With reasonably high preseason expectations and a perfect record featuring wins over Kansas, Providence, Louisville and Florida, Michigan State has been an obvious and undeniable No. 1 in the Top 25 (and one). To suggest otherwise is to try too hard.
But then the Spartans lost Denzel Valentine to a knee injury.
And, late Tuesday, they lost at Iowa by double-digits.
So now somebody else gets to be No. 1 and, frankly, there’s no obvious choice.
Kansas makes sense because the Jayhawks are 11-1 with three top-50 KenPom wins and a lone loss to Michigan State that came before Cheick Diallo was eligible. But the counter-argument to KU is that Diallo hasn’t been that impactful since becoming eligible. So would he really have been the difference between a win and a loss against the Spartans?
Either way, Oklahoma also makes sense because the Sooners are 11-0 with a win over Villanova. But that win over Villanova is their only top-50 KenPom win, which means 10 of OU’s victories have come against average-to-bad opponents. And if you’re going to consider Oklahoma for No. 1, you probably also ought to at least look at Xavier. Because Chris Mack’s team is 12-0 with four top-50 KenPom wins — although, it’s worth noting, none of those four top-50 KenPom wins have come against teams in KenPom’s top 30.
Maryland’s only loss is a close loss at North Carolina.
Both of North Carolina’s losses came in true road games while shorthanded.
And Virginia is a 10-1 team with double-digit wins over Villanova and West Virginia.
I could go on and on, but, hopefully, you get the point, and the point is this: the top of anybody’s rankings could now reasonably go a variety of ways. There just isn’t much difference between the top six or seven schools. So what I decided to do is just take a fresh look at the top of the Top 25 (and one), and, ultimately, I opted to go with Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks at No. 1 and Lon Kruger’s Oklahoma Sooners at No. 2.
The Jayhawks have won seven straight by double-digits, and they’re also currently ranked No. 1 at KenPom. So they’re an adequate option, clearly. But let the record show that any of the schools I mentioned above are also adequate options, and the good news is that this could get somewhat settled in less than a week because Oklahoma plays at Kansas on Monday night, and, I’m guessing, those two schools will be ranked first and second in the AP and Coaches polls come Monday afternoon (as long as neither is upset this weekend).
Yep, we could have a rare No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup Monday night.
That would be a fun way to start the New Year.
(The CBS Sports Top 25 (and one) updates every morning throughout the season. Click this link to view each team’s previous ranking, recent results, future schedule, etc.)
- Kansas (11-1)
- Oklahoma (11-0)
- Maryland (11-1)
- Virginia (10-1)
- Xavier (12-0)
- Michigan State (13-1)
- North Carolina (11-2)
- Providence (12-1)
- Arizona (12-1)
- Miami (11-1)
- Butler (11-1)
- Kentucky (10-2)
- Louisville (11-2)
- Iowa State (10-1)
- Villanova (10-2)
- Purdue (13-1)
- SMU (12-0)
- West Virginia (10-1)
- Duke (10-2)
- Texas A&M (10-2)
- Baylor (10-2)
- Connecticut (9-3)
- UCLA (9-4)
- Gonzaga (10-3)
- Utah (11-2)
- South Carolina (11-0)
In: South Carolina