It took less than a month for men's college basketball to go completely haywire. Eight teams in the top 16 of the previous edition of the Power Rankings suffered losses this past week. Two of those squads, Duke and Villanova, lost twice. Included in that group was last week's Nos. 1, 3 and 4. How will all of that impact the rankings?
Arizona moving up to No. 1 is the easy part. The Wildcats were No. 2 entering last week and cruised past Colgate in their lone game of the week. Not only are they still unbeaten, they also own a road win against Duke and a neutral-court victory over Michigan State. Both of those wins have lost some of their luster, but Arizona's résumé is still more impressive than those of most of the other unbeaten teams in the sport.
What about the rest of the top five? Kansas and Purdue have fantastic résumés for one-loss teams: The Jayhawks have defeated UConn, Tennessee and Kentucky, while Purdue has wins over Gonzaga, Tennessee and Marquette. It's also difficult to drop UConn too far for a short-handed four-point loss at Kansas. Then there's Houston, which continues to roll on without a loss.
So, while there was absurdity across the board on the court, the top tier of teams feels fairly stable -- for now.
On to this week's awards and rankings ...
Team of the Week: Wisconsin Badgers
There are a half-dozen really good options for this award. Northwestern took down top-ranked Purdue (the Wildcats will get their love shortly), Kansas handed UConn its first nonconference loss since 2022 and Arkansas and Georgia Tech (more on them in a bit too) both knocked off Duke. But Wisconsin led wire to wire against in-state rival Marquette on Saturday, ultimately coming away with a 75-64 win.
Max Klesmit was sensational in the first half, scoring all 21 of his points -- including five 3-pointers -- before halftime, with the Badgers jumping out to a 16-point lead just before the break. Marquette cut it to one with 11:26 left in the game, but Wisconsin responded with a 6-0 run, and the Golden Eagles never got closer than five the rest of the way. Steven Crowl finished with 16 points and eight boards.
Combined with Monday's blowout win over Western Illinois, Wisconsin has now won five in a row since opening the season with two losses in its first three outings.
Northwestern head coach Chris Collins breaks down his team's upset over top-ranked Purdue.
Player of the Week: Boo Buie, Northwestern Wildcats
Buie probably doesn't want to play Purdue every game, but there's something about the way he lifts his performance whenever the Boilermakers come to Evanston, Illinois. Last season, he finished with 26 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and 3 steals in Northwestern's 64-58 upset of Purdue. This season, he was even better. The senior guard went for 31 points, 4 rebounds, 9 assists -- and zero turnovers. Buie constantly hit big shots, including what looked like the game-winning bucket in the final seconds of regulation. He then followed that up with seven points in the extra session.
In addition to Friday's performance, Buie opened the week with 23 points, four 3s and seven assists in an easy win over Northern Illinois.
Trazarien White gets the layup and the foul against Kentucky.
Win of the Week: UNC Wilmington Seahawks 80, Kentucky Wildcats 73
There also are plenty of options for this award, but UNC Wilmington's victory in Lexington might have been the most shocking of the bunch. Four days before the game, the Wildcats had battered a top-10 Miami team by 22, looking like an offensive juggernaut and a legitimate Final Four team. Two days before the contest, UNCW lost at East Carolina, a week after losing to Appalachian State by 30. And yet, on Saturday, the Seahawks went into Rupp Arena and picked up the program's first road win over a ranked opponent.
UNCW led the entire first half, growing the margin to as large as 14 points with 2:55 left before halftime. Kentucky, behind Reed Sheppard's 25 points, fought back to start the second half and opened up a six-point lead with 13 minutes remaining. At that point, it looked like order had been restored and the Wildcats would cruise to victory. But Trazarien White scored seven straight points to spark a 13-1 run and give UNCW a lead it wouldn't relinquish. White finished with 27 points and 10 boards.
Georgie Tech makes an excellent read on Duke's last second play and stops the basket to cap off the 72-68 victory.
Coach of the Week: Damon Stoudamire, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Georgia Tech athletic director J Batt went outside the box when he replaced Josh Pastner in the spring, hiring Stoudamire away from the Boston Celtics' staff. A slow start was expected, but a home loss to UMass Lowell in the third game was not. It didn't take long for Stoudamire to turn things around, however. Georgia Tech handed Mississippi State its first loss of the season on Tuesday then welcomed Duke to town on Saturday and beat the Blue Devils 72-68 in Stoudamire's first ACC game at the helm.
