While there were few changes from last week to this week in the Power Rankings, that won’t be the case a week from now. Feast Week will bring about a new pecking order among the nation’s elite, as 10 of the 16 teams ranked this week will play in a holiday tournament. More specifically, five of the 16 — and five of the top seven — will participate in either the Maui Invitational or Battle 4 Atlantis.
The Battle 4 Atlantis is the marquee tournament this year. Three of the top seven teams in the Power Rankings will take part: Oregon, North Carolina and Gonzaga. Then there’s Seton Hall, which has bounced in and out of the rankings since the preseason. The big first-round matchup is Oregon vs. Seton Hall, and we’ll see if Dana Altman’s defense can slow down Myles Powell. The potential semifinal matchups in the Bahamas could be North Carolina vs. Michigan and Gonzaga vs. Oregon. Michigan is down this year, but Zavier Simpson guarding Cole Anthony will be intriguing.
The Maui Invitational will be ending just before Oregon and Seton Hall are tipping off at Atlantis, and the most likely championship game in Hawaii will be Michigan State vs. Kansas. The top-two teams in the preseason Power Rankings, both teams suffered a loss on opening night in the Champions Classic. Michigan State has looked good since then, going on the road and beating Seton Hall, while Kansas is still tinkering with its best lineups. A team that could potentially ruin the party in Maui will be the winner of Dayton vs. Georgia. Dayton is 3-0 and is expected to compete for an NCAA tournament bid this season, while Georgia is 4-0 and has the potential No. 1 pick in Anthony Edwards.
By the time everyone is coming off their tryptophan hangover on Friday afternoon, the top-10 list will have undergone a massive shakeup. And that doesn’t even count Maryland at the Orlando Invitational or Tennessee taking part in the Emerald Coast Classic; or Texas Tech and Arizona in other Thanksgiving events.
Feast Week is going to be like Sweet 16/Elite Eight weekend.
1. Michigan State Spartans (3-1)
Previous ranking: 1
This week: Maui Invitational: vs. Virginia Tech (Monday)
Gabe Brown had his best game last season at an opportune time: in the Sweet 16 against LSU, when he scored 15 points and buried four 3-pointers. Outside of that one game, he scored in double figures once and only played double-figure minutes seven times. As a sophomore, Brown has become a key player at both ends of the floor for Tom Izzo. He had a season-high 12 points and six rebounds against Charleston Southern last week, and Brown gives the Spartans an athletic wing who can make shots from the perimeter and guard multiple positions on the defensive end.
2. Duke Blue Devils (6-0)
Previous ranking: 2
This week: vs. Stephen F. Austin (Tuesday), vs. Winthrop (Friday)
It took freshman Vernon Carey Jr. a couple of games to get acclimated to college basketball — but it’s fair to say Carey is comfortable with this level now. The elite recruit is coming off a dominant weekend at the 2K Empire Classic in New York, where Carey totaled 51 points and 22 rebounds in two games against California and Georgetown. He has improved his conditioning, has lost weight and is still a force down low. He also has added some perimeter touch to his game, hitting all three of his 3-point attempts so far this season. There were some questions about Carey’s NBA potential entering the season, but he is becoming a force at the college level.
3. Louisville Cardinals (6-0)
Previous ranking: 3
This week: vs. Western Kentucky (Friday)
The final margin against Akron on Sunday (82-76) wasn’t quite indicative of the game, which Louisville led convincingly for most of the 40 minutes. The biggest storyline for the Cardinals over the past week was the return of Malik Williams and David Johnson from injury. Williams broke his foot back in September, while Johnson suffered a shoulder injury in July. Both players came back against University of South Carolina Upstate, and they now have two games under their belts. Williams was a frontcourt starter last season, giving Chris Mack rebounding and perimeter touch. Meanwhile, Johnson was receiving positive buzz in early-summer workouts; he’ll provide a different dimension in the backcourt.
4. Oregon Ducks (5-0)
Previous ranking: 4
This week: Battle 4 Atlantis: vs. Seton Hall (Wednesday)
Dana Altman’s Ducks are heading to the Bahamas with a real chance to establish themselves as one of the elite teams in college basketball this season. They already have impressive wins over Memphis and Houston, but they might face a three-game gauntlet of Seton Hall, Gonzaga and North Carolina this week. If Oregon comes back from the Battle 4 Atlantis with three more huge wins under its belt, it is going to be a legitimate early Final Four contender. Fortunately, we here at the Power Rankings already were considering the Ducks in that conversation, so now they have to prove us right.
