Record: 6-0. The Zags make it easy enough in the season debut of Hey Nineteen. Defeated Texas and UCLA by a combined score of 169-137 and neither game was ever close. Gonzaga will play Duke Friday, and mark just the second time a team has ever faced three top-10 opponents (per AP rankings) in the month of November. By virtue of playing UCLA and Duke this week, Gonzaga is also the only team in history to face two top-five opponents in less than a week’s time in November. 2
Record: 5-0. With impressive wins over North Carolina and Villanova, Matt Painter’s team ranks second in offensive efficiency at KenPom to Gonzaga (121.7 to 118.6) and looks to be a cut above everyone else in the Big Ten. Noteworthy but mostly meaningless: In beating UNC and Nova, Purdue defeated the 2016, 2017 and 2018 national-champion schools on consecutive days.
Record: 5-0. The reigning champs have been quietly dominant to start the season, but that’s because of the schedule. Scott Drew’s program is yet to play a team expected to be in the mix for the NCAA Tournament. Nevertheless, the undefeated Bears are picking up where they left off in April and are beating opponents by a whopping average of 30.2 points. VCU awaits Thursday in the Battle 4 Atlantis semis.
Record: 5-0. According to BartTorvik.com’s calculations, when you remove all preseason bias, the top two performing teams through the first 16 days of play are Gonzaga and Arizona. Tommy Lloyd’s off to a swell start in his first head coaching stint with wins over Wichita State and Michigan this week to win the Roman Main Event in Las Vegas. 5
Record: 5-0. Hellooooo, Gators! What a thrilling win Wednesday night in the Fort Myers Tip-Off title game to beat Ohio State. UF trailed most of the night, then Tyree Appleby provided one of the highlights of the week with a long buzzer-beater. That Fort Myers event has become one of the best Thanksgiving-week tournaments in the sport. The Gators are quite good now — and they’ve done it with seven transfers playing prominent minutes.
Record: 6-0. The Blue Devils started the season with a puffed-up win over Kentucky. Since then it’s been five home wins vs. sub-150 competition. The Gonzaga game (Friday night at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) is the first of two in the next week that will dictate our regard for this team. Next Tuesday is the only nonconference road game on the schedule, at Ohio State. If Duke wants any chance at a No. 1 seed this season, it will need to go 1-1 at minimum in those two, because there’s not another Quad 1 noncon game on the schedule.
Record: 5-0. Memphis didn’t allow Virginia Tech to score a point for four and a half minutes down the stretch Wednesday night (until Storm Murphy hit a shot with 19.3 seconds left) and ended the game on a 14-4 run. The defense is the story here. Offensively, the Tigers are ugly right now. Simple as that. But DeAndre Williams (16 pts, 10 rebs vs. VT) is the soul of this team and will need to be if the Tigers are to hold top-10 status most of the season. 8
Record: 4-0. The Trojans have two road wins, which is more than anyone else on this list. I will always reward that type of scheduling ambition (and success). The wins came at Temple and Florida Gulf Coast, but nevertheless, they were put on the schedule, USC flew across the country and got it done. Next up is the Wooden Legacy tourney out in Anaheim, which begins Thursday. 9
Record: 5-0. An incredible double-overtime 115-109 win Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis vs. No. 19 Auburn. Sixteen days into the season, I think that’s the best game of the bunch so far. The Huskies have a need-to-know player in sophomore big Adama Sanogo, who’s averaging 18.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 turnovers and is shooting 60.5% from 2-point range.10
Record: 5-0. Few teams have looked as coherent and seamless as the Bonnies. Boise State, Clemson and Marquette have all been dispatched by Kyle Lofton, Osun Ossuniyi and company. I told you in the preseason this was a top 20 team. Nothing to date has countered that assertion. 11
Record: 4-0. The Crimson Tide have yet to play a power-conference opponent, but that could change this weekend with the ESPN Events Invitational. First is Iona — a rematch of last year’s first round game in the NCAAs — and then a potential tilt vs. Belmont or Drake, either of which will be a tough assignment on a one-day turnaround. Nate Oats’ team is my pick to win the SEC. 12
Record: 5-1. On Wednesday, the Badgers were the surprise winner of this year’s Maui Invitational, which was held in Las Vegas due to the pandemic. It got me wondering: Does winning Maui historically suggest you’re headed to the NCAA Tournament? The Maui Invitational has existed since 1984, meaning there were 37 champions prior to this year. Only three teams failed to Dance (aside from Kansas in 2020, which would have been a No. 1 seed): Providence, 1985; Vanderbilt, 1987; Notre Dame, 2018. That’s a 92% hit rate. Be optimistic, Badgers fans. 13
Record: 5-0. The Razorbacks defeated Kansas State and Cincinnati (that was a tough one) to win the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City this week. This is a 5-0 team destined to be 9-0; the next four games come at home against teams slotted 210th (Penn), 343rd (Central Arkansas), 298th (Little Rock) and 218th (Charlotte) at KenPom. 14
Record: 6-0. The Rams entered this season with Sweet 16 hopes thanks to much of the roster returning. They’re in with room to spare thanks to a perfect start, most recently reinforced with a championship win at the Paradise Jam, which included a win over Creighton. Niko Medved has the best team in the Mountain West. 15
Record: 3-0. The Jayhawks had to find a way in, but they’ll be held back a bit on account of only having played thrice thus far (wins over Michigan State, Tarleton State and Stony Brook). Bigger tests await in the coming hours; KU is a part of the ESPN Events Invitational, and a game against Alabama could materialize over the weekend. 16
Record: 5-1. The Coogs might well have defeated Wisconsin in the Maui semifinals if the game was 41 minutes instead of 40. But a two-point loss on Tuesday put them in a consolation game against Oregon, and it was there and then that Kelvin Sampson’s team displayed precisely how angry they were with their performance a day prior. The Cougars mauled the Ducks so badly (78-49) that the win ensured they’d be in the debut edition. There’s also a 20-point victory over Virginia on UH’s docket. 17
Record: 5-0. Like Houston, BYU owns a dominant win over Oregon. (Oregon seems average-at-best, which almost no one predicted.) The Cougars have played three D-I opponents, one of their other wins being a quality one at home over San Diego State. Will need to win on the road in the Holy War against Utah on Saturday to stay in these here rankings next Thursday. 18
Record: 5-1. That Gonzaga loss Tuesday night was a damaging one, but the impressive home win against Villanova on Nov. 12 is still worth enough currency to keep the Bruins involved. I’m also affording Mick Cronin’s team a little slack in that it hasn’t had Cody Riley available. Good karma coming Cronin’s way in time — he’s one of the few coaches who’s stuck with the suit look in 2021. Props. 19
Record: 5-0. Will Wade’s Tigers will face their first major-conference opponent Friday (a green Penn State team), but the display of dominance through five games is too authoritative to not include here. LSU is winning its games by an average score of 85-51, and it’s the No. 1-rated team in steal percentage (19.1%) nationally.