CBB Contender Series 5.0

Welcome to the place where we go beyond traditional ranking systems. Sure, you can look at the AP top-25 or the NCAA’s NET rankings or simply Kenpom’s top-10. We’re diving deeper, acknowledging that the human eye can be misleading, and that data is the best way to approach predicting the madness come March. Don’t just take my word here for it, take a look here where I break down exactly what the data is telling me. I will be defining teams as “vulnerable” or “impenetrable” or simply “flyers”, exactly what backs up my logic for these can also found in the first article. For now, a synopsis: Vulnerable teams are the statistical archetype of a team that is likely to be upset the first weekend. Impenetrable teams are the antithesis of that, fitting the archetype of teams who almost never miss the Sweet 16. Finally the flyers, teams that don’t fit those narrow barometers but find themselves in or around the top-10. So, every week we’ll take a look at Kenpom’s 10 most efficient teams and define them, look at their week (or season if they’re new) and assess where they truly stand in the Contender vs Pretender debate. To see my initial breakdown of these teams refer to v-1, the following will be an update on the week each team had if they were also in the top-10 last week. *—–* indicates change in archetype.

  1. Houston (19-2) Off (7) Def (3) – IMPENETRABLE
    • Houston finally looked vulnerable this past week with a loss at home to Temple, ugly. However, the data still tells us this team is the best in the Country and they bounced back with a road win over UCF who happens to be the 3rd best team in the American Conference. Sometimes the offense goes quiet for Houston, but what usually makes them able to score is their offensive rebounding. Temple was able to keep them off the glass and muck up the game. It’s a very difficult task to pull off but you have to control the glass against this team to have a chance, and you have to be a team a tough ass dudes because Houston is relentless. The road demolition of UCF to bounce back proved just how great they can be, and they show up in the biggest moments and come ready for a fight. Houston should be the odds-on favorite to win this thing this year, as the group behind them is rocky at best. It’s worth noting again, teams who are top-10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency entering the tournament are historically dominant…the data doesn’t lie.
  2. Tennessee (17-3) Off (40) Def (1) – FLYER
    • Tennessee has continued to beat up on the middle and bottom parts of the SEC, but when push has come to shove they’ve struggled against the better competition this year. It’s a weird conundrum for this group, as they’ve now gone back to Zakai Zeigler in the starting lineup and moved the big man Plavsic to the bench. Either way this team will defend at an elite level, they are just trying to figure out how to generate consistent offensive play as they’re teetering on entering the vulnerable territory due to the inefficiency on that end. There is still a lot of love for the Vols around the Country, but man am I getting worried about this group. Maybe it’s short sighted, but the data is screaming at us. Sure, against bad teams they are able to suffocate and dominate, but in the tournament to win 4 straight against elite teams, I’m not convinced yet. Maybe the recent lineup changes can make a difference. Tonight they welcome fellow top-10 team Texas with a chance to change my mind a little.
  3. UCLA (17-4) Off (20) Def (5) – *FLYER*
    • Back-to-back losses for the Bruins have dropped them from the Impenetrable category to Flyer territory as they have been shut down on the offensive end. Now, I had in weeks past been contributing this to missing Amari Bailey, but Bailey was back for the 2nd loss at USC so things are starting to get concerning on that end. Ultimately, I think they ran into the 2 best teams in the Pac-12, besides themselves, on the road and lost two dog fights, nothing to be overly concerned about. This is one of the most experienced teams in the Country, with several guys on the team who went on that Final 4 run a couple of years ago, and after a Sweet 16 loss last year they have to be keying in on that March run. UCLA in my mind is right behind Houston and Alabama as the best bets right now, and the data agrees.
  4. Alabama (18-2) Off (15) Def (4) – IMPENETRABLE
    • Bama is right there with UCLA as teams turning it on at the exact right time, as they are now rolling through the SEC and look like a true contender. Nate Oates finally has this team playing connected defensively and of course playing that fast wide open offense he is known for. Auburn and Tennessee are still down the road but at this point Bama is the clear favorite in the SEC. and have I mentioned Brandon Miller? He might be the best player in the Country and nobody is really discussing it. All the talk of the big men, meanwhile Brandon miller is averaging 20 ppg shooting 46% from 3, absolutely ridiculous. Pairing him with Mark Sears who was good enough to send Jahvon Quinerly to the bench makes the Tide incredibly dangerous. Oh and they went on the road and beat Houston. Mic drop.
  5. Purdue (20-1) Off (4) Def (18) – FLYER
    • It’s a historically great season happening in West Lafayette right now as the Boilers just keep racking up Big Ten wins, including a 5-0 record on the road now in Conference. The unicorn of Zach Edey surrounded by smart talented 3-star kids has proven to be too much to handle for all of these decorated teams Purdue has knocked off. Crazy what Matt Painter is doing, as he has to be the front-runner today for COY. Plus we have seen that defensive number climb climb climb and now they are knocking on the door of that elusive top-15. It could be next week when we see the Boilers enter into the Impenetrable category, but as it stands they are the best looking Flyer on the board. Zach Edey looks poised to absolutely dominate March, and is the frontrunner for NPOY. Clearly a 1 seed at this point, this is by far the programs best looking chance to finally get Matt Painter over the hump and into the Final Four for the first time. Data says watch the defense, but man Edey is a problem.
  6. Uconn (16-6) Off (11) Def (14) – IMPENETREBLE
    • Alarm bells are going off all around this program as Uconn has lost 6 out of 8 and are in complete freefall. Somehow the data still says Impenetrable, but I can’t imagine if they keep playing like this that is going to remain. Obviously, the data is not reactionary and takes into account the complete season, but who Uconn is today seems to be quite different from the Uconn we saw early in the season who started 14-0 and was killing everyone in their path. There was a time many thought this was the best team in the Country, but man has the quality of play fallen off. Defensively they are playing with much less intensity, see the 82 points they allowed Xavier to have at home, and offensively teams have found out you can leave Andre Jackson wide open and he’ll throw up brick after brick. They get DePaul and Georgetown next to get right, but my confidence in these Huskies sure has diminished.  
  7. Saint Mary’s (17-4) Off (36) Def (6) – *FLYER*
    • An improvement for the Gaels since we last met as the offense has been able to put up some points in their victories over Pepperdine and Santa Clara, not exactly a murderers row but nonetheless they keep playing winning basketball. We spoke extensively last week about what Randy Bennett has accomplished during his historic career at Saint Mary’s but he’s trying this year to de-throne the king in Gonzaga, two matchups with them remain with the first being next weekend at home. They need to knock Gonzaga off to improve their resume for March, as this wide open field appears to be Bennett’s best shot at getting this program deep into the tournament. They’ve only made it out of the first weekend once (2010) under Bennett, but they’ve also never ended the season top-10 in overall efficiency. Could this be the group?
  8. Marquette (16-5) Off (1) Def (68) – VULNERABLE
    • The only newcomer of the week is Shaka Smart’s Marquette Golden Eagles. As you would expect from a Shaka led team Marquette is playing fast, wide open and aggressive which has landed them some big time wins and now puts them as the top overall offense in the Country. As much as they impress offensively, the questions come on the defensive end as 68th puts them in the Vulnerable category. I have rambled on and on about the trouble that unbalanced teams face in March, but Marquette looks like the perfect team to enter March and suffer a 1st round upset. You see it year after year with teams who are elite offensively but don’t compete defensively. They will let a lesser opponent get hot and get some confidence which will result in their demise. See Ohio St against Oral Roberts a year ago. I love Shaka, and I love when teams play fast and free flowing, but you have to match that energy on the other end of the floor. So far, the Golden Eagles haven’t found that magic combo like an Alabama for example. If that remains the case I will absolutely be avoiding them come bracket season.
  9. Texas (17-3) Off (12) Def (27) – FLYER
    • The Longhorn appear to have righted the ship after the tumultuous few weeks that followed Chris Beard’s exit from the program. The defense has taken a hit but they still are winning games in an incredibly difficult Big 12. Offensively they look a little more freed up as Marcus Carr and Timmy Allen have really been playing well the last few weeks as the leaders of the offense. Frankly, they have so much offensive talent they absolutely should be one of the toughest teams to slow down in the country, as they have playmakers like Tyrese Hunter and Sir’Jabari Rice as well at the Guard spot and even Dylan Disu and Christian Bishop in the front court. It is a loaded roster that was a pre-season favorite for a reason. All they pressure has been vaulted onto interim HC Rodney Terry. Terry was previously a HC at UTEP and Fresno St, so he’s experienced and has proven to be a good leader as he’s kept this team from free falling after losing it’s HC. A trip to Tennessee this weekend presents a big test for how resilient this group is.
  10. Kansas (16-4) Off (25) Def (16) – *FLYER*
    • Once the obvious top overall seed in bracket projections the Jayhawks have now entered a bit of a free-fall dropping 3 straight Big 12 games in pretty convincing fashion. The small ball lineup that we have warned about has been showing its limitations as teams have gone to the paint successfully with regularity and they are really struggling to win the battle of the boards. It is difficult defensively with no shot blocking prescence and even more so when you routinely give up offensive rebounds when you do force a miss. Not to mention Jalen Wilson has been the only reliable offensive player for them, as he has had to shoulder the scoring load scoring 38/30/23 in those 3 losses. Somehow they need to get back to team rebounding and find a way to get other people going offensively or else they will fall out of this top-10. The dangerous thing is up next is trip to a desperate and improving Kentucky team who is looking for a signature win to get them on the right side of the bubble. I smell loss 4 in a row coming.

Dropped: Arizona (15)

CBB Contender Series 4.0

Welcome to the place where we go beyond traditional ranking systems. Sure, you can look at the AP top-25 or the NCAA’s NET rankings or simply Kenpom’s top-10. We’re diving deeper, acknowledging that the human eye can be misleading, and that data is the best way to approach predicting the madness come March. Don’t just take my word here for it, take a look here where I break down exactly what the data is telling me. I will be defining teams as “vulnerable” or “impenetrable” or simply “flyers”, exactly what backs up my logic for these can also found in the first article. For now, a synopsis: Vulnerable teams are the statistical archetype of a team that is likely to be upset the first weekend. Impenetrable teams are the antithesis of that, fitting the archetype of teams who almost never miss the Sweet 16. Finally the flyers, teams that don’t fit those narrow barometers but find themselves in or around the top-10. So, every week we’ll take a look at Kenpom’s 10 most efficient teams and define them, look at their week (or season if they’re new) and assess where they truly stand in the Contender vs Pretender debate. To see my initial breakdown of these teams refer to v-1, the following will be an update on the week each team had if they were also in the top-10 last week. *—–* indicates change in archetype.

