50 Days Until March Madness: Ranking the Top 50 Teams in College Basketball
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Zion Williamson an RJ Barrett
We’re less than two months away from the excuses beginning to mount. You have to leave work because you’re either related to one of the players, your kid is sick or even the occasional vasectomy.
That’s right. There’s only 50 days separating us from the most wonderful time of the year — March Madness. In honor of this occasion, it’s time to dissect the top 50 teams in college basketball.
WARNING: Do not read the rankings below if you’re easily offended by your favorite team’s standing. Otherwise, carry on with caution.
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College Basketball’s Top 50 Teams
National title odds listed in parentheses from the Westgate SuperBook.
1. Tennessee (10-1): Known for its defense entering the campaign, the Vols have manufactured the second-highest Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (122.8 points per 100 possessions) in the country. Led by Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield, Rick Barnes’ crew appears to be one of the leading candidates to head to Minneapolis for the Final Four in late March.
2. Duke (7-4): Not only do the Blue Devils boast the third-rated AdjO, but they’ve also totaled the fourth-best Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (87.9 opponents’ points per 100 possessions) — their highest ranking since winning the national title in 2010. Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Co. have the same flaws as some Duke teams over the last few years.
3. Virginia (8-1): Similar to Tennessee, the Cavaliers’ fourth-rated AdjO is the best ranking in the Tony Bennett era (2009-19). Unless De’Andre Hunter gets hurt before the NCAA tournament again (knock on wood), forget the notion that a slow-tempo squad can’t cut down the nets in April.
4. Michigan State (7-1): These Spartans are a more complete version of last year’s team — even after missing sharpshooter Joshua Langford (foot) for the past eight games and losing two lottery picks in the NBA Draft. It’s due in large part to evolution of point guard Cassius Winston, who boasts the sixth-highest assist rate (41.7%) in Division I and a menacing 3-point stroke (45.5%).
5. Michigan (12-1): The Wolverines have rounded into form down the stretch over the past two seasons, but this group has already done so with the highest AjD in the nation. If John Beilein’s crew avoids scoreless stretches and inconsistent play from its lead guards, it’s as sound as any team in college basketball.
6. Gonzaga (7-1): Mark Few has coached some special offensive units in Spokane, Wash., but these Bulldogs own their highest AdjO in the history of KenPom. Center Killian Tillie and backup point guard Geno Crandal have both returned after missing losses against Tennessee and North Carolina, respectively, too.
7. Kentucky (12-1): As explosive as Keldon Johnson and Reid Travis are offensively, point guard Ashton Hagans and forward P.J. Washington have led the turnaround at the other end — good for the seventh-rated AdjD — their best standing since losing to Wisconsin the 2015 Final Four. It’s time to forget about the opening-night debacle against Duke.
8. Villanova (25-1): Remember when the Wildcats were left for dead following a gashing at home by Michigan? Guided by the explosive play from seemingly seventh-year senior Phil Booth, they own the 10th-ranked AdjO with one of the younger teams around.
9. Nevada (30-1): The Wolf Pack present one of the most unique squads in the country because they can switch on every ball screen while showcasing multiple floor-spacing ball handlers. Their biggest issue remains slow starts, which could be costly in March Madness.
10. Houston (80-1): Kelvin Sampson’s crew is arguably the most underrated team in DI, hidden in the AAC. The Cougars’ 13th-rated AdjD is generated by its elite ball pressure, and the unit delivers an experienced backcourt needed to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
11. North Carolina (12-1): If Tar Heels point guard Coby White cuts down on his 21.9% turnover rate, the 5-star freshman has the promise to takeover March with the help of an elite frontcourt. Roy Williams’ 16th-rated AdjD is starting to round into form, too.
12. Marquette (80-1): Ever dream of seeing the Golden State Warriors in college basketball form? The Golden Eagles have amassed the 12th-highest 3-point percentage (39.6%), but their 51st-rated AdjD is the difference from their other explosive teams under Steve Wojciechowski.
13. Virginia Tech (60-1): The Hokies possess the second-ranked eFG% (59.3%) in the sport, yet their 12th-ranked opponents’ turnover rate (23.5%) sparks their dominating shooting in transition. Buzz Williams has guided his Marquette teams on deep March Madness runs in the past.
14. Louisville (100-1): Chris Mack was expected to be a part of a rebuild in his first season, but the Cardinals’ 14th-rated AdjO has changed that narrative. Mack compared their leading-scorer Jordan Nwora to his former sharpshooter Trevon Bluiett (Xavier) in the offseason, and the 6-foot-8 forward has returned the favor (18.2 points per game).
