CBB Top-25: 1/30/17

So, it’s not March yet, but damn if this past week didn’t feel like it! What a week it was. It all started on Tuesday with three of the top four teams in the AP Poll going down on the road, two of them against unranked opponents.

#1 Villanova seemed to have things in control against Marquette, but the Golden Eagles made a furious comeback and were able to prevent a last-second layup from Jalen Brunson to secure the massive victory!

That same night, #2 Kansas had their 18-game winning streak snapped in dominating fashion by West Virginia, 85-69. It was a disappointing loss, but the Jayhawks rebounded in a big way with a road win over #4 Kentucky on Saturday.

Speaking of the Wildcats, the loss to Kansas was their second loss of the week, as they went to Knoxville on Tuesday and were upset by the Tennessee Volunteers 82-80. It was a rough week for Kentucky, but I still think they are one of the five best teams in the country.

In addition to the those losses, #6 Florida State suffered two losses last week, losing on the road against Georgia Tech and Syracuse. #8 UCLA and #9 North Carolina also fell this week, to USC and Miami respectively. It was a chaotic week, and that just made me even more excited for March!

My Top-25 this week looks a little different from the AP Poll, but that’s only because these are who I think are the best 25 teams in the country. The teams are actually the same, just in a different order, but that’s to be expected. There’s a lot of parity this season, so my ranking just goes right along with that.

 

  1. Creighton (Prev: 23)

The Bluejays went 18-1 with PG Maurice Watson in the lineup. Since he went down with a season-ending knee injury, they are 1-2 including a 20-point loss to Georgetown last week. Creighton is in danger of slipping down the seed-line if they don’t pick up a few more quality wins, and they get two opportunities this week.

This Week: Tue 1/31 @ Butler (7:00 pm, FS1); Sat 2/4 vs Xavier (3:00 pm, FOX)

 

  1. Duke (Prev: 21)

I was very tempted to drop Duke from my Top-25 this week, but when I looked at the teams I’d have ranked 26-30, I didn’t see one worth replacing them. The Blue Devils needed a late surge and 30 second half points from Luke Kennard to avoid an upset against Wake Forest on Saturday. I don’t think it is crazy to consider tonight’s game at Notre Dame a must win for Duke.

This Week: Mon 1/30 @ Notre Dame (7:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 2/4 vs Pittsburgh (1:00 pm, CBS)

 

  1. Florida (Prev: NR)

The Gators got back on the right track this past week with road wins over LSU and Oklahoma, which followed back-to-back losses the previous week. The advanced stats love the Gators, who are ranked 10th in the country by KenPom.com, but the eye test hasn’t been as kind. They have a huge home game this Saturday when they face off with the SEC-leading Kentucky Wildcats. Florida could really use a win in that game.

This Week: Thu 2/2 vs Missouri (7:00 pm, ESPN2); Sat 2/4 vs Kentucky (8:15 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Maryland (Prev: NR)

The Terrapins have been flying under the radar this season, so it may be a shock to learn that they are 19-2 and tied with Wisconsin atop the Big Ten. One reason they’ve been quiet is because they’ve played a fairly easy schedule thus far, but this week could be a major turning point for them as they travel to Columbus followed by a home game against Purdue.

This Week: Tue 1/31 @ Ohio State (7:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 2/4 vs Purdue (12:00 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. South Carolina (Prev: 25)

When the Gamecocks have every player at their disposal, they are undefeated this season. They also play one of the easier schedules in the country down the stretch, so they very easily could continue to rise in my rankings. A trip to Gainesville in late February is the only truly tough test remaining for them. If Kentucky slips up at all, they could easily steal the SEC regular season title.

This Week: Wed 2/1 @ LSU (9:00 pm, SECN); Sat 2/4 vs Georgia (2:00 pm, ESPN2)

 

  1. Northwestern (Prev: 24)

Barring a collapse of epic proportions, Northwestern is going to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. That is a story worth paying attention to. If they can continue at their current pace, they won’t even be on the bubble, and that is awesome. If they can find a way to upset Purdue this week, I think more people will start to take them seriously.

This Week: Wed 2/1 @ Purdue (8:30 pm, BTN)

 

  1. Notre Dame (Prev: 11)

The Fighting Irish have now lost three of their last four games heading into a week where they have to take on a desperate Duke team and a North Carolina team that is still trying to establish themselves as a legit championship threat. They’re picking a bad time to start struggling, but I think they are good enough to figure it out and get a couple wins this week.

This Week: Mon 1/30 vs Duke (7:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 2/4 @ North Carolina (6:00 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Saint Mary’s (Prev: 19)

The Gaels continue to take care of business in the weak West Coast Conference, as they are two weeks away from their biggest game of the year, a home game against undefeated Gonzaga. They have two road games this week, and have to avoid getting caught looking ahead to the Bulldogs.

This Week: Thu 2/2 @ Pacific (11:00 pm, ESPNU); Sat 2/4 @ San Diego (7:00 pm)

 

  1. Wisconsin (Prev: 17)

Wisconsin nearly fell in what could have been considered upset of the season. Thankfully for them, sophomore Ethan Happ came to the rescue, and the Badgers were able to fend off Rutgers in overtime. This is a good team with a lot of postseason experience, but they need to play better than they did against Rutgers if they are going to be considered a title contender.

This Week: Tue 1/31 @ Illinois (9:00 pm, BTN); Sun 2/5 vs Indiana (1:00 pm, CBS)

 

  1. Purdue (Prev: 13)

Purdue is a really good team with some really questionable losses, including Saturday to Nebraska. Caleb Swanigan is one of the best players in the country, but the rest of the team needs to step up and help him. They face two Top-25 opponents this week, and wins in both games would go a long way.

This Week: Wed 2/1 vs Northwestern (8:30 pm, BTN); Sat 2/4 @ Maryland (12:00 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Butler (Prev: 14)

Butler has won a lot of big games this season. They’ve also lost a few bad ones, including this past weekend at home to Georgetown. I have no doubts that they are one of the 20 most talented teams in the country, but these bad losses are forcing them to win all of their big games, and they have another this week as they host Creighton.

This Week: Tue 1/31 vs Creighton (7:00 pm, FS1)

 

  1. Cincinnati (Prev: 18)

Unfortunately for the Bearcats, there just aren’t many quality wins to be had in the American Conference, but a non-conference win over Xavier this past week helps their resume. To secure a top seed in the Tournament, Cincy can’t afford many losses down the stretch. That might not be a worry though, as they are on quite the roll right now.

This Week: Wed 2/1 @ Tulsa (9:00 pm, CBSSN); Sat 2/4 vs UConn (4:00 pm, ESPN2)

 

  1. Virginia (Prev: 16)

The Cavaliers gave Villanova everything they had and then some, and still couldn’t come out on top. It was the best game they played this season, and it answered some questions that I had about them. KenPom loves them, AP voters love them, I just don’t love them. If they can continue to play like they did Sunday, then maybe they can make a run at an ACC title.

This Week: Wed 2/1 vs Virginia Tech (8:00 pm, ACCN/ESPN3); Sat 2/4 @ Syracuse (12:00 pm, ESPN2)

 

  1. West Virginia (Prev: 15)

A great response from the Mountaineers this past week, following their back-to-back losses with home wins over Kansas and Texas A&M. But in the Big 12, there’s no time to rest on your laurels, as they’ll travel to Ames to take on Iowa State Tuesday, then they’ll host one of the top offensive teams in the nation, Oklahoma State, on Saturday.