  1. Houston (17-1) Off (10) Def (2) – IMPENETRABLE 
    • Another week another dominant stretch for this Houston program. 2 wins @ Cincy and at home over USF continue to hold Houston at the top of these Kenpom rankings and they now sit top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Things got a little squirrely in the win over USF as they were actually down in the 2nd half, but like most great teams they locked in when it mattered and got it done. As long as Houston brings the fight they can take down anyone, you just worry if they’ll throw a sleeper like this in the tourney. It’s unlikely, but one popping up makes us pay attention. Nonetheless, they’re still in the impenetrable category, and at top-10 in both look primed to make a run to the Final Four and cement Kelvin Sampson as one of the best coaches in college hoops history. Seeding is going to become a part of this discussion soon however, and right now Houston is barely hanging on to a 1 seed. The lack of competition in the American may hurt Houston come Selection Sunday.
  2. Tennessee (14-2) Off (31) Def (1) – FLYER
    • A 2-0 week in the SEC is always an accomplishment, but really it was a ho-hum week for the Vols as they beat 2 of the worst teams in the Conference. The continuing theme with Tennessee for us is the offensive struggles, but it is necessary to point out now that since Josiah-Jordan James has come back to the lineup they are averaging 83 ppg. Now, the competition hasn’t exactly been very great but nonetheless that is an encouraging sign for a team that has had its struggles on that end. The defense will always be there, but the scoring issues that have frankly plagued this program for a couple of years now are the hump this team has to get over. They also face a similar budding issue as Houston as their resume starts to get stagnant, they will need some big time wins in SEC play to solidify a top seed. Right now they sit on the 3 line in our latest bracket. 
  3. UCLA (15-2) Off (15) Def (4) – IMPENETRABLE
    • A dismantling of Utah slides UCLA up into the 3 slot this week as they continue to smother people defensively, just as Mick Cronin dreams about. It’s amazing to see Cronin come into a program known historically for that splashy fast paced West coast brand of basketball and immediately turn them into that mucky, grindy midwestern program he is known for. Pair that leadership ability and an early run to the Final 4 in his 2nd year and we’re talking about a guy in Mick Cronin that is seriously underrated. The slide to 15 offensively is in my opinion due to the Amari Bailey injury, as he has been an important scoring option for them, but once he’s back UCLA becomes easily one of the favorites this year to make a deep run. One last easy home game against Colorado sets them up for a trio of road games that will really tell us what we need to know about these Bruins. Arizona St, Arizona, USC all on the road. That’s when we learn. 
  4. UConn (15-3) Off (11) Def (9) – IMPENETRABLE 
    • Listen to the data, listen to the data. It is admittedly really difficult right now to believe in UConn as one of the best teams in the Country now that they’ve lost 3 out of 4 games. However, the 3 losses were on the road to really good Big East foes but that isn’t doing much for my brain and my “eye test”. The data is responding negatively as they’ve dropped from 1st to 4th overall, but it’s much more level headed than I. Again we must remember, we’re here so that the data will win, so that our dumb monkey brains don’t get in the way of what the data is telling us. And at this point it is still telling us we should believe in the Huskies. What we need from them is a little win streak, as they have a softer schedule coming up where the toughest opponents will be in their building. My brain needs a 7-game winning streak, and frankly I imagine the data does too if they want to hang on to that impenetrable tag. 
  5. Purdue (16-1) Off (1) Def (29) – FLYER
    • A 2-0 week in the Big Ten including a road win over Penn St who is scratching and clawing on the bubble is a fantastic week for these Boilers. Zach Edey continues to be the frontrunner NPOY and the defensive side of the ball is slowly but surely improving. It is of course that end of the floor that keeps Purdue in the Flyer category, but they increasingly become a Flyer that you start to feel more confident in. I’ve said it a million times throughout this series, unbalanced teams face trouble, but the movement to the better is what you want to see. And having a 7’4” unicorn inside for teams to gameplan against makes them a bit of a unique specimen when March rolls around. We’ve also documented the shooting struggles; those have subsided as that #1 offensive ranking indicates. So long as these perimeter players are knocking down shots around Edey, Purdue will remain one of the most dangerous teams in the Country. 
  6. Alabama (14-2) Off (16) Def (10) – FLYER
    • Alabama continues its meteoric rise through these rankings as they’ve now climbed from outside the top-10 to a nice and cozy 6th. They sit as close to the Impenetrable category as you can get, with the Offense just outside the top-15, but climbing. I’m starting to fall in love with this Alabama team, the length, the athleticism, the shot making ability, the defensive intensity…basketball porn these last few weeks. And let’s not forget one of the best Freshmen in the Country in Brandon Miller. The man is incredible and one of the more fascinating watches in college hoops right now as teams try and face guard him and take him away, ask Arkansas how that went. Speaking of which, Alabama went on the road and dismantled the Hogs and knocked them out of the top-10 (spoiler) and cemented themselves as a 1 seed and SEC frontrunner. A clash with Tennessee doesn’t come until mid-February but boy I cannot wait for that one. 
  7. Kansas (15-1) Off (13) Def (13) – *IMPENETRABLE*
    • We’ve talked about this years Kansas team and their small ball lineup quite a bit, as it both challenges opponents and gives them opportunity. We almost saw it come to fruition against Oklahoma last week, but the Jayhawks were able to scramble back from 10 points down with 5 minutes left to pull out another win. Kansas is playing with fire a little bit, but I’m sure Bill Self knows it. We actually saw 12 minutes from 6’10 SO Zach Clemence against the Sooners, so maybe Self is starting to feel that pull for a big man. That defensive number continues to trickle upwards though as they’ve gone from 6th – 10th – 13th over the last few weeks. Teams know they can drive the ball hard with no real shot blocking presence, pair that with a good shooting team and these Jayhawks get real vulnerable real fast. I think they might start feeling that soon. 
  8. Texas (14-2) Off (14) Def (27) – FLYER
    • Alright so I may have overreacted last week a bit, to be fair it is extremely difficult to gauge who this Texas team is right now. They remain a flyer but who knows what Texas team is going to show up night after night. Sometimes they guard well, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the offense looks good other times it looks atrocious. Either way they went 2-0 last week in a gauntlet of a Big 12, no easy task. But, I did say I wouldn’t be writing about them again this week and here we are, so something is at least moving in a positive way. I suppose one should only assume that a mid-season coaching scandal and subsequent firing would result in a tumultuous team, I just wonder where they will land in the next few weeks. Good new, we’ll be here to document exactly that. 
  9. Saint Mary’s (15-4) Off (52) Def (5) – *VULNERABLE*
    • An addition to the top-10 and I must admit my monkey brain is again questioning the data. However, we don’t let that happen around here, in the data we trust. So, let’s figure out exactly how the Gaels of Saint Mary’s found their way to the number 9 spot. What we know about the Gaels is their led by HC of 20+ years Randy Bennett, who has consistently had this program playing great basketball on the defensive end of the floor. They have an extremely solid starting 5 that is experienced and poised to make life very difficult for Gonzaga out in the West Coast Conference this season. Could they finally dethrone the king? The thing holding them back and putting them in this vulnerable category however, is the offense. They are one of the worst FT shooting teams in the Country, and struggle from inside the arc as well. It is worth noting that this number has trickled better due to the shift into Conference play as they’ve found a groove. They still play BYU and Gonzaga twice, so we are going to find out a whole lot more about this squad in the weeks to come. For now, they remain a vulnerable top-10 team. 
  10. Arizona (15-2) Off (3) Def (63) – VULNERABLE
    • Arizona’s weakness came to haunt them this week as they faced Washington St at home and lost. The shots stopped falling and there was no defense to be found against a pretty poor offensive team. Arizona could be well on their way out of this top-10 and should be entrenched in the vulnerable category moving forward. Remember this if you remember anything about Arizona, if you have the size to limit their bigs, they are dead. The Arizona guards are not nearly as good as last season’s, and Ballo and Tubelis are forced to carry the load inside. If you can control the glass and limit those two, Arizona becomes very weak. Do not trust Arizona in March, I repeat, do not trust Arizona in March. This is why you come here, this is why we play the game. Trust in the data. 

CBB Contender Series – III

Welcome to the place where we go beyond traditional ranking systems. Sure, you can look at the AP top-25 or the NCAA’s NET rankings or simply Kenpom’s top-10. We’re diving deeper, acknowledging that the human eye can be misleading, and that data is the best way to approach predicting the madness come March. Don’t just take my word here for it, take a look here where I break down exactly what the data is telling me. I will be defining teams as “vulnerable” or “impenetrable” or simply “flyers”, exactly what backs up my logic for these can also found in the first article. For now, a synopsis: Vulnerable teams are the statistical archetype of a team that is likely to be upset the first weekend. Impenetrable teams are the antithesis of that, fitting the archetype of teams who almost never miss the Sweet 16. Finally the flyers, teams that don’t fit those narrow barometers but find themselves in or around the top-10. So, every week we’ll take a look at Kenpom’s 10 most efficient teams and define them, look at their week (or season if they’re new) and assess where they truly stand in the Contender vs Pretender debate. To see my initial breakdown of these teams refer to v-1, the following will be an update on the week each team had if they were also in the top-10 last week. *—–* indicates change in archetype.

