris, who led Chattanooga to the NCAA competition in 2022 and after that moved to the SEC and immediately completed 11-21 general, 4-14 in the league. There was little reason for optimism going into Year 2, with GG Jackson leaving for the NBA and the

    Gamecocks selected 14th in the preseason SEC poll.However, South Carolina has come out of nonconference play with a 12-1 record,

    consisting of wins away from home over Grand Canyon and Virginia Tech, and the only loss coming at Clemson. There isn’t a lot of heft behind that record, however it’s already more wins than last season, which represents a substantial step forward. Paris is doing more than that, though. SC won its very first league game of the season Saturday, taking down Mississippi State by six. The Bulldogs leapt out to an early lead and controlled the majority of the first half, but the Gamecocks, behind 24 points from Meechie Johnson, made a run in the second half and kept Mississippi State at an arm’s length for the majority of the last 10 minutes.Is South Carolina genuine? It’s still too early to inform, however the Gamecocks are plainly better than last season, and Paris has actually done an astounding job turning things around from a year ago.Three teams with questions Virginia Cavaliers: The Cavaliers ‘roadway battles are ending up being a huge problem. They have actually played 3 true road games: a 23-point

    loss at Memphis, a 22-point loss at Notre Dame and Saturday’s 16-point loss at NC State.

    Florida Atlantic Owls: Dusty May’s team took another bad loss over the weekend, falling in the last seconds at Charlotte, which went into the game 6-7. That’s now 3 losses to sub-100 KenPom teams for FAU, consisting of the Quadrant 4 losses to Bryant and Florida Gulf Coast.FAU beginners(leaving out Johnell Davis)vs. Bryant, FGCU, Charlotte: 28-87, 32.2%FG, 6-35 3PT FAU beginners (excluding Johnell Davis)vs.

    Arizona and Texas A&M: 34-67, 50.7 %FG, 15-32 3PT!.?.!— Matt Eisenberg (@matteise)January 7, 2024 UCLA Bruins: I don’t know the number of times we can include UCLA in this classification, but the Bruins hit a brand-new low this past week,

    losing in the house to California for the first time in 12 years. They’re now 6-9 on the season and have actually lost 9 of the past 12. Power Rankings Trey Kaufman-Renn had a career night against Illinois

    to help keep Purdue in the leading spot. Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports 1. Purdue Boilermakers (14-1)Previous ranking: 1 Today: at Nebraska

    (Tuesday), vs. Penn State( Saturday)Zach Edey had his lowest-scoring getaway of the season against Illinois, notching 10 points(his least given that March 2022)on just five shots. However it was his post partner, Trey Kaufman-Renn, who had the profession night. Kaufman-Renn went for a season-high 23 points, shooting 8-for-12 from the field and getting 4 rebounds. It might be a sign of things to come next season.

    2. Houston Cougars (14-0)Previous ranking: 3 This week: at Iowa State(Tuesday ), at TCU (Saturday) play 1:44 West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Houston Cougars: Complete Highlights West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Houston Cougars: Complete Highlights Houston’s Huge 12 period started much in the same method the majority of its AAC games ended over the

    past few years. The Cougars battered West Virginia by 34, and possibly the most promising indication was Damian Dunn coming off the bench to score 14 points, his 2nd straight game scoring in double figures. He had remained in a downturn for

    the majority of the previous 6 weeks, and coach Kelvin Sampson needs his scoring. 3. Kansas Jayhawks(13-1 )Previous ranking: 2 Today: at UCF( Wednesday), vs. Oklahoma (Saturday )Kansas was fortunate to come out of Saturday’s game versus TCU with a win, but Hunter Dickinson’s 30 points– consisting of the winning layup in the final seconds– sufficed. This time it wasn’t the Kansas offense that had a hard time; the Jayhawks permitted TCU to score 1.14 points per belongings. That’s the most anybody has scored on them considering that Jan. 21, 2023, when these exact same Horned Frogs scored 1.17 points per belongings and beat Kansas by 23 at Phog Allen
    . 4. UConn Huskies(13-2) Previous ranking: 4 Today: at Xavier(Wednesday), vs. Georgetown( Sunday)Stephon Castle’s emergence must be a substantial increase for Dan Hurley moving on. The luxury freshman was wonderful in the very first 2 games of the season, then missed the next six since of a knee injury and took a couple of weeks to round into type. However he had 14 points and 7 helps against DePaul, then followed it up with 14 points, nine rebounds and four assists versus Butler.

    play 2:50 Zeigler details how UT snapped Rebels’undefeated spell Zakai Zeigler breaks down the No. 5 Vols’game plan to defeat

    No. 22 Ole Miss and addresses the criticism on his capability to perform on the court at his size. 5. Tennessee Volunteers (11-3 )Previous ranking: 5 This week: at Mississippi State (Wednesday ), at Georgia(Saturday)Rick Barnes inserted Zakai Zeigler into the beginning lineup after the Volunteers produced three

    substandard offensive

    efficiencies at the Maui Invitational. In the eight games because

    , Zeigler is balancing 12.4 points and 6.4 assists while Tennessee has actually scored much better than 1.20 points per ownership in five of those. He had 17 points and 10 assists vs. Ole Miss.

