TSFJ College Hoops Power Rankings Week 6: Volunteers Rising

Topple a giant while becoming one yourselves. The Volunteer way. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

It was another eventful week in college hoops as teams look to build their resumes ahead of conference play. Tennessee garnered most of the attention with an impressive win over Gonzaga on Sunday, while three top-16 teams fell to unranked opponents on Saturday. As a result the power rankings look much different this week.

1. Kansas (8-0) Last week: 1

Defeated Wofford, New Mexico State

The Jayhawks took over the top spot in the polls this week, but they already held that honor in the TSFJ power rankings. Kansas already has wins over Michigan State, Marquette, and Tennessee with non-conference dates with Villanova and Arizona State still to come.

2. Virginia (9-0) Last week: 3

Defeated VCU

Looking around the college hoops world, it seems the popular thing to do following Gonzaga’s loss to Tennessee is jump Duke up to No. 2. We’re not taking the bait, instead moving the undefeated Cavaliers up a spot to second. Only one opponent, Maryland, has eclipsed 60 points against the Cavs while the offense has been more than competent. Don’t overlook Virginia.

3. Michigan (10-0) Last week: 5

Defeated Northwestern, South Carolina

There was a long back and forth over the placement of teams three through five. Ultimately, we gave the nod to Michigan, feeling that the Wolverines’ wins over North Carolina, Purdue and Villanova were just a hair better than Duke’s over Auburn, Kentucky and Indiana. That combined with Michigan’s unblemished record was enough to inch them over the Blue Devils. Know that this decision wasn’t made lightly, and that the battle for the top eight seeds in the NCAA Tournament should be fascinating.

4. Duke (9-1) Last week: 4

Defeated Hartford, Yale

Duke stays put at four for the reasons we detailed above. This is in no way a knock on the Blue Devils, as the resume is impressive and the talent clear. We’re still big believers in Duke.

5. Tennessee (7-1) Last week: 7

Defeated No. 1 Gonzaga

You could make a case that the Vols should be even higher, but we need to be careful not to overreact to one result and be sure to evaluate the whole landscape. While we like the total packages of Michigan and Duke just a bit more right now, Tennessee is legit. The Vols have acquitted themselves well in games against Kansas and Gonzaga, and Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams have been fantastic. Tennessee has emerged as the favorite in the SEC and as a team that could be a sneaky betting choice for a deep run in March.

6. Nevada (10-0) Last week: 6

Defeated No. 20 Arizona State, Grand Canyon

We run into another conundrum at the sixth spot. We’ve established earlier in these rankings that we aren’t going to punish teams harshly for losing close games to good competition, and so this feels like the correct landing spot for Gonzaga. However, I’m also hesitant to drop an undefeated team that earned a top 20 win to make room for a team coming off a loss.

So, for now Nevada stays put at six courtesy of one of the better wins of the week and their perfect record.

7. Gonzaga (9-1) Last week: 2

Defeated Washington, lost to No. 7 Tennessee

Again, a five-spot drop feels a little harsh for the Bulldogs. But in addition to the Tennessee loss, they barely escaped Washington, winning by two. We’re still big believers in the ‘Zags and remain bullish on their March potential, but an unsteady week coupled with the performance of the other top teams causes a tumble for now. A date win North Carolina on Saturday provides an opportunity for Gonzaga to jump right back up the rankings.

8. Auburn (8-1) Last week: 9

Defeated UNC Asheville, Dayton

It feels like Auburn just keeps quietly handling its business and taking advantage of slip ups from the teams ahead of it. This week, the Tigers rise a spot on the strength of two easy wins and Kentucky’s loss. While they haven’t done anything to wow you so far, they are very good on both ends of the floor, they rebound, and they force turnovers. This isn’t a team anyone will look forward to playing.

9. Michigan State (8-2) Last week: 11

Defeated Florida

Michigan State’s time out of the top 10 lasted all of one week. The Spartans got a nice win over Florida while taking advantage of losses by Kentucky and Wisconsin to land at No. 9 this week. Looking at the upcoming schedule, Michigan State should be able to build some momentum heading into the new year.

10. Florida State (8-1) Last week: 13

Defeated UConn

Like Auburn, the Seminoles don’t wow you with any particular area of dominance. But they have three top-50 KenPom wins and their only loss is to Villanova. I’d still like to see more from Florida State, but will have to wait until January for any true tests.

11. Texas Tech (8-0) Last week: 12

Defeated Arkansas Pine Bluff

The Tech defense is legit. Using KenPom’s defensive numbers, the Red Raiders rank first in effective field goal percentage, second in overall efficiency, third in 2-point field goal percentage and block percentage, fourth in turnover percentage, and fifth in 3-point field goal percentage. All of this indicates that Texas Tech is all over its opponents and has very few weaknesses to attack. The Red Raiders aren’t a very pleasant team to play against.

12. North Carolina (7-2) Last week: 14

Defeated UNC Wilmington

The Tar Heels bounced back from a loss to Michigan by crushing UNCW. We should have a pretty good idea of where Carolina is at before Christmas, as its next two opponents are Gonzaga and Kentucky.

13. Buffalo (9-0) Last week: 15

Defeated Le Moyne, St. Bonaventure

The Bulls keep plugging along, maintaining that undefeated record. They play at a fast past but manage to protect the ball and do a good job defending the 3-point line. CJ Massinburg has been great, averaging 17.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists while shooting 48 percent from the floor and 46 percent from three.

14. Ohio State (8-1) Last week: NR

Defeated Minnesota, Illinois

The Buckeyes work their way back into the rankings as a few teams fall out. They’ve been stingy defensively, yet to give up 70 points this season. The Big Ten will provide plenty of opportunity for Ohio State to prove itself.

15. Virginia Tech (8-1) Last week: NR

Defeated VMI, South Carolina State

The Hokies also return to the rankings this week. They’ve been good at both ends of the floor, averaging 82 points per game while surrendering just 57.6, good for seventh-best in the country. Virginia Tech has been effective forcing turnovers and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (17.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, four assists) has emerged as one of the best sophomores in the country.

Dropped from rankings: Kentucky, Wisconsin

Lurking: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Arizona State, Furman, Iowa, Nebraska, Mississippi State, Marquette, Villanova

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