  1. Houston (15-1) Off (12) Def (2) – IMPENETRABLE 
    • Since we last met this Cougars group has done what they are supposed to, with a peak and a valley. UCF actually came into Houston and put up a fight, but ultimately Houston got away with a close W thanks in large part to their 19 offensive rebounds. Houston is unbelievable in that respect and in their 2nd W since we last met over SMU they even surpassed that number with 21 offensive rebounds (more than SMU had defensively…) It’s never going to be pretty for Houston, but damn are they relentlessly tough. You can’t keep em off the glass, you simply can’t. That isn’t just a snapshot either, on the season they rank 1st in the country in offensive rebounding. When most people think of difficult offenses to stop, they picture elite shooters or maybe a dominant post man, Houston has none of that. They just get multiple shots at it on an insane number of possessions. Much is made about the game of basketball getting soft, let me tell you if you walk into a game against Houston and are soft, you’ll be pissing down your leg come halftime, just ask SMU. An interesting test at Cincy awaits this team, but it’s looking like Houston might not lose another game, they are that good (and the American Conf is that bad).
  2. Tennessee (12-2) ) Off (38) Def (1) – *FLYER*
    • The Vols had a rare offensive explosion to move them from the “vulnerable” category into the “flyer” category as they dropped 87 on what had been an elite defensive team in Mississippi St. Josiah-Jordan James is back after a month out and he hit 2 threes, another shooter helps this group a lot. However, as we’ve discussed here many times unbalanced teams can struggle so we’ll be watching to see if this was just a flash in the pan or if they can continue to knock down shots with more consistency. Obviously, as the top ranked team defensively this group can hang their hat on that end, but in their 2 losses it was the offensive end let them down and that has also led to some close games that shouldn’t have been so close. A couple rare SEC cupcakes await, but we will be finding out more about this Vols group as we get deeper into January. 
  3. UConn (14-2) Off (9) Def (5) – IMPENETRABLE 
    • Admittedly it’s tough to hang on to that “Impenetrable” tag after watching the Huskies go 0-2 in the last week, but we must trust the data. 2 tough losses on the road against 2 really good Big East teams is certainly nothing to panic about. The worry appears to be on the defensive end, as they got gashed by both Xavier and Providence, allowing 83 and 73 respectively which was the most and 2nd most they had given up all season. Now, this could be a wakeup call, get the engines humming again after the holidays, or it’s a warning sign that maybe the hype wasn’t all that justified. Good news is we have 2 months to watch it shake out. For now, the data still points to UConn being one of the favorites to make a run come March. And here we trust the data. But falling from 1-3 in the rankings is a negative trend that must be acknowledged. Consider it acknowledged. 
  4. UCLA (14-2) Off (10) Def (7) – IMPENETRABLE
    • A 3-0 week in the Pac-12 for the Bruins since we last met, not bad considering they are without star Freshman Amari Bailey. That included 2 road wins over the Washington teams as well as a home win last night over USC. Very impressive week for the Bruins as they continue to embody Mick Cronin’s tough minded/scrappy style. The Pac-12 has some imbalance as the teams at the bottom are pretty bad, but there will be some real tests coming for UCLA, with the ultimate being a Jan 21 visit to Arizona. In terms of consistency and building momentum I would put UCLA right with Houston right now at the top of the true contender list. UConn right there but the negative trend is worrisome in this snapshot of time. Look forward to seeing UCLA face the bigger challenges that await them. 
  5. Kansas (13-1) Off (13) Def (10) – *IMPENETRABLE*
    • A road win over Texas Tech in which they dropped 75 points on 67 possessions was good enough to tilt them into the “Impenetrable” category. They have been back and forth from Flyer to Impenetrable so it’s tough to get a gauge on where they sit, but one thing is for sure is they are an elite team. Now, the defense is starting to get exposed which I would directly attribute to their lack of a big man, as I’ve written about before. The small ball lineup is fascinating, but as teams adjust we may see Kansas get exposed a bit defensively and see that ranking drift upwards. A trip tomorrow to W. Virginia presents another tough road game against a tourney quality opponent. What W. Virginia has that Texas Tech doesn’t is a combo of bigs Tre Mitchell and Jimmy Bell at 6’9” and 6’10” respectively that are going to challenge Kansas in the paint. Rebounding will be huge, and we’ll see just how effective this small ball lineup can be against some quality bigs. 
  6. Purdue (14-1) Off (4) Def (32) – FLYER
    • A roller-coaster week for the AP #1 Boilers as they lost in rare fashion at home to Rutgers in the dying moments only to head to Columbus and beat Ohio St in almost identical fashion. We have spoken at great length about this top-5 ranked offense and it’s poor shooting stretch over the last few weeks, but the trip to Ohio St saw them jolt right out of that slump as they hit 13 threes and scored 71 points on 60 possessions. Zach Edey is still a unicorn and matchup nightmare, but what makes Purdue dangerous is when the surrounding cast can knockdown shots. The defense shows some weaknesses as well, keeping them deep into the flyer category. What they can’t rely on is to get consistent stops when the offense goes cold, see the Rutgers loss. That is what makes it tough to win 3-4-5-6 games in a row against great competition in March.
  7. Arizona (14-1) Off (1) Def (55) – VULNERABLE
    • Arizona’s defensive numbers are crawling in the right direction as they beat up on lesser competition, but they remain in the vulnerable category this week. A win over Washington isn’t going to do much for anybody and they welcome Washington St next, who again doesn’t represent much of a challenge to opponents’ defenses. Again, unbalanced teams such as this statistically struggle to make it out of the first weekend, so as the Pac-12 season continues on we will be tracking this defense to see if any improvements are made. Last week they were 67th, so certainly a move in the right direction, can they sustain it? That’s why we’re here every week. 
  8. Alabama (12-2) Off (19) Def (12) – FLYER
    • A home blowout of Ole Miss really doesn’t change what we believe about Alabama here, but the improvement offensively was nice to see as they inch closer to the Impenetrable category. If you read my breakdown last week, you know I love Nate Oats, but the fear with Alabama is how out of control they can get on both ends of the floor. His style is fast paced, aggressive and essentially an all-out siege for 40 minutes. What has happened when this Alabama team has gotten in trouble this year is they get undisciplined defensively and turn the ball over offensively. Bama has gone from not in our top-10 to 9th last week to now 8th. Great progress, but the next step is to see them take on an elite opponent and stay poised and under control. Next time we meet they will have played Kentucky and Arkansas, we may just get what we ask for. 
  9. Arkansas (12-2) Off (39) Def (4) – FLYER
    • The Hogs are grinding out wins right now without one of their best scorers Nick Smith, who has been out a while but has left a hole for Arkansas on offense. On the flip side the defense continues to strengthen as they just held a red hot Missouri team to 68 points. This is just another team that has to rely on stops and cross their fingers they can knock down enough shots. The stat the embodies that is their 3 pt shooting, as they rank 317th in the country from deep. It is really tough to imagine if that continues they will be able to make a run, but hey they still fall into the Flyer category and have hope of a Nick Smith return. Stranger things have happened. 
  10. Texas (12-2) Off (7) Def (41) – FLYER
    • Please refer to last week’s edition if the following doesn’t make sense. What did I tell you? Chris Beard has now been officially fired and this may be the last edition I get to write about the Texas Longhorns. With Beard at the helm Texas was a top-10 defensive team, they now rank 41st and are free-falling game by game. They fell from 6th to 10th overall and the program might be taking a turn as we speak for complete destruction. Hopefully, for the good of college basketball they get their shit together, but for now this team is in free fall after giving up 116 points in a HOME LOSS to Kansas St. In what world could you imagine a Chris Beard (potential bad guy) coached team giving up 116 points?? I don’t have proof but I guarantee that never happened. A trip to Oklahoma St could be a pivotal moment for this group, because if they get ran through again I can’t imagine that train could get back on the tracks.  

CBB Contender Series – II

Welcome to the place where we go beyond traditional ranking systems. Sure, you can look at the AP top-25 or the NCAA’s NET rankings or simply Kenpom’s top-10. We’re diving deeper, acknowledging that the human eye can be misleading, and that data is the best way to approach predicting the madness come March. Don’t just take my word here for it, take a look here where I break down exactly what the data is telling me. I will be defining teams as “vulnerable” or “impenetrable” or simply “flyers”, exactly what backs up my logic for these can also found in the first article. For now, a synopsis: Vulnerable teams are the statistical archetype of a team that is likely to be upset the first weekend. Impenetrable teams are the antithesis of that, fitting the archetype of teams who almost never miss the Sweet 16. Finally the flyers, teams that don’t fit those narrow barometers but find themselves in or around the top-10. So, every week we’ll take a look at Kenpom’s 10 most efficient teams and define them, look at their week (or season if they’re new) and assess where they truly stand in the Contender vs Pretender debate. To see my initial breakdown of these teams refer to v-1, the following will be an update on the week each team had if they were also in the top-10 last week. *—–* indicates change in archetype.

  1. Houston (13-1) Off (13) Def (2) – *IMPENETRABLE*
    • An absolute drubbing of Tulsa on the road 89-50 was the only action for Houston since we last met, and it was good enough to tip them into the Impenetrable category. The offense was the concern as we discussed last week, and they broke out in a big way. Sasser and Walker, their 2 leading scorers, only combined for 18 points which is a great sign as the rest of the team made major contributions. The American Conference is not going to be much of a test for Houston, so we’ll be keying in on the few matchups against quality teams that they do have, namely Memphis and UCF. For now, Houston looks like one of the best teams in the Country and their toughness and defensive ability have them looking like a sure thing to reach the 2nd weekend come March.
  2. Uconn (14-0) Off (7) Def (4) – IMPENETRABLE
    • Uconn is the best team in the country right now and handled a much-improved Villanova team with Cam Whitmore back and healthy. Despite Sanogo being in foul trouble the Huskies still took care of business thanks to their ability to control the game on both ends of the floor. They can get stops and have enough weapons offensively to make it extremely difficult to stop them. Top-7 in both categories puts them in rare air and the absolute #1 candidate by my metrics to win the whole damn thing in March. Now, by the next edition of this the Huskies will have played both Xavier and Providence on the road. Those games could really tell who these Huskies are. Going 2-0 in those games could put them atop this list, but a loss or 2 could show us a weakness we haven’t seen yet. The beauty of this series is tracking these ebbs and flows, should be fun.
  3. Tennessee (11-2) Off (55) Def (1) – *VULNERABLE*
    • The offense is now very concerning for the Vols, and while they won their only game since we last met, their trip to Ole Miss again showed why they can’t be trusted in March. They were in a dog fight with a team that is nowhere near the bubble conversation, much less a tourney quality team, and it was solely because they can’t score. A win is a win, but 63-59 while shooting 3-15 from 3 is alarming. Obviously, this team is exceptional on the defensive end, but I’ll reiterate teams who are this unbalanced do not fare well in March. This isn’t anything new for the Vols as they’ve fit this archetype the previous 2 tourneys and lost in the 1st round and 2nd round. The trend will continue, will you listen?
  4. UCLA (11-2) Off (6) Def (10) – IMPENETRABLE
    • Not much to say about the Bruins this week as they haven’t played since we last met. Check out here what I had to say about them last week.
  5. Kansas (11-1) Off (16) Def (6) – *FLYER*
    • Kansas has fallen into the Flyer category this week after struggling offensively against Harvard in a 68-54 win. Obviously, the Jayhawks are one of the best defensive teams in the Country and can rely on that end if they go cold. However, this shines a little light on what could be a weakness for this group against good competition. For example, in their loss to Tennessee they only mustered 50 points. Also, in wins against Wisconsin and Duke they had less than 1.0 point per possession. As we spoke about last week, this Kansas team is playing without a true big man, opting to go small ball, so when facing teams with good interior defenses it seems they have to rely on perimeter shots a lot which can cause them to go through cold stretches. Something to monitor with this group going forward.
  6. Texas (11-1) Off (11) Def (12) – *IMPENETRABLE*
    • The identity of this Texas team is about as murky as the future of their HC Chris Beard, and likely those two things are going hand in hand. What is striking is that the Longhorns are flipping in terms of their strength since Beard has left the program, going from a staunch defensive group to more dangerous offensively. Granted the competition hasn’t been as great, but they’re all the way up to 12th defensively after being top-10 all season. They technically fall into the Impenetrable category this week, but I am confident that is going to change as the season goes forward. I’m not sure who they will be at the end of the season, and frankly it seems they aren’t either. Big 12 play will tell us all we need to know.
  7. Purdue (13-0) Off (5) Def (27) – FLYER
    • The Boilermakers had a post-Christmas tune up as their only dub since we last met and they charge into Big Ten play undefeated and in the driver’s seat for the Conference. There are a couple worrisome trends we are watching as we talked about last week, as the defense has kept them in the Flyer category. What isn’t showing in the 5th ranked offense is that it’s down from #1 a few weeks ago. The Boilers have gone cold from 3, shooting only 21/98 (21.4%) the last 4 games. With a weaker defense and a cold stretch shooting a loss could be incoming as some of the shine starts to wear off this team. Or maybe they snap the cold shooting spell? We shall see.
  8. Arizona (12-1) Off (1) Def (67) – VULNERABLE
    • I don’t see Arizona moving out of the Vulnerable category all season, as they rely on playing with pace and high tempo and simply outscoring teams. A blowout of Morgan St doesn’t do much in terms of adding to the discussion, but they are now the #1 offense, #1 in 2 pt FG% and top-10 in both tempo and assists/FGM. Clearly they have an extreme strength, but as we’ve discussed unbalanced teams are extremely Vulnerable in March. The last time a team of this archetype made a deep run was 2013 Michigan behind Trey Burke. Can it be done? Sure. But many others have failed since 2013, I’d bet on Arizona to do the same if nothing changes.
  9. Alabama (11-2) Off (17) Def (14) – FLYER
    • Our first new entry into the top-10 is Alabama, so let’s dive in. The Tide are led of course by coaching maverick Nate Oats, who’s high tempo, frenetic pace style combined with the 3 or layup only offensive philosophy has made Alabama the most interesting program in the Country in my mind. The Tide can run anybody out of the gym, and get after you on defense. They are the 3rd highest tempo team in the nation, but what is interesting about them is they have won a couple of games against teams who slow it down and muck things up. Both the Houston and Mississippi St wins were very intriguing to watch a young Bama team play a physical brand of basketball and defend in the half court. With outstanding Freshman Brandon Miller leading the charge, this Alabama team is insanely talented. They can win in multiple ways, with a 103 point showing against UNC and 71 point showing against Houston as shining examples. The potential concern is offensively, as for a team who relies on the 3 ball they only shoot 34% and rely on transition and offensive rebounds to create offense when things go cold. The loss to Uconn was the perfect example as they only scored 67 points on 74 possessions. It’s a young team though with a lot of transfers as well, so things could continue to trend positive with this group as we get into January and February. Look out for Bama.
  10. Arkansas (11-2) Off (36) Def (7) – FLYER
    • The Hogs lost their only game since we last met, dropping them down to the 10 spot and really displaying the concern that we have with them offensively. The 60-57 loss to LSU on the road isn’t detrimental to their tourney hopes by any means, but it highlights their inability to score consistently. If that continues, we may just see them drop out of this top-10 especially if Nick Smith is unable to return. If Smith does return though they get a lot more dangerous, but until that occurs Arkansas should remain a flyer that you stay away from. SEC play should expose this, but you just never really know for sure.

