While buzz words like “bracket busters,” and “bubble teams,” are all the talk in college basketball right now, several teams have already wrapped up NCAA Tournament bids and are now fighting for seeding. With only two weeks left in the regular season, many high profile games have yet to be played, as we get to set to turn the calendar to March.
1. Pittsburgh (25-2, 12-2): Can someone explain why DeJuan Blair isn’t being mentioned for Big East player of the year, as he went for 20 and 18 Saturday, just a game after dominating Hasheem Thabeet and Connecticut. The No. 1 ranking has been a bit unkind this year, but Pittsburgh should maintain it into next week, as they have two winnable games at Providence and Seton Hall coming up.
2. Connecticut (25-2, 13-2): UConn needed to beat South Florida Saturday, and they did, bouncing back from their loss earlier in the week to Pittsburgh. The schedule gets no easier with a trip to Marquette on Wednesday, followed by a desperate Notre Dame team at home Saturday.
3. Oklahoma (25-2, 11-2): Yes, the Sooners lost Saturday, but in the process proved to be more than just Blake Griffin, as they stayed close with Texas into the closing minutes. Willie Warren scored 27 in defeat, as he continues to make his case for national freshman of the year.
4. Memphis (24-3, 12-0): Last year’s national runners-up continue to roll, as they currently have college basketball’s longest winning streak at 18 games. A trip to UAB this Thursday should be Memphis’ last conference test of the season.
5. North Carolina (24-3, 10-3): This is supposed to be the part of the season when North Carolina pulled away from the rest of the field, not give up 45 percent shooting in a loss to Maryland. The Tar Heels are still the most talented team in college basketball, but need to stop reading their press clippings and start blowing inferior teams out of the gym.
6. Louisville (22-5, 10-4): Just ten days after getting embarrassed at Notre Dame, Louisville appears to be putting the pieces together, with three straight comfortable wins. If they get two more this week (at Georgetown, Marquette at home), we may have to start discussing them as a National Championship contender.
7. Marquette (23-4, 12-2): Marquette did what it was supposed to do, going 12-2 in the “easy part,” of their Big East. But with two weeks left in the season the stakes are higher, as the Golden Eagles finish with games against UConn, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Syracuse- yikes!
8. Duke (22-5, 8-4): On Sunday night the Academy Awards were given out, but it was Duke who should have won “Best Performance,” as they dominated Wake Forest in a 101-91 win that honestly wasn’t that close. Gerald Henderson and Jon Scheyer combined for 65 points in the victory, the Blue Devils best of the season.
9. Michigan State (21-5, 11-3): It was an up and down week for the Spartans as they got completely outplayed against Purdue, but bounced back with a nice win against Wisconsin. MSU still has too many questions at this point, but if they win out (including a return visit from Purdue, March 8 ) the answers will come.
10. Missouri (23-4, 10-2): There’s never an easy road game in the Big XII and Missouri found that out Saturday, holding off last place Colorado in Boulder. It will be an interesting week in Columbia, as Missouri hosts a desperate Kansas State team before traveling to Kansas.
11. Villanova (22-5, 10-4): No one had a gutsier win this week than Villanova, which needed every second Sunday to hold off Syracuse on the road. The Wildcats are playing great basketball, but need some help to get a top four seed in the Big East tournament, and the bye into the quarterfinals that comes with it.
12. Wake Forest (20-5, 7-5): Wake Forest has had some head-scratching losses this season, but on Sunday they were simply outplayed from the opening tip by Duke. With two very winnable games on the schedule this week, we will find out how tough this young team is.
13. Clemson (22-4, 8-4): The Tigers did something this week that they never seem to do: win the games they’re supposed to, crushing Maryland and cruising by Georgia Tech. For a team which is known to take games off, they better not Wednesday, when they host a Virginia Tech team in desperate need of a win.
14. Arizona State (21-5, 10-4): Arizona State didn’t play all week until late Sunday night, and had to hold on until the final seconds against cross-state rival Arizona. The Sun Devils head to Washington this weekend to face a pair of teams (Washington and Washington State) which beat them earlier this season.
15. Gonzaga (21-5, 12-0): Apparently the Zags read these Power Rankings, as a week after I called out their too-close-for-comfort victories, they got two wins by an average of 36 points. It’s time to give credit where it’s due, as even the most optimistic Gonzaga fans wouldn’t have expected to be undefeated in the West Coast Conference with just a few games to go.
16. Kansas (22-5, 11-1): The Hatchling-Hawks (or are they the Baby-Jays? Either way I need a copyright lawyer) continue to cruise in Big XII play, and are playing their best basketball of the season. They’ll need their best performance yet when they travel to Oklahoma Monday night.
17. Florida State (21-6, 8-4): With all of the talk in the ACC on Tobacco Road, the Seminoles keep grinding out wins, and improving their NCAA Tournament seeding. The schedule gets no easier this week, as Florida State travels to Boston College, before hosting Clemson Saturday afternoon.
18. LSU (23-4, 11-1): We know the SEC is down, but its time to give credit to Bayou Bengals, as they’ve won 12 of their last 13 games. If they are to lose the rest of the way, it will likely come this week, with both Kentucky and Florida are on the schedule.
19. Purdue (21-6, 10-4): Purdue has been looking for a validating win all season, and got it over Michigan State last Tuesday. Although this team is rarely healthy (Robbie Hummel has been in and out of the line-up all season), they are as dangerous as anyone when they are.
20. Butler (23-4, 11-3): Few teams that have lost two of their last three games end up in the Power Rankings, but after a gutsy win at Davidson, the Bulldogs belong here. Butler only has two games left in the regular season, and should win both.
Dropping Out of the Rankings: Dayton, Illinois, UCLA
New to the Rankings: LSU, Purdue, Butler