This Week: Tue 1/31 @ Iowa State (9:00 pm, ESPN2); Sat 2/4 vs Oklahoma State (5:00 pm, ESPNU)

 

  1. UCLA (Prev: 9)

The Bruins had a chance to bounce back from the disappointing loss to Arizona with a trip across LA to take on USC. Unfortunately for them, they suffered yet another disappointing setback. UCLA struggles mightily on the defensive end, and they have become way too dependent on super frosh Lonzo Ball. The rest of the team needs to step up if this team is going to reach their lofty goals.

This Week: Wed 2/1 @ Washington State (9:00 pm, P12N); Sat 2/4 @ Washington (10:30 pm, P12N)

 

  1. Oregon (Prev: 10)

The Ducks had their 17-game winning streak snapped by Colorado on Saturday, and it will be extremely important to see how they respond. After surely getting through Arizona State on Thursday, Oregon’s next two games are against Arizona and UCLA, their toughest competition for the Pac 12 crown.

This Week: Thu 2/2 vs Arizona State (11:00 pm, FS1); Sat 2/4 vs Arizona (4:00 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. North Carolina (Prev: 6)

I don’t think it’s that surprising that North Carolina fell on the road to Miami. However, I do think it’s surprising how they lost. The Hurricanes dominated the whole game, winning by a 77-62 margin. The Tar Heels are still a championship contender in my opinion, but they can help solidify that standing with wins this week over Pitt and Notre Dame.

This Week: Tue 1/31 vs Pittsburgh (7:00 pm, ESPN2); Sat 2/4 vs Notre Dame (6:00 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Florida State (Prev: 5)

Quite a disappointing week for the Seminoles. After going 5-1 against six straight ranked conference foes, Florida State followed it up with back-to-back losses on the road to unranked Georgia Tech and Syracuse. I find it hard to blame them though, as a letdown should have been expected. They need to bounce back with wins over Miami and Clemson this week.

This Week: Wed 2/1 @ Miami FL (8:00 pm, ACCN/ESPN3); Sun 2/5 vs Clemson (12:30 pm, ESPNU)

 

  1. Louisville (Prev: 12)

The ACC is stacked this season, and the best team in the conference, at least right now, might be the Louisville Cardinals. Despite the obvious distractions, Rick Pitino has his team focused on the task at hand, which is winning a National Championship. They’ll head to Boston College on Saturday, before a massive game in Charlottesville against Virginia next Monday.

This Week: Sat 2/4 @ Boston College (3:00 pm, ACCN/ESPN3)

 

  1. Arizona (Prev: 8)

Other than the undefeated Zags, I don’t think there’s a hotter team in the country than the Arizona Wildcats, and that’s scary, because they just got back maybe their best player in Allonzo Trier, so conventional wisdom says that they’ll only get better from here. They have a huge game this Saturday in Eugene against Oregon. That game could go a long way in determining who wins the Pac 12.

This Week: Thu 2/2 @ Oregon State (9:00 pm, ESPN2); Sat 2/4 @ Oregon (4:00 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Kentucky (Prev: 4)

Kentucky does not lose at Rupp Arena under John Calipari. That’s just the way it is. And that is why it is extremely surprising that Kansas was able to go in there and come away victorious on Saturday, handing the Wildcats their second home loss of the season. Kentucky will be okay (I think), but some comments that Calipari has made recently give me some pause. They need to go into Gainesville and beat Florida on Saturday.

This Week: Tue 1/31 vs Georgia (9:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 2/4 @ Florida (8:15 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Baylor (Prev: 7)

The Bears are far from the most talented team in the country, but it’s hard to deny that they are one of the top five teams in the nation given the results. They are somewhat quietly building what I believe is the best Tournament resume of any team (including Gonzaga), and they have a great chance to add to it with a trip to Lawrence coming on Wednesday. If they can beat Kansas at the Phog, I think that would possibly solidify them as the top team in the country.

This Week: Wed 2/1 @ Kansas (9:00 pm, ESPN2); Sat 2/4 vs Kansas State (3:00 pm, ESPNNEWS)

 

  1. Villanova (Prev: 1)

A very rare late-game collapse led to Nova being handed their second loss of the season at the hands of Marquette last week. They were able to bounce back thanks to a buzzer-beating tip-in from redshirt freshman Donte DiVincenzo to defeat Virginia on Sunday. They fell to 4th in the AP Poll this week, but I still think they have a claim to the top spot for sure.

This Week: Wed 2/1 @ Providence (7:00 pm, FS1); Sat 2/4 vs St. John’s (8:00 pm, CBSSN)

 

  1. Kansas (Prev: 2)

Morgantown is one of the toughest places to play this year, so it’s not surprising that Kansas fell there. And when it comes to bouncing back, they did it in a big way by going into Lexington and knocking off Kentucky in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge on Saturday. That was without question Kansas’s biggest win of the season, and they have a chance to follow it up at home Wednesday when they take on the red-hot Baylor Bears.

This Week: Wed 2/1 vs Baylor (9:00 pm, ESPN2); Sat 2/4 vs Iowa State (2:00 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Gonzaga (Prev: 3)

It took losses from the teams ahead of them, but Gonzaga is finally getting the respect that they deserve, from AP voters, from Ken Pomeroy and from me. It’s hard to deny the Zags the top spot right now, given their undefeated record which includes wins over Florida, Iowa State, Arizona and Saint Mary’s. BYU could trip them up at home this week, and a trip to Saint Mary’s is not far off. But if the Bulldogs keep winning, they’ll stay at the top.

This Week: Thu 2/2 @ BYU (11:00 pm, ESPN2); Sat 2/4 vs Santa Clara (11:00 pm, ESPNU)

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CBB Top-25: 1/24/17

We are almost in February already. Can you believe it? I can’t, especially considering the lack of snow we’ve had so far this winter in southeast Pennsylvania. Anyway, this is significant because it means we are that much closer to March Madness!

There’s a big week in store for college basketball fans with a number of huge games, starting tonight when #2 Kansas travels to Morgantown to take on #18 West Virginia. In addition, the Jayhawks will then travel to Rupp Arena on Saturday to take on #4 Kentucky in a non-conference clash between two traditional powers.

For this week’s Top-25, I have included with each team a key number/statistic, just for something a little different. Trying to mix it up a little each week, I hope you all can appreciate that. Without any more hesitation, here is this week’s Top-25!

 

  1. South Carolina

14.6: Points that PG P.J. Dozier averages per game this season. Dozier missed the game Saturday against Kentucky with back spasms. When fully healthy this season, the Gamecocks are undefeated. They could make a run at Kentucky in the SEC if they can get back to full strength.

This Week: Tue 1/24 vs Auburn (6:30 pm, SECN); Sat 1/28 @ Missouri (8:30 pm, SECN)

 

  1. Northwestern

0: The number of times Northwestern has made it to the NCAA Tournament in school history. They are one of five original D-1 programs to never reach the Tourney, but they have a really, really good shot to leave that club this season.

This Week: Thu 1/26 vs Nebraska (8:00 pm, BTN); Sun 1/29 vs Indiana (6:30 pm, BTN)

 

  1. Creighton

8.5: Assists per game average this season for PG Maurice Watson Jr., whom the Bluejays recently lost for the season to an ACL injury. Watson led the nation in assists, and it will be near impossible for Creighton to make up for his production. They are still good enough to reach the Tournament, but any hopes of making a deep run were likely dashed.