Dropped Out: Kentucky (10—>13)

CBB Contender Series V-1

Welcome to the place where we go beyond traditional ranking systems. Sure you can look at the AP top-25 or the NCAA’s NET rankings or simply Kenpom’s top-10. We’re diving deeper, acknowledging that the human eye can be misleading and that data is the best way to approach predicting the madness come March. Don’t just take my word here for it, take a look here where I break down exactly what the data is telling me. I will be defining teams as “vulnerable” or “impenetrable” or simply “flyers”, exactly what backs up my logic is also found in the first article. For now, a synopsis: Vulnerable teams are the statistical archetype of a team that is likely to be upset the first weekend. Impenetrable teams are the antithesis of that, fitting the archetype of teams who almost never miss the Sweet 16. Finally the flyers, teams that don’t fit those narrow barometers but find themselves in or around the top-10. So, every week we’ll take a look at Kenpom’s 10 most efficient teams and define them, look at their week (or season if they’re new) and assess where they truly stand in the Contender vs Pretender debate.

  1. Houston (12-1) Off (18) Def (2) – FLYER
    • For Kelvin Sampson and this Houston team it’s all about defense, as they rank #2 as of today on that end of the floor. This is also a team that made an elite 8 run last year without its star playmaker Marcus Sasser, who is back now leading them in scoring. What is keeping Houston out of the Impenetrable category is on the offensive end of the floor, where they can struggle. In their lone loss thus far to Alabama they could only muster 65 points on 72 possessions against a team that has given up 90+ points 3 times already. While the Cougars can be menacing on the offensive glass, you’d like to see them start knocking down shots with more consistency. At this point they are shooting 34% from 3, good for 125th in the Country. The good news is that’s on par with last year’s group, but it was that weakness that prevented them from making it to the Final Four as they only mustered 44 points in their Elite 8 loss. This is a nasty team, one I would feel pretty confident in, and if the offense can make some strides they may find themselves in the impenetrable category. Thus far wins over Virginia (13) and St. Mary’s (19) have them as a 1 seed, but with the weaker American Conference a couple of losses could boot them lower.
  2. UConn (13-0) Off (6) Def (4) – IMPENETRABLE
    • The start of the season for the Huskies has been one of the most dominant displays we’ve seen in some time, and nobody is talking about it. They have beaten every team they’ve played by double digits, which includes 4 Quad 1 wins, most notably Alabama on a neutral floor. Led by Adama Sanogo in the paint, they’ve surrounded him with lethal shooters with length and athleticism which give teams fits on the other end as well. They’re shooting 37% from 3 while holding teams to 27%, that’s a winning formula. If I were to pick one team to feel the most confident in at this point in the season, it has to be UConn. They’re experienced, and can be dominant on both ends of the floor as they’re rankings suggest. Being top-6 in both categories is extremely rare and may not hold up, but they look like a sure fire bet to make a run at this stage. Easily a 1 seed at this stage, everything is in front of the Huskies as the Big East looks to run through them and they are the betting favorite to win the whole thing. What could go wrong?
  3. Tennessee (10-2) Off (49) Def (1) – FLYER
    • As good as Houston is defensively the Vols are a hair better, which is extremely hard to pull off. The major difference for Tennessee is they can go really cold on the offensive end, which has them barely avoiding the dreaded Vulnerable status. As flyer’s go, you have to lean heavily toward Houston over Tennessee. The thing about March is you’re trying to not just win 6 games in a row but beat 6 really good teams in a row. The last time we saw a team this unbalanced toward Def make a run to the Final Four was 2017 S. Carolina, who leaned heavily on Sindarious Thornwell to carry the offensive load. The Vols don’t have a guy like that, and frankly their best offensive weapon is Zakai Ziegler who was ripped out of the starting lineup after the Colorado loss. It’s hard to imagine the 3rd best team statistically in the Country to be a team to avoid come March, but until we see consistent improvement on the offensive end, it just is not worth the risk. They sit as a 2 seed right now, and would be a prime candidate for an early exit. That was illustrated perfectly with the loss to Colorado, who is nowhere near a tournament quality team. Yes they have beaten the brakes off of Kansas, but that loss shines a light on how thin the margins are for unbalanced teams like this. Buyer be ware.
  4. UCLA (11-2) Off (4) Def (11) – IMPENETRABLE
    • The Bruins got off to a rocky start losing 2 games to Illinois and Baylor early, but have rallied off 8 in a row since and are starting to gel. While they welcome back a few key vets like Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell they are also relying on a couple Freshman to help out and they have progressed nicely over the last month. With the parts starting to come together UCLA has looked more and more like the class of the West Coast, and behind Mick Cronin’s tough and scrappy style they can defend at an elite level and have the half-court shot makers to make them one of the toughest teams to stop. Several of these guys were part of the 2021 run to the Final Four, and while Johnny Juzang is gone the ancillary parts have now become the stars, with experience to boot. I have UCLA right behind UConn in terms of confidence in a run coming at this stage. Experience is incredibly important, and to have stars who have made the run before as well as a HC that just adds to the fact they fit the Impenetrable archetype. Right now they’re a 2 seed, but with a solid run through the Pac-12 they could find themselves on the 1 line.
  5. Kansas (10-1) Off (13) Def (7) – IMPENETRABLE
    • The beauty of College hoops is the wild variability in style of play across the landscape and Kansas certainly finds themselves on one end of the extremes this season. Traditionally Kansas has been lead by star big men, but not this year’s Jayhawks, as they are starting 4 wings between 6’6-6’8 with PG Dajuan Harris. What that has lead to is a team that is incredibly versatile defensively as they can switch everything and pressure the ball at every position. Despite having no shot blocking presence they are 7th defensively, catalyzed by their perimeter pressure leading to being 11th in steal %. The weakness of course can be rebounding, which in their lone loss reared its ugly head as they were out-rebounded 45-27. All in all though this 5-out game plan has proven to be far more dangerous than vulnerable, and if it weren’t for a pathetic display of shooting they are likely undefeated at this stage. Even against Duke who plays two 7-footers and another 6’10 big they got a W (despite 21 offensive rebounds). The rebounding could be their undoing, but so far sitting on the 1 line with 5 Quad 1 wins it doesn’t look like it’s enough of a problem to make them an upset threat.
  6. Texas (10-1) Off (16) Def (6) – FLYER
    • The Longhorns were one of the favorites entering the season, but with HC Chris Beard not likely to re-join the team I would consider things a little up in the air at this point. The game after Beard’s arrest and suspension they went to OT with Rice…not great. Since then they’ve beat Stanford and Louisiana, a bit of a mystery still how much this will affect them. Beard is a great coach, scumbag or not, so his loss certainly will have an impact, but so far we can’t make out what it will be. Texas may be the most intriguing watch of the series, just to see how they trend from here on out. As it stands, they’re just outside the impenetrable archetype, making them a solid flyer. To be totally fair the schedule has been pretty weak, as they’ve really only had 2 difficult tests, going 1-1 in those games. They really rely on toughness and playing solid defense, but can struggle to stay engaged, which we saw in the loss to Illinois as the Illini scored 39 points the final 15 minutes. They are worth monitoring for now, and the brutal Big 12 schedule will tell us all we need to know about these Longhorns.
  7. Purdue (12-0) Off (5) Def (25) – FLYER
    • Probably the biggest surprise of the season would be the AP #1 Purdue Boilermakers who lost a lottery pick in Jaden Ivey and second best offensive producer Trevion Williams. Don’t tell that to Matt Painter, who continues to develop talent and has crafted what I would describe as the most poetic offensive system in the Country. These Boilers are lead by 7’4 unicorn Zach Edey who is the clear NPOY at this point, averaging a preposterous 22.5 ppg and 14 rpg. There has been a recent negative trend though, as the offense has gone cold from 3, shooting 21% over the last 3 games. However, it’s a good sign that they were 3-0 in those games. However, shooting woes could be the undoing for the Boilers as they aren’t dominant defensively. Part of that is the lack of versatility with Edey on the floor and especially his troubles defending the ball screen. So far, his offensive dominance has been enough to propel the Boilers, but as teams look to take him away they will need to knock down shots. A 1 seed as it stands the Boilers are interesting, but the defense keeps them in the Flyer category.
  8. Arizona (11-1) – Off (1) Def (66) – VULNERABLE
    • At this point under Tommy Lloyd we know what to expect from Arizona, lightning fast pace of play and an incredibly efficient offense. The problem this season for the Wildcats has been on the other end of the floor. A defense ranked 66th has been good enough for an 11-1 record, but that lone loss shined a light on what will be an achilles heel for Arizona. They struggled to shoot the ball and couldn’t get stops, which gave them a nice 15 point loss to a middling Utah team. At their best they can outscore you and run you out of the gym, essentially making their defensive effort and effectiveness a non-factor. But when you muck the game up and make it difficult for them to score, that weakness rears its ugly head. It’s easier said than done, but we’ve seen it time and time again that a team who can’t defend and relies on simply outscoring you gets sent home that first weekend. Hence the Vulnerable status, so buyer beware on these Wildcats.
  9. Arkansas (11-1) Off (31) Def (9) – FLYER
    • As much of a mystery as Texas is I don’t think even Eric Mussleman and this Arkansas team really know who they are at this point in the season. Star FR Nick Smith has only played 5 games and continues to be sidelined, and the rest of these new pieces seem to be still trying to find an identity. Between the transfer portal and FR the Hogs are essentially a brand new roster, and the schedule really hasn’t been difficult enough to tell us much about this team. They’ve won low scoring slugfests against middling teams and played in some shootouts against the better teams they’ve played. Giving up 90 to Creighton was not a good sign, but beating Oklahoma and San Diego St close were decent wins. If Smith can get healthy they could be dangerous, but at this stage it’s hard to have confidence in such a hodge podge of a team. Time can help that though. Big big mystery are these Hogs.
  10. Kentucky (8-3) Off (24) Def (13) – FLYER
    • Kentucky may be benefiting from being #1 to start the season, because to this point I don’t see much to indicate they are a top-10 team. Now, just like UCLA they have some FR who they need to get up to speed, because the return of Oscar Tshiebwe and Sahvir Wheeler is what gave everyone such confidence in these Wildcats to begin with. So to be trending down from 1 to 10 is not a good sign, but as we know with Calipari teams they always continue to get better and better. I would expect Kentucky to improve, but as of now they are a Flyer with an 0-3 record against quality opponents. The SEC grind over the next 2 months will tell us what we need to know, but for now you cannot trust this version of Kentucky. Especially considering they are sitting on the 5-6 line seed wise, we may see them fall out of this top-10 soon.

