College Basketball Power Rankings 2017: Week 2 Rankings

While there were only three days of college basketball action this past week, fans and pundits were treated to some truly outstanding performances by college basketballs elite programs. The Duke Blue Devils looked as dominant as advertised while the Kentucky Wildcats looked a bit shaky against two inferior programs (Utah Valley, Vermont) despite winning both contests. One of the favorite picks to win the National Championship, Michigan State,  looked fantastic as their depth and the return of sophomore Miles Bridges should allow this team to be one of the best programs in the country barring serious injuries. Although there was not an immense amount of shakeup in the rankings as a result of a light schedule for the top teams, we got an exciting glimpse into what this season will have to offer as the year progresses.

1. Duke Blue Devils

Duke is loaded. While that is not an atypical statement for a team that recruits as well as the Blue Devils do every year, this years class is arguably the most well-rounded bunch Coach K has ever had. Number one recruit Marvin Bagley III is a highly efficient scorer (24 points against Utah Valley) and natural rebounder (10 rebounds). Freshman guard Trevon Duval has excellent court vision and is the ideal unselfish player (12 assists against Utah Valley) that is also unafraid to take his shot (seven 0f ten from the floor). Oh, did I forget to mention that Grayson Allen is back for his senior season? Look out college basketball.

2. Michigan State Spartans

With the return of sophomore guard Miles Bridges (20 points, 10 rebounds against North Florida), the Spartans have one of the most physical programs and offensively proficient teams in the country. While the three-point shooting percentage was ghastly in their opening game (25%) they more than made up for it by attacking the glass relentlessly (49 rebounds). With a matchup against top-ranked Duke coming up, the Spartans will be severely tested in every way that matters.

3. Arizona Wildcats

When it comes to scoring efficiency, it’s hard to find a better program than the Wildcats. Shooting 53.6% from three-point range while hitting 60.9% of their shots from the field, the Wildcats have some scary talented weapons, the most impressive of which is junior guard Allonzo Trier (31 PPG in two games). If the Wildcats can continue to rebound at a solid rate (42 RPG), they will have their way with their opponents in the majority of their contests.

4. Kansas Jayhawks

Unsurprisingly, Bill Self and the Jayhawks are looking like the team to beat in the BIG 12. Considering all of their starters scored in double figures while their entire team looked great defensively (seven blocks and 35 defensive rebounds against Tennessee State), the Jayhawks are a jack-of-all-trades program that is dominant or nearly dominant in every major category on offense and defense. With Kentucky coming up on the schedule this week, the Jayhawks will get a grand opportunity for a statement win over a great program.

5. Kentucky Wildcats

While Kentucky’s most recent win over Vermont was a bit closer than it probably should have been, they still did enough offensively (four of five starters scored in double figures) and defensively (four blocks, 28 defensive rebounds) to get the job done. Considering John Calipari has to coach up a new freshmen-laden roster every year, their lack of dominance is not completely surprising and they should be much more in sync when they take on Kansas this week.

6. Villanova Wildcats

Oh boy, the Wildcats are going to need to fix their shooting woes quickly if they want to have any chance of being competitive. Shooting just 21.9% from three-point range while sinking just 63.6% of their free throws, the Wildcats will need to be much more efficient at scoring if they hope to stay relevant in the Big East. Luckily, their first notable test is not until early December as they will take Saint Joseph’s on the road.

7. Wichita State Shockers

As this is their first year in the American Conference, it’s unsurprising that there are high expectations for a program that has been held back for years by playing in the Missouri Valley Conference. In their season-opening win over UMKC, the Shockers looked more than deserving of their 7th overall ranking as they demolished their opponent in nearly every conceivable way. Shooting 60.9% from the field and 56.5% from three-point range while fearlessly snagging 43 defensive rebounds, the Shockers should an exciting team to watch, especially when they finally get to compete against highly-talented opponents.

8. Florida Gators

As the Gators have yet to play their first game of the season, it’s hard to say what exactly this team is great or not so great at doing on the court. However, with the return of senior guard Egor Koulechov (8.9 RPG and 18.2 PPG last season) and junior guard KeVaughn Allen (1.3 SPG and 14 PPG last season), I expect the Gators to be one of the best defensive and paint scoring teams in the country.

