The college season is in full swing. College basketball power rankings are updated every week by a team of editors who provide their opinion on what the best teams and players should be, as well as how they stack up against each other.
The “college basketball rankings 2021” is a set of rankings that are used to rank the best teams in college basketball. The rankings are updated every week and are based on how well each team is playing, as well as their performance over the past few years.
Another week, another new team atop the men’s college basketball rankings for 2021-22.
This time it’s a familiar face, and one that has been lurking in the shadows throughout the summer, while the college basketball world debated top-five teams all offseason and has cycled a new No. 1 team almost every week since the start of the season.
Baylor hasn’t lost since March 12 of last season, and the Bears have gone 37-2 since the start of the 2020-21 season. So maybe we should have looked at the Bears as a possible No. 1 team throughout the preseason. However, losing four starters, including two stars in Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell, is difficult to overcome fast, especially for a team as talented as the current national champions.
At least for the majority of teams. There have been no similar difficulties for Scott Drew and Baylor. The Bears have won each of their first nine games this season, including a 57-36 victory against Villanova on Sunday. A 17-point victory against Michigan State at the Battle 4 Atlantis is also on their resume. While Baylor’s defense has been terrific the previous two seasons, the Bears have been statistically even better so far this season.
The overriding question for them has now shifted: “How does Baylor follow up last season’s national championship?” has evolved into “Can Baylor repeat?”
The Bears may lack the star power of Duke or Gonzaga, as well as the size and experience of Purdue, but they are outstanding defensively, offensively balanced, and have a wonderful combination of motivated recruits and smart veterans. While Duke and Purdue were only at the top of the standings for a week, Baylor has the talent to finish 2021 as the best team in the country.
It’s difficult to ignore recognizing a squad as Team of the Week when they ascend to No. 1 following a stunning victory. Baylor produced one of the finest defensive performances I’ve seen in a big game in a long time on Sunday, stifling Villanova for 40 minutes and winning 57-36.
Here are three metrics from ESPN Stats & Information to give you an idea of how outstanding the Bears’ defense was on Sunday:
Under Jay Wright, Villanova was limited to its lowest point total and field goal % in program history.
For the first game since 1979, Villanova was kept to under 40 points.
In the shot-clock era, 36 points is tied for the fewest points scored by an AP Top 10 team.
Throughout the season, Baylor’s defense has been its calling card. According to KenPom.com, the Bears are ranked second in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency and have yet to allow an opponent to score more than 0.92 points per possession. Without solid on-ball defenders like Mitchell and Butler, as well as a flexible, muscular defender like Mark Vital, I believed there may be a dropoff at that end of the floor. Baylor, on the other hand, has improved. Defensively, Sunday was a masterclass.
Mathurin, one of the greatest NBA prospects returning to college basketball this season, has improved his game during 2020-21. He had extended spells as a freshman when he wasn’t quite as forceful as he could be, as well as normal first-year inconsistency. Mathurin seems like one of the top players in the nation during the first month of the 2021-22 season, so that’s a distant memory. This was shown this week.
Mathurin got things started with a 29-point triumph against previously undefeated Wyoming, with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists. He went 8-for-10 from inside the arc and added a pair of three-pointers. But it was what Mathurin accomplished against Illinois on Saturday that earned him Player of the Week. He nailed five three-pointers and scored 30 points in a hostile road atmosphere in Champaign, helping Arizona to an outstanding road win against the Fighting Illini. He was outstanding in the first half, keeping Arizona in the game after the Illini’s 19-0 run, and then he and Kerr Kriisa scored clutch jumpers in the second half.
A triumph against the country’s previously undefeated No. 1 team? A game-winning buzzer-beater from barely inside half-court? In one of the greatest homecourt settings in the nation, a court storming?
The win against Purdue by Rutgers on Thursday night had everything.
The Scarlet Knights came into the game coming off a 35-point setback on the road at Illinois last weekend, as well as four losses in their previous five games. But a return to the RAC — sorry, Jersey Mike’s Arena — gave Steve Pikiell’s club fresh energy. Rutgers took the lead at halftime after a 16-2 first-half surge, but Purdue started to pull away halfway through the second half. The Scarlet Knights’ upset dreams were not dashed, however, as Ron Harper Jr. helped reduce the margin in the waning minutes. Harper finished with 30 points, 10 rebounds, five 3-pointers, and, of course, one of the season’s greatest shots.