This Week: Wed 1/25 @ Georgetown (7:00 pm); Sat 1/28 vs DePaul (2:30 pm, FS1)

 

  1. Xavier

0-4: The Musketeers record against teams in KenPom’s Top-25. For a team considered one of the best 25 teams in the country by most pollsters, it is alarming that they have yet to secure a signature win. Their best win so far is at home against Utah, who is just now gaining some steam. That needs to change soon if Xavier is going to be taken seriously.

This Week: Thu 1/26 @ Cincinnati (7:00 pm, ESPN2); Sun 1/29 @ St. John’s (6:00 pm, FS1)

 

  1. Duke

26.8: Percentage of bench minutes this season. It is alarming that a team that should have more talent than anybody in the country isn’t very deep at all. That percentage is ranked 308th in the country out of 351 teams. Deeper teams usually have an advantage come Tourney time, so this could hurt the Blue Devils come March.

This Week: Sat 1/28 @ Wake Forest (3:00 pm, ESPN3/ACCN)

 

  1. Kansas State

1: Number of teams in KenPom’s Top-100 that Kansas State played in non-conference this season. The Big 12 will give K-State plenty of chances to improve their resume, but that one team they played was Maryland, and they lost to them. That weak non-conference slate could come back to haunt the Wildcats if they struggle at all in conference play.

This Week: Tue 1/24 @ Iowa State (9:00 pm, ESPNU); Sat 1/28 @ Tennessee (2:00 pm, ESPN2)

 

  1. Saint Mary’s

60.2: The Gaels’ adjusted tempo (according to KenPom), which is 2nd slowest in the nation. Saint Mary’s loves to grind games virtually to a halt, in the same mold of teams like Virginia, which is the only team with a slower tempo this year. As efficient as Saint Mary’s is on offense, playing slow could be their key to a deep run in the Tournament.

This Week: Thu 1/26 vs San Francisco (11:00 pm); Sat 1/28 @ Santa Clara (11:00 pm)

 

  1. Cincinnati

5.6: Offensive steal percentage (according to KenPom), which is the second best in the country. What this basically amounts to is the Bearcats’ opponents get a steal on just 5.6% of their possessions, so in layman’s terms, Cincinnati takes care of the basketball. That will do them wonders when the postseason rolls around.

This Week: Thu 1/26 vs Xavier (7:00 pm, ESPN2); Sun 1/29 vs South Florida (4:00 pm, CBSSN)

 

  1. Wisconsin

0-3: Record against KenPom’s Top-25. Similarly to Xavier, Wisconsin has a weak resume for a top team. Making matters worse is that as of this writing, Wisconsin does not have a game left on their schedule against KenPom’s Top-25. They have only three games left against the Top-40, and all three of those games are at home. Any loss from here on out will be considered a bad loss for the Badgers.

This Week: Tue 1/24 vs Penn State (9:00 pm, BTN); Sat 1/28 @ Rutgers (12:00 pm, BTN)

 

  1. Virginia

3: Number of wins against teams in ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s most recent Bracketology (posted yesterday, 1/23). KenPom always loves Tony Bennett’s squad, but a deeper look shows a lack of quality wins. Their win at Louisville is great, but their next best victory is at home against Wake Forest, who Lunardi has as one of his “Last Four Byes.” The third victory is over current SoCon leaders UNC Greensboro, who Lunardi has as a 16-seed. The Cavaliers will get two huge chances this week to improve their resume.

This Week: Tue 1/24 @ Notre Dame (8:00 pm, ESPN3/ACCN); Sun 1/29 @ Villanova (1:00 pm, FOX)

 

  1. West Virginia

10: Ranking in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency on KenPom.com. The Mountaineers, despite two consecutive losses, are one of just two teams ranked in the Top-10 in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency by KenPom (Gonzaga, KenPom’s #1 team, is the other). I still believe West Virginia is a title contender, but they need to bounce back tonight against Kansas, a massive opportunity.

This Week: Tue 1/24 vs Kansas (7:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 1/28 vs Texas A&M (12:00 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Butler

7: Butler has played the 7th toughest schedule in the country according to CBS Sports. It is extremely impressive that the Bulldogs have been able to go 17-3 so far against their brutal schedule. Even more so when you consider that two of their losses are to St. John’s and Indiana State, two teams that barely have a prayer of making the Tournament.

This Week: Wed 1/25 @ Seton Hall (8:30 pm, FS1); Sat 1/28 vs Georgetown (8:00 pm, CBSSN)

 

  1. Purdue

4: Number of games this season in which Caleb Swanigan has scored at least 20 points AND secured at least 20 rebounds. The number of games Swanigan has done this in is greater than the number of different players who have done it once this season. The dreaded sophomore slump has not happened to Swanigan, as he is instead leading the Boilermakers towards a possible Big Ten crown.

This Week: Tue 1/24 @ Michigan State (7:00 pm, ESPN2); Sun 1/29 @ Nebraska (4:30 pm, BTN)

 

  1. Louisville

6.3: The Cardinals are one of the top defensive teams in the country, and they average 6.3 blocks per game, led by their trio of big men: 6-10 sophomore Ray Spalding, 7-0 junior Anas Mahmoud and 6-10 senior Mangok Mathiang. The trees in the middle force teams to beat Louisville from the perimeter, where the Cardinals are also extremely talented defensively.

This Week: Tue 1/24 @ Pittsburgh (7:00 pm, ESPNU); Sun 1/29 vs NC State (1:00 pm, ESPN3/ACCN)

 

  1. Notre Dame

82.9: ND’s free throw percentage this season, good for #1 in the nation. There are a few things that tend to separate teams come March. Good guard play, suffocating defense and free throw shooting are probably the three biggest things. The Irish are the top free throw shooting team in the country, and that could help them win some close games late down the stretch and into the postseason.

This Week: Tue 1/24 vs Virginia (8:00 pm, ESPN3/ACCN); Sat 1/28 @ Georgia Tech (12:00 PM, ESPNU)

 

  1. Oregon

16: Consecutive wins for the Ducks. A tough start to the season saw Oregon lose two of their first four games, but since a loss to Georgetown in the Maui Invitational opening round, Oregon has rattled off 16 wins in a row. They just lost star Dillon Brooks to a foot injury, so it will be interesting to see if they can keep it going.

This Week: Thu 1/26 @ Utah (10:30 pm, FS1); Sat 1/28 @ Colorado (9:30 pm, P12N)

 

  1. UCLA

93: Points per game for the Bruins this season, second best in the country. They are the most efficient offensive team in the nation according to KenPom, as in addition to the 93 points per game, they lead the country in field goal percentage and are second in three-point percentage. A good offensive team can score on their porous defense, so if they have any off games offensively in March, they could be in a lot of trouble.

This Week: Wed 1/25 @ USC (11:00 pm, FS1)

 

  1. Arizona

14.8: Points per game last season for Allonzo Trier, who the Wildcats just got back from suspension Saturday in their huge road victory over UCLA. Arizona had been playing great without Trier, so getting back a star like him only catapults them to the next level. I think they are probably now the favorites to win the Pac 12.