9. North Carolina Tar Heels

Even without Joel Berry II, the Tar Heels were highly efficient from the field (50%) all the while attacking the defensive glass relentlessly (28 defensive rebounds against Northern Iowa). However, for everything the Tar Heels did exceptionally well in their opening game, they struggled mightily from three-point range (33.3%). While its hard to completely assume this will be a major problem going forward, it certainly points to the Tar Heels being a much different program skill wise than they have been in years past.

10. USC Trojans

You can only take so much away from a blow out win over Cal State Fullerton. However, the Trojans accomplished this expected feat by being well-balanced shooting the basketball (41.2% from the field, 41.7% from three-point range) while dominating the defensive glass (39). To top it off, the Trojans were steady from the free throw line (72%), which is something that will be much more vital to this teams continued success as they face more worthy opponents.

11. Texas A&M Aggies

Against a notable opponent in West Virginia, the Aggies looked as dominant as any team in the country to start the season. Garnering 37 defensive rebounds, while shooting 48.4% from the field and hitting 80% of their free throws, the Aggies have the size and dynamic roster to intimidate any team in the country, especially if junior center Tyler Davis can continue to be a double-double machine. While the SEC is usually considered a poor power-five conference when it comes to basketball, the Aggies will look to flip the script as they continue to develop their already impressive continuity on both offense and defense.

12. Cincinnati Bearcats

Out of all of the teams in these rankings, the Bearcats are the most lopsided in terms of what they do well versus what they do poorly. A fantastic team when it comes to aggressively obtaining defensive rebounds (40 against Savannah State) and shooting from mid to close range (47.7% from the field), the Bearcats are equally poor when it comes to free throw percentage (50%) and perimeter shooting (33.3%). It’s a glaring issue that will most likely be apart of the Bearcats skill set throughout the season, but they at least have an established identity that could allow them to win more often than not if they can continue to rebound at this off the charts rate.

13. Miami Hurricanes

If the Miami Hurricanes can continue to be this proficient offensively (83 PPG) and defensively (50 PAPG), the sky is the limit for this program. While their first two victories came against the like of Gardner-Webb and Navy, their depth combined with their overall effectiveness at shooting from the field (54.7% against Navy), should allow this team to be highly competitive in nearly every contest they participate in. While the free throw shooting percentage needs to improve (62.5% against Navy), everything else about this Hurricanes program already looks fantastic.

14. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Even before the Fighting Irish faced off against DePaul, it was obvious that the success of this program would be predicated on how well they could shoot the three ball. They did not disappoint in this regard. Senior guard Matt Farrell (five of nine from behind the arch) and sophomore guard Temple Gibbs (four of seven from beyond the arch) are the standout sharpshooters for the Fighting Irish while the two-way abilities of senior forward Bonzie Colson (18 points, 13 rebounds in win over DePaul) will be immensely helpful in keeping the ball in the hands of Notre Dames impressive offense.

15. Minnesota Gophers

Looking at the Gophers stat line in their win over South Carolina Upstate, it becomes clear that the Gophers are made up of several perimeter shooters (38.2% field goal percentage, 45.2% 3-point shooting percentage) that are very good when it comes to pulling down rebounds. While the lack of mid-range shooting capabilities is a bit concerning, the Gophers could overcome this deficiency somewhat if their starters can continue to be tenacious at playing the glass (only one Gophers starter had less than five rebounds).

16. Louisville Cardinals

Marred by various NCAA scandals in recent years, the Cardinals without Rick Pitino are decidedly less impressive. While they did defeat George Mason by 11, they barely beat the Patriots in rebounding margin (36-31) and assists (11-7). Clearly, this is a program that will be overly-reliant on individual shot creation (four out of the nine participating players scored in double figures but contributed no more than three assists apiece), something that will work against defensively challenged opponents but will most likely be exposed against many of the competitive programs that exist within the ACC.

17. Xavier Musketeers

A perennial Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight program in recent years, the Musketeers looked incredibly determined to maintain those lofty expectations as they blew out Morehead State in their season opener. While the Musketeers will most likely not be able to sustain an overall shooting percentage of 67.9% from the field, it’s apparent that they do have a plethora of prolific shooters that can score in big bunches. Better still, Xavier did an incredible job of pulling in defensive rebounds (24), something that will be highly beneficial for them if they can score consistently in transition.