THE BUZZER HAS RON HARPER!!!!!!!!
@RutgersMBB pic.twitter.com/IGkUjFpUzO @RutgersMBB @RutgersMBB @RutgersMBB @RutgersMBB @RutgersMBB @RutgersMBB @Rutgers
— December 10, 2021, FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX)
Seton Hall had a statement-making win of their own on Thursday night, around 30 miles northeast of Rutgers’ shocking victory over Purdue. Following their victory over then-No. 4 Michigan in November, the Pirates defeated No. 7 Texas for their second win over a top-10 club this season.
Seton Hall, on the other hand, made the next step and defeated the Scarlet Knights 77-63 in a rivalry game on Sunday night. Despite losing last season’s co-Big East Player of the Year Sandro Mamukelashvili, Willard has Seton Hall ranked in the top 15 nationally after the Pirates’ two victories last week improved their overall record to 9-1. While the away win at Michigan isn’t as as spectacular as it was a few weeks ago, victories over the Wolverines and Longhorns have staying power, and the Pirates have shown to be considerably better than projected.
Seton Hall was voted fifth in the Big East preseason poll, but in this week’s Power Rankings, it is the conference’s highest-ranked club after one month.
Three groups were given questions.
Florida Gators: Even if the Gators had won their last two games this week, their 15-point home defeat to Texas Southern last Monday would still rank as one of the season’s biggest head-scratchers and merit inclusion in this section. At the time, the Tigers were 0-7 and 23.5-point underdogs. It was Florida’s worst offensive showing since Nov. 10, 2019, and its worst defensive showing since last season. On Sunday, the Gators lost to Maryland, their third defeat in four games.
The Pac-12 is quietly on its way to becoming a three-bid conference on Selection Sunday, despite the fact that it’s still early. Although UCLA, Arizona, and USC are all ranked in the top 16, no additional Pac-12 schools were included in Joe Lunardi’s Friday bracket. Washington State came the closest to become a fourth team, but the Cougars fell at the buzzer against South Dakota State on Saturday.
Missouri Tigers: No one anticipated Missouri to defeat Kansas on Saturday, but losing a rivalry game by 37 points? That was a disaster. It also brings the Tigers’ record against Division I opponents to 4-5 this season, including a 21-point setback at Liberty and a 14-point loss at home to UMKC. It’ll be a lengthy season in Columbia, given the SEC’s strength in the top half of the conference.
Baylor Bears, No. 1 (9-0) 3rd place before. This week’s destination is Oregon (Saturday)
While I have praised Baylor’s defensive effort on Sunday, I feel compelled to praise James Akinjo here. So far this season, the former Georgetown and Arizona transfer has mixed double-figure assist performances with single-digit scoring efforts in four of eight games and a two-assist, seven-turnover performance against VCU. On the other hand, Akinjo had a great game against Collin Gillespie and Villanova on Sunday, putting up 16 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals, and just one turnover. He was a force on both ends of the floor, frequently going into the lane and then battling defensively. He outplayed his All-American opponent and demonstrated why Baylor still has the talent, as well as the guards, to make another Final Four run in March.
Duke Blue Devils, No. 2 (7-1) Previous position: 2 This week’s games include: Tuesday vs. South Carolina State, Thursday vs. Appalachian State, and Friday vs. Cleveland State (Saturday)
Duke hasn’t played since a 71-66 defeat to Ohio State on Nov. 30, but the Blue Devils haven’t been completely silent during the previous few days. By getting No. 30-ranked senior Matt Mitchell, who selected them over UCLA, they reclaimed the top place in the 2022 recruiting class rankings. Coach-in-waiting Jon Scheyer already has five top-50 recruits in the 2022 class, three of whom are five-stars and four of whom are rated in the top 30. That’s a lot of recruiting for Scheyer, who took over as Duke’s 2022 class leader after being chosen Mike Krzyzewski’s successor in the spring. On the court, the Blue Devils return to play next week with three games in five days, followed by ACC games for the remainder of the season.
