College basketball power rankings: UCLA up to No. 2, Alabama into the top five; Texas and Marquette join the party

1 Record: 15-1 Last week: 1. The Jayhawks hold on to the top spot after coming back from a second straight second-half, double-digit home deficit, only to turn that loss into a win thanks to an 18-4 closing run vs. Oklahoma. Allen Fieldhouse has a unique voodoo living inside its walls. Kansas’ 79-75 win Tuesday night got it to 4-0 in Big 12 play for the first time since 2017. The Jayhawks extended their home dominance over Oklahoma to 22 straight victories. What’s more, KU has won at least 15 of its first 16 games for the seventh time under Bill Self. 2 Record: 14-2 Last week: 3. Adem Bona is getting better by the week, which is why UCLA warrants No. 2 love — and a higher ranking here than any other place you’ll find. Bona, a big freshman, averaged 11.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in UCLA’s last three. UCLA hosts Utah on Thursday. The Utes are a fringe NCAA Tournament team at the season’s midway point and trying to snap a five-game losing skid to the Bruins. As noted in Wednesday’s Court ReportUCLA is the only team in the Big Six conferences to live up to its preseason hype. 3 Record: 17-1 Last week: 4. Jarace Walker missed Houston’s win Wednesday over South Florida, but the former five-star prospect and tantalizing 6-foot-8 big for the Cougars scored 44 points in Houston’s previous two games: wins against SMU and at Cincinnati. He was the CBS Sports/USBWA Freshman of the Week. and although he’s on the outside of the top five newbies nationally for nowWalker is a clear-cut top 10 frosh in college hoops with the potential to move up with a quickness. 4 Record: 14-2 Last week: 6. The Crimson Tide have never earned a No. 1 seed in their history, but that could end in a couple of months. After winning 84-69 at Arkansas on Wednesday night, Nate Oats’ team has claimed maybe the best pair of road wins (Houston being the other) in the country. The one problem: The refs in Bud Walton Arena last night were overmatched and marred a top-15 matchup. 5 Record: 14-2 Last week: 5. It’s going to be interesting to see how Tennessee defends the 3-point line on the back half of this season, because although the Vols are a great defensive collective, what’s happening right now is alien. Tennessee is holding opponents to 20.9% 3-point accuracy, which would be, by far, an NCAA record. (Norfolk State allowed 25.3% in 2004-05.) That number is going to creep up, the question is: Does any team ever crack 35% 3-point shooting in a game against UT this season? 6 Record: 15-1 | Last week 7. The Boilermakers — the lead item of Wednesday’s Court Report — are now projected to win the Big Ten by three games, which doesn’t seem unreasonable given how much of a toss-up the rest of the league is. Seriously, go check the standings. Who is a firm Nos. 2-4? It’s a jumble right now, and Purdue is far above that fray. 7 Record: 15-1 Last week: 11. The Wildcats made AP poll history this week. Never before had a team go this deep into the season (after New Year’s Day) unranked, only to make its season debut in the AP Top 25 and be as high as 11th, where K-State sits now. There are a few national coach of the year candidates as we hit mid-January, but everyone is second to Jerome Tang at the moment. 8 Record: 14-3 Last week: 12. You might have missed it, but Gonzaga (13) is behind Saint Mary’s at for the first time since December 2017. Not only that, but the 14-4 Gaels are ranked all the way up at ninth in that metric. Practically nobody’s paying attention to the Gaels. These rivals won’t clash until early February. Gonzaga walks into the rowdy Marriott Center on Thursday for its game at BYU. 9 Record: 13-2 Last week: 13. The Cyclones have won six in a row and are 4-0 in the Big 12. It’s the first time since 2000 that ISU’s started this well in the conference ledger. It’s set up a big-time game this weekend with a trip to Kansas. Because the Big 12 has a streaming-included part of its rights package with the Big 12, here is your warning that Clones-Jayhawks will only be an ESPN+ viewing option this weekend. 