Stoudamire's rotation adjustments since losses to the River Hawks and Cincinnati eight days earlier have completely changed the trajectory of this team. Amaree Abram, who started the first four games of the season, hasn't played in the past two. Tyzhaun Claude moved to the bench (and played a key role against Duke). And into the starting lineup went NC State transfer Ebenezer Dowuona and freshman Naithan George, with the latter dishing out nine assists against the Blue Devils.
Three teams with questions
Villanova Wildcats: One week ago, we were praising Kyle Neptune and the Wildcats after they won the Battle 4 Atlantis. Then they went out and lost at home to Big 5 rivals Saint Joseph's and Drexel. Combined with the earlier loss to Penn, it's the first time since 2001-02 (Jay Wright's first season) that Villanova dropped three games to Philly schools in the same season.
Mississippi State Bulldogs: Mississippi State was unbeaten a week ago and inside the top 25. A loss at Georgia Tech was surprising but perhaps excusable, since Duke did the same thing against the Yellow Jackets four days later. But a home defeat to Southern, a team that was 1-6 entering Sunday? The Bulldogs scored just 59 points in each game.
Saint Mary's Gaels: After being picked to win the West Coast Conference over Gonzaga and beating New Mexico in the first week of the season, the Gaels have nose-dived. They've lost five of their past six games, including this past week against Utah and Boise State. According to Heat Check CBB's Connor Hope, this is their worst start since Randy Bennett's first season in 2001-02.
Arizona rises to the top spot just as its nonconference schedule really turns into high gear. The Wildcats host the Badgers on Saturday before heading to Indianapolis to play Purdue on Dec. 16, facing Alabama in Phoenix on Dec. 20 and going to Las Vegas to play Florida Atlantic on Dec. 23. Tommy Lloyd's team has proved itself up to this point, but if the Cats are still standing at No. 1 on Christmas, they certainly will have earned it.
Kevin McCullar Jr. drills the corner 3-pointer to secure the victory over UConn.
The strides Kevin McCullar Jr. has made offensively were on full display this past week, highlighted by hitting three 3s in the final six minutes against UConn when it looked like the Jayhawks were on the ropes. He finished with 21 points Friday night, showing an ability to get his own shot and make open ones. McCullar also had 18 points and five assists in a closer-than-expected win over Eastern Illinois earlier in the week.
A couple of those late-season issues from 2022-23 came back to haunt Purdue against Northwestern on Friday. The Boilermakers coughed it up 17 times, with four turnovers coming in overtime. Remarkably, those four were one more than Northwestern had the entire game. Purdue's 3-point shooting also disappeared, with the Boilermakers going just 5-for-19 after shooting 42.8% from behind the arc entering the contest.
LJ Cryer is certainly comfortable in a Houston uniform now. After a rough start to the season shooting from the perimeter, he has emerged as the Cougars' clear go-to guy, capably filling Marcus Sasser's shoes. Cryer has made five 3s in each of his past two games, going for 24 points against visiting Montana and 23 against Xavier on the road. He did most of his damage early against the Musketeers, making three of his 3s in the first four minutes, but Cryer also hit two key jumpers late when Xavier was threatening.
The Huskies should come out of their trip to Allen Fieldhouse with plenty of optimism moving forward after going toe-to-toe with Kansas, despite the absence of Stephon Castle due to injury and with Cam Spencer banged up for most of the game. It also represented another breakout performance for Tristen Newton, who went for 31 points and made six 3s. He is playing at an All-American level.
After looking like the best freshman in the country through the first few weeks of the season, Ja'Kobe Walter has hit a bit of a rough patch. He played just 16 minutes against Florida due to foul trouble then totaled 12 points on 5-for-19 shooting in two games this past week, missing all eight of his 3-point attempts. It hasn't been an issue for the Bears, however, as RayJ Dennis has been terrific over his past three outings, averaging 17.3 points and 8.0 assists.
Many teams would lose to Purdue at a neutral location and on the road versus Wisconsin, but it's at least worth looking at similarities in the two defeats. The Golden Eagles' struggles have come on the defensive end, specifically on the glass. They had their two worst defensive rebounding performances in their two defeats, with Purdue rebounding nearly 42% of its misses and Wisconsin turning 15 offensive boards into 18 second-chance points.
Ryan Nembhard steals the rock and finds Dusty Stromer for a Bulldogs basket.
Ryan Nembhard had his best week in a Zags uniform against Cal State Bakersfield and USC, going for 22 points and five assists in the win against the Roadrunners then finishing with 15 points and seven assists in a 13-point triumph over the Trojans. There also was breakout showing for freshman guard Dusty Stromer, who made four 3s and had 15 points against USC.