Purdue Boilermakers, No. 3 (9-1) 1st place previously This week’s matchup is against Butler (Saturday)
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Purdue barely missed becoming just the third school in AP poll history to lose both of its first two games as the No. 1 team. The Boilermakers rallied from a 12-point deficit in the last six minutes of regulation to beat NC State by ten points in overtime. Trevion Williams finished with 22 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists, four blocks, and two steals off the bench, just one assist short of a triple-double. There was the aforementioned buzzer-beater defeat to Rutgers earlier in the week. Purdue struggled to hit jumpers from the perimeter against the Scarlet Knights, but the defense of the Boilermakers was much more of a concern. Purdue surrendered its best 3-point % of the season and was outscored at the free throw line, but Rutgers — notably Harper — had an unbelievable offensive performance.
Arizona Wildcats (#4) (9-0) Previous position: 11 against. Northern Colorado (Wednesday), vs. Cal Baptist (Friday) (Saturday)
Christian Koloko’s breakthrough season has gotten a lot of attention, as have returnees Mathurin and Azuolas Tubelis’ strong beginnings. However, Kriisa’s improvement at point guard was the difference in Arizona’s victory against Illinois on Saturday. Kriisa finished with a career-high 19 points, eight rebounds, and five assists, including a series of tough runners and floaters in the second half while Illinois was leading. Arizona’s great start to the season has been largely due to his ability to rapidly learn Tommy Lloyd’s offensive philosophy. On Saturday, the Estonia native was brilliant using ball screens and manipulating Illinois’ defense. He plays with a lot of confidence and can create plays in both the half court and in transition.
5. The Kansas Jayhawks (8-1) were ranked 7th last week. This week, they face Stephen F. Austin (Saturday)
The Jayhawks are certainly overjoyed that their rivalry with Missouri has been reignited. On Saturday, they ran the Tigers out of Lawrence, taking a double-digit lead in the opening six minutes and won by 37 points. All five starters scored in double digits, but Ochai Agbaji, who continues to play at an All-American level, was the highlight. He scored 21 points and made five three-pointers against Missouri, his eighth 20-point outing in nine games. He also had 17 and 18 points in the other two games. Agbaji is shooting better than 49% from three, 63 percent from two, and drawing fouls at a rate that is the best of his career. His increased ability to attack the hoop off the dribble has given him a new dimension to his game and made him much more tough to defend.
Alabama Crimson Tide, No. 6 (8-1) Previous position: 12 This week: against. Jacksonville State (Tuesday), at Memphis (Tuesday) (Saturday)
Since losing to Iona, Alabama has become an entirely different squad. The Crimson Tide have defeated Gonzaga and Houston in their last two games, scoring 1.14 and 1.18 points per possession against two of the greatest defenses in the nation during the last several seasons. In both games, they made more than 38% of their threes. And Jahvon Quinerly and Jaden Shackelford have established themselves as two of the country’s greatest backcourts. Quinerly is a ball-handling genius who can’t stay out of the lane. In the two victories, he averaged 17.0 points and 7.0 rebounds. Shackelford is averaging 23.0 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 11-for-15 from three-point range in the two victories. Nate Oats has the top squad in the SEC and a possible Final Four team once again.
Bulldogs of Gonzaga, No. 7 (8-2) Previous position: 5 This week’s game is against Texas Tech (Saturday)
Andrew Nembhard hasn’t been producing at the same level since staking his claim as the nation’s finest point guard against UCLA before Thanksgiving. He scored 24 points, two three-pointers, and six assists against the Bruins. Since then, Nembhard has scored 21 points while shooting 0-for-11 from outside the arc. His assist-to-turnover ratio has also dropped, as he has turned the ball over 13 times after turning it over just 12 times in his first six games. What went wrong? Against Duke and Alabama, in particular, both teams were significantly more active in guarding him in ball screens, pushing him to make faster choices and not allowing him to control the pace. On Saturday in Phoenix, Nembhard will be up against Texas Tech’s top-five defense.