18. Gonzaga Bulldogs

As always, the Bulldogs appear to be one of the most efficient teams in college basketball on both offense and defense. In a dominant win over Texas Southern, the Bulldogs were accurate in terms of shooting percentage from the field (48.6%) and from beyond the arch (44%). On top of that, Gonzaga looks to be one of the best defensive rounding teams in the country (37 defensive rebounds against Texas Southers), something that will help them tremendously against trigger-happy offenses. Assuming the Bulldogs can remain this consistently versatile, there is every reason to expect this program to be ranked somewhere in the top-five by the end of the season.

19. Northwestern Wildcats

With a less than impressive win over Loyola Maryland, it’s fair to wonder if the Wildcats may have been slightly overhyped coming into the season. While the rebounding abilities of Northwestern appear to be legitimate (29 defensive rebounds against Loyola Maryland), their difficulties when it comes to shooting the long ball (23.8%) are a bit concerning. However, these shooting issues could be overcome if the starters for the Wildcats take more high-percentage shots rather than just simply shooting at a high rate (three of the five starters had double-digit shot attempts).

20. Purdue Boilermakers

Sure, the Boilermakers dominant wins over SIU-Edwardsville and Chicago State were to be expected. However, when both of those wins come as the result of Purdue putting up 100+ points in each of those contests, it’s hard not to be at least slightly intrigued by their potential. In particular, sophomore guard Carsen Edwards was practically unstoppable as he shot 10 of 13 from the field and four of six from beyond the arch to score 25 points against Chicago State. With Marquette up next on the schedule, the Boilermakers will get a nice opportunity to prove their relentless offense is the real deal.

21. UCLA Bruins

While the Bruins persevered and won a defensive grudge match against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, it was abundantly clear that this program needs their three trouble-making freshmen to come back sooner rather than later. Despite having four out of their five starters score in double figures, the less than ideal free throw shooting percentage (66.7%) coupled with an underwhelming three-point shooting percentage (35.7%) will not cut it against programs that are much more offensively adept. Unfortunately, the Bruins only have a week to get ready for what appears to be a very good Creighton program.

22. Saint Mary’s Gaels

One of the better teams in the country that usually flies under the radar because of their relatively weak conference schedule every year actually has a well-balanced blend of prolific shooters (led by junior forward Calvin Hermanson) and rebounding (four out of their five starters had four rebounds or more in a win over St. Francis (PA)). While it’s difficult to imagine the Gaels shooting a highly-impressive 46.2% from beyond the arch, they certainly have the talent to maintain a solid overall field goal percentage while continuing to be sound defensively as the season progresses.

23. Seton Hall Pirates

Unlike many teams in this week’s rankings, the Pirates actually faced a fairly competitive opponent in the Monmouth Hawks. Defensively, the Pirates should be one of the better teams in the country as three of the five starters had three or more defensive rebounds. Offensively, the Pirates will have to dig deep in every game (43.5 % from the field, 28% from beyond the arch) to find some clutch shots while hoping their stingy defense can carry them in most situations. They may not always win pretty, but the sheer grit and physicality is a welcome rarity in a sport that has quickly become about lights out perimeter shooting.

24. Baylor Bears

While it’s difficult to gauge how offensively dominant the Baylor Bears actually are considering they beat down the Central Arkansas Bears in their lone contest, it’s worth keeping a very close eye on senior guard Manu Lecomte. Shooting six of eight from beyond the arch, Lecomte is a pure-shooter and is surprisingly adept in this regard despite his slight stature of 5’11”. If the Bears can get enough defensive plays and consistent rebounding from the likes of senior forwards Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. and Nunu Omot, this program should be one of more electric teams to watch this season.

25. West Virginia Mountaineers

Coming into their matchup with the Texas A&M Aggies, the Mountaineers believed they had the better defensive schemes and a much more reputable head coach in Bob Huggins. However, West Virginia did not appear to anticipate the defensive rebounding ability (37-24 defensive rebounds in favor of the Aggies) and length of the Aggies. As a result, starters Wesley Harris (4 of 12 from the field, 12 points) and Jevon Carter (4 of 11 from the field, 13 points) were mostly ineffective offensively and were surprisingly inept defensively. While their next four games are against weak non-conference opponents, the Mountaineers will need to do some serious soul-searching if they want to be one of the better teams in the BIG 12.

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