Welcome to March, folks, truly the most wonderful time of year for college basketball fans. For the third time in three weeks, we welcome a new No. 1 to the Power Rankings and a fresh, but familiar face into the top 10.
1. Connecticut (27-2, 15-2): Jim Calhoun’s gritty gang did it again this week, winning one of the season’s best games at Marquette followed with a Senior Day victory at Gampel Pavilion. UConn has the full week off before traveling to Pitt, looking to seek revenge, and capture another Big East championship.
2. North Carolina (25-3, 11-3): North Carolina had a relatively easy week, playing in what amounted to be a glorified exhibition against Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels have Duke on Sunday but cannot look past a Wednesday visit to Virginia Tech, a place North Carolina lost as the No. 1 team in the country in 2007.
3. Memphis (26-3, 14-0): The Tigers passed their last true Conference USA test Thursday night, winning at UAB, in a gritty, hard-fought game. With just two games left, there is little reason to believe Memphis won’t continue to improve upon their 20-game win streak.
4. Pittsburgh (26-3, 13-3): Providence College once again proved that there are no nights off in the Big East, as they blitzed Pittsburgh at home, likely costing the Panthers a share of the Big East Championship. Things don’t get any easier as Marquette and UConn visit the Oakland Zoo this week.
5. Louisville (23-5, 14-2): Louisville needed a big win on the national stage, and got it Sunday, knocking off Marquette at home. Everyone talks about Pittsburgh and UConn in this conference, but it might actually be Louisville who wins the Big East regular season title, if they win out and UConn loses in the Steel City on Sunday.
6. Oklahoma (26-3, 12-2): Oklahoma proved that without Blake Griffin they will struggle to compete with anyone, getting narrowly edged by Kansas in a game which was much closer than the final score indicated. Griffin came back this weekend, and the Sooners looked as good as ever, winning at Texas Tech.
7. Duke (24-5, 10-4): Don’t look now, but the Blue Devils got two tough victories this week, winning in front of hostile crowds at Maryland and Virginia Tech. Just like North Carolina, Duke cannot look past their mid-week game- against Florida State- in anticipation of their season ending trip to Chapel Hill.
8. Michigan State (23-5, 13-3): Another year, another Big 10 title in East Lansing, as Michigan State can do no worse than share a conference championship after beating Illinois over the weekend. Senior Day is Sunday at Michigan State, and revenge will be in the air as Purdue visits, just a few weeks after handing the Spartans an embarrassing 18 point loss.
9. Kansas (24-5, 13-1): The Baby Jays are the hottest team in college basketball, defeating Oklahoma on the road and making the border war with Missouri look like a Varsity-JV scrimmage. It’s hard to believe, but Bill Self may be doing a better overall coaching job this year, than in last year’s National Championship season.
10. Wake Forest (22-5, 9-5): At first glance a win at Virginia is nothing to get too excited about, until you realize that Wake Forest hadn’t won a road game since mid-January. If this team’s maturity actually catches up to their talent level, everyone in college basketball should start to worry.
11. LSU (25-4, 13-1): Two weeks ago LSU wasn’t in these Power Rankings and now they’re knocking on the door of top-10 status. No on had a better week than the boys from Baton Rouge, beating Florida at home, before winning a tight one against Kentucky at Rupp Arena.
12. Marquette (23-6, 12-4): Yes the Golden Eagles lost twice this week, but they also proved that they can compete with anyone, even after the loss of Domenic James. Don’t be surprised if Marquette steals one against Pittsburgh Wednesday, as they almost beat Louisville on Sunday, and they won’t get another 3-19 shooting performance from Jerel McNeal any time soon.
13. Gonzaga (23-5, 14-0): The Zags wrapped up an undefeated regular season in the West Coast Conference, beating San Diego on the road. It may have taken a few months, and some bad losses, but this team is finally starting to play to its unlimited capabilities.
14. Villanova (23-6, 11-5): Losing to Georgetown hurts, but Villanova can still get a coveted double bye in the Big East tournament by winning out and Marquette losing one of its last two games. The Wildcats have some very nice wins (against Pittsburgh, and a sweep of Syracuse), but some bizarre losses too, including Saturday’s effort against the Hoyas.
15. Missouri (24-5, 11-3): Look, everyone loses a game or two this time of year, but a 25 point loss to rival Kansas in March is in-excusable. Things get no easier this week, as Missouri gets a fully healthy Oklahoma team Wednesday.
16. Washington (22-7, 13-4): The Pac-10 may be down, but Washington is not, sweeping the Arizona schools over this past weekend. Only a visit from rival Washington State is keeping the Huskies from winning the conference outright.
17. Xavier (23-5, 11-3): Another Atlantic-10 title is available for the taking, after the Musketeers went on the road, and won a tough game against St. Josephs. First though, Xavier must beat Dayton Thursday, just a few weeks after the Flyers beat them handily.
18. Florida State (22-7, 9-5): Beating Clemson for the second time in a month is a nice silver-lining for the Seminoles, which lost earlier in the week at Boston College. Florida State can play the ultimate role of spoiler on Wednesday, when they go to Duke on Senior Night.
19. Clemson (22-6, 8-6): Wait a second, why are we supposed to believe this Clemson team is any different than the soft, cower-in-the-face-of-danger team we’ve seen over the past few years? Two losses in winnable games this week says that this team- which craves respect so much- still isn’t ready to be taken seriously.
20. Butler (25-4, 15-3): Butler’s regular season is over, after wrapping up another Horizon League title. The Bulldogs should get into the NCAA’s even if they lose in their upcoming conference tournament, but coach Brad Stevens would probably sleep a lot better if Butler won it anyway.
New to the Power Rankings: Washington, Xavier
Dropping Out: Arizona State, Purdue