    6. Kentucky Wildcats (11-2)
    Previous ranking: 6
    This week: vs. Missouri (Tuesday), at Texas A&M (Saturday)

    While Kentucky’s freshmen have actually been getting the majority of the attention in recent weeks, don’t ignore leading scorer Antonio Reeves, who had 30 points against Louisville and 27 points versus Illinois State. He likewise triggered the Wildcats ‘second-half resurgence versus Florida, scoring 10 points after the break and hitting huge shots to tie the game on several events. 7. North Carolina Tar Heels(11-3 )Previous ranking: 9 This week: at NC
    State(Wednesday), vs. Syracuse (Saturday )There was a six-game stretch from late November

    to mid-December when the Tar Heels’ defense was woeful. They enabled more than one point per ownership in 5 of those 6 games and went 3-3 in that period. In 4 games considering that, Carolina hasn’t enabled more than 0.92 points per possession, holding both Pittsburgh and Clemson to below 60 points and a combined 6-for-47 from 3-point range. 8. Arizona Wildcats(11-3)Previous ranking: 10 This week: at Washington

    State(Saturday)That was some bounceback week for the Wildcats. After losing three games in 15 days, consisting of quiting 100 points in a defeat at Stanford, Arizona simply blew out possibly the 2nd-and third-best groups in the Pac-12. The Wildcats balanced 94.5 points in the 2 wins, beating Colorado and Utah by approximately 33.0 points. And we got to see the best pass of the season.Bet you can’t see this simply as soon as ESPN@BamBam_Boz!.?.!— Arizona Basketball(@ArizonaMBB)January 5, 2024 9. Illinois Fighting Illini(11-3)Previous ranking: 8 Today: vs. Michigan State( Thursday)
    , vs. Maryland(Sunday)
    Despite falling an area in the rankings, Illinois had

    a favorable first week of 2024, burning out Northwestern by 30 and then staging a big return versus Purdue before falling by 5. The greatest cause for optimism for a group without Terrence Shannon Jr. has actually been the play of Marcus Domask, who had 32 points and 6 helps versus the Wildcats, then chose 26 points and five dimes against the Boilermakers. play 0:20 Le ‘tre Darthard buries

    3-point shot against Iowa State Cyclones Le’tre Darthard buries 3-point shot against Iowa State Cyclones

    10. Oklahoma Sooners (13-1)
    Previous ranking: 11 Today: at TCU(Wednesday ), at Kansas (Saturday)When I talked with opposing coaches for a piece recently about Oklahoma, BYU and Ole Miss, Le’Tre Darthard’s name hardly showed up in discussion. Yet he was a key difference-maker in the Sooners ‘win over Iowa State to start Big 12 play. The Utah Valley transfer came off the bench to strike three 3s and score 11 points, consisting of a 3 with 3:15 left to press Oklahoma’s lead to four. 11. Marquette Golden Eagles(11-4)Previous ranking: 7 This week: vs. Butler (Wednesday)It doesn’t take too much

    of a deep dive to figure out what failed for Marquette in its loss Saturday to Seton Hall. Tyler Kolek finished with five points on 1-for-6 shooting, his fewest points in a game since December 2022. Kolek has actually had other substandard
    games(six points against the Kansas Jayhawks, for one)

    , but Marquette’s defense could not make up for his battles this time. The Golden Eagles were unable to include Al-Amir Dawes and Kadary Richmond, who combined for 44 points. play 0:16 Mark Mitchell raises for dunk vs. Notre Dame Battling Irish Mark Mitchell raises for dunk vs. Notre Dame Combating Irish. 12. Duke Blue Devils(11-3)Previous ranking: 13 This week: at Pittsburgh (Tuesday), vs. Georgia Tech(Saturday )Previously this season, Mark Mitchell’s shooting troubles were a focal point on opponents ‘hunting reports. They merely decided to back off Mitchell, which made life difficult for the other Duke players on the floor. It appears the sophomore forward has actually figured it out, however. He had his 2 finest games last week, opting for 21 points and 6 rebounds against Syracuse and 23 and 14 against Notre Dame. He also hit both of his 3-point efforts against the Irish after entering the game 1-for-22. 13. Memphis Tigers(13-2)Previous ranking: 12 This week: vs. UTSA( Wednesday), at

    Wichita State( Sunday)Memphis was seconds from a possible 0-2 week,

    however Jahvon Quinerly bailed the Tigers out against both Tulsa and SMU with a clutch week, striking 3s in the final seconds from almost the precise same area to win both games. Memphis is going to need more, especially after Caleb Mills ‘injury, however Quinerly singlehandedly gave the Tigers another week in the rankings.JQ called game.!.?.!— Memphis Basketball(@Memphis_MBB)January 5, 2024 JJJQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ!.?.!— Memphis Basketball(@Memphis_MBB)January 8, 2024 14. Baylor Bears( 12-2)Previous ranking: 15 Today: vs. BYU(Tuesday ), vs. Cincinnati( Saturday)Baylor is the No. 1 3-point shooting team in the nation, making 45% of its shots from behind the arc. It has actually made double-digit threes in 7 games, going 33-for-61 from deep in its two games

    before facing Oklahoma State
    on Saturday. The Bears shot simply 2-for-15 from 3 versus the Cowboys– and still handled to come out with the roadway win in Stillwater. 15. Auburn Tigers (12-2) Previous ranking: Unranked Today: vs. Texas A&M( Tuesday ), vs. LSU(Saturday)Bruce Pearl’s team has actually been a metrics darling all season, but it got probably its best win of the campaign on Saturday, drubbing

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