Bauertology Top 25: Week 2

You’ll learn quickly that my rankings aren’t exactly what you’ll find on the AP Poll. Whereas preseason expectations and poll inertia allow teams that have underperformed to hang around in the AP Top 25, my rankings take one thing into account: results.

The 25 teams listed below are here because they’ve played the best basketball so far in this young season. There’s very little considerations made for the “they should be ranked because they were ranked in the preseason” attitude.

By the time we have a larger sample size and preseason expectations are out the window (I’d guess that time would be about January), you’ll see my poll and the AP Poll start to converge in similarities. But for now, those similarities are largely absent.

I should also mention that Tennessee, Florida State, Florida and Oregon, all of which were in my preseason poll, won’t be present in this poll either, simply because they haven’t played a game yet, and I feel it would be unfair to compare them to the teams that have already played at least once.

With that out of the way, let’s get into the Bauertology Top 25 for Week 2.

1. Gonzaga (+1)

It’s probably too soon to start the conversation about whether or not this is Mark Few’s most talented Gonzaga team… but it’s not too early to start thinking it. Through two games, the Bulldogs look like the most complete team in basketball. Their 2-0 start includes a 102-point showing against Kansas, as well as a 23-point win over Auburn. Five-star freshman Jalen Suggs looks as advertised, having scored 24 points in 24 minutes against the Jayhawks. More opportunities to shine are on the schedule with the formidable duo of West Virginia and Baylor up next.

2. Baylor (-1)

There’s no slight meant here by dropping Baylor out of the top spot. It’s just that Gonzaga looks unstoppable so far. But Scott Drew’s Bears aren’t that far behind. A 112-point explosion against Louisiana followed by a 34-point win over Washington provide evidence that the Bears’ lofty preseason expectations weren’t misplaced. Baylor has been especially lights out from 3-point range, knocking down half of such shots in the first two games. Baylor appears to be well on its way to another stellar season.

3. Wisconsin (+3)

Wisconsin’s returning players, namely Nate Reuvers, D’Mitrik Trice and Micah Potter, are already playing as well as the Badgers could have hoped, while freshmen Ben Carlson and Jonathan Davis are quickly becoming key contributors to the offense. Speaking of the offense, the Badgers have 169 points through two games. Those numbers won’t stay that high when conference play starts, but it’s a sign of improvement for a Wisconsin offense that has notoriously struggled in recent years.

4. Iowa (+1)

For anyone who thought that Luka Garza might regress this season… that’s not happening. The preseason Player of the Year favorite is already lighting it up, averaging 33.5 points and 9.5 rebounds through two games. Unsurprisingly, he’s been Iowa’s centerpiece. But the supporting cast hasn’t been bad either. Joe Wieskamp has been the best secondary piece with his scoring ability and strong presence on the boards. Still, the heart and soul of this team is Garza, and it’ll be that way all season.

5. West Virginia (+7)

A quick glance at the schedule may not show it, but a deeper look reveals a truly impressive start for West Virginia. The 3-0 Mountaineers possess wins over South Dakota State, a good team that should win the Summit League, VCU, a solid team that looks better than initially thought, and Western Kentucky, a mid-major contender that has played lights-out basketball through three games. Up next is a true challenge against Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic. A win there would surely turn the heads that aren’t already looking.

6. Michigan State (+5)

Trailing Notre Dame 26-22 in the first half, questions began to arise about how Michigan State would execute without Cassius Winston or Xavier Tillman… Those questions evaporated after the Spartans went on a 26-0 run. The only big question that remains is who will step up into the leadership role that Winston had, as Marquette transfer Joey Hauser was the only player with double-digit points in each of the first two games. The safe bet is the experienced Aaron Henry, whose scoring, rebounding and assisting abilities have already been on display.

7. Kansas (-3)

It’s hard to fault Kansas for losing to top-ranked Gonzaga, especially when the Jayhawks put up 90 points themselves. The more concerning result is their failure to create separation from mediocre Saint Joseph’s, no doubt caused by Marcus Garrett’s sudden disappearance (five points in 29 minutes). The good news is that the talented cast of Christian Braun, Ochai Agbaji and standout freshman Jalen Wilson are enough to keep Kansas a formidable force, even on Garrett’s off nights.