UCLA Bruins (#8) (8-1) Previous position: 4 against. Alabama State (Wednesday), vs. North Carolina (Friday) (Saturday)
Jaime Jaquez was out for the most of UCLA’s victory over Colorado due to a head injury, but he returned for Saturday night’s game against Marquette, which the Bruins desperately needed. Jaquez finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds, 14 of which came in the opening 15 minutes, when UCLA led the Golden Eagles by 22 points. Because of his height, aggressiveness, and ability to score inside and out, Jaquez is a difficult matchup for most opponents. With Johnny Juzang unable to hit shots against Marquette and the supporting cast, apart from Tyger Campbell, failing to provide much offense, it was up to Jaquez to create plays early and extend UCLA’s advantage. Juzang and Jaquez carried the most of the scoring burden for the Bruins in their NCAA tournament run last season, so they’ll be glad he didn’t lose much time with the injury.
Michigan State Spartans, No. 9 (9-2) 15th place before. None this week
Tyson Walker was anticipated to contribute scoring and playmaking while also being a touch more steady at point guard than Rocket Watts when he committed to Michigan State. It was a mixed bag from the Northeastern transfer through the first seven or eight games of the season. In the first eight games, Walker averaged 5.1 points, 4.8 assists, and 2.9 turnovers while shooting 39.5 percent from the field and hitting only five three-pointers. Unsurprisingly, the Spartans’ offense did not seem to have found its stride yet. Over the last three games, that has changed. Walker shot 52 percent from the field and made four three-pointers in victories against Toledo, Minnesota, and Penn State, averaging 12.0 points, 6.0 assists, and 1.7 assists per game. This Michigan State offense will only improve as he becomes more comfortable.
The Iowa State Cyclones are ranked No. 10 in the nation (10-0) Previous position: Waiting in the lobby This week’s matchup is against Southeastern Louisiana (Sunday)
For possibly the greatest surprise team in college basketball this season, it was an unusual week. Iowa State began out by thrashing in-state rival Iowa, who had recently beaten Purdue and Illinois and had Keegan Murray back in the lineup after a long layoff. Against an old conference adversary, Izaiah Brockington scored 29 points and 10 rebounds, while the Cyclones held the Hawkeyes to 53 points and 0.80 points per possession. Following that, they defeated Jackson State 47-37. 47 points, to be exact. Iowa State hasn’t scored so few points in a game since a 23-point loss to Tennessee on Jan. 27, 2018, and their fewest in a victory since defeating Fairfield 47-46 in 1980. But it’s another bonus for the Cyclones’ defense, which has rapidly established itself as one of the finest in college basketball thus far in 2021-22. They only allowed Jackson State to score 0.61 points per possession, and they have yet to allow a club to score more than 1.00 points per possession.
11. The Ohio State Buckeyes (8-2) were previously unranked. This week, they face Kentucky (Saturday)
One month into the season, there’s a good argument to be made that E.J. Liddell is the current Wooden Award favorite. He’s averaging 20.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 3.0 blocks a game while shooting 56% from the field and 35.3 percent from beyond the arc. He has played in three of Ohio State’s most important games this season, scoring 28 points against Seton Hall, 14 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists against Duke, and 28 points, nine rebounds, and four assists against Wisconsin on Saturday. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Liddell is the first Division I player to average 20 points and three blocks through the first ten games of a season in the last ten years. Liddell is causing significant matchup difficulties for opponents this season, and he’s also having a big influence on the defensive end.
12. Trojans of USC (10-0) Previous position: 13 This week: UC Irvine (Wednesday), Georgia Tech (Friday) (Saturday)
Some questioned if Isaiah Mobley would have a breakthrough season now that his younger brother, Evan, had left for the NBA. During last season’s NCAA tournament, he showed sparks, scoring 16.0 points and 6.5 rebounds in four games. However, Mobley had a shaky start to the season, suffering through shooting slumps and scoring in the single digits in three of his first eight games. Mobley, on the other hand, has looked like one of the greatest players in the Pac-12 during the last two games. On Tuesday, he nailed five 3-pointers on way to 23 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists against Eastern Kentucky. Mobley then followed up with 21 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, and two more 3-pointers versus Long Beach State on Sunday.
