2018 is underway and college basketball teams dodged blizzards and blasts to play conference games this past week. After  two weeks of creampuffs and cupcakes the ranked teams were forced to play real competition and the results were shocking. Duke lost, Michigan State missed the bus to Ohio State, North Carolina got punched in the face twice, Kentucky and Texas A&M continued their downward spiral, Xavier got tripped up and Oklahoma was humbled.

There were a few winners: Miami and Virginia both won ugly while Kansas and Arizona State won lucky.

This appears to be the year of the demolition derby, the year in which the top teams will all suffer 4, 5, or even six losses before March Madness and a year in which surprise teams could well win their way into the tournament with a Cinderella performance in conference tournaments.

As usual, the RPG rankings look far different than the AP poll and the ESPN BPI. RPG grades playing performances, win or lose, and doesn’t give a hoot about won/lost records. Wins and losses do not tell us how good a team is; they merely tell us that a team played better than its opponent on game day. That winner will get a higher grade than the loser but will not get the same grade–a “W”–as all other winners. Winners and losers are differentiated by how well they played and the strength of their opponent.

As a result, Michigan State, North Carolina and Xavier all received better grades in losses than Miami earned in its win over Florida State. Duke and Michigan State, who had a big lead on the rest of the pack coming into the week, are now tied for first in our rankings despite their losses this week. Their lead over #3 Villanova has shrunk but they’ve still played better basketball than ‘Nova over the first half of the season. The best performances this week belonged to Cincinnati and Arizona State, both of which closed the gap on the teams immediately ahead of them.

To see all of the rankings this week, including grades for each team’s most recent game, visit http://nemosnumbers.com/basketball-rankings/.

Happy New Year!