This Week: Thu 1/26 vs Washington State (9:30 pm, P12N); Sun 1/29 vs Washington (3:30 pm, FOX)

 

  1. Baylor

29: Number of turnovers in Baylor’s only loss of the season, 89-68 at West Virginia. Now, I realize that West Virginia forces turnovers at a greater clip than any team in the nation, but 29 turnovers is absolutely horrendous. It’s clear that if you can get Baylor uncomfortable, they can crumble. It’s also clear that since the Bears haven’t lost another game this season, that it’s difficult to make them uncomfortable.

This Week: Wed 1/25 vs Texas Tech (8:00 pm, ESPNNEWS); Sat 1/28 @ Ole Miss (6:00 pm, ESPN2)

 

  1. North Carolina

6: Number of regular season games in February/March that UNC will play against teams in KenPom’s Top-20. The Tar Heels have played a tough schedule this season, but it will only get tougher, as six of their last eight games will be against Top-20 teams, including two games each against Duke and Virginia. That is a tough way to close a regular season, so if North Carolina gets a 1-seed in the Tournament, they will have earned it for sure.

This Week: Thu 1/26 vs Virginia Tech (8:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 1/28 @ Miami FL (1:00 pm, CBS)

 

  1. Florida State

6: Yes, same number, but this time it is the number of consecutive games Florida State has played against ranked opponents, going an extremely impressive 5-1 in those games. The last team to face that many consecutive ranked opponents in the ACC was Maryland in 1993. They went 0-6. Before that it was NC State and Duke in 1980, with those teams going 2-4 and 5-1 respectively in those stretches. The Seminoles are for real, and they have a pretty easy schedule the rest of the way.

This Week: Wed 1/25 @ Georgia Tech (7:00 pm, ESPN3/ACCN); Sat 1/28 @ Syracuse (12:00 pm, ESPN2)

 

  1. Kentucky

62-3: Kentucky’s record in Rupp Arena over the last four season (including this year). The Wildcats are one of the toughest teams to beat at home in the nation, and this Saturday they’ll host #2 Kansas in what is probably the biggest game of the season for each team. Kentucky can truly establish themselves as one of the top two or three teams in the country with a win over the Jayhawks.

This Week: Tue 1/24 @ Tennessee (9:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 1/28 vs Kansas (6:15 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Gonzaga

18: Number of consecutive seasons Gonzaga has reached the NCAA Tournament. Mark Few is a perfect 18 for 18 in getting the Bulldogs to the Big Dance, and he might have his best team yet this season. The Zags have a legit chance to enter the Tournament undefeated, something that hasn’t been accomplished since Kentucky in the 2014-15 season.

This Week: Thu 1/26 vs San Diego (9:00 pm, ESPN3); Sat 1/28 @ Pepperdine (10:00 pm, ESPN2)

 

  1. Kansas

4: Number of games this season versus KenPom’s Top-30. The Jayhawks have won 18 straight following a season-opening loss to Indiana, but they have faced just four teams in KenPom’s Top-30, and none of those teams are in the Top-15. It’s about to get tough though, as their next three games and five of their next eight are against teams in KenPom’s Top-10. If Kansas can get through these next eight games with a 6-2 or better record, I’ll be extremely impressed.

This Week: Tue 1/24 @ West Virginia (7:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 1/28 @ Kentucky (6:15 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Villanova

7: Number of schools that have won consecutive NCAA D-1 Championships in men’s basketball. Villanova is looking to join that group, which includes Florida, Duke, UCLA, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Kentucky and Oklahoma State, this season, and right now, they look like the favorites to take home the title this season. It’s going to be a difficult task, but the Wildcats seem up to the challenge.

This Week: Tue 1/24 @ Marquette (8:00 pm, FS1); Sun 1/29 vs Virginia (1:00 pm, FOX)

CBB Weekend Preview: 1/21-1/22

It’s been an interesting week in the college basketball world. The Big East had their showcase on Monday, with Villanova blowing out Seton Hall, Creighton securing a huge road win over Xavier but losing star Maurice Watson to a season-ending knee injury and Butler coming back from a 16-point halftime deficit to defeat Marquette.

In addition to the Watson injury, Indiana also suffered a huge loss, with the news coming out today that OG Anunoby will have season-ending knee surgery, and Oregon superstar Dillon Brooks left the game Thursday with a left leg injury. No more specifics have come out in regards to his injury, but he missed the beginning of the season with a left foot injury, so there is concern that he may have re-injured the foot.

This is an extremely important point in the season for just about every team, and there are a number of marquee matchups that you should definitely tune in to, and I am here to tell you a little bit about them!

Providence (13-7, 3-4 BE) @ #1 Villanova (18-1, 6-1 BE)
Saturday 1/21, 12:00 noon, FOX

They were knocked off of the perch at the top of the rankings for one week, but Villanova is right back there this week, and after a dominating win over Seton Hall on Monday, they will host the Providence Friars tomorrow at Noon. Providence always seems to give Nova a challenge, but the Friars are a little down this season. A home loss to them would be quite damaging to the Wildcats’ resume.

 

Syracuse (11-8, 3-3 ACC) @ #15 Notre Dame (16-3, 5-1 ACC)
Saturday 1/21, 12:00 noon, ESPN

Wednesday night in Tallahassee, the Fighting Irish were 15 for 21 from three-point range against Florida State. That is an astonishing stat, especially when you find out that they lost the game. It’s kind of baffling, but that just shows how good Florida State is. The Irish will be fine, and they will host a struggling Syracuse team tomorrow afternoon, the perfect bounce-back opponent.

 

#12 Louisville (16-3, 4-2 ACC) @ #10 Florida State (17-2, 5-1 ACC)
Saturday 1/21, 2:00 pm, ESPN

Speaking of that really good Florida State team, their brutal opening to the ACC slate will finally come to an end Saturday when they host the Louisville Cardinals. Louisville smoked Clemson on Thursday night, and come in with just as much momentum as the Seminoles. Jonathan Isaac, Florida State’s star freshman big man, had an incredible game against ND, going for 23 points, 10 rebounds and 7 blocks, and he’ll look to lead the way again tomorrow.

 

Marquette (12-7, 3-3 BE) @ #7 Creighton (18-1, 5-1 BE)
Saturday 1/21, 2:30 pm, FS1

What a brutal blow to the Bluejays. Creighton lost star point guard Maurice Watson Jr. to a torn ACL in their victory over Xavier on Monday. He’ll miss the rest of the season, severely affecting Creighton’s chances at Final Four run. Watson was leading the nation with 8.5 assists per game, and Coach Greg McDermott has already said that they will now go point guard-by-committee. They have no time to sulk though, as they host a Marquette team looking for a big win to add to their Tourney resume.

 

#14 Arizona (17-2, 6-0 P12) @ #3 UCLA (19-1, 6-1 P12)
Saturday 1/21, 4:00 pm, CBS

This will be the biggest game in the Pac-12 so far this season. UCLA is solidifying themselves as a legitimate National Championship contender, but they need all of the massive wins they can get to improve their chances at getting a #1 seed. They will take on the current Pac-12 leaders in the Arizona Wildcats. Sean Miller has done an incredible job leading this team without star Allonzo Trier. Freshman big man Lauri Markkanen is a matchup problem for the Bruins, and could be the X-factor towards a huge road win.