CBB Contender Series – Intro

It’s mid-December and the college hoops landscape is beginning to take shape, as some of the over-hyped pre-season darlings have shown us who they really are (shoutout UNC) and the unlikely stars have shown themselves (hello again Purdue). But everyone knows the entire season in CBB is a lead-up to the only thing that truly matters, March Madness. Every year is a race to figure out which teams “deserve” what seed and who among them are built to avoid the early round upset. Many will try and convince you it’s all random, that the best team doesn’t actually win and that the upsets and format diminish the significance of the glory found at the end of the most difficult 6-game winning streak to obtain in sports. I mean for crying out loud they lost to their mom in their family bracket challenge and she picked based on Mascots! It must be random. While I recognize losing to someone who happened to pick Peacocks (St. Peter’s) to beat Wildcats (Kentucky) can lead to this kind of thinking, I’m here to tell you definitively how to avoid betting on a doomed horse come March. I’m not going to give you a sure fire way to know every upset, nor am I claiming to have the ability to get a perfect bracket. I’m more concerned with how to avoid backing a severely vulnerable horse to make a deep run. How to spot the group of teams that look destined for trouble that wild 1st weekend we all love. This will be a purely data driven set of rules, based on pre-tourney Kenpom numbers heading back to 2005. 16 tournaments worth of data that helps paint a picture on how to spot what teams could face trouble, what teams are impenetrable, and finally put to rest “the best team doesn’t actually win” narrative. Let’s get it.

To start let’s take a look at the most generic pool, the teams that entering the Madness were measuring as the best teams in the Country per Kenpom. So we’ll take the top-10 teams each year, giving us 160 teams and leaving out all of the rest. For context, that pool of teams includes 61 of the 64 1 seeds in our data (the other 3 all failed to make the Final Four) and extends all the way down to a couple 8 seeds (1 of which made a Sweet 16 run). I could go on and on with little nuggets of information, how 25 of the 32 teams to reach the Natty over this 16 years come from this pool and so on and so on, but what really matters is how do we parse down this group into the pretenders and contenders. Is there an analytical approach to identifying which of those top-10 will rise. Of course, that’s why we’re here.

Rule #1: Don’t back the Vulnerable

First, let’s look at those that didn’t make a run. We only have 15 teams out of the 160 that failed to get out of the 1st round (about 9.5%). Kenpom takes each team and gives a Def efficiency score and an Off efficiency score, culminating in an overall efficiency. When you look at the data something jumps out immediately. Many of the teams who suffered a 1st round exit leaned heavily on 1 end of the floor. Recent example, 2021 Ohio St who as a 2 seed lost to 15 seed Oral Roberts. They ranked 4th offensively but 79th defensively (7th overall). They were what I would now categorize as “vulnerable”, and share that unbalanced distinction with other early exiters like 2014 Duke, 2013 Georgetown and 2012 Missouri as just a few of many examples. In fact, when you look at teams who happen to be top-10 in 1 category but sub-50 in the other, the numbers start to paint a picture. Teams with this archetype, who also happen to be top-10 overall are rare, but of the 13 in 16 years only 5 have made it out of the 1st weekend. All 13 happened to be 1-4 seeds. So 5/13 is 38.5% making it to the S-16, as compared to top-4 seeds in general who make it that far at a 64% clip, regardless of where they rank. If you expand that to include teams outside of the top-10 it follows a similar pattern, with 44 total archetypal teams with only 20/44 (45.5%) getting out of the 1st weekend. And yes, the pattern continues as you advance further into the tournament, in fact only 2/44 (4.5%) teams made the Final Four, while top-4 seeds have been 49 of the 64 Final 4 teams over this period. Again, this archetype clearly has struggled against the average and should be considered “vulnerable”. A team that you should not trust to make a deep run, and should never pick to win the whole thing as it has never happened. Only 2012 Louisville and 2013 Michigan have been able to break the mold and make it to the Final 4.

Rule #2: Bet on the Impenetrable

As you’ve likely gathered if you’ve made it this far we are trying to separate the wheat from the chaff, to establish a set of standards for identifying the uncommon amongst the uncommon. Time to shift the focus to the archetype I have deemed as the “impenetrable”. These are the teams you can back with certainty, and no I’m not just saying the four 1 seeds. We’re going to stay with Kenpom and our 16 years of data, focusing on the antithesis of the vulnerable. Teams who were top-15 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. There have been 54 such teams over the last 16 tournaments, none of them lost in the 1st round. This group ranges from 1 seeds all the way down to a couple of 5 seeds, with results similar regardless of seed. Now once we move beyond the 1st round things get interesting. Again, I’m not arguing for perfection, but 45/54 teams made it to the 2nd weekend. That’s an 87% clip, but it does put a small ounce of doubt in these teams. But the fact is there have been 93 top-4 seeds get upset prior to the Sweet 16, only 9 of those were from this group. If you’re trying to identify who is going to escape the carnage of the first weekend, this is the group with the best statistical chance to do so.

Rule #3: Stop trying to predict the Cinderella

We all love the Cinderalla, the Loyola Chicago or Butler magical runs that captivate us all. But, you have to acknowledge there is no possible way to know, for sure, who is going on that run. So why send a 6 seed to the Final Four? Why take a 30th overall team on a deep run? You don’t know. Yes there is going to be one, in fact over the last 16 tournaments only twice have all 4 Final Four teams been in the top-10 of Kenpom (last time 2008). There is always 1 outsider that makes a run, rarely two. The real trick are the “flyers”. Teams who go on runs but don’t fall into the perfect category, they are the hardest to spot, but you’ll need to try because the list of impenetrable teams can be small. The data is more murky on these teams, but when taking out the Cinderella’s (6 seeds and below) and the Impenetrables, we have a list of teams that you can find some trends with. They most often are elite at 1 end of the floor (top-10) and/or on the fringes of our top-15 in both category archetype. Focus on these after that first group, do not be a hero.

So, what this series will be all about is tracking those teams in the top-10, who is falling out who is rising in. Definitively labeling those who are “vulnerable” and those who appear “impenetrable”. All will be ebbing and flowing but the once a week recap to be found here will be a great barometer for what teams are trending which way and how they look heading into March. And eventually it will be measured against the actual tournament, and the actual results. Year 17 of data to come, but this year we enter with a game plan to stop losing your bracket pool or fantasy league to the all the people who don’t even watch the sport.

CFB Power Rankings (Week 7)

