We’re almost there guys. We’re a week away from March, the greatest month of the year if you’re a college basketball fan.
There wasn’t a whole lot of movement in the top half of the rankings this week as there wasn’t really a bad loss. Yes, that includes Utah losing at Oregon. We’ll see more games like this, where bubble teams start playing as hard as possible, catching road favorites in a weak spot.
The one big thing from the week has been suspensions and players kicked off the team, whether it was Chris Jones at Louisville or Dorian Finney-Smith at Florida, teams are starting to lose key players.
Note: These rankings are before games played on February 23.
Chris Jones was just dismissed from the team. I need to see how this team looks without him going forward to move them up. Something tells me they won’t score a lot of points the rest of the season.
One of the lingering questions in March will be how dangerous would VCU be if Briante Weber didn’t tear his ACL. Luckily JeQuan Lewis has filled in for Weber by averaging 13.7 points, 3.5 assists and 2.2 steals in the last six games.
23. Michigan State
Tom Izzo. Do I really need to say more?
Butler is another team battling the loss of a player. In this situation, though, it’s an injury to starting center Andrew Chrabascz. The Bulldogs pulled out a late-game victory at Creighton before being blown out at Xavier. The trio of Alex Barlow, Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones is still strong enough to make Butler dangerous with Chrabascz out.
21. West Virginia
Just another week in the Big 10 for West Virginia. After being written off after getting blown out at home by Baylor, the Mountaineers upset Kansas in Morgantown and then went to Oklahoma State and won by 10. So, yeah, you figure them out.
This should really just say Kris Dunn. Yes, LaDontae Henton is one of the best scorers in the country, but Kris Dunn is one of the best all-around players in the country. He is a scoring threat from the point guard position while also racking up assists. The Friars take on Villanova tomorrow for a chance to make a run at the Big East title.
19. North Carolina
Does North Carolina deserve a top-4 seed or will they get a top-4 seed because they are North Carolina? This team just isn’t that good. Sure, they took Duke to overtime on the road, but that was four losses in five games. The Tar Heels are just 2-7 against the RPI Top 40 this year.
Maryland is 5-3 over the course of the last month. Of those eight games, the Terps have never won by more than six points, while never losing by less than 16. Something about that isn’t right and shows Maryland can be overseeded come March. A game at home against Wisconsin this week looms, where the Terrapins can make a case for their ranking.
SMU is doing its best job of avoiding heartbreak this Selection Sunday by winning 20 of its last 22 games. Those only two losses came to the hands of Cincinnati, a team the Mustangs are hoping to avoid in the American Conference Tournament. Imagine this team with Keith Frazier and Emmanuel Mudiay.
They weren’t big teams, but holding two conference teams to under 50 points in the Big 12 is quite impressive. That’s exactly what Baylor did this last week. They will be a tough out as a 4-seed next month.
Don’t think Bobby Portis is good? He’s averaging 18.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2 blocks and 1.1 assists per game. Let’s compare it to Jahlil Okafor (32.4 mpg, 17.2 ppg, 10 rpg, 1.5 bpg and 1.2 apg) and Frank Kaminsky (33.8 MPG, 18.8 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 2.8 APG). This week is a massive one for Arkansas with games against Texas A&M and Kentucky.
14. Wichita State
Saturday against Northern Iowa. That’s all that matters for Wichita State.
Oklahoma seems to be firmly planted as a 3-seed come March. They have 10 wins in the Big 12 and get to play TCU before ending the season with Iowa State and Kansas. This team continues to play great defense, which will make them a trendy Final Four pick.
No Justin Anderson and they still don’t look like a top-20 team. Yes, they are holding teams, albeit pretty terrible teams, under 50 points, but the Cavaliers are barely breaking 50 points. This is the biggest injury in college basketball going forward. Luckily for Virginia its had a ridiculously easy schedule since Anderson got hurt.
11. Notre Dame
Notre Dame bounced back after a couple of tough games, beating Wake Forest and Boston College by double digits. More importantly the offense got back on track, scoring 87 and 88 points in the two games. Jerian Grant continued his push for All-American by getting a double-double in the two games as well.
Yes, Utah lost to Oregon last night. However, that’s not a terrible loss as Oregon needed the game more than Utah. The Utes are firmly locked into the NCAA Tournament while Oregon is on the bubble and had a home game to make a statement. The only letdown is Utah continues to struggle away from home.
9. Northern Iowa
Since playing VCU in December, the Panthers have held their last 18 opponents to 50.9 points per game and have given up over 60 points to a Missouri Valley foe just once. More shocking, that team wasn’t Wichita State. Seth Tuttle continues to be the real deal and Northern Iowa needs to be a team to know come NCAA Tournament time.
8. Iowa State
Iowa State may have had the most impressive week of anyone in college basketball. The Cyclones went on the road to beat Oklahoma State, which was red hot at the time, and followed it up with a win at Texas. The Cyclones now end the season against Baylor, at Kansas State, against Oklahoma and at TCU. Would four more wins in a row push Iowa State into a possible No. 1 seed if they win the Big 12 tournament?
Kansas has a chance to slip up and lose its hold as Big 12 champions. However, they are Kansas so that probably won’t happen. But, what is Bill Self doing with Cliff Alexander? The Jayhawks were killed on the boards by West Virginia and Self refuses to play him.
Could Villanova end up with the best resume for a 2-seed of all time? If they win the Big East regular season and conference tournament yet fall behind four teams, wouldn’t that be rather impressive? They would be 27-2 with wins over Providence and Xavier this week and 11 wins against the Top 50. Do you know who else did that? Florida from last season, earning the overall No. 1 seed.
There’s no proof this hasn’t been done before, but Arizona defeated UCLA despite not scoring for the first six minutes of each half. The game this weekend against Utah is a massive game for the Wildcats as they try to make a case for a No. 1 seed. An outright conference championship would go a long way in that regard.
Jahlil Okafor suffered a sprained ankle in the overtime win against North Carolina. Despite playing 41 minutes in that game he was in a boot and did not play against Clemson. This is something that has to be monitored going forward.
Gonzaga won the WCC? Who would have guessed.
Two of the most debated topics over the next month will involve Wisconsin. Whether it’s “will they be a No. 1 seed?” or “will Frank Kaminsky win the Player of the Year?”, the Badgers have their prints all over March. They continue to get better as they get healthier and should be at full strength soon.
I still have no idea how Willie Cauley-Stein moves this well for a 7-footer. I just have to constantly come up with something different because this team is hands down the best in the country.