The musical chairs at the top of our power rankings continues this week, as the Buckeyes decided they weren’t ready to be the top dog with a loss over the weekend. We now have yet another team making their debut at the top of the list, as the Bulldogs of Gonzaga are our newest top-ranked squad this season. Will they be able to hang onto it for a while, or will they falter—like every team that came before them?
1. Gonzaga (11-1)
I had the Bulldogs high in the rankings earlier this year, until they got trounced by Michigan. They’ve now put together a résumé that deserves the top spot. They have a trio of road wins over Pac-12 teams, including a 84-80 defeat of Arizona on Saturday, which was led by 18 points and eight rebounds from Corey Kispert. They will took down a North Carolina squad without Cole Anthony on Wednesday, and will embark on a Charmin-soft schedule over the next couple of months, so they may stay here for a long time.
Up next: Eastern Washington (December 21)
2. Kansas (9-1)
Kansas is three points away from being unbeaten, and the Jayhawks have looked much better than they did against Duke to start the year. The next three weeks will allow them to boost their résumé to Gonzaga’s level, as they will play ranked opponents in Villanova, West Virginia and Baylor. David McCormack had a huge performance on Saturday, when he scored 28 points and grabbed seven rebounds in just 16 minutes in a blowout win over Missouri-Kansas City, his first double-digit scoring performance since a win over BYU on November 26.
Up next: Villanova (December 21)
3. Ohio State (10-1)
The Buckeyes suffered their first loss over the weekend, when they laid an egg on the road at Minnesota, 84-71. That took the shine off three very good wins so far this season, including a victory over Penn State on the road last week. The schedule gets much tougher for the Buckeyes over the next few weeks. If Ohio State can take down Kentucky and West Virginia the next two weekends, the Buckeyes could be on their way to a No. 1 seed come tournament time.
Up next: Kentucky (December 21)
4. Louisville (11-1)
The Cardinals bounced back from their first defeat with a dominant win over Eastern Kentucky. The frontcourt duo of Jordan Nwora and Steven Enoch combined to score 49 points and grab 14 rebounds, but the 16 turnovers were a red flag for a team that has struggled with guard play.
Up next: Kentucky (December 28)
5. Baylor (9-1)
The Bears continue to hang around in the top half of the rankings, with their only loss a three-point defeat to a good Washington squad. The Bears will be tested early in conference play, with back-to-back road games at Texas Tech and Kansas in January.
Up next: Jackson State (December 30)
6. Oregon (9-2)
If you’ve followed this column all season, you know I’m very high on Payton Pritchard. The bandwagon got a bit larger last week, when he scored 23 points—19 came in the second half and overtime—in a 71-70 victory at Michigan on Saturday. It was a clutch performance that was capped by a game-winning layup with 1:16 left in overtime. He was aided by six three-pointers on 10 attempts from Anthony Mathis, whose absurd 63.3 shooting percentage from three-point range continues to amaze this far into the season.
Up next: Texas Southern (December 21)
7. Kentucky (8-2)
There were serious concerns with how the Wildcats played against a depleted Georgia Tech team over the weekend, but Ashton Hagans willed them to the win with 21 points. He is averaging more than 16 points and nearly nine assists over his last six games, and he has answered questions about his outside shot by going 6-of-10 from outside the arc in his last four contests. Off a neutral-site loss to Utah on Wednesday, jet lag could be an issue, but the Wildcats will hae massive matchup with Ohio State on Saturday.
Up next: Ohio State (December 21)
8. Duke (9-1)
The Blue Devils did nothing to slide down the list from the third spot we had them in last week, mostly because they didn’t play anybody. The problem is that other teams did things to move past them. They only have two more games this calendar year, which is important for them, because they have dealt with some injuries to key players. Wofford and Brown aren't sexy names, but given Wofford’s win over North Carolina last weekend, the Blue Devils will be on alert.
Up next: Wofford (December 19)
9. Maryland (10-1)
The Terps move up a spot after a week without any games, but the loss to Penn State is less of an issue now that the Nittany Lions have moved into the KenPom Top 25. Maryland will travel to Seton Hall on Thursday night, which will be a good test, although the hosts will be without their star player, Myles Powell (concussion). The Terps have struggled in their past two outings, and Anthony Cowan Jr. shot just 11-of-31 from the field, including 5-of-16 from beyond the arc, in those two contests. Maryland needs much better performances from him if it is going to contend for the Big Ten crown.
Up next: Seton Hall (December 19)
10. Dayton (9-1)
After slipping out of the rankings last week, the Flyers return to our power rankings with another strong week. Obi Toppin stuffed the stat sheet against North Texas, with 11 points, 7 boards, and 6 dimes, and is averaging more than 20 points per game this season. They will get a solid test against Colorado this weekend, and may go quite a while without another loss if they can navigate that matchup.
Up next: Colorado (December 21)