15. Kansas (25-1): Take the program’s historic name and coach away, and some would expect the Jayhawks to meltdown in the coming weeks. Bill Self’s 14th-ranked AdjD is keeping them afloat, but they lack the perimeter offense needed to mitigate their smaller frontcourt. The 6-foot-9 Silvio De Sousa (ineligible) likely isn’t walking through the door, either.
16. Purdue (25-1): For much of the season, Carsen Edwards was playing hero ball while the rest of his teammates stood and watched. But the Boilermakers have eight outright wins in their past nine games with an improved defense, and they’ve also found a sound low-post duo in Matt Haarms and freshman Trevion Williams.
17. Texas Tech (60-1): The Red Raiders’ third-ranked AjD has propelled them back into the Big 12 race in what was presumed to be a down season after Keenan Evans and Zhaire Smith both graduated. The 6-foot-6 sophomore Jarrett Culver has developed into an all-around force as a result, but they need him to take over earlier in games.
18. Maryland (100-1): The Terrapins’ monstrous frontcourt of Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith has helped their attack surge to the 19th-rated AdjO. Point guard Anthony Cowan is one of the deadliest scorers down the stretch, too.
19. Iowa State (40-1): Steve Prohm has brought the Cyclones back to prominence, and their play looks similar to the Fred Hoiberg era via the 16th-ranked eFG% (55.8%). Virginia transfer Marial Shayok (19.7 ppg) has ascended in Prohm’s floor-spacing system.
20. LSU (100-1): The Tigers have won nine games in a row straight up, and their 21.9% opponents’ turnover rate has spurted their dominance inside the arc. With an electric two-way combo in Tremont Waters and Naz Reid, coach Will Wade presents a sound middle-of-the-pack SEC unit despite its likely regression to come.
21. Buffalo (100-1): The Bulls are well-balanced at each end with the 25th and 28th AdjO and AjdD, respectively. But similar to Nevada, they’ve played poorly in a few first halves in MAC play, including an outright loss at Northern Illinois. C.J. Massinburg has breakout potential in March, though.
22. Wisconsin (100-1): Following a stretch of four losses in five games, the Badgers have rattled off four straight wins. The 6-foot-10 Ethan Happ is a serious contender for the Naismith Player of the Year, too, averaging 18.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.
23. Washington (80-1): While the Huskies sit in a weak Pac-12, they’ve reeled off nine consecutive wins. Mike Hopkins’ 2-3 zone has manufactured the 21st-rated AdjD.
24. NC State (200-1): The Wolfpack’s swift-paced attack has amassed the 18th-highest eFG% (55.7%), and one-point loss against Virginia on Tuesday shows how much potential they have with a healthy Markell Johnson.
25. Cincinnati (200-1): Mick Cronin’s squad isn’t the class of the AAC any longer thanks to its slight defensive regression (38th-ranked AjD), but the Bearcats’ offense has taken a step up with Jarron Cumberland’s ascension.
26. Kansas State (60-1): The return of Dean Wade paired with the Wildcats’ fourth-rated AjD has flung Bruce Weber’s crew back into Big 12 contention, yet their 205th-rated AdjO can go silent at times — like it did in their 12-point loss at Texas A&M on Saturday.
27. Mississippi State (80-1): The Bulldogs have succeeded in their shift towards a perimeter-oriented attack, but their below average turnover rate has hurt them immensely in SEC play. Nick Weatherspoon’s knee injury won’t aid those concerns.
28. Auburn (80-1): Bruce Pearl’s AdjD is the third-lowest amid its conference slate, leading to three straight loses. The Tigers’ 55th-rated 3-point shooting (37.3%) can only do show much until they raise their game at the other end.
29. Baylor (200-1): No, the Bears’ ranking isn’t a typo. They’ve righted the ship after losing Tristan Clarke (knee) for the remainder of the campaign, and it’s a credit to accruing the top rebounding rate — at both ends — in Big 12 play and the league’s second-highest 3-point clip (38%).
30. Florida State (100-1): The Seminoles have bounced back from four losses in five contests with back-to-back wins, and their size is starting to assert itself like it displayed during FSU’s Elite Eight run a season ago — inside and on the glass.