 

#17 Wisconsin (15-3, 4-1 B10) @ Minnesota (15-4, 3-3 B10)
Saturday 1/21, 4:30 pm, BTN

Minnesota has very quietly built an early resume that would likely have them among the top 24 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. They have road wins over Purdue and Northwestern, but they have also lost to Michigan State twice and to Penn State. They have a massive chance to add another feather to their cap when they host the new favorites to win the Big Ten, Wisconsin. They Badgers have the perfect blend of experience and talent, and a win over them would go leaps and bounds for the Golden Gophers.

 

#24 South Carolina (15-3, 5-0 SEC) @ #5 Kentucky (16-2, 6-0 SEC)
Saturday 1/21, 6:00 pm, ESPN

The SEC schedule will not provide many challenges for John Calipari’s Wildcats, but they’ll get one of those challenges tomorrow when they host South Carolina, who just knocked off Florida on Wednesday night to remain unbeaten in conference play. With star guard Sindarius Thornwell in the lineup, the Gamecocks have not lost. I don’t know if they have the firepower to go into Rupp Arena and get the win, but I think they’ll definitely give Kentucky a test.

 

#7 West Virginia (15-3, 4-2 B12) @ Kansas State (14-4, 3-3 B12)
Saturday 1/21, 6:00 pm, ESPN2

Thanks a lot West Virginia. I’ve done nothing but hype you up as one of the best teams in the country over the last week, so what do you do to repay me? You go and lose at home to 8-9 Oklahoma. Really? REALLY?! Ugh, I really hope Huggy Bear uses that loss to light a fire under their rear ends. They’ll have another tough one tomorrow though, as they travel to Manhattan to take on a Kansas State team that is desperate for a huge victory.

 

Miami FL (12-5, 2-3 ACC) @ #18 Duke (14-4, 2-3 ACC)
Saturday 1/21, 8:15 pm, ESPN

The primetime showcase game on Saturday will pit two teams who are off to rough starts in ACC play, but both have much loftier goals. Duke has had a week off since losing to Louisville, and will return home looking to snap a two-game losing streak. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes have lost three of their last four, and are looking for a huge resume-building victory at Cameron Indoor. Miami has won their last two games against Duke, including a win in Durham in 2015.

 

La Salle (11-5, 5-1 A10) @ VCU (14-5, 4-2 A10)
Sunday 1/22, 2:00 pm, NBCSN

Yet again there are no huge games on Sunday (mostly due to the NFL Playoffs), but before the NFC Championship starts, tune into NBC Sports Network to see two of the top teams in the Atlantic 10 do battle. La Salle has been the surprise of the league so far. After losing their conference opener to Dayton, they have rattled off five wins in a row, including a road win against Rhode Island. They’ll look to make it six in a row when they travel to take on VCU, who has lost two in a row, including a stunner in overtime to Fordham on Wednesday. La Salle will hope to catch VCU looking ahead to a matchup with Dayton next Friday.

CBB Top-25: 1/16/17

At the end of my post from last Friday, I gave a quick look at who I believed were the Top-25 teams in the country. I did not expect much of that to change over the weekend, but to my surprise, it definitely did.

Most teams are only about five games or so into their conference schedules, so it’s still a little tough to determine which teams are for real and which are just pretenders. I don’t submit an AP ballot (yet…), but if I would, here is an extensive look at what I believe are the Top-25 teams in college basketball.

 

  1. Northwestern

The Wildcats are the real deal ladies and gentlemen! The Big Ten is wide open, as there are just two teams left with one conference loss (Maryland, Wisconsin). Northwestern sits at 4-2 in the conference, including an 89-54 drubbing of a solid Iowa team on Sunday night. Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey lead a great backcourt, and they showed what they are capable of against Iowa (20 pts 10 ast for McIntosh, 22 pts 8 reb 5 ast for Lindsey). Northwestern is looking to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history, and I believe they are well on their way to accomplishing that feat.

This Week: Sun 1/22 @ Ohio State (1:00 pm, BTN)

 

  1. Xavier

Xavier is an interesting team right now. Many expected them to be the biggest threat to Villanova in the Big East, but right now they sit as maybe the 4th best team in the conference. They have legit stars in Edmond Sumner and Trevon Bluiett, but they have struggled against top competition. They have a poor resume, and some experts think they need to get a couple big wins, or they could be in danger of missing the Tournament. I would find that very surprising, and I still think they are capable of figuring it out. They have a great chance as they look to stay undefeated at home today against Creighton. A win over the Blue Jays could go a long way for the Musketeers.

This Week: Mon 1/16 vs Creighton (2:00 pm, FS1); Sun 1/22 vs Georgetown (2:00 pm, CBS)

 

  1. Kansas State

Bruce Weber’s Wildcats had a terrific chance for a blockbuster win Saturday against Baylor, but the Bears were able to pull it out 77-68. Despite the loss, which dropped them to 2-3 in the conference, I believe Kansas State is quietly a very good team, and should give the top teams in the Big 12 a lot of trouble this season. They’ll get another chance to knock off a top opponent in Manhattan next weekend when they host West Virginia.

This Week: Wed 1/18 @ Oklahoma State (9:00 pm, ESPNU); Sat 1/21 vs West Virginia (6:00 pm, ESPN2)

 

  1. Saint Mary’s

The Gaels could have put the whole nation on notice if they could’ve ruined Gonzaga’s quest to enter March undefeated. Unfortunately, they were dominated in a 79-56 home win for the Zags. Don’t look too much into that though, because Gonzaga is a legitimate title contender. Saint Mary’s will be a team that nobody wants to face in the Tournament. Jock Landale is one of the top players in the country, and the Gaels will get another crack at Gonzaga in February, the next time at home. That will be a game to look forward to for any basketball fan.

This Week: Thu 1/19 vs Pacific (11:00 pm); Sat 1/21 vs Pepperdine (11:00 pm)

 

  1. Florida

The SEC is extremely weak this season, and that is why every conference game will be important for the top teams. Florida needed overtime to defeat Georgia in Gainesville this past Saturday, and that could easily be seen as a knock on this team. KenPom has Florida ranked 13th in the nation. I don’t think they’re quite on that level, but they have a few games this week that could help their case, including a huge trip to Columbia to take on Frank Martin’s South Carolina Gamecocks. If Florida can win that game and improve to 6-0 in the SEC, they could begin to make a believer out of me.

This Week: Wed 1/18 @ South Carolina (6:30 pm, SECN); Sat 1/21 vs Vanderbilt (12:00 pm, CBS)

 

  1. Cincinnati

The Bearcats are without question the best team in the down American Conference this season. Mick Cronin’s team is 15-2, and already have wins over Houston and SMU, the two teams with the best chance to keep them from a conference title. They’ll play each of those teams again before the season is done, and they also have a non-conference tilt with in-state rival Xavier in a couple weeks. So despite the conference being weak, Cincy will have plenty of opportunities to improve their resume.

This Week: Wed 1/18 vs Temple (7:00 pm, CBSSN); Sat 1/21 @ Tulane (4:00 pm, CBSSN)

 

  1. Wisconsin

Remember how I mentioned that the Big Ten is wide open right now? Well, Wisconsin is a team that certainly has an argument that they are the best team in the conference. Nigel Hayes, Ethan Happ and Bronson Koenig are a legit Big Three, and by the end of the season, they could certainly end up on top of the Big Ten. Their three losses this season are to Creighton (a top ten team), North Carolina (another top ten team) and Purdue (who I think is the best team in the Big Ten). That just proves how good this team is. The Badgers do not have to face Purdue again this season, and they won’t take on Northwestern and Michigan State until February, so they have plenty of time to become one of the top teams not only in the conference, but in the country.