Colorado State quietly followed up its victory over Creighton with an impressive pair of wins, beating Colorado at home and Washington in Las Vegas. A huge key for the Rams has been Joel Scott, a Division II transfer who arrived in the spring. Scott is coming off a 17-point, eight-rebound performance against the Huskies and has now scored at least 12 points in all but one game so far.
Elliot Cadeau's distribution was widely documented at the high school level, as was his unparalleled vision and passing ability. And it was again evident in the win over Tennessee on Wednesday, as Cadeau dished out 10 assists and didn't turn the ball over. In his past five games, he has 24 assists to just two turnovers, and his impact on his backcourt mates has been apparent.
RJ Davis' Splits through 8 Games:— Adrian Atkinson (@FreeportKid) December 3, 2023
with Cadeau (132 minutes): 29.8 pts / 40, 66.3 TS%, 2.1 asst / 40, 1.2 TO / 40, 1.75 A:TO, 32.1 %Shots
w/o Cadeau (136 minutes): 19.1 pts / 40, 48.0 TS%, 4.7 asst / 40, 2.6 TO / 40, 1.78 A:TO, 28.1 %Shots
Creighton found its shooting stroke following its 6-for-29 3-point performance in the loss to Colorado State. Against Oklahoma State and Nebraska this past week, the Bluejays shot 24-for-59 from behind the arc, making double-digit treys in both victories. They've now hit that mark in seven of eight games, with the lone exception being -- you guessed it -- the loss to the Rams.
The Owls' response to a stunning home loss to Bryant has been a five-game winning streak, including four wins over teams ranked inside the top 70 at KenPom. Not coincidentally, that streak has coincided with Alijah Martin's return to form (and health). Over his past five outings, Martin is averaging 17.6 points and 4.8 rebounds and shooting 40.5% from 3-point range, with two 20-point performances during the stretch.
How does a team go from scoring 95 points against a top-10 team on a Tuesday to scoring 73 points and losing to a Coastal Athletic Association team on a Saturday? For Kentucky, it's due to shooting and turnovers. Against Miami, the Wildcats made nine 3s, turned it over just eight times and had 26 assists on 37 made shots. Against UNC Wilmington, they shot 29.4% from behind the arc and turned it over 13 times, as Rob Dillingham struggled to score, and D.J. Wagner didn't play.
Jaxson Robinson drills bucket vs. Fresno State Bulldogs
It has taken some time, but Jaxson Robinson has found his ideal school -- and his ideal role. He played sparingly during his freshman season at Texas A&M and his sophomore season at Arkansas. Last season at BYU, he started 30 games and averaged 8.5 points. But Mark Pope moved Robinson to a sixth man role this season, and he is absolutely thriving. He scored 24 points against Fresno State on Friday, and he is averaging 16.6 points while shooting 43.8% from 3.
Tennessee has now lost three straight since starting the season with four back-to-back wins -- and surprisingly, it was the Volunteers' defense that disappeared in Wednesday's 100-92 loss at North Carolina. They allowed 1.32 points per possession, only the fourth time in the past eight seasons an opponent has hit that mark against the Vols. Now, we wait to see the status of star Dalton Knecht, who injured his ankle late in the defeat.
Since back-to-back double-digit losses to Tennessee and Providence, Wisconsin has rattled off five straight wins, including a 24-point drubbing of Virginia in Florida and Saturday's 11-point triumph over Marquette. The Badgers are on a roll, but they now face arguably the most difficult week on their schedule.
In the waiting room
Matthew Cleveland takes the steal and goes all the way home for a big Miami dunk.
Miami Hurricanes: The loss to Kentucky will likely look like an outlier at the end of the season, particularly the performances from Matthew Cleveland and Nijel Pack. The latter had two points on six shots, one game after scoring 28 and one game before going for 13 points and seven assists. The former, meanwhile, had five points and zero boards -- the only game this season Cleveland has scored fewer than 12 points.
Clemson Tigers: Brad Brownell's team should have some staying power this season. The undefeated Tigers defend well, especially inside the arc and on the glass, and they have three stars at the top of the roster in PJ Hall, Chase Hunter and Joseph Girard III. The trio combined for 52 points at Alabama then totaled 51 at Pittsburgh, despite Hunter (four points) having an off night.
Oklahoma Sooners: There were some whispers in the preseason that Otega Oweh could be primed for a breakout campaign. The former ESPN 100 recruit saw a much bigger role down the stretch in 2022-23, and he has hit the ground running this season for the undefeated Sooners. Oweh has scored at least 13 points in six of seven games, is shooting 68.7% from the field and is coming off a 20-point performance versus Arkansas-Pine Bluff.