5. North Carolina Tar Heels (4-0)
Previous ranking: 5
This week: Battle 4 Atlantis: vs. Alabama (Wednesday)
We’ve already talked about Cole Anthony as well as Carolina’s injury woes in this space, so let’s give some love to the recruiting class Roy Williams has landed in 2020. The Tar Heels have their highest-ranked recruiting class since 2014, when Williams brought in the title-winning trio of Justin Jackson, Theo Pinson and Joel Berry. Williams is hoping his 2020 group has the same collegiate success. There are three five-star prospects in the five-man group, with five-star big men Walker Kessler and Day’Ron Sharpe and potential one-and-done point guard Caleb Love leading the way.
6. Kansas Jayhawks (3-1)
Previous ranking: 6
This week: Maui Invitational: vs. Chaminade (Monday)
Devon Dotson struggled in the season opener against Duke, turning it over six times and struggling to get Kansas into effective half-court sets. Since then, though, the sophomore point guard has returned to form. He has 16 assists to seven turnovers in the three games since the opener, while also averaging 19.3 points. Bill Self is going to need him to keep up those numbers, not only at the Maui Invitational this week, but throughout the entire season. The Jayhawks don’t really have another consistent ball handler besides Dotson, as Issac McBride transferred before the season started and Dajuan Harris is expected to redshirt this season.
7. Gonzaga Bulldogs (6-0)
Previous ranking: 7
This week: Battle 4 Atlantis: vs. Southern Miss (Wednesday)
The Bulldogs got some great news last week when Killian Tillie returned earlier than expected from injury. Tillie has been hampered by multiple injuries over the past couple of seasons, but if he is 100 percent and as productive as he was as a sophomore, that will be a huge boost for Mark Few. Tillie has been solid in his first two games this season. He had 15 points and eight rebounds against UT Arlington, then followed it up with 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and three 3-pointers against CSU Bakersfield. The 6-foot-10 Tillie is versatile and gives Gonzaga an inside-outside weapon up front.
8. Ohio State Buckeyes (5-0)
Previous ranking: 8
This week: vs. Kent State (Monday), vs. Morgan State (Friday)
Word coming out of Columbus in the preseason was that Kyle Young was making himself a real factor in Ohio State’s frontcourt, bringing energy and relentlessness on the offensive glass. Through five games, the preseason hype has been warranted. Young moved into the starting lineup this season after coming off the bench for most of Big Ten play last season, and he has been a much-needed dose of toughness and aggressive around the rim. Young is one of the best offensive rebounders in the country, grabbing 12 so far this season — including seven in the season opener against Cincinnati.
9. Kentucky Wildcats (5-1)
Previous ranking: 9
This week: vs. UAB (Friday)
After a slow start to the season, Ashton Hagans came into his own on the offensive end in three games last week for Kentucky. He averaged 19.0 points in the three games, even hitting three 3-pointers against Lamar on Sunday and also making all 22 of his free-throw attempts. Moreover, against Mount St. Mary’s and Lamar, Hagans totaled 16 assists to just six turnovers — one of the areas he has needed to improve from a year ago. In the first four games this season, Hagans had 17 assists and 16 turnovers. Hagans is already one of the elite on-ball defenders in the country; if he can contribute consistently on the offensive end, his NBA stock will only go up — as will Kentucky’s ceiling.
10. Maryland Terrapins (5-0)
Previous ranking: 10
This week: Orlando Invitational: vs. Temple (Thursday)
The Terrapins have gotten off to several slow starts this season but still have managed to win all five games by at least 19 points. Will those slow starts hurt them in Orlando this week? Mark Turgeon’s team opens with a Temple team that just won at Southern California, then could possibly face Harvard and Marquette in the semifinals and finals. Maryland is more talented than any team it will face in the event, but the tournament should provide stiffer tests than the nonconference slate thus far. Shooting has been an issue for the Terps through five games; they are shooting below 29% as a team and are coming off a 6 for 22 performance against George Mason.
11. Virginia Cavaliers (6-0)
Previous ranking: 12
This week: vs. Maine (Wednesday)
Arizona State went on a 19-0 run against the Cavaliers on Sunday; outside of that run, Virginia allowed the Sun Devils to score just 26 points. As a result, Tony Bennett’s team still has allowed just one team to top 50 points this season. Sunday’s surprise performer was freshman Casey Morsell, known as a very solid two-way player coming out of high school. But Virginia needed his scoring against Arizona State, and he stepped up with 19 points — after totaling just 12 points in his first five games of the season. Because Bennett is essentially using a six-man rotation, he will need different guys to step up on a given night: On Sunday, that was Morsell.
12. Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-0)
Previous ranking: 11
This week: Las Vegas Invitational: vs. Iowa (Thursday)
Texas Tech had its worst defensive first half against LIU Brooklyn on Sunday, giving up 42 points to head into the break down by one. Chris Beard woke the Red Raiders up at halftime, though, as they held LIU to just 24 points the rest of the way and Tech won by 30. The Red Raiders have been arguably the most unselfish team in the country thus far, ranking No. 1 in assist rate and dishing out at least 22 assists in four of their five games. The schedule gets tougher over the next few weeks, though, as Tech heads to Las Vegas this week to face Iowa and the winner of San Diego State vs. Creighton, then has games at DePaul and in New York against Louisville.
13. Arizona Wildcats (6-0)
Previous ranking: 13
This week: Wooden Legacy: vs. Pepperdine (Thursday)
Zeke Nnaji‘s emergence over the first few weeks of the season has been impressive, but top-10 recruit Nico Mannion has lived up to the hype, as well. Mannion was up and down in the first three games, but he had 23 points, four rebounds and nine assists against Illinois — and against New Mexico State and South Dakota State, he totaled 29 points and six assists. Mannion had arguably his best game yet against Long Beach State on Sunday night, going for 22 points and eight assists, with just two turnovers. I know it’s still a few weeks away, but circle that Dec. 7 matchup between Baylor and Arizona. It will be guards galore in Waco that day.
14. Tennessee Volunteers (4-0)
Previous ranking: 14
This week: vs. Chattanooga (Monday), Emerald Coast Classic: vs. Florida State (Friday)
Josiah-Jordan James hasn’t had the typical freshman season of a five-star recruit in his first month. James hasn’t been much of a scorer, averaging fewer than five points per game. And he isn’t shooting well, either: 35.7% on 2-pointers, 33.3% on 3-pointers (making just two). But he has made an impact due to his size and versatility. James has totaled 13 assists in four games and is second on the team in rebounding with 6.3 per game. James is coming off a 13-rebound, five-assist performance against Alabama State. His ability to create for teammates has allowed Jordan Bowden to focus on scoring and Lamonte Turner not to shoulder the complete distribution load.
15. Baylor Bears (5-1)
Previous ranking: Unranked
This week: None
Baylor was one of those teams that grew on me as the offseason wore on, but a three-point loss to Washington in the first week of the season took some of the wind out of its sails. Scott Drew’s team has bounced back, though, winning the Myrtle Beach Invitational by taking down Villanova in the title game. There are few teams with a better backcourt than that of the Bears. Jared Butler is the star, while transfers MaCio Teague and Davion Mitchell, who both sat out last season, have provided scoring (Teague) and defense (Mitchell). Oh, and preseason All-Big 12 forward Tristan Clark is still not 100 percent after missing the second half of last season with a knee injury.
16. Utah State Aggies (7-0)
Previous ranking: In the waiting room
This week: at Saint Mary’s (Friday)
We were waiting for the Aggies to notch a quality win before moving them into the Power Rankings, and they accomplished that on Friday in a comeback win over LSU. Remember, Craig Smith’s team is still without star big man Neemias Queta, who injured his knee in July and hasn’t played yet this season. But Utah State is getting improved production from sophomore Justin Bean, who has four double-doubles in seven games this season. He had 14 points, 12 rebounds and six assists against LSU. Another test awaits on Friday, when Utah State travels to Moraga, California, to face Saint Mary’s. That’s another big chance for the Aggies (and the Gaels).
Dropped out: VCU (No. 15), Seton Hall (No. 16)
In the waiting room:
VCU: The Rams take part in one of the more intriguing yet under-the-radar early-season events at the Emerald Coast Classic. VCU, Tennessee, Florida State and Purdue are all looking to build some momentum coming out of November, and it’s a fairly wide-open four-team bracket.
Seton Hall: The Pirates get bounced from the rankings for some of the tournament winners, but they’ll have a chance to earn their way back at the Battle 4 Atlantis. They have an imposing opening-round matchup, however, against Oregon.
Auburn: The Tigers should continue to roll, as they head to Brooklyn as the Legends Classic favorites. They will open against New Mexico, before facing the winner of New Mexico vs. Wisconsin. We’ll see if Samir Doughty can keep up his hot start; he has 53 points and is 10-for-17 from 3 in his past two games.