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!
- 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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
- 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)
- 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)
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)
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)
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)
- 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)
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)
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)
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)
- 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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
- 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)
- 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)
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)
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)
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)
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)