This Week: Tue 1/17 vs Michigan (9:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 1/21 @ Minnesota (4:30 pm, BTN)

 

  1. Arizona

The Wildcats are flying a bit under the radar right now, but I think that’s exactly how Sean Miller wants it. Arizona is a classic West Coast power, and they will be a factor in the Pac-12 race this season. Their two losses this year are to a very good Butler team and to undefeated Gonzaga, both on neutral courts. This week coming up will probably be the biggest of the Pac-12 season for Zona, as they make the LA trip to take on USC and UCLA. If they could find a way to win both of those games, they could skyrocket up my rankings, and the official rankings as well.

This Week: Thu 1/19 @ USC (9:00 pm, P12N); Sat 1/21 @ UCLA (4:00 pm, CBS)

 

  1. Duke

Oh Duke. You all know that I love to hate Duke, and I love to cheer against their success, and you probably think I’m crazy to have them ranked this low, but consider all the factors. Back-to-back losses, 2-3 in the conference, Grayson Allen’s issues, Amile Jefferson’s injury, Coach K’s absence. I’d be willing to bet that they will go up my rankings as the season wears on, and I do still believe that this is a National Title contender, but as of this writing, the Blue Devils have a lot of issues that they need to solve. Talent can only get a team so far, especially in basketball.

This Week: Sat 1/21 vs Miami FL (8:15 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Virginia

The advanced stat darlings, as I like to refer to them. I’ve watched numerous Virginia games this season, and I have been less than impressed. They play great defense, as every Tony Bennett team does, but they can look anemic at times on offense. KenPom has them rated as the 5th best team in the country. I don’t see it. They are one of the top teams in the ACC, that’s for sure, but they are going to lose their fair share of conference games this season based on what I’ve seen. They have an easy week coming up, but the following week they will play back-to-back road games against Notre Dame and Villanova. That week could be the turning point for the Cavaliers’ season, whether it’s a positive turn or a negative one will be determined by the outcome of those two games.

This Week: Wed 1/18 @ Boston College (8:00 pm, ESPN3); Sat 1/21 vs Georgia Tech (2:00 pm, ESPN3)

 

  1. Notre Dame

Raise your hand if you had the Fighting Irish as the last undefeated team in the ACC! Anybody? Nope? Okay, that’s kinda what I figured. It was expected to be a somewhat down year for the Irish after losing Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste, but this year’s team might actually be better than last season, as crazy as that is. Matt Farrell has become one of the best point guards in the country, and along with Steve Vasturia, VJ Beachem and Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame has a legit chance to win the super-competitive ACC. They need to learn how to put away teams though, as it seems like every game they build a lead, and then let the opponent get back into it. I know a lot of ND fans, and they are tired of sweating out every game.

This Week: Wed 1/18 @ Florida State (7:00 pm, ESPN3); Sat 1/21 vs Syracuse (12:00 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Purdue

Confession… I love Purdue. They are one of my favorite teams to watch this season. Their size is incredibly difficult to deal with, between 7-2 center Isaac Haas and 6-10 forward Caleb Swanigan. Swanigan, a Wooden Award front-runner, has four games this season with 20-plus points and 20-plus rebounds. That is absurd. He is an incredible basketball player, and is probably capable of single-handedly leading the Boilermakers to a Big Ten Championship. They were upset in the First Round of the Tourney last season, but I expect them to go much further this year. This team is legit, you heard it here.

This Week: Tue 1/17 vs Illinois (7:00 pm, BTN); Sat 1/21 vs Penn State (12:00 pm, BTN)

 

  1. Butler

I’m not always sure how, but it just seems like Butler always finds a way to be one of the top teams in the country. On paper, they are nothing special. They’re led by junior forward Kelan Martin (6-7) and senior center Andrew Chrabascz (also 6-7). Yeah, their center is only 6-7. They don’t have much size, and they don’t do anything spectacularly, but what they do is win basketball games. They’re the only team to defeat Villanova so far this season, and they also boast wins over Arizona, Northwestern, Cincinnati, Indiana and Xavier. But they have losses to Indiana State and St. John’s, so that makes me think that they are just as capable of reaching the Final Four as they are of losing in the First Round. We’ll see how it goes!

This Week: Mon 1/16 vs Marquette (12:00 pm, FS1); Sat 1/21 @ DePaul (2:00 pm, FS1)

 

  1. Oregon

The Ducks entered this season with very high expectations, but didn’t get off to the best start with star Dillon Brooks on the shelf. They lost two of their first four games, and then needed overtime to beat Tennessee. Well, that win over the Volunteers was the first of what is now 14 wins in a row for Dana Altman’s team. Brooks is healthy, Chris Boucher is healthy and Villanova-transfer Dylan Ennis is healthy. Oh yeah, and they still have Tyler Dorsey and Jordan Bell. This is one of the most talented rosters in the nation, and they will once again be one of the top teams come March, mark my words.

This Week: Thu 1/19 vs California (9:00 pm, ESPN2); Sat 1/21 vs Stanford (6:00 pm, P12N)

 

  1. Louisville

Rick Pitino is doing a great job once again. Louisville is rated as the 2nd most efficient defensive team in the nation by KenPom, and after suffering losses in their first two ACC games (vs Virginia and @ Notre Dame), the Cardinals have rattled off three conference wins in a row to remind everybody that they are going to be a factor in the race for the ACC crown. Donovan Mitchell and Quentin Snider lead the way offensively for the Cardinals, while Mangok Mathiang, Anas Mahmoud and Ray Spalding lock down the interior on defense. This is another extremely talented team that you’ll want to keep a close eye on this season.

This Week: Thu 1/19 vs Clemson (9:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 1/21 @ Florida State (2:00 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Creighton

Now that I think about it, maybe I have Creighton ranked a little low, considering their lone loss this season is at home to the defending National Champions. Experts thought that Creighton had some serious potential this season, but I don’t think anybody expected them to start 17-1 including wins over Wisconsin and Butler. They are one of the top offensive teams in the nation, led by Boston-transfer Maurice Watson and Kansas State-transfer Marcus Foster, two of the best guards in the Big East (and the Big East has a lot of great guards). They have a huge game today against a desperate Xavier team. If they can win that one, it would be a huge feather in their cap.

This Week: Mon 1/16 @ Xavier (2:00 pm, FS1); Sat 1/21 vs Marquette (2:30 pm, FS1)

 

  1. North Carolina

The Tar Heels, for the most part, have been a little quiet this season. They have had great showings in wins over Wisconsin and Florida State, and also in a 103-100 loss to Kentucky, but they’ve also struggled mightily at times, needing overtime to top Clemson, and falling to Georgia Tech. They have one of the best frontcourts in the ACC, led by Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks, but their guard play will need to improve if they are going to make a return to the National Championship game.

This Week: Mon 1/16 vs Syracuse (7:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 1/21 @ Boston College (12:00 pm, ESPN3)

 

  1. Florida State

If the Seminoles could have gone into Chapel Hill and knocked off the Tar Heels, they would have been 5-0 in the conference and solidified themselves as a legitimate title contender. Despite the loss, I still believe this is one of the best teams that you are not paying attention to. Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Dwayne Bacon are fantastic scoring guards, and they have Jonathan Isaac, a surefire lottery pick, manning the middle. They have already beaten Florida, Virginia and Duke, and they have two more massive games this week against Notre Dame and Louisville. I’m hoping they can win both of those games so that everyone will join me in viewing this team as one of the best in the nation.