  1. Georgia (7-0)
    • The Dawgs are back to smushing every opponent and clearly have looked like the best
      team in the Country this year. A bye week followed by a home game against Florida
      should set them up to remain undefeated when they welcome Tennessee to Athens. That
      game could decide the East if the Vols stay perfect, and boy could that be a special one.
      The one style that could get the best of Georgia, the elite air attack. Can’t freaking wait.
  2. Ohio St (6-0)
    • Pretty ho-hum for the Buckeyes so far this season as they’ve destroyed everyone they
      should. A game @ Penn St and the Michigan game still await to test them, but for now
      they are right there with Georgia at the top. CJ Stroud has been unbelievable and this
      young WR group is getting better with every week. The questions come on defense, and
      if they can slow down Michigan’s running game.
  3. Tennessee (6-0)
    • Well the Vols are the talk of College Football for the first time in decades after knocking
      off Alabama. Hendon Hooker is absolutely electric, has to be right there with Stroud for
      the Heisman, and they look poised to head to Athens, Georgia in a couple weeks
      undefeated with a chance to make this one of the greatest seasons in school history.
      Even without a victory though 11-1 is a real possibility. These are your fathers Tennessee
      Vols.
  4. Clemson (7-0)
    • Taking care of business. That’s this season in a nutshell for the Clemson Tigers, as they
      continue to roll through the ACC, not super convincingly but they are finding ways to win.
      A matchup at home against undefeated Syracuse gives them a chance to flex their
      muscle a bit, but there’s just not much elite competition in the ACC right now. Of anyone
      in the Country Clemson looks like the best lock to make the playoff at the halfway point.
  5. Michigan (7-0)
    • Michigan absolutely took it to Penn St in a game that has to have the entire state of Ohio
      shaking just a bit. The Wolverines look almost like a spitting image of last season’s
      special group, arguably with an upgrade at QB to boot. The schedule is weak the rest of
      the way until they head to Columbus in what should be the deciding game in the Big Ten
      and virtually a Playoff play-in game.
  6. Alabama (6-1)
    • Never thought we’d see the day that a Nick Saban Alabama team would lose a game in
      which they scored 49 points, but here we are. What can we make of this defense? Did
      they just face a lightning in a bottle offense nobody else can replicate? Reminder folks,
      this was the Alabama team everyone thought was the clear-cut no.1 coming into the
      season. The offense has sputtered at times, penalties all over the place and now the
      defense gives up 52…trouble in paradise?
  7. TCU (6-0)
    • Well it hasn’t been pretty, but TCU is undefeated and looks to be in control of the Big 12
      at the halfway point. Who had that in August? Sonny Dykes deserves immense praise for
      this coaching job, and while he may not get the recognition he deserves quite yet, they’re
      on a collision course with in-state rival Texas in mid-November that could decide the
      Conference. Win that game, with the Big-12, he’ll get his flowers.
  8. USC (6-1)
    • One thing is for certain following a 43-42 loss at Utah, ya can’t have any critiques of this
      Lincoln Riley/Caleb Williams lead offense. Williams has been special, as advertised but
      Lincoln Riley appears to have brought his matador defense from Oklahoma with him to
      USC. Utah is a good team, but you can’t play this poorly defensively and compete for a
      Natty. I know it’s year 1, but warning signs are here.
  9. Oregon (5-1)
    • Quietly Oregon has earned its way back to where they started the season as a top-10 team. The Georgia drubbing was bad, but ultimately not disastrous. They now get undefeated UCLA at home with a chance to cement themselves at the top of the Pac-12. Bo Nix is playing really well, the defense looks better and better, and the stench from that Week 1 performance is starting to fade. The playoff is theoretically viable.
  1. UCLA (6-0)
    • Chip Kelly and UCLA are right there with TCU for most surprising undefeated teams at
      the halfway point. I think the bloom will come off the rose this weekend at Oregon, but
      DTR and this offense are electric. They have every chance to knock USC out of
      contention in November, and could go into it 9-1. A win this weekend would be the
      shocker of all shockers, and if it happens would then put the Bruins in the CFP
      discussion. Wild.
  2. Oklahoma St (5-1)
    • Ya hate to say it but it was another Mike Gundy-esque loss after blowing a large lead at
      TCU Saturday. The Big-12 was there for the taking, and they blew it. In theory it is still
      possible, but the defense just doesn’t look good enough to get it done. Now they take on
      white hot Texas, could be a rough stretch. Sanders is also rumored to be playing through
      an injury…not good for the Pokes.
  3. Ole Miss (7-0)
    • Undefeated but likely the weakest schedule of all the undefeated teams, and I imagine it
      will come crashing down soon. This is a good team, not a great team. They can run the
      ball, but QB and defense remain a concern. LSU could knock em off, but even if they
      survive Baton Rouge the schedule stays tough the rest of the way. They will get exposed
      eventually.
  4. Penn St (5-1)
    • Not many teams can go to the Big House right now and look good, but the beat down that
      Penn St took on Saturday in the 2 nd half was almost as bad as it gets. The offense was
      putrid, and aside from a pick 6 the defense got manhandled by Michigan. Again, not a
      fate many teams would avoid, but you would have liked to see them put up a better fight.
      They still get a chance at home to knock off Ohio St, which could fully shakeup the Big
      10.
  5. Wake Forest (5-1)
    • Wake Forest is flying under the radar a little bit at this point, as they’ve given Clemson
      the most difficult shot of the season and have a couple impressive wins. Sam Harman is
      a stud and this offense is elite, and frankly the defense has improved. 11-1 is perfectly
      realistic, and while it isn’t likely, you look at this schedule and wonder who can possibly
      slow this offense down? NC St on the road is likely the biggest test, but for now Wake is
      set for a historic year.
  6. Syracuse (6-0)
    • Speaking of historic years, the Orange are now undefeated and headed to Clemson with
      a chance to have an all-time start to the season. Now, do I think this run heavy offense is
      going to go into Clemson and win? Absolutely not. But, these are the games, and the
      starts to seasons that make College football so special. This defense is good, the run
      game is special, I just don’t trust Shrader to make big time throws when they need it.
  7. Kansas St (5-1)
    • Kansas St will be kicking themselves over that blunder against Tulane earlier in the
      season, because without that they would be undefeated with some very impressive wins.
      Alas, they have a stain on the resume and head to TCU hoping to play spoiler. Still,
      Adrian Martinez has been special alongside elite RB Deuce Vaughn. The defense isn’t
      great but neither is TCU’s so it should be a fun shootout. A win and suddenly K-St is
      holding the Big 12 hostage.
  8. Illinois (6-1)
    • Probably the surprise of the season is Bret Bielema and this Illinois team that should really be undefeated despite a dud @ Indiana early in the season. The Illini are essentially the Wisconsin of old, run it down your throat, play great defense and hope the QB takes care of the ball. When you see Illinois, just pretend it’s that big red W. Amazingly, we could see a throwdown between Purdue and Illinois in Champaign to decide the Big Ten West. I say again, who had that on their bingo card?
  1. Utah (5-2)
    • Saturday against USC was a perfect encapsulation of the season for Utah. Up and down
      play and inconsistency have led to 2 losses but they got hot at the right time and came
      back to beat everyones Pac-12 favorite in a shootout. The defense is concerning, but
      Cam Rising leading this offense has been special and the Pac-12 and a Rose Bowl
      appearance is fully in the cards. Not sure what to make of the Utes going forward, and a
      tough game @ Wash St following a bye week could be another slip up spot.
  2. Texas (5-2)
    • Quinn Ewers is back and with him starting and playing the full game Texas has not lost.
      We are going to find out just how good this team is this coming weekend when they travel
      to Oklahoma St, and a win in this one would start the conversation of whether a 2 loss
      Big 12 champ Texas team could sniff the playoff given the losses were without QB 1. I
      don’t think it’ll happen, but you know that conversation will happen, especially if they tear
      through the schedule the rest of the way.
  3. Kentucky (5-2)
    • Not sure what to make of this Kentucky team to be honest, solid defense, great running
      back but man when they are forced to throw the ball it falls apart. This offensive line can
      push people around in the running game, but Levis is constantly running for his life when
      they have to throw. They get a bye week and then head to Knoxville, I don’t think it is
      going to go well, but they’ve surprised me before. I think they go 3-2 the rest of the way,
      not a bad season but they’re not good enough to beat Tennessee/Georgia.
  4. UNC (6-1)
    • Drake Maye is the best unknown commodity in CFB, as he’s a RS Freshman that is
      absolutely tearing it up. The Tar Heels defense is abysmal, although it has looked slightly
      better recently, but this 6-1 record is solely on the shoulders of this young kid. Maye
      should be getting more National attention, but a few more wins could put him on a
      National stage against Sam Hartman in a game that could finish in the 60’s both sides.
  5. N.C. State (5-2)
    • No idea what to make of NC St with Devin Leary out, but one thing you do know for sure
      is this defense is nasty. The problem is the offense can’t stay on the field. It’s an
      unfortunate injury that puts a damper on one of the best teams in school history. Yet and
      still, their two losses are on the road against undefeated Syracuse and Clemson. Not a
      bad resume thus far, but I fear they are staring 7-5 in the face with this new QB situation.
  6. LSU (5-2)
    • An up and down season so far LSU has a chance to put themselves on the map this
      weekend with undefeated Ole Miss coming to town. The line favors the Tigers, but it
      really depends which version of this team shows up. Tennessee has already walked into
      Baton Rouge and embarrassed this team, but they quickly bounced back with a win in the
      swamp. Jaden Daniels is electric, but can quickly look incompetent at times. I think they
      win it, but a loss would put more heat on this staff.
  7. Oregon St (5-2)
    • The Beavers are one of the unsung stories of the season, but they’ve pushed USC to the
      brink and then lost at Utah, not exactly two bad losses. They have a chance to roll off 4
      wins in a row to set up a massive season finale against in state rival Oregon with major
      Pac-12 implications. The QB situation is a bit murky but man this defense is very solid.
  8. Purdue (5-2)
    • Aiden O’Connell and Purdue have bounced back from a 1-2 start that featured 2 last
      second defeats to Penn St and Syracuse who have both had fantastic starts. The
      Boilermakers are right there with Illinois to represent the West in the Big Ten
      Championship and a trip to Champaign mid-November is going to likely determine who
      makes it. This offense is scary good, especially the connection between O’Connell and
      Charlie Jones, but the defense could be the reason they don’t reach the title game.

CFB Power Rankings (Week 3)

  1. Georgia (2-0) (–)
    • 82-3…that’s the cumulative score for the Dawgs through 2 weeks, what else can you say? A trip to S. Carolina next weekend presents a tough road SEC challenge, but with the way this team is playing it likely will get ugly. However, after a crazy Week 2, could the Dawgs be next in line to be upset? 24 points is the line, maybe the Cocks come out swinging. I doubt an upset but maybe S. Carolina can cover. On the flip side another 30-40 point blowout would cement the Dawgs at the top. 
  2. Alabama (2-0) (–)
    • 20.5 point favorites heading to the great state of Texas and Nick Saban and co found themselves in an absolute war. They came away with the W, but alarms are sounding after all those penalties, the offensive struggles and allowing a backup QB to have them on the ropes. You could argue Texas wins that game with Ewers healthy, but the big question for Bama now is the offense as it doesn’t look nearly as explosive as we thought. Do they have the weapons for Bryce Young to truly be an undefeated National Champs threat?
  3. Ohio St (2-0) (–)
    • Back on schedule with a blowout of who cares, the Buckeyes put up 45 and for at least a week have quieted the noise. The Buckeyes are going to get tested this year, it’s just not any time soon. Matchups in October @ Sparty and Penn St will show us more. In the meantime, they will continue to sit at the top as long as they take care of business.
  4. Clemson (2-0) (–)
    • Not much to say here as the Tigers clapped around Furman as they should have. Another cupcake next week keeps Clemson and DJ out of the spotlight until ACC play gets going again next week at Wake Forest. Still a lot to prove on offense but the defense keeps Clemson at no. 4.  
  5. Michigan (2-0) (+1)
    • Probably the weakest non-conference schedule of any Power 5 team, Michigan continues to roll over terrible football teams. JJ McCarthy looked good and was named the official QB 1, but questions remain about the defense after all the losses from last years group. The wolverines won’t get tested until October, a loss before that will be a crazy upset.
  6. Oklahoma (2-0) (+3)
    • Back to back thumping’s and a trip to Lincoln after Scott Frost gets fired sets Oklahoma up to go 3-0 in non-con play. Texas looked great against Bama, but the Sooners are still looking like the best of the Big 12. Beware of Nebraska though, post coach firing could be a huge turnaround…or they’ll be an absolute disaster. Could go either way.
  7. Arkansas (2-0) (+3)
    • Sam Pittman has the Razorbacks rolling behind a tough offensive line that is allowing KJ Jefferson, Rocket Sanders and the cavalry to run down everyone’s throats. The D has some holes but they very well could be undefeated when Bama comes to town Oct 1 which would be absolute pandemonium in the state of Arkansas. Woo Pig.
  8. USC (2-0) (+5)
    • The Lincoln Riley experiment is off to a glowing start as the Trojans took it to Stanford, and while the final was only 13 they got out fast and never were in danger. The offense is absolutely humming as Caleb Williams and Jordan Addison might be the most lethal connection in the country. Again, the D is a major concern as Stanford moved the ball at will, but it might not matter if they just dump 45 on every team. 
  9. Miami (FL) (2-0) (+2)
    • So far, no real tests but they are destroying teams like they are supposed to. This week they get Texas A&M off the most embarrassing loss in school history. Tough spot for the Hurricanes. I like Miami to win, but it’s not easy to face a team that just got embarrassed, especially away from home. Still, Van Dyke and this offense is so much better than what the Aggies have going.
  10. BYU (2-0) (+14)
    • My favorite team through 2 weeks, they are 2-0 but most importantly they are 2-0 vs the spread, cha-ching. They have a road test with Oregon who most have written off but not me. This is the toughest test yet, even with a home W against Baylor going to Eugene is never easy. It could be very high scoring, and the health of WR 1 and 2 for the Cougars is something to watch. Early tease I like BYU +3.5.
  11. Utah (1-1) (-4)
    • Utah got back on track but fall in the rankings just due to others capitalizing on their opportunities more. I still like Utah in the Pac-12 to be right there with USC especially since they host the Trojans. They are everything Iowa/Wisconsin want to be with a strong running game and solid D. I still think with Rising they can compete with the best in the Country. What’s the true difference between Utah and Michigan? I don’t see one. 
  12. Kentucky (2-0) (+6)
    • How can Kentucky be below Utah after doing what the Utes couldn’t and winning in the Swamp? The answer is simple, Florida lost that game, Kentucky didn’t win it. Anthony Richardson gifted Kentucky 14 points, the offense mustered only 12. I don’t know why Richardson played so poorly, it wasn’t Kentucky making spectacular plays he just made bonehead throws. Utah looked more impressive despite loosing and will be a better team this season.
  13. Florida (1-1) (–)
    • Florida is a top-10 team if Anthony Richardson plays well, not even to his ceiling just 75% of it. Against Kentucky was the worst he could look, and still they had a chance to win and led at the half. This defense is not getting the credit it deserves and the running game is pretty good. They put a little too much on the raw Richardson against Kentucky and he gifted them 14 points. I think they’ll fix that going forward. Use his legs and make the simple plays and Florida is a problem.
  14. N.C. State (2-0) (+1)
    • Saturday was a get right game for the Wolfpack and they better hope they did because they welcome a frisky Texas Tech team that can legitimately beat them. The good news is they face a poor defense, but Donovan Smith is a legit dual threat QB who if he can limit the Interceptions can be elite. Red Raiders +10.5 is the play but I still think Leary gets the Wolfpack the W in an unexpected dog fight.
  15. Tennessee (2-0) (NR)
    • I hadn’t believed in Tennessee, and I still might not but you have to give it to them for going on the road and beating Pitt. However, Slovis getting hurt might be the only reason for that as Pitt was dominating prior to his injury. I’m fading Tennessee for now as their defense is just not good enough to win SEC games. They caught a break, but reality will be coming soon.
  16. Oklahoma St (2-0) (+1)
    • I’m still on wait and see watch with the Cowboys, as they took care of a below average Arizona St team. I’m worried about the D and Spencer Sanders has a ceiling that limits them. A road test against Baylor in a couple weeks will tell us more about where they stand. They’re an AP-top 10 team but I am not buying that, 15-20 suits them much better.
  17. Minnesota (2-0) (+3)
    • The most under-appreciated team in college football. To be fair, they haven’t had a true test yet, but they should be the clear favorite to represent the West in the Big Ten. Great running game, 6th year QB and a defense that has allowed 10 points through 2 games. Another cupcake awaits, but next week they head to Michigan St when they can really make a statement.
  18. Texas (1-1) (–)
    • Texas is back. I think it’s officially time to say that after they only go down to Bama by a point on a last second FG. They had every chance to win that game, despite QB Ewers going down in the first half. The defense looked way better than expected and they are very much alive in the Big 12 race if Ewers can get back quickly. Still, they could run off some wins with Card and hope Ewers can be back by 10/8 when they go to Oklahoma.
  19. Ole Miss (2-0) (+3)
    • QB is the question, but that O-line and running game is unquestionably dangerous. But, in the SEC you can’t get by with average QB play especially with a weaker defense. They haven’t been truly tested but I think Ole Miss will be in for some rough Saturday’s once SEC play gets going. For now, they sit at 2-0 with two dominant wins. I wouldn’t be surprised if they struggle with Georgia Tech.
  20. Michigan St (2-0) (+3)
    • Sparty is getting a lot of love, but a trip to Washington could strip away some of the shine. Michael Penix is a legit dual threat QB and I think he might expose this defense, but the real question is can the Huskies stop this running game? That’s the calling card for Sparty and they will assuredly lean on it. We’ll see how far it can carry them.
  21. Pitt (1-1) (-6)
    • Not an embarrassing loss when you lose QB 1 and the backup was limping around and you still have a chance to win. Pitt has a solid D-line and just needs to get Slovis back to be a true contender in the ACC. Without Slovis they may be in for a rough ride, I’m judging on them with him though for the moment.
  22. Baylor (1-1) (-3)
    • As predicted Baylor fell to BYU, but they put up a stronger fight than I anticipated and look frisky. Shapen and the offense still don’t have quite enough punch for me to put them ahead of the other Big 12 players but this is still a solid football team thanks to its defense. A couple easy tests the next few weeks until they welcome Oklahoma St in a must win if you want to be relevant.
  23. Oregon (1-1) (+2)
    • Oregon gets a chance to get back in the good graces of the nation as they welcome a red hot BYU team this weekend. The blowout against Georgia was alarming but I still think this is a top-25 team. You can’t convince me that 90% of teams wouldn’t face the same result playing the Dawgs in Georgia. Bo Nix is good, not elite but good enough to win 9 games. They need this one against BYU, and they’re favored. Pressure is on.
  24. Penn St (2-0) (NR)
    • An impressive win week 1 at Purdue put Penn St right on the fringe, and thanks to some flops by teams ahead they break through this week. They have a solid secondary, a solid running game and Sean Clifford has looked good thus far. I don’t buy them as contenders in the East but they’re good enough to live in this 20-30 range.
  25. Mississippi St (2-0) (NR)
    • Right there with Minnesota for most overlooked teams in the country Mississippi St continues to get absolutely robbed by voters. Will Rogers is one of the best QB’s in the Country and runs one of the most elite offenses in the country in classic Mike Leach fashion. A trip to LSU is the perfect opportunity for them to make themselves relevant, it’s also a big-time flop opportunity. You have to have these.

