Miami entered the season ranked No. 11 in the ESPN Power Rankings.
Five weeks into the season, the Hurricanes have moved up to No. 6.
It's been an impressive 9-0 start for Miami, and its rise in the rankings is a direct result of that zero in the loss column. Outside of that, though, the jury is still very much out on the Hurricanes. On paper, they're absolutely good enough to be a top-10 team and an ACC contender. Bruce Brown and freshman Lonnie Walker are potential first-round NBA draft picks in the backcourt, although both players have had slumps so far. Ja'Quan Newton is a quality point guard. Former five-star recruit Dewan Huell is having a breakout year, and Melbourne native Dejan Vasiljevic gives Miami a different dimension from the perimeter.
But what has Miami really done so far? Its best win is at Minnesota, which at the time looked like an impressive victory. Some of the shine has been removed in recent weeks, though, with the Golden Gophers falling by 10 to Nebraska and by 16 to Arkansas. So if Minnesota isn't as good as expected, Miami's nonconference résumé is lacking, as the Gophers are the lone top-125 KenPom team Miami has played thus far.
Furthermore, we might not really know how good Miami is until ACC play. The Hurricanes head to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic this week, but the second-best team in the bracket is USC, which is struggling.
At the end of the season, Miami is very likely to be a top-10 team and in the top three of the ACC -- but we just don't know how good the Hurricanes are yet.
What other squads are we still trying to truly figure out?
Arizona State Sun Devils
The Sun Devils can't be this good, right? They've won at Kansas and beat Xavier by 16 on a neutral court, yet they're ranked No. 127 in defensive efficiency. We have them No. 1 in the ESPN Power Rankings off the strength of their two big wins, but it remains to be seen whether their hot 3-point shooting is sustainable. On the plus side, Mickey Mitchell just joined the team, although freshman Kimani Lawrence is still out. We'll find out more when Pac-12 play starts: at Arizona, at Colorado, at Utah. Even if they're not really the No. 1 team in the country, the Sun Devils are probably the best team in the league other than Arizona.
Kansas had a legitimate case to be No. 1 a couple of weeks ago. The Jayhawks had a win over Kentucky and had throttled every opponent -- until they lost to Washington and Arizona State in back-to-back games and then barely beat Nebraska over the weekend. They have clear issues. They're not as tough as they were last year; they don't have a go-to guy like Frank Mason III; and they're embarrassingly thin up front. If I were forced to pick tomorrow, the Jayhawks would still be the Big 12 favorite, but with so much balance in the league, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Bill Self suffer his most league losses this season. A 14th straight Big 12 title isn't a shoo-in.
Duke Blue Devils
For a team with wins over Michigan State, Florida and Texas, there were a ton of questions about Duke even before its loss to Boston College. The Blue Devils have more talent than anyone else in the country, but they're not defending well at all and have been slow to start games on multiple occasions this season. Is Duke going to live up to its potential? That's the big question. The Devils will have to be a lot better on the defensive end, especially around the rim -- and they'll have to get more consistent perimeter shooting. Hopefully for them, having just one game between Dec. 10 and Dec. 30 could help fix some things.
So which Arizona are we going to see in Pac-12 play? It's probably not going to be the version from the Battle 4 Atlantis in Bahamas, when the Wildcats dropped three games in three days -- including a 25-point loss to Purdue. It will likely be closer to the team we've seen in recent weeks, the team that beat Texas A&M and Alabama and got Rawle Alkins back from injury. In Alkins, Allonzo Trier and Deandre Ayton, Sean Miller has one of the best trios in the country, but the Wildcats will have to start defending like a Miller-coached team. Arizona is still one of the most talented teams in the country, and the Bahamas trip should look like an aberration.
Had we done this last week, Kentucky might have been the headliner. We learned a little bit more about the Wildcats over the weekend, when they beat Virginia Tech in Lexington. So now we have a loss to Kansas, a win over Virginia Tech, a win over Vermont ... and basically nothing else. It won't take long to gain some more insight into John Calipari's team, as the Wildcats play UCLA and Louisville in the next two weeks before SEC play begins. Kentucky is going to be a team that gets better as the season progresses, as always, but are the Wildcats going to be able to make enough perimeter shots to be efficient offensively?
USC was in this writer's preseason Final Four. That obviously won't happen now, but it's more than just the FBI-investigation-related absence of De'Anthony Melton. Looking back, maybe we were all a bit too bullish on the Trojans before the season. It was essentially the same team that snuck into the NCAA tournament last season as a First Four team. And without Melton, who covers up a lot of USC's flaws, the Trojans are simply not a team deserving of a Top 25 ranking right now. They're 0-3 in their three toughest games, losing by a combined 35 points. The one glimmer of hope: What if Melton returns? This team still has as much talent as anyone in the Pac-12.
What is going on in Gainesville? Less than a month ago, the Gators were one of the most entertaining teams in college basketball, putting up 108 or more points in four of their first five games, taking Duke to the wire. They were one of the 10 best teams in the country after a few weeks. Since then, they've lost four of five games -- including home games to Florida State, Loyola Chicago and a "neutral-site" game to Clemson in Sunrise, Florida. Oddly enough, their lone win during that stretch was over a good Cincinnati team. We have no idea how Florida is going to be in SEC play. The best guess is an inconsistent group with impressive wins and eyebrow-raising losses.
Wichita State Shockers
Take away the Shockers' win over Baylor earlier this season and there would be far more questions being asked of Wichita State. The Baylor win is Wichita State's lone Top 25 regular-season win since beating Utah in December 2015. So how good is Wichita State, really? The Shockers didn't beat anyone last season for the most part, yet they were ranked as a consensus top-10 in the preseason. They've lost to Notre Dame and Oklahoma already and are not defending like a Gregg Marshall team. Fortunately for the Shockers, they are expected to get Markis McDuffie back from injury very soon. This is still likely the best team in the American Athletic Conference and a second-weekend NCAA tournament team.
TCU Horned Frogs
As we enter the final days of 2017, TCU looks like the most consistent team in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs are the highest-ranked team in the league in ESPN's Power Rankings. But are they really the Big 12 favorite? Probably not. But we don't really know yet. They have some nice wins -- SMU, Nevada -- but they haven't played another team from a power-six conference yet this season. Jamie Dixon has undoubtedly done a great job with the Horned Frogs since taking over last season, but being one of four remaining unbeaten teams is carrying their résumé right now. Opening Big 12 play with Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas in an eight-day span will tell us a lot about TCU.