31. Iowa (200-1): Fran McCaffrey’s defense is beginning to relapse into its typical form, allowing an average of 1.22 points per possession to Michigan State and Minnesota in consecutive games. The Hawkeyes own the worst AdjD in Big Ten play as a result.
32. Syracuse (80-1): The Orange’s roller coaster ride has carried on throughout their conference schedule, amassing the sixth-highest turnover rate while accruing the highest opponents’ miscue rate. Somehow, they’ll end up in the Elite Eight, though.
33. Wofford (500-1): Watch out for the Terriers, producing the 12th-highest eFG% (56.0%) in the nation. Fletcher Magee (18.8 ppg) represents one of the best kept secrets in the game as well.
34. Lipscomb (N/A): The Bisons have tallied road wins at SMU, TCU and Liberty, along with a tight loss at Louisville. Their 15th-rated AdjD will keep plenty of higher seeds on upset alert in the big dance.
35. TCU (200-1): The Horned Frogs’ defense has suffered after losing their top defender in Jaylen Fisher (knee) for the remainder of the season, yet their 34th-rated AdjO still makes them a threat in the middle of the Big 12.
36. Alabama (1000-1): The Crimson Tide have begun making their mark in the SEC with wins over Kentucky, Ole Miss and Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa. The 6-foot-9 Donta Hall has transformed into one of the most efficient rim protectors in country to guide their defense, too.
37. Texas (200-1): Shaka Smart’s unit is up there with Syracuse as one of the most confusing teams around after upsetting Kansas in Austin, but the Longhorns surprisingly own the Big 12’s second-highest AdjO in league play.
38. Ole Miss (500-1): The Rebels have lost three of their past four after 10 consecutive outright wins, as their red-hot perimeter offense has dipped the SEC’s ninth-lowest 3-point percentage (33.3%) amid their in-conference schedule.
39. Arizona State (200-1): No, he’s not “Bobby ******* Hurley,” like one reporter likes to preach. But the former Buffalo coach has his Sun Devils on the rise with five wins in their past seven games, led by their interior defense and a rapid-paced offense via point guard Remy Martin (27.8% assist rate).
40.Oklahoma (80-1): Despite the Sooners’ 68th AdjO overall, it’s slipped to dead-last in the Big 12 during league play.
41. Minnesota (500-1): The Golden Gophers’ 58th-rated AdjO is sustaining their relevance in the Big Ten, as the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Jordan Murphy has totaled 19 points, 14.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game over their past three matchups.
42. Ohio State (500-1): The Buckeyes have lost six of their past seven games, and their 20.3% turnover rate (No. 13 in conference) during their Big Ten slate has hampered their offense immensely.
43. UCF (200-1): The Knights’ 52nd-ranked AdjD is initiated by their secure interior defense, and they’ll likely punch a ticket into the NCAA Tournament because of it. If you haven’t witnessed the 7-foot-6 Tako Fall block a shot, it’s about damn time.
44. Hofstra (N/A): The Pride’s 16 straight victories is the longest active winning streak in the sport, and their 19th-ranked AdjO could do some damage come the NCAA Tournament to top it off.
45. St. John’s (300-1): Chris Mullins’ bunch hasn’t had nearly as much luck in that department, losing four of its past five contests. The Red Storm are getting battered on the glass at both ends, with the league’s lowest rebounding rate.
46. Creighton (500-1): In a down campaign for the Big East, the Bluejays might benefit the most if their high-octane shooting from behind the arc (41.4%) sustains itself.
47. Murray State (500-1): The Racers’ 36th-rated AdjO is escorted by one of the most explosive guards around in Ja Morant (24.1 ppg). His highlight-reel dunks captures our hearts, but he also owns the highest assist rate (56.2%) in DI.
For your viewing pleasure…..the Ja Morant POSTER!!!! pic.twitter.com/BcgiHPNE7b
— Adam Wells (@TheAdamBWells) January 11, 2019
48. Nebraska (100-1): Isaac Copeland’s season-ending ACL tear has put a damper on the Cornhuskers’ season, to go along with four straight losses, and they’ll likely miss out on the big dance.
49. Indiana (500-1): The Hoosiers have sputtered out of control, outdueling Nebraska in the loss column with six-straight defeats. Their non-existent 3-point shooting has allowed opponents to crowd the lane and hold 5-star wing Romeo Langford in-check.
50. Davidson (1000-1): The Wildcats appear to be the Atlantic 10’s top team in a jumbled bunch, notching the 24th-highest scoring percentage (39.8%) from the perimeter.