This Week: Wed 1/18 vs Notre Dame (7:00 pm, ESPN3); Sat 1/21 vs Louisville (2:00 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. Baylor

Well, being ranked #1 in the country isn’t going to last very long, but this is still one of the best teams in college basketball. West Virginia created all sorts of matchup problems for the Bears, and I think that played a huge factor in the big loss. Being able to bounce back with a road win against Kansas State showed a lot of grit. Kansas has a few teams standing in their path towards another Big 12 Championship, and Baylor is definitely one of those teams. The Bears are four games out from their trip to Lawrence, and if they can enter that game 20-1, it will end up as one of the biggest games of the season. I sincerely hope that happens.

This Week: Tue 1/17 vs Texas (7:00 pm, ESPN2); Sat 1/21 @ TCU (8:00 pm, ESPNU)

 

  1. UCLA

The Bruins have one of the most crowded bandwagons in the country, but that’s for good reason. When they went into Rupp Arena and knocked off Kentucky 97-92, everybody hopped on board. Led by senior Bryce Alford and star freshmen TJ Leaf and Lonzo Ball, UCLA is one of the top three teams in the Pac-12, and have the potential to make a Final Four run in March. The Bruins have a great combination of talent and experience, and that should do them well down the stretch. They have a huge game this weekend against Arizona, that will be one to watch.

This Week: Thu 1/19 vs Arizona State (11:00 pm, FS1); Sat 1/21 vs Arizona (4:00 pm, CBS)

 

  1. Kentucky

I mentioned earlier that the SEC is not very strong this season, but that doesn’t mean that Kentucky, the undisputed best team in the conference, isn’t easily one of the best teams in the nation. I don’t expect the Wildcats to be tested very much in the conference (although they do host Kansas in late January), as they should pretty well cruise into the postseason. They have a lot of inexperience, as they are led by freshmen DeAaron Fox, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo (who all could wind up lottery picks in next year’s NBA Draft), but John Calipari has proven in the past that he can take an inexperienced team to the promised land.

This Week: Tue 1/17 @ Mississippi State (7:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 1/21 vs South Carolina (6:00 pm, ESPN)

 

  1. West Virginia

There’s still plenty of room on the Mountaineer bandwagon if anybody wants to join me! This is the most fun team to watch this season without question. They don’t have a true superstar, but they play as a team better than most. Nathan Adrian, Jevon Carter, Tarik Phillip, and Daxter Miles lead the way for a team that forces turnovers on a whopping 32.7 percent of their opponent’s possessions (according to KenPom). Fordham is 2nd best at 27.3 percent. So yes, West Virginia plays a suffocating form of defense, and that gives them a chance to win every time the step on the floor, regardless of the team they are facing. They’ll have a tough road game against Kansas State this coming weekend, and then next week they host Kansas in what could be a battle between Top-5 teams. Mark your calendars for that one!

This Week: Wed 1/18 vs Oklahoma (7:00 pm, ESPN2); Sat 1/21 @ Kansas State (6:00 pm, ESPN2)

 

  1. Gonzaga

Gonzaga and the NCAA Tournament are just a given at this point, but it’s not every year that the Zags are a legit title contender, and any team that starts out 17-0 is a title contender. This may be the best team Mark Few has had at Gonzaga, and he’s had a lot of really good teams. They put a stamp on that this past weekend when they obliterated Saint Mary’s, their only competition in the West Coast Conference. They have to travel Moraga, CA later in the season to battle the Gaels one more time, but that is probably the only thing standing between them and an undefeated record entering the Tourney.

This Week: Thu 1/19 @ Santa Clara (11:00 pm, ESPNU); Sat 1/21 vs Portland (8:00 pm, ESPN3)

 

  1. Kansas

I am willing to acknowledge that Kansas is one of the top teams in the country, but from what I’ve seen of them, I’m not sure that they’re even the best team in their own conference. They most certainly have the talent, between guards Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham and star freshman wing Josh Jackson. But after a season-opening loss to Indiana, they have now won 16 in a row, but the only victory of note is over a now-struggling Duke team. They head to Ames to take on Iowa State tonight, a game I could easily see them losing, and then next week they start a brutal three-game stretch (@West Virginia, @Kentucky, vs Baylor). I could easily see them losing three of their next five games, which would drastically change their ranking for me.

This Week: Mon 1/16 @ Iowa State (9:00 pm, ESPN); Sat 1/21 vs Texas (2:00 pm, CBS)

 

  1. Villanova

It’s crazy to consider, but I believe this Villanova team is better than the National Championship team from last season. Josh Hart has taken a massive step in his development, adding a great outside jump shot to his already fantastic repertoire. Jalen Brunson kind of took a backseat to Ryan Arcidiacono last season, and now the restraints are off and he’s showing why he was once considered a one-and-done type player. Kris Jenkins still shoots the lights out and Mikal Bridges is slowly but surely becoming a Round 1 draft prospect. They still struggle some on the interior, as Darryl Reynolds is the lone physical presence in the middle, but when it come to talent and experience, there’s no team in the nation that compares to the Wildcats. This team has a very real chance to repeat as National Champions.

This Week: Mon 1/16 vs Seton Hall (6:30 pm, FS1); Sat 1/21 vs Providence (12:00 pm, FOX)

CBB: Weekend Preview 1/14-1/15

The college football season has come to a close with Clemson pulling off the upset over Alabama in the National Championship Game. I didn’t watch because I truly had no interest in watching the same game for a second year in a row, but also because I had already fully immersed myself in the wonderful world of college basketball!

It’s tough to pay a ton of attention during the non-conference season considering college football is entering it’s postseason, but now that conference play has begun, it’s time for me to start focusing more on the basketball season, and an interesting one at that.

We already have just one undefeated team remaining (Gonzaga), and the field appears to be pretty wide open. There are about 10-15 teams that at this point have a legitimate argument for why they will win the National Championship, and I think that’s a great thing.

I’m going to be pretty busy with work this season, so I won’t be posting quite as much content as I did last basketball season, but you can look forward to some weekend preview posts (like this one), as well as Top-25 and Bracketology posts. So for my first post of the college basketball season, here is a preview of the biggest games this weekend, as well as a quick look at my Top-25.

 

#7 Duke (14-3, 2-2 ACC) at #14 Louisville (14-3, 2-2 ACC)
Sat 1/14, 12:00 noon, ESPN

Love that we’re starting off the day with a great one like this! Louisville is flying a little under the radar, but they are a very good team, boasting wins this season over Wichita State, Purdue, Indiana and Kentucky. According to Kenpom.com, Louisville has the most efficient defense in the nation, but that defense will be put to the test by a Duke team overflowing with talent. Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, Frank Jackson, just so much talent. That being said, that talent is struggling to mesh as a team, and they need to play team basketball to defeat Louisville. The Blue Devils are likely to be without center Amile Jefferson once again, and as you probably know, Coach K recently had back surgery and will miss the game as well. Without those two, pulling out a road victory over Louisville would be extremely impressive.