Seton Hall Pirates (#13) (9-1) Unranked in the previous ranking This week’s matchup is with Iona (Saturday)
Jared Rhoden and Bryce Aiken? Players for the second half. In each of Seton Hall’s victory this week, the two seniors regularly made plays down the stretch. Aiken scored 10 points in the second half against Texas after a scoreless first half, including a pull-up 3-pointer in the last minute to give the Pirates a four-point advantage they wouldn’t surrender. Aiken scored 22 points against Rutgers on Sunday, 14 of which came in the second half. On Thursday, Rhoden kept the Pirates in the game early, but 10 of his 18 points came after halftime. On Sunday, the difference was even more stark, with Rhoden scoring 14 points in the second half to help Seton Hall fend off Rutgers and win. Willard has an experienced squad that he trusts to make clutch plays, and Aiken and Rhoden have so far proven him right.
Auburn Tigers (14th) (8-1) Unranked in the previous ranking This week: North Alabama (Tuesday), Saint Louis (Wednesday) (Saturday)
For the Tigers, it was a good week all around. First, the NCAA announced its sentence on Friday, which included no further playoff ban and simply a two-game suspension for head coach Bruce Pearl. Then they traveled to Atlanta and defeated Nebraska by a score of 31. Jabari Smith added 21 points, five rebounds, and four assists to his tally of 21 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Guards Zep Jasper, K.D. Johnson, and Wendell Green Jr. combined for 37 points, 12 assists, and just five turnovers. Allen Flanigan is expected to return for the start of SEC play at the end of the month. He was a predicted first-round selection and likely SEC Player of the Year contender until sustaining a right Achilles injury in September. He’ll give Auburn’s offense a new dimension.
Villanova Wildcats, No. 15 (7-3) Previous position: 6 This week: Creighton University (Friday)
So, it was a challenge. On Sunday, Villanova struggled to find a rhythm against Baylor, shooting 22.2 percent from the floor, scoring 36 points, and averaging only 0.60 points per possession. On the offensive side, I went through some of the Wildcats’ all-time lows, but at least their defense was good. Baylor scored 0.95 points per possession for the first time since a defeat to Kansas in February last season. Brandon Slater is one area on the offensive line that has to be turned around immediately. He scored in double digits in each of his first eight games, but has just six points in his last two on 3-for-22 shooting. His early-season rise was such a great thing for Villanova, and the Wildcats need him to get back to that early-season form.
Houston Cougars (#16) (8-2) Previous position: 16 against. Louisiana (Tuesday), vs. Oklahoma State (Wednesday) (Saturday)
I can’t bring myself to drop Houston after a one-point loss on the road against a top-10 team—especially because the Cougars might have won the game on replay. On Saturday night, the most remarkable thing about them was that they didn’t play very well yet still had the ball with a chance to win. Alabama scored 1.18 points per possession against them, which was the third-highest total of the season for the Cougars. Houston only made 34.6 percent of their three-point attempts. It was, however, dominating on the offensive glass, collecting 21 offensive rebounds and scoring 23 second-chance points. It caused a dozen turnovers, the most of which occurred in the first half and were converted into 16 points. Marcus Sasser, who ended with 25 points and made several clutch baskets late in the game, leads the Cougars. Houston is still a definite second-weekend NCAA tournament team in my opinion.
Texas Longhorns (No. 8), Arkansas Razorbacks (No. 9), Kentucky Wildcats (No. 10) and Tennessee Volunteers (No. 10) have all been eliminated (No. 14)
Waiting in the lobby
LSU Tigers: The Tigers are currently without a big victory, but they are rated No. 2 in the NET and have two excellent victories against Belmont and a strong Wake Forest squad. The neutral site game against Louisiana Tech this weekend won’t be easy, but LSU’s first seven SEC games will be the true test: Auburn, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, and Tennessee once more.
Colorado State Rams: A late 17-2 run in Saturday’s victory against Mississippi State kept Colorado State’s unblemished record intact, as the Rams overcame early troubles on both sides of the court and an off-night shooting performance from star point guard Isaiah Stevens, who still ended with 10 assists. Circle On December 21, the Rams will travel to Alabama to play the Crimson Tide.
Xavier Musketeers: In Saturday’s rivalry game, Travis Steele’s club trounced Cincinnati, with former Iowa transfer Jack Nunge leading the way with 31 points and 15 rebounds off the bench in a 20-point victory. The Musketeers have quietly amassed a remarkable resume, with victories against Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State, and now Cincinnati, as well as a lone loss to undefeated Iowa State.
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The “ncaa basketball rankings top 100” is a list of the top 100 teams in college basketball. The rankings are updated weekly and are compiled by the NCAA.
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