CFB Power Rankings (Week 2)

  1. Georgia (1-0) (+3)
    • The defending champs let the whole country know they weren’t ready to relinquish their title just yet, and despite all of the talent lost to the NFL they looked as good if not better than a season ago on both sides of the ball. Stetson Bennett was dominate, the D was nasty and they absolutely embarrassed Oregon. They deserve #1 and anyone saying otherwise isn’t using their eyeballs.
  2. Alabama (1-0) (-1)
    • The Tide won 55-0 and drop to #2, speaks to what Georgia was able to do, not the Tide looking bad by any means. Bryce Young was dominate, the defense looked great and they get a chance Week 2 to have their own dominating performance against the always hyped Texas.
  3. Ohio St (1-0) (-1)
    •  It could be we overestimated the Buckeyes heading into this season. It could be we underestimated ND, possibly a little of both. However, Ohio St still came away with a victory in what turned out to be an absolute grind. The Irish deserve a ton of credit for pushing them as far as they did, but alarm bells may begin to sound if this Ohio St Offense continues to sputter. On the plus side the defense looked much better, so elite is still the proper descriptor for this team.
  4. Clemson (1-0) (-1)
    • Clemson is on shaky ground right now, and if it weren’t for an absolutely disgusting defense they would not be near the top-5. DJ and co just need to be competent and they will be in the hunt, the problem was the O-Line looked abysmal in Week 1 against Georgia Tech. No run game, no explosive WR’s and a shaky QB? The offense has a long way to go…but damn that defense is scary.
  5. Texas A&M (1-0) (+1)
    • Defense pitched a shutout and Hanes King looked serviceable, albeit a bit too eager to throw it into traffic. If he can clean up the decision making the Aggies are extremely dangerous thanks to a solid run game and a great defense. Make no mistake though, the gap from here and nos. 1 and 2 is gigantic.
  6. Michigan (1-0) (+1)
    • Another team that simply took care of business in Week 1, slowly and definitively burying Colorado St behind the usual solid run game and good defense. The question here is the QB position…I think everyone who has watched the game for even a little while can see JJ McCarthy is the guy, we’ll just have to see how Harbaugh handles it.
  7. Utah (0-1) (-2)
    • A lot of people are discounting the Pac-12 after the Utes traveled to the swamp and lost in tragic fashion at the 11th hour. I say not so fast, as Florida looked really, really good and so did the Utes, who’s to say they can’t go 11-1 and be right in the mix? A soft stretch in the schedule should allow them to gain the confidence back before a road trip to Eugene opens the door to CFP relevancy again.
  8. Notre Dame (0-1) (–)
    • Another top-10 team who looked the part but lost a tough road game. The Irish gave the Buckeyes everything they could handle behind their stout D, the offense just simply couldn’t get it done, mustering only 10 points. The Irish have to get better on that side of the ball, and still have every opportunity to make the playoff with dates against Clemson and USC still on the schedule.
  9. Oklahoma (1-0) (+2)
    • The Sooners took care of business and all of the new parts looked solid. We really just won’t know what to make of this team for a while, as their NC schedule is pretty weak especially given how Nebraska has looked early on. Oklahoma could be a sneaky bet to make the playoff just due to the favorable schedule and Dillon Gabriel is the real deal.
  10. Arkansas (1-0) (+6)
    • Woo. Pig. Sooie. The Hogs looked much like they did a season ago with KJ Jefferson and co. running the ball down Cincy’s throats and notching a win over a ranked opponent. It was a 7-point game that really never felt like they were in danger, as Cincy just lost too much on Offense to pose a serious threat. Next up a wildcard in South Carolina.
  11. Miami (Fl) (1-0) (+1)
    • When your offense puts up 70 points it’s always a good Saturday, and the Canes proved just why everyone is hyping them up. It’ll be interesting to see Van Dyke play a legitimate defense, and to see what their D looks like against a real offense. We’ll find out just who they are Week 3 when they head to Texas A&M.
  12. Wisconsin (1-0) (+1)
    • Just what we expected out of the Badgers. Run the ball, run some more, hope Mertz can make a few throws in play action and allow virtually 0 yards. Braelon Allen is the most under the radar elite player in the Nation and this D is pretty nasty. It really comes down to Graham Mertz being a game manager and not wrecking it for a solid team. Tough test in Washington St this weekend.
  13. USC (1-0) (+2)
    • Well the experiment is off to a good start, but it helps to welcome in Rice for the first go round. Caleb Williams looked good, Addison looked good, the D was fine. The real test begins this week however, as they go to Stanford who will be feisty as always. Can they stop the run? Can the O-Line hold up against a legit PAC-12 D? We will soon find out.
  14. Florida (1-0) (NR)
    • The story of Week 1. Anthony Richardson looked like a legit NFL prospect with unreal athleticism to go with a legitimate rocket of a right arm. His ability in read option/RPO’s make this Florida offense a scary proposition for opposing defenses. And speaking of defense, they slowed down a powerhouse Utah offense and were flying around. Kentucky is next to the swamp, if you are legit ya gotta win again.
  15. Pitt (1-0) (+2)
    • Kedon Slovis looked the part against heated rival W. Virginia and there is no rest for the wicked as Tennessee heads to town next. Should be another shootout as the first team to 40 may not even be in the clear. What is clear is that this Pitt offense is still humming and the Pitt defense is still garbage. We’ll see if that remains true this weekend.
  16. N.C. State (1-0) (-6)
    • Whew. Only way to describe what State is feeling following an escape of a win against rival ECU. Sending the kicker some flowers as well. Devin Leary did not look great, and the offense needs some explosive playmakers, but the defense did play well despite being on the field a ton. Not sure what to think now on this squad. Week 1 jitters?
  17. Oklahoma St (1-0) (-3)
    • A shootout with a MAC team? That spells trouble. With last season’s defense seeing a lot of exits including the D coordinator giving up 44 in Week 1 is a rough start. Spencer Sanders looked good but if they regress defensively they will not be in the hunt in the Big 12 and may not last long in this top-25. A date with Arizona St could be more of a test this week, all eyes on the defense.
  18. Kentucky (1-0) (–)
    • A trip to the swamp could expose what I think is a too highly valued Kentucky team that at times was in a struggle with Miami (OH). The offensive line was a problem as the run game was a struggle and Levis was often under duress. That won’t cut it in the Swamp, especially when trying to keep up with Anthony Richardson and co.
  19. Baylor (1-0) (–)
    • Another team that got through the cupcake in Week 1 but could really be exposed this upcoming weekend when they go to BYU. Shapen looked good but a lot of QB’s look good against a team like Albany. This is a giant matchup for both teams, but the Baylor regression should be on display this Saturday night.
  20. Minnesota (1-0) (–)
    • The unheralded Gophers took care of business as the D pitched a shutout and they dominated on the ground. Ibrahim being fully back from injury is huge, and the experience of Tanner Morgan is extremely valuable. This might be the only top-25 that included Minnesota but it will be proven correct as time goes on.
  21. Texas (1-0) (–)
    • Ho-hum victory over a cupcake gets Texas to the biggest challenge on the schedule in Alabama this weekend. There are no moral victories but you know the Longhorns just want to have a respectable performance. They will not win, but if Ewers moves the ball and they can score 20-30 points on Bama the hype will continue. Bama might score 50 tho…
  22. Ole Miss (1-0) (–)
    • Is Troy good? I’m going to say no, and that performance was a little concerning by the Rebels, as the offense looked bad at times. They are relying on a strong ground game as Jaxson Dart has a long way to go at QB. I am much less convinced Ole Miss is deserving of a top-25 ranking, but an 18 point win is an 18 point win. Week 3 @ GA Tech could be sneaky.
  23. Michigan St (1-0) (–)
    • Looked a lot like last year, strong running game and a serviceable defense against bad teams. Week 3 @ Washington will tell us a bit more about how good Sparty can be this year, but for now they stay inside the rankings. Nationally I think they are overvalued, but are good enough to be sitting here for now.
  24. BYU (1-0) (–)
    • Keeping BYU here for now as they did to USF what they should have done, now they get a chance to take down Baylor and really cement themselves as the top G5 team. This group is so experienced and disciplined on both sides of the ball. I expect them to make a statement this weekend and beat Baylor and vault up these rankings.
  25. Oregon (0-1) (-16)
    • Yikes. Oregon I’m giving the benefit of the doubt in that most teams going to Atlanta would face a similar fate against Georgia right now. I think the Ducks can still be a factor in a down PAC-12 as the talent is off the charts. Bo Nix can win in that conference. The LB’s are talented. Just need to get back out West and prove they belong. But man that was embarrassing.