8. Houston (+10)

Kelvin Sampson couldn’t have asked for a much better start from his Cougars. Houston has won its first three games by an average of 21.7 points, including an 11-point victory over ranked Texas Tech. The surprising standout has been sophomore Marcus Sasser, who has knocked down 50% of his 3-pointers en route to scoring 17.7 points per game. If these trends continue, Houston will be a challenge for any team.

9. Illinois (+1)

Illinois initially appeared to be an unstoppable force following wins of 62 and 59 points to start the season, but a scary 77-75 decision over Ohio showed that this Fighting Illini team still has some growing pains to endure before joining the ranks of the elite. They have the talent to get there, especially with Ayo Dosunmu and his 25.7 points per game running the show. They just need to be consistent. The coming week’s matchups against Baylor and Duke present as good an opportunity as ever to shine.

10. Creighton (-3)

A 69-58 win over North Dakota State shouldn’t be too much cause for concern, especially when Creighton led by 15 for most of the second half. The issue lies within the 3-point shooting, which is supposed to be the Bluejays’ top strength. Creighton shot 8-35 from beyond the arc in the opener, with star sharpshooters Marcus Zegarowski and Mitch Ballock going a combined 4-20 from deep. That’ll have to be cleaned up before tougher opponents like Kansas and the Big East grind appear on the schedule in December.

11. Villanova (-8)

Jay Wright’s squad hasn’t quite lived up to expectations. Aside from an excellent ranked win over Arizona State, the Wildcats have a scare from Boston College and a sloppy overtime loss to Virginia Tech on their résumé. It’s not the start that anyone was expecting. The individual pieces have been fine, especially Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and his 20 points and nine rebounds per game, but the team cohesion needs to be better. It would be in Villanova’s best interest to figure it out sooner rather than later, as the Wildcats have four games over the next six days.

12. Richmond (NEW)

Of all the mid-major teams not named Gonzaga, Richmond has been the most impressive thus far. Chris Mooney’s Spiders made a statement on Sunday with a 12-point win over Kentucky in Lexington. It’s important to note that star point guard Jacob Gilyard hasn’t been playing his best basketball (six points vs. Kentucky), nor have the Spiders been shooting the lights out from deep (28.6%). They’re not even playing at their peak right now, and they’re taking down perennial Final Four contenders on the road. That’s a truly terrifying prospect.

13. Saint Louis (NEW)

Richmond isn’t the only Atlantic 10 team turning heads. Saint Louis is suddenly on the radar with an impressive home win over SEC contender LSU. Senior guard Javonte Perkins has been a bucket machine, notching nights of 22 and 32 points in the first two games and shooting 61.5% from deep. Remember, these numbers and victories are coming without forward Hasahn French, who has been sidelined with a concussion. His return could make the Billikens’ attack absolutely devastating.

14. Duke (-5)

It’s true that a win is a win. But Saturday’s 81-71 result over Coppin State was anything but a moral victory. The Blue Devils looked scared against a vastly inferior opponent, with much of that fear coming from the veterans. If not for the performances of freshmen Jalen Johnson and DJ Steward, Duke could have been in hot water. Coach Mike Krzyzewski needs his team to feel confident in time for Tuesday, as the Blue Devils prepare for Michigan State in the Champions Classic.

15. San Diego State (NEW)

No Malachi Flynn? No problem! Even with the reigning Mountain West Player of the Year now in the NBA, San Diego State came out of the gate swinging, taking down in-state rival UCLA by 15 points on opening night. Senior Matt Mitchell has been the biggest contributor so far, but it’s truly been an eight- or nine-deep effort that has gotten the Aztecs to 2-0. We’ll see how long San Diego State can remain unbeaten, as Arizona State, BYU and Saint Mary’s all present challenges in December before conference play starts on Dec. 31.

16. Virginia Tech (NEW)

Mike Young is turning out to be an excellent coaching hire to replace Buzz Williams. Under Young, Virginia Tech has continued its giant killer status, as the Hokies downed Villanova on Saturday, marking the program’s fourth win over an AP top 3 team in the last six tries. Needless to say, Virginia Tech knows how to play underdog basketball. There have been some concerns this year, namely a close call against Radford to begin the season, but the point remains that Virginia Tech is off to a 3-0 start for the third year in a row.

