By Hocine LOUKKAF on 12/9/2019
With all teams below Louisville and Ohio State defeated at least once (except for Maryland which didn’t play any ranked opponents), it becomes harder to rank the top schools. Louisville and OSU look a notch above despite having limited NBA prospects (Nwora may be the only potential first rounder) while every contender from Kansas to Duke can hope the best at the end of the year.
With a lot of uncertainty with teams like Arizona, Kentucky, UNC, Michigan State or sleepers like DePaul gunning for the remaining spots, I decided to rank only eight teams and see what will happen in the weeks to come.
#1 Louisville (9-0)
Experts were waiting for the game against Michigan and they were not disappointed as the Cardinals limited the Wolverines to 43pts with their suffocating defense. Nwora has been the clear offensive leader as the only player averaging more than 11pts a game (21.9pts 7.5rbds 47% 3pt) while the trio of Enoch/Sutton/Williams is controlling the paint (22.4rbds). The team is full of experienced players with four senior and three juniors but may need another player like freshman Samuel Williamson (6.8pts 4.1rbds but only 12% from three) to step up his game.
#2 Ohio State (9-0)
With two 25-point blowouts against Villanova and UNC, OSU could be legit to ask for the #1 spot. With eight players scoring between 7.3 and 12.5pts, the team is the biggest star of the group. Yet, big man Kaleb Wesson (12.7pts 9.3rbds 1.7bl) and shooter Duane Washington (11.1pts 50+% from three on 4.4 attempts) are showing the way for their teammates. The Buckeyes will have two solid tests against UK and Maryland in the upcoming month.
#3 Kansas (6-1)
If it wasn’t for their opening loss against Duke, Kansas may have been the number one until now. With Dotson setting the pace at PG (19.7pts 4.3as 2.1st), Azubuike dominating in the paint (15.1pts 7.6rbds 1.9bl 79% FG) and Garrett/Agbaji displaying their all around game (10pts 5.1rbds 4as for Garrett, 9.6pts 3.9rbds 2.6as for Agbaji), Kansas has all the tools to go far this year. Against Dayton, their second major test and an unbeaten team coming to Maui, Azubuike (29pts 4bl 12/15 FG) Dotson (31pts 6rbds 4as 5st but 6tos) and Garrett (18pts 7rbds) were once again the main contributors. With a win against Colorado and Villanova coming soon, Kansas has two more opportunities to test it self against solid competition before the start of the Big 12.
#4 Michigan (7-1)
Everybody was waiting for the showdown against Louisville and that night, Michigan could not resist their tougher, most experienced opponent as Teske was too lonely as the only Wolverine with more than 10pts (18pts but 6/18 FG). Yet, this loss, at Louisville, will not erase their wins against two top 10 teams, UNC and Gonzaga. Michigan bounced back well with a win against a solid Iowa team despite Garza’s 44pts.
#5 Gonzaga (10-1)
With its only loss to a surprising Michigan and two wins against ranked opponents, Gonzaga has already proves its team was solid and very deep. With nine players with more than 19min and 6.5pts per game, it may be the deepest ranked team. Petrusev has become the offensive leader (15.8pts 8.5rbds) but upperclassmen Tillie (13.7pts 5rbds) and Kispert (13.7pts on 41% 3pt) or Joel Ayayi (10.1pts 6.6rbds 3.8as) have proved they could also step up. With the two next games against Arizona and UNC, the Bulldogs could climb a spot or two in the ranking.
#6 Virginia (8-1)
After strating by a serie of wins against unranked opponents, the Cavaliers endured an hard 29pt blowout against Purdue’s suffocating defense as the five guards combined a poor 12pts. Fortunately, they bounced back well against their first ranked opponent, UNC, by limiting them to 47pts. Once again, the guards struggled with the starting trio of Clark/Morsell/Stattman scoring only 19pts on 6/27. More will be expected from them to remain a contender.
#7 Maryland (10-0)
As impressive as its roster may look, the Terrapins have never been tested against a ranked opponent this year despite wins against Temple or Marquette. Worst than that, they almost lost during their last game, albeit against a decent team of Illinois, winning only by one at home. With at least 14pts, 13 rbds and 3bl in his last two games, Jalen Smith is stepping up to show the way to his teammates. Games at Seton Hall and against Ohio State in the upcoming month will be better indicators of Maryland’s value.
#8 Duke (9-1)
Despite wins against Kansas, MSU or Georgetown, Duke has lost what seemed the easiest matchup against Stephen F. Austin to end a 150-game non-conference home win streak. In their last win against Virginia Tech, seven players contributed for 7pts or more. Freshman Vernon Carey has been the most dominant player of the team with 18.5pts 9.2rbds 2.2bl while classmates Hurt (10.5pts 3.3rbds) and Moore (7.2pts 3.3rbds 33% 3pt) need to show why they were top 25 recruits in the country.