The college basketball season is officially coming down the homestretch and with it, a new no. 1 ranked team. Oklahoma gets their turn with the bulls eye on their chest, as they have two very tough games in the next week.
1. Oklahoma (25-1, 11-0): We’ve used about every adjective in the English language to describe Blake Griffin this season, but Saturday’s 40 point, 23 rebound performance was so transcendent there isn’t a word to describe it. The Sooners enter this week at no. 1, but have to go to Texas on Saturday and host Kansas Monday night. Let’s see how long they stay on top.
2. North Carolina (23-2, 9-2): Remember in early January when North Carolina lost two of three games and everyone wondered what was wrong with them? Well apparently not much, as they’ve quietly won nine in a row, and have a two game cushion in the ACC.
3. Pittsburgh (24-2, 11-2): Yes Pitt beat UConn, but more importantly DeJuan Blair established himself as the best big man in college basketball not named Blake Griffin. The Panthers have officially taken over as favorites in the Big East, and as a true National Championship contender.
4. Connecticut (24-2, 12-2): UConn showed more in their loss to Pittsburgh than most teams do in victory, as the Huskies hung tough, despite playing only their second game without Jerome Dyson. With South Florida at home Saturday, this veteran group should bounce back nicely.
5. Michigan State (20-4, 10-2): While the whole country is enamored with the Big East and ACC, Michigan State continues to stockpile victories and move up these rankings. The Spartans control their own destiny in the Big 10 race, with their first big test Tuesday night against Purdue.
6. Memphis (23-3, 10-0): Memphis is making its usual late season run through Conference USA, as the Tigers won their 52nd consecutive league game Saturday. With no true contenders in sight, this group should cruise into March without another loss.
7. Louisville (19-5, 10-2): Seriously, how many teams in college basketball can say they’ve won and lost a game by 30 points in the same week? While Louisville isn’t happy to be on that list, they handled business against DePaul on Sunday, only three days after getting embarrassed at Notre Dame.
8. Wake Forest (19-4, 6-4): Last week I called Wake Forest the “Jekyll and Hyde of college basketball,” and they again held form, losing a shocker at North Carolina State, before beating a good Florida State team at home. This week is a big one for the Demon Deacons as they have a chance to exact revenge on Georgia Tech, before traveling to Duke Sunday night.
9. Marquette (21-4, 10-2): The Golden Eagles got back to their winning ways this weekend, after previously dropping two in a row. Jerel McNeal (20+ points in the last nine games) must continue to be a superstar, as Marquette still has Louisville, Pittsburgh and UConn on the schedule.
10. Duke (20-5, 7-4): After losing three of their last four games, no team is nose diving faster than Duke. The Blue Devils can get back some of their national credibility with a win against Wake Forest Sunday night.
11. Missouri (22-4, 9-2): Missouri continues to do what good, veteran teams do, winning the games they’re supposed to, with victories over Kansas and Nebraska in the past week. The Tigers should have no problems in their only game this week: a trip to Big XII doormat Colorado.
12. Villanova (20-5, 8-4): The scariest thing that happened this Friday the 13th was Villanova’s embarrassing 21 point loss at West Virginia. With a visit from Rutgers Thursday, Villanova should get back on track before going to the Carrier Dome to play Syracuse Sunday.
13. Clemson (20-4): Just like Duke and Wake Forest, Clemson seems to be playing its worst basketball at the worst possible time, as the Tigers were shocked on the road by Virginia Saturday. This group has the talent to win every remaining game on their schedule, but need to stop taking nights off like they did against UVA.
14. Arizona State (20-5, 9-4): Not only did Arizona State sweep the Los Angeles schools this weekend, but more importantly, proved they could win without a huge game from James Harden. The sophomore averaged just 14 points in the two victories, but this experienced group stepped up, played great defense and found a way to win each game.
15. Gonzaga (19-5, 10-0): Gonzaga remained undefeated in conference play, but shouldn’t they have won by more than seven combined points when Saint Mary’s didn’t have Patty Mills and San Francisco was without four suspended players? The Bulldogs have as much talent as anyone in college basketball, but have yet to show the mental toughness to win a championship.
16. Dayton (23-3, 9-2): To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, which is exactly what the Flyers did, in their 71-58 victory over Atlantic 10 leader Xavier on Wednesday. The road doesn’t get any easier for Dayton, as they must travel to St. Louis and Rhode Island this coming week.
17. Kansas (20-5, 9-1): While the loss to Missouri stung, the Jayhawks rebounded nicely with a win at Kansas State Saturday (a place that last year’s National Champion lost). Kansas must win its coming games this week against Iowa State and Nebraska, before they travel to Oklahoma next Monday night.
18. Illinois (21-5, 9-4): It took a monumental comeback, but the Illini held on to win at Northwestern, behind 21 points from Demetri McCamey. Illinois has a huge test at Ohio State on Sunday, but can’t overlook Penn State earlier in the week.
19. UCLA (19-6, 8-4): The surprising thing shouldn’t be that UCLA got swept by the Arizona schools this weekend, but how, as a team which relies so heavily on defense gave up 50 percent shooting to each team. UCLA is another team which needs some credibility points, and they can do that by beating Pac 10 leader Washington on Thursday.
20. Florida State (19-6, 6-4): Florida State did what they were supposed to do, winning at Virginia, before losing at Wake Forest. This is an NCAA Tournament caliber team, but has a brutal remaining schedule, with Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College coming up.
New to the Power Rankings: Arizona State, Dayton, Illinois
Dropping Out: Xavier, Butler, Utah State
This article was originally posted here at www.aarontorres-sports.com