 

#15 Xavier (13-3, 3-1 BE) at #12 Butler (14-3,3-2 BE)
Sat 1/14, 2:00 pm, FS1

The Big East is a meat grinder this season. These teams are going to beat each other up, but I expect the ones that make the Tournament to be better off for it. This is a matchup of Top-15 teams, one of which was expected to be good, the other a bit of a surprise. Many experts saw Xavier as the team best positioned to challenge Villanova for the Big East crown, led by Edmond Sumner and Trevon Bluiett, but they have yet to earn that “feather in the cap” victory that they need to prove themselves a legitimate contender. They are coming off a 79-54 drubbing in Philly by Nova on Tuesday night. They’re looking to get back on track against the Butler Bulldogs, who just seem to be right there in the mix every season. The Bulldogs are led by junior forward Kelan Martin, one of the best players in the Big East. Butler seems to play their best on the big stage, with wins this season over Arizona, Indiana, Cincinnati and Villanova, but they also have losses to Indiana State and St. John’s. They are a perfect 9-0 at home, and will look to extend that winning streak on Saturday afternoon.

 

#9 Florida State (16-1, 4-0 ACC) at #11 North Carolina (15-3, 3-1 ACC)
Sat 1/14, 2:00 pm, ESPN

The ACC is stacked once again, and you may not realize it, but Florida State might be the best team in the conference. The Seminoles are 4-0 in the conference with wins over Top-10 teams Virginia and Duke, as well as likely Tournament teams Wake Forest and Virginia Tech. Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac are all legitimate stars, and are the foundation of what is likely the best team Leonard Hamilton has had in Tallahassee. This will be the toughest test for the Seminoles as they head to Chapel Hill to battle the Tar Heels. It hasn’t been the best start to the ACC season for UNC, as they opened with a loss to Georgia Tech, then needed overtime to defeat Clemson and were pushed to the limit Wednesday night by Wake Forest. If North Carolina wants to win a National Championship, they need to start playing much better, and getting a victory over one of the hottest teams in the country in Florida State would be a great way to get back on the right track.

 

#10 West Virginia (14-2, 3-1 B12) at Texas (7-9, 1-3 B12)
Sat 1/14, 4:00, ESPN2

As far as the quality of the games go, this probably won’t be the best one you can watch on Saturday, but I’m pointing it out because West Virginia is a team that you should start to become familiar with. They are without question one of the top five teams in the nation, and are a legitimate contender for the National Championship. You probably can’t name a single player on their team, and that’s okay, because I think that’s the way they like it. When they go into a set offense, Nathan Adrian is the inside-out threat, standing 6-9 with the ability to step outside and hit jump shots. But the Mountaineers thrive in the full court pressure defense, forcing steals at an incredible rate. Their guard trio of Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles and Tarik Phillip are spectacular defensively. West Virginia is one of two teams that Kenpom.com has in the Top-10 in the country in both offensive and defensive efficiency (Kentucky is the other), and I’m telling you, start watching them now, because they are going to be a major factor in March.

 

#1 Baylor (15-1, 3-1 B12) at #25 Kansas State (13-3, 2-2 B12)
Sat 1/14, 4:30 pm, ESPNU

Baylor won’t be ranked #1 for long, considering their 89-68 loss on Tuesday night to West Virginia, but that just means they’ll be hungry to get back to their winning ways as they travel to Manhattan to take on a very good Kansas State team. The Wildcats were absolutely screwed by the officials in a 90-88 loss at Kansas on January 3, and they are coming off a one-point loss in Lubbock against Texas Tech this past Tuesday, so they too will be motivated, with a huge chance to give Baylor their second consecutive loss. K-State’s three losses are by a combined four points (!!!), so this team is legit. Baylor will need big games from their big men, Johnathan Motley and Jo Lual-Acuil, if they’re going to pull off the road victory over the Wildcats.

 

Wichita State (15-3, 5-0 MVC) at Illinois State (13-4, 4-0 MVC)
Sat 1/14, 8:00 pm, ESPN2

This matchup will be a battle between the two favorites to secure the Missouri Valley Conference’s auto-bid to the NCAA Tournament. This is not the Wichita State team that you are used to from the last few years, but don’t let that fool you, this is still an extremely solid team. They are led by forwards Markis McDuffee and Darral Willis, and their three losses are all to likely Tournament teams Louisville, Michigan State and Oklahoma State. They are the odds-on favorites to win the MVC, but Illinois State will be the biggest roadblock. The Redbirds have a formidable frontcourt, led by juniors Deontae Hawkins and MiKyle McIntosh, who both average over 14 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. There aren’t many teams in the MVC who can matchup with Wichita State’s frontcourt, but Illinois State most certainly can. If the Redbirds want to challenge for the MVC title, they need to take this game from the Shockers on their home court.

 

#21 Saint Mary’s (15-1, 5-0 WCC) at #5 Gonzaga (16-0, 4-0 WCC)
Sat 1/14, 10:00 pm, ESPN2

Mark Few is a borderline magician. It is amazing what he is able to do at a school like Gonzaga. The Zags have been to the NCAA Tournament 18 consecutive seasons, and they are without a doubt going to make it 19 straight this year. The difference between this year and a lot of others is that they are a legitimate threat to win the National Championship. Few has had some great teams, but I think this is his best one yet. Przemek Karnowski is one of the best big men in the nation, and guards Jordan Mathews, Josh Perkins and Washington-transfer Nigel Williams-Goss run the show for the Bulldogs, each averaging double-digit points and each shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range. That is incredible, and that is what gives them a shot to run the table and enter the Tournament undefeated. Standing in their way are the Saint Mary’s Gaels, who are one of the best teams that you know nothing about. The Gaels are the 13th best team in the nation according to Kenpom.com, so don’t think for one second that they can’t go to Spokane and pull off the upset. They swept the Zags last season, and you know they’ll be motivated to do it again. 6-11 junior forward Jock Landale is the best player you’ve never heard of, averaging 17.8 points and 9.7 assists per game. He is easily capable of taking over any game he plays in, and if he does on Saturday night, we could be left with no more undefeated teams.

 

Iowa (11-7, 3-2 B10) at Northwestern (14-4, 3-2 B10)
Sun 1/15, 7:30 pm, BTN

The Sunday slate this week isn’t the strongest, so I’ll showcase the Northwestern Wildcats, who believe it or not are attempting to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. Yes, you read that right. Northwestern has never reached the Tournament in men’s basketball. This season is the best chance that they’ve had in a very long time. The Wildcats suffered early losses to Butler and Notre Dame by only a combined six points, and their two Big Ten losses are to Michigan State and Minnesota, two teams likely to also reach the Tournament. Bryant McIntosh, Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law make up the core of this team that is looking to make some major noise in the wide open Big Ten. Keep a close eye on Northwestern. I’m rooting for them to finally make the Tourney, and I think most basketball fans will do the same!

 

Jay’s Top-25

I will have a more extensive and detailed version of my Top-25 early next week, but as of today, here are who I believe are the best 25 teams in the country.

  1. Villanova
  2. Kansas
  3. West Virginia
  4. Gonzaga
  5. UCLA
  6. Florida State
  7. Kentucky
  8. Baylor
  9. Creighton
  10. Oregon
  11. Louisville
  12. North Carolina
  13. Purdue
  14. Duke
  15. Butler
  16. Virginia
  17. Notre Dame
  18. Arizona
  19. Wisconsin
  20. Xavier
  21. Saint Mary’s
  22. Kansas State
  23. Florida
  24. Cincinnati
  25. Iowa State