It’s strange to think how quickly time passes. It seems like just yesterday we were getting ready for a full plate of Thanksgiving weekend college basketball tournaments, and now the season is more than half way over.
With conference play underway, teams are starting to show their true colors, both in good and bad ways. As a matter of fact, the most shocking revelation of the last week, wasn’t who was playing well, but actually trying to figure out what’s wrong with two of college basketball’s most tradition rich programs: North Carolina and UConn, which combined to go 0-4 in the last seven days.
Either way, a lot of good basketball is still being played, so let’s focus on that. Starting with our No. 1 ranked team…
1. (Texas 17-0, 3-0): The Longhorns are college basketball’s best team, but have been struggling of late, and even needed overtime to hold on against Texas A&M Saturday. Don’t doubt Texas long term, but with trips to No. 9 Kansas State and UConn coming up, don’t expect them to be undefeated in next week’s Power Rankings either.
2. Kentucky (18-0, 3-0): With all the John Wall hype, it’s easy to forget about everyone else on Kentucky. Well don’t. Eric Bledsoe (25 points against Florida) and DeMarcus Cousins (18 points and 11 rebounds) are the reason the Wildcats won their two games last week, not Wall.
3. Villanova (16-1, 5-0): While everyone continues to talk about Texas, Kentucky and Kansas, it’s Villanova which may be college basketball’s hottest team. After holding on against Georgetown Sunday afternoon, Villanova will be a comfortable favorite in their next four games, and should cruise into February before being challenged again.
4. Kansas (16-1, 2-0): You heard it here first: The best thing that ever happened to the Jayhawks was losing last weekend at Tennessee. Since then, they’ve seemed more relaxed and are finally playing up to their potential. Their win against Texas Tech Saturday was their best performance of the season.
5. Syracuse (17-1, 4-1): Go ahead, just keep doubting the Orange, that’s exactly how they want it. But after going to West Virginia and dominating for just about 39 minutes Saturday (they did need to hold on at the end), there is real reason to think that this team could win the entire Big East.
6. Duke (15-2, 3-1): Watching Duke methodically pick apart Wake Forest on Sunday night it became apparent that these guys are for real. Everyone talks about Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler on offense, but it’s the Blue Devils defense that could carry them to the Final Four.
7. Michigan State (15-3, 5-0): While parity is creating a jumbled mess in the middle of the Big 10, the Spartans just continue to win games. Like Kansas, some early losses may have actually helped this team: The pressure is now off, and Michigan State is just free to focus on basketball.
8. Tennessee (14-2, 2-0): After being suspended for four games, Melvin Goins and Cameron Tatum will rejoin the Volunteers for practice Monday. But after the team went 4-0 in their absence (including victories over two ranked squads), the question has to be asked: is the team better without them?
9. Kansas State (15-2, 2-1): One game should never make or break a college basketball team’s season. But with that being said, can you remember a bigger one for Kansas State than Monday night’s tilt with No. 1 ranked Texas? Me neither.
10. Georgetown (13-3, 4-2): Here’s the question: Was Greg Monroe’s 29 point, 16 rebound and four block performance on Sunday against Villanova his coming out party, or simply a big guy getting good numbers against an undersized front line? Because if it was the former, Georgetown might be the most dangerous team in the Big East going forward.
11. Purdue (14-3, 2-3): I’m not quite ready to give up on Purdue just yet. But after losing three straight games the concerns are there. Mainly that with Lewis Jackson still hurt, this team doesn’t have (and desperately needs) a true point guard.
12. West Virginia (13-3, 4-2): The Mountaineers nearly pulled off a stunning comeback against Syracuse Saturday, scoring 16 points in the final 1:18, before ultimately losing by one. But with just 55 points through the first 39 minutes, I’m starting to wonder if this team has enough offense to beat truly elite teams.
13. Pittsburgh (15-2, 5-0): All you need to know about Pitt is this: Louisville coach Rick Pitino called Pittsburgh’s stunning, shocking, improbable come-from-behind victory against Louisville on Saturday the second worst loss of his career, behind only the 1992 classic Elite Eight game against Christian Laettner and Duke, when Pitino was at Kentucky. Umm… wow!!
14. Clemson (15-3, 3-1): Clemson does this every year: Sucks us in with some big early season wins only to fade down the stretch. If they can notch two wins this week (at Georgia Tech, Duke at home), we’ll start to take the Tigers seriously. Until then, proceed with caution.
15. Wisconsin (14-4, 4-2): The Badgers split two tough road games last week, and now have their next two at the Kohl Center, where they’re practically unbeatable. With that said, the loss of center Jon Leuer (15 points and six rebounds a game) could be crippling going forward.
16. BYU (18-1, 3-0): The Cougars are in the midst of a 13 game winning streak since their only slip-up of the year at Utah State. You may not know much about BYU, but they’re the best team West of the Rockies right now.
17. Ohio State (13-5, 3-3): Even with Evan Turner in foul trouble Sunday, the Buckeyes were still able to hold on against Wisconsin at home. And after a win earlier in the week at Purdue, it’s safe to say that this is the team that nobody in college basketball wants to play right now.
18. Temple (15-3, 3-0): Find a TV, because the showdown you need to see comes Wednesday, when the Owls host Xavier in a battle for first place in the Atlantic 10.
19. Gonzaga (14-3, 3-0): It’s funny how every year we doubt Gonzaga, and yet every year they continue to just roll out wins. Mark Few might not have a ton of experience, but he does have maybe the second best freshman in college basketball (behind John Wall), Elias Harris (15.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game).
20. Georgia Tech (13-4, 2-2): The Yellow Jackets are the most “hit or miss,” team in the game right now, losing to Virginia Wednesday (in their defense, Virginia is the only undefeated team in the ACC), before winning at North Carolina Saturday. The talent is there in Atlanta, but is the mental toughness?
New to the Power Rankings: Clemson, Ohio State, Gonzaga
Dropping Out: North Carolina, UConn, Baylor