17. Rutgers (+2)

Rutgers’ patience with Steve Pikiell is paying off. Since he became the head coach in 2016, the Scarlet Knights have gotten better every single year. 2020-21 has begun on the right foot with a 3-0 record, although that number hides the struggles to put away inferior opponents Sacred Heart and Fairleigh Dickinson early enough. Still, the Scarlet Knights are talented, and they’ll only get better once Geo Baker returns from injury. They’ll have to make an impression in conference play, as Tuesday’s match with Syracuse is their only remaining non-con game.

18. Western Kentucky (NEW)

Usually, it’s not easy to look at a 2-1 team from Conference USA and think that it deserves to be in the conversation for the top 25. But Western Kentucky has done just that. WKU has played phenomenal basketball, going 2-1 in the Crossover Classic with wins over tournament contenders Northern Iowa and Memphis and a nail-biting loss to one of the best teams in the nation in West Virginia. WKU was the C-USA favorite heading into the season, and it’s clear to see why now. Keep an eye out for Tuesday’s tilt at Louisville. The Hilltoppers could continue to surprise.

19. Arizona State (-3)

It’s become clear that this year’s Arizona State team is loaded with talent. Through three games, the Sun Devils already have four starters averaging 15+ points per contest, with five-star freshmen Josh Christopher and Marcus Bagley leading the charge. Arizona State did take a loss in the first week, but it came by nine points to an upper-tier Villanova squad, so it’s difficult to punish the Sun Devils too much. The best should be yet to come for this young, exciting team.

20. Louisville (NEW)

A lot of credit must go to Chris Mack for leading this team to a 3-0 start following an offseason of turnover; Four of last year’s starters were seniors, and the fifth, junior Jordan Nwora, left for the NBA. It’s not just any 3-0 start, as the Cardinals were able to put a thrilling win over Seton Hall under their belt. However, the defense does need to tighten up quite a bit, and you’d like to see the team’s 3-point percentage improve (29.8%), especially with Western Kentucky, UNC Greensboro and Wisconsin all on the schedule within the next 10 days.

21. Texas (0)

Certainly more data is needed, but through one game, the Longhorns look quite good. Against Texas-Rio Grande Valley, the Longhorns put up 91 points, 37 of them coming from the backcourt duo of Matt Coleman III and Courtney Ramey. Top-10 freshman Greg Brown also posted a double-double in his first college game. Those are encouraging signs for a Shaka Smart-led team that looks amazing on paper. Monday’s matchup against Davidson should tell us more about this team, as should Sunday’s looming challenge against Villanova.

22. Texas Tech (-5)

Texas Tech is another team dealing with growing pains in a new-look roster, and we saw those come to fruition in an 11-point loss to Houston on Sunday evening. The Red Raiders’ primary struggle was from beyond the arc, going 4-18 from 3-point range on the day. The kinks should work themselves out over time, though, as the talent is clearly here. It’s encouraging to see that the transfers are providing a spark already, especially Georgetown’s Mac McClung, who has 54 points through three games.

23. Clemson (NEW)

A handful of undefeated power conference teams have been flying under the radar early, and Clemson is one of them. Don’t sleep on the Tigers, which have put up back-to-back double-digit wins over power conference opponents to start the season. Brad Brownell’s squad will truly be tested once Alabama, Virginia Tech and Florida State all appear on the schedule in mid/late-December, but the early numbers have been promising for Clemson.

24. North Carolina (0)

North Carolina’s opening-season win over Charleston saw a mixed bag of results from the roster. The youth looked excellent, especially freshman Caleb Love, whose 17 points quickly filled the backcourt absence of Cole Anthony. The experience, meanwhile, wasn’t so great. Senior Garrison Brooks struggled to find the hoop consistently, while junior Leaky Black was essentially a non-factor. The Tar Heels will need to get everyone on the right page before they can think about upsetting Luka Garza and the Hawkeyes on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

25. Colorado (NEW)

Starting the season 2-0 away from home is no easy feat. Colorado did just that, taking down South Dakota and Kansas State by a combined 41 points. Unsurprisingly, McKinley Wright IV has been the star of the show, netting 44 total points on efficient shooting. The grind continues for Tad Boyle’s squad, as the Buffaloes will finish its three-game, season-opening road trip with a Wednesday bout against fellow Pac-12 contender Arizona.

Next 5: Ohio State, Kentucky, Virginia, Indiana, Alabama

Also considered: Marquette, Arkansas, Xavier, VCU, TCU, Michigan

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