10 Record: 14-2 Last week: 2. The Wildcats’ 13-point home loss to sub-.500 Washington State last weekend amounts to, I think, the strangest result of the season. No reason whatsoever for a fully healthy Arizona team to drop a game by double digits at home to a squad that won’t be in the NIT. Tommy Lloyd’s team plays the Oregon schools on the road this weekend. Arizona will try to avoid having back-to-back sub-70-point games for only the second time in Lloyd’s tenure. 11 Record: 14-3 Last week: 14. What we have here is the best-case scenario imaginable for Xavier fans in Year 1 with Sean Miller. X won 90-87 Wednesday in a thriller over Creighton, and in doing so kept pace with Providence as one of the two undefeated teams in conference play atop the Big East standings. Winners of 10 straight, the Muskies haven’t lost since November. This is the longest winning streak for Xavier since 2017-18, the year of the program’s sole No. 1 seed. Next is a fabulous home tilt Sunday against 14-4 Marquette. 12 Record: 17-1 Last week: 16. The Cougars can’t stop winning. On Wednesday, the biggest mid-major game of the week came down to the last shot, with Charleston holding on 71-69. The predictive metrics still aren’t sold, however. The Cougars woke up this morning 79th at Sagarin, 79th at KenPom and 56th at when removing all preseason bias from those rankings. More than anything, this team has learned how to win close, a skill to be sure. 13 Record: 14-3 Last week: 18. The Friars rightfully continue to scoot up, considering they haven’t lost since November. The nine-game streak could halt on Saturday; a roadie against desperate Creighton awaits. Jared Bynum, who was expected to be the key guy for PC this season, missed the St. John’s win with an abdominal injury and his status for the weekend is undetermined. Will be tough to get a road victory without him. 14 Record: 14-2 Last week: NR. The Longhorns were my last team out of the Hey Nineteen a week ago. Following a bounce-back 10-point road win over Oklahoma State and an 18-point home comeback against TCU, the Longhorns are easily returning to the party. It was a tough few days for Horned Frogs fans; TCU’s loss Wednesday in Austin marked the 46th time the program has lost on the road against a top-10 team. It has never won in that scenario. 15 Record: 14-4 Last week: NR. Shaka Smart has changed something significant in Marquette’s offense. CJ Moore of The Athletic recently had a detailed investigation into how it was done, and I recommend you check it out (it is paywalled, however). After MU’s 82-76 fend-off of UConn on Wednesday night, the Golden Eagles improved to third in points per possession nationally, the best (by far) of Smart’s 14 years as a head coach. 16 Record: 14-2 Last week: 15. The Hurricanes had no issue dispatching Boston College on Wednesday night, hitting 12 of its 18 3-point attempts, marking the first time since Feb. 27, 2016, that The U shot at least 66% from beyond the arc. I’m now of the mind that Virginia (the first team out of this week’s power rankings) will finish first and Miami will finish second in the ACC. 17 Record: 15-3 Last week: 10. It’s tough for most teams to hold on to their Hey Nineteen parking ticket after losing three of four, but one way around that is to A) be ranked in the top three before losing three of four, and B) have your three losses all come on the road against the three best teams in your conference. That’s exactly what happened to UConn, with a home win over Creighton mixed in. The schedule lightens up for the Huskies for the rest of January. I anticipate one loss, max, in their next six games. 18 Record: 13-3 Last week: NR. The strongest three-pack of losses among any team with only three losses is SDSU. Arizona, Arkansas and Saint Mary’s are all top-20 teams, and the Aztecs took it on the chin to that trio in neutral environments. It’s been more than a month since this group lost, but here comes two-loss New Mexico to town on Saturday. The winner of that game probably gets the right to be back in this spot next week. 19 Record: 15-1 Last week: NR. One of the best mid-majors out there, the Owls kept their winning streak alive by holding on 77-73 in overtime Wednesday night in Miami to beat FIU. FAU’s 14 straight victories are second in the sport to Charleston’s 16. What’s more, this for-real team ranks top-45 at KenPom, top-35 at Torvik and top-15 in the NET. What a season this is becoming in college hoops. FAU is in my power rankings. What?!

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