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.
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)