CFB Power Rankings (Week 1)

  1. Alabama
    • Bryce Young, best QB in college football. Will Anderson Jr, best defensive player in college football. And Nick Saban. What else is there to say? The roster is loaded, but if there’s an achilles heel keeping this group from being the most overwhelming favorite in history, it’s a shoddy offensive line. It’ll hurt the run game and force Bryce Young to make heroic plays, which he can do. But, it could cost them a perfect run, and gives Ohio St and the SEC a glimmer of hope.
  2. Ohio St
    • QB1, RB1, WR1 all at the top of the list in the Country and a dominant OL give the Buckeyes all the tools to have the most explosive offense in the Country. The D just has to be serviceable to allow Ohio St to be staring down Bama in an almost inevitable National Championship matchup. Expect CJ Stroud and company to put on an absolute show this year, although it might not make for many competitive 2nd halves.
  3. Clemson
    • This D is absolutely nasty, especially the front 7 which could easily be the best in all of CFB. The question marks come on the other side of the ball, starting and ending with DJ Uiagalelei. Inconsistent QB play will not be good enough to beat the likes of Alabama/Ohio St, but it may be good enough to still win the ACC and be in the Playoff hunt. But if he can improve his accuracy and get this offense humming, we have a 3-horse race at the top.
  4. Georgia
    • The defending champs lost a ton of talent from their historic defense to the NFL, and while they have the horses in the barn to fill the shoes, they will have to get more out of Stetson Bennett and the offense. The D can’t carry as big a load, so can Bennett really elevate to more than a game manager? The Dogs have a fairly easy schedule in the weaker East, but an opening week matchup with Oregon will tell us just how high their ceiling will be.
  5. Utah
    • The Utes took off last year after giving the reins to QB Cam Rising, and he is back to continue to build on what was a monumental season in 2021. A trip to the Rose Bowl and a blow for blow heavyweight fight with Ohio St proved to the Country the Utes can compete with the best of the best. They have a few stars to replace on D, but this is by far Utah’s best chance to break through to the CFP. All eyes will be on their trip to the Swamp in Week 1.
  6. Texas A&M
    • A QB away. That perfectly encapsulates the situation in 2022 for the Aggies, as this roster is as talented as any outside of the QB situation. Haynes King and Max Johnson continue to battle for the spot, and a Week 3 date with Miami will test just how reliable the chosen QB can be. The defense will be special, but it’ll need more help from whoever is given the keys to the other side of the ball to make the next step into Playoff relevancy.
  7. Michigan
    • Michigan rode an elite ground attack and special defense to the Playoff last year and they’ll have to repeat the same formula without some of the key ingredients this season. Gone are the explosive DE’s and several more on that side as well as leading rusher Hasaan Haskins. Regression seems inevitable, the only saving grace is young QB JJ McCarthy’s pedigree as a 5-star recruit. If he can up the level of play at that position Michigan could have a shot to knock off Ohio St again.
  8. Notre Dame
    • A new HC and a lot of questions around the QB situation put the Irish a step behind the Gold standard that has been set. However, it’s an incredibly talented roster that should tout one of the best run games in the Country. Don’t expect a Playoff trip but they could play spoiler for Clemson/USC later in the season. Even if they get blown out by the Buckeyes week 1.
  9. Oregon
    • The talent is here for Oregon to be sitting in the Pac-12 Championship and in the hunt for a playoff berth. However, a new coaching staff forces you to hesitate just slightly, as they bring in a first-time HC to keep this train on the tracks. Bo Nix incoming helps give this offense an even higher ceiling as he can make bigger plays with his arm. The D should continue to get better and this OL is among the best in the Country. But can they figure out Utah? That will determine their ceiling.
  10. NC State
    • It’s the Devin Leary show in Raleigh and after throwing 35 TD’s and only 5 picks he’s an early candidate for CPOY. The defense is also underrated and returns a lot of talent and could be the difference needed to beat out Clemson in the Atlantic race. I’m not sold on the Wolfpack as Conference champs, but they certainly could play spoiler or be there to capitalize if Clemson slips up.
  11. Oklahoma
    • A lot of question marks surround the Sooners coming into 2022, with HC and QB1 gone and a slew of receivers as well this high-powered offense will be interesting to watch from the get-go. Venebles comes in looking to improve a pretty bad defense a year ago and brings in UCF star QB Dillon Gabriel to steady the other side. Oklahoma could be the best of the Big 12, they could also struggle a lot. It’s a gamble I’m not willing to make just yet.
  12. Miami (Fl)
    • A lot of hype around the new look Hurricanes, but can a wave of transfers and a new coaching staff take a 7-win team to a Conference Championship? Van Dyke is a stud no doubt, but this defense has holes, and they can be 1 dimensional on offense. I’m a wait and see with this group, and while the Coastal division may be for the taking, I think they’re a ways off from Clemson level. We’ll see what they’re all about Week 3 when they see Texas A&M.
  13. Wisconsin
    • It’s a story as old as time, the Badgers will tout an elite defense, an elite ground attack and will hope and pray for quality QB play. I fear their prayers may fall on deaf ears though, as Graham Mertz just doesn’t look to be the guy to lift Wisconsin back to the level of Michigan/Ohio St. The West is wide open however, and the Badgers should at least be the early favorite to win that side. Look out for Braelon Allen as a sleeper Heisman candidate.
  14. Oklahoma St
    • Spencer Sanders is back and this D should still be really good even if a step back is in order. WR1 RB1 and the QB of the defense MLB Rodriguez are all gone, so there could be some growing pains. If the Pokes want to re-make their magical season from last year they’ll need Sanders to step up as a do-it-all QB making better decisions with the football. Time will tell.
  15. USC
    • In comes Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams to try and resurrect one of the most historic programs in CFB, should be fun. But, much like Texas the fun could fizzle out if the explosive offense is let down by a bad defense. The Trojans do have a little more promise on that side though, with a few pieces that could be playmakers, they could do just enough to help Williams and Co get USC back to the mountaintop.
  16. Arkansas
    • Sam Pittman and the Hogs were one of the surprises of the season last year and QB KJ Jefferson is back with a slew of weapons to try and run it back. The hogs play fast, and have the best rushing attack in the Country, but their brutal schedule in the SEC West and out of Conference caps their ceiling. 7-8 wins and a bowl game will be another great success for Pittman and co.
  17. Pitt
    • Kenny Pickett out, Kedon Slovis in. Rinse and repeat? It certainly looks that way, and while the loss of Addison at receiver hurts this offense should be as fiery as last year’s version. The defense is where the questions begin, as the secondary repeatedly got torched a year ago and that will likely be the case once again. Expect a shootout when Pitt takes the field and with this firepower, they certainly present Miami the toughest challenge on the Coastal side of this Conference.
  18. Kentucky
    • Will Levis and RB Chris Rodriguez Jr are back to lead an impressive looking offense. However, there are some major questions on the other side of the ball after losing some of the major parts from last season’s group. Levis is getting a lot of hype pre-season, but I’m not quite sold on his ability to elevate this Kentucky group to another level. They’ll get tested early with a week 2 trip to the swamp.
  19. Baylor
    • 2021 was quite possibly the greatest season in Baylor football history, and with a slew of departures on both sides of the ball regression seems inevitable. What you’re betting on here is QB Blake Shapen stepping up and playing really solid, which he showed flashes of in 3 games last season. The defense lost a lot of playmakers and the top RB’s are gone, not great. Great coaching can only take you so far, a step back is still a solid season.
  20. Minnesota
    • One of the most overlooked teams across the country, the Gophers quietly were knocking on the door of a Big Ten Championship appearance last year and return most of their significant contributors. Headlining is the return of RB1 Mohamed Ibrahim from injury and 6th year QB Tanner Morgan. A ton of experience and a very solid D give Minnesota as good a chance as anyone in the West to grab a bid to the Conf Championship game.
  21. Texas
    • New HC, new QB1 and a set of skill players that rival Alabama and Ohio St have all the pundits screaming from the hilltops Texas is Back! Gee, when have we heard this before? Quinn Ewers will be electric, Bijan Robinson is the best RB in the country, but this defense….absolutely pathetic. Even with some improvement they still might give up 60 to Alabama week 2. Texas is fun, but not ready to be declared all the way “Back” just yet.
  22. Ole Miss
    • Matt Corral is out and Lane Kiffin has a decision to make at QB, one that may fluctuate all season. The defense is not good, but this explosive offensive system gained a ton of weapons via the transfer portal so they should still be able to put up points with either QB. Regression is surely coming, and it could get ugly in a very difficult SEC. Luckily the schedule is light early on.
  23. Michigan St
    • A few losses on the O-line and Kenneth Walker off to the NFL set up Sparty for regression this season. Stack on top of that a pretty bad defense and you could see Michigan St as one of the most overrated teams heading into 2022. Mel Tucker can clearly coach, but expecting 10-2 again seems like a reach, and with a brutal schedule 7 wins would still be solid in year 2.
  24. BYU
    • 21 out of 22 starters are back from a 10 win team that put up a ton of points a year ago. Expect this offense to continue to hum, and look for some improvement from a defense that definitely struggled at times. They get dates with Oregon, Notre Dame, Arkansas and Baylor as they try and play spoiler to some of the Nation’s best. All of those are winnable games, and if things go right they could be at the group of 5 mountaintop this season.
  25. Cincinnati
    • No Desmond Ritter to lead the show certainly puts a ceiling on how good the Bearcats can be, but this roster is still very talented, and they are extremely well coached. New QB1 is a highly touted recruit with no experience, so be the end of the season they could be rolling, but an opening week date with Arkansas could be a rough way to start this new era.