NCAA Tournament: Round One Recap

The first round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament is officially in the books, with the action coming to an end late Friday night, as Maryland beat Houston.

But from the opening tip of Thursday’s games, fans were treated to some of the most exciting college basketball action in modern tournament history, as 11 of the 32 games were decided by five points or less, with three going into overtime.

Let’s take a look back now, at the good and bad, pretty and ugly and everything in between in Round 1.

The Biggest Winner: The Fans

Experts are calling Thursday’s opening day the best in the history of the tournament, and it’s hard to disagree, as several games came right down to the wire, and two of the first three needed extra time to decide them.

Amongst the highlights were BYU’s double overtime win over Florida, Robert Morris’ near shocker of Villanova, Murray State’s buzzer beating win against Vanderbilt and much more, including higher seeded teams like Wisconsin and Tennessee holding on for dear life.

The Most Surprising Team…In A Good Way: Ohio

Wow. What else can you say, but wow? Not just because Ohio beat everyone’s favorite dark horse Final Four team in Georgetown- a team with three or four future NBA players- but because of the way they did it.

Ohio not only won Thursday night, they absolutely dominated the Hoyas from the opening tip-off. They shot an incredible 58 percent from the field, 56 percent from three (13 of 23) and 77 percent from the foul line, turning a game in which they were big underdogs, into a laugher late in the second half. Not only did the Bobcats beat Georgetown, they embarrassed them by 14 points.

The story of the game was the play of Indiana transfer Armon Bassett who finished with 32 points as well as his teammate and point guard D.J. Cooper, who tallied 23 points and eight assists.

This all, by the way, from an Ohio team who finished ninth in the MAC regular season standings, never won more than two games in a row between Christmas and March, and needed a conference tournament run just to be in the NCAA Tournament.

I guess there really is a reason they call this tournament March Madness.

The Most Surprising Team… In A Bad Way: Villanova

Yes, they won, which is more than a lot of other higher seeded teams can claim. But, what a truly disappointing effort, from a team that is one of the most experienced in the tournament.

The Wildcats played their opening round game against Robert Morris, lethargic, lazy and disinterested, and needed some spotty officiating down the stretch to get out of their opener with a win (I have my opinions on all this, but I’ll save it for another day). And to make matters worse, Villanova’s two best players- and supposed leaders- Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher, were benched to start the game, for what Coach Jay Wright deemed, “Minor Teaching Points.” Whatever that means.

Regardless, hopefully Thursday was the wake up call Villanova needed. Because if they play on Saturday against St. Mary’s like they did Thursday, it’s going to be a short March stay for the Wildcats.

Best Coaching Job: Steve Donahue, Cornell

You could make a case for any number of guys: Ohio’s John Groyce, Old Dominion’s Blaine Taylor, even Robert Morris’ Mike Trice in defeat. But today, we’re giving the edge to Steve Donahue at Cornell, who not only beat Temple, but beat his former mentor too, Owls coach Fran Dunphy.

What made Cornell’s win so surprising, was the ease with which they made it look. The Big Red jumped out to an early lead against Temple, and never let them get comfortable. They were more prepared, got to every loose ball, and just seemed better on offense and defense than Temple. Basically, if you took an average basketball fan who knew nothing about these two teams, they’d have thought Cornell was the No. 5 seed and Temple the plucky underdog.

Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how Cornell matches up with a struggling Wisconsin team on Sunday, and to see if they can pull another upset against the Badgers. Then again, with the way they played Friday, would it really even be an upset?

Worst Coaching Job: Rick Barnes, Texas

I know Barnes had to deal with some injury issues this year, but still. There might not be a single coach who routinely gets less out of his talent annually than Barnes does.

Watching Texas’ game against Wake Forest, the Longhorns not only looked ill-prepared, but at times, like they were on another planet, as Wake point guard Ish Smith sliced and diced them, ending the game with a near triple double (19 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists).

Even when Texas did put together a comeback to force overtime, they squandered an eight point lead in the extra period, and missed crucial foul shots down the stretch to lose.

It was another short March in Austin, a trend that is becoming all too routine this time of year. And after awhile, it’s hard to blame the guys on the court.

Stars of Round 1:

Jimmer Fredette, BYU: Hoops Addict told you to watch out for Fredette, and he obliged, putting up 37 points on 13-26 shooting in BYU’s double overtime victory over Florida.

It’ll be interesting to see what he has in store Saturday afternoon, as the Cougars take on Kansas State, a team that you know will be happy to run up and down and make this a high-scoring game. This one will be nothing, if not entertaining.

Indiana Transfers: We already mentioned Armon Bassett’s heroics for Ohio against Georgetown, but what about his former teammate Jordan Crawford? Crawford scored 28 points, and added six rebounds and five assists in Xavier’s victory over Minnesota Friday afternoon.

With Bassett and Crawford shining this March, we’ve got to ask ourselves: What kind of dynasty could Kelvin Sampson be putting together at Indiana right now? If only he could keep his phone dialing fingers to himself…

Omar Samhan, St. Mary’s: Samhan looked like a man against boys on Thursday against Richmond, as the St. Mary’s center had the easiest 29 point and 11 rebound performance you’ll ever see. What made the whole thing even more impressive was that he did it in just 28 minutes because of foul trouble.

Maybe more importantly, Samhan poses a huge (Pun definitely intended) problem for Villanova on Saturday afternoon. The one thing Villanova simply cannot account for is a big guy who can score, and Samhan most certainly fits that bill.

Could St. Mary’s be in store for another shocker Saturday?

Ish Smith, Wake Forest: We already mentioned it, but it’s worth repeating, 19 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Never a bad line for a 5’11 point guard. Right?

John Calipari, Kentucky Coach: Whether you love or hate Calipari (and believe me, there are plenty of people on both sides of that fence), you can’t deny that there isn’t a coach who has his team better prepared this time of year.

In his last four years at Memphis, Calipari’s resume looked like this:

Elite Eight in 2006

Elite Eight in 2007

National Championship Game Runner-Up in 2008

Sweet 16 in 2009

And his Kentucky team opened this tournament with maybe the most impressive opening round performance of all, a 100-71 beat down of hopeless and hapless East Tennessee State.

There’s still a lot of time between now and the National Championship game in early April. But could this year finally be Calipari’s one shining moment?

Running Down Ten Second Round Games, In Two Sentences Or Less:

No. 10 St. Mary’s vs. No. 2 Villanova, Saturday, 1:05 p.m.: If both teams play the way they did Thursday (St. Mary’s great, Villanova not so much), we could be in line for the first upset of the second round, just one game in.

No. 9 Northern Iowa vs. No. 1 Kansas, Saturday, 5:40 p.m.: The nation’s No. 2 scoring defense (Northern Iowa) goes against college basketball’s No. 1 overall team. This one culd be closer than you think.

No. 11 Washington vs. No. 3 New Mexico, Saturday, 5:50 p.m.: Despite the seeding, Washington actually comes into this game as the favorite, after their victory over Marquette Saturday. Guess the Pac-10 wasn’t so bad after-all, huh?

No. 7 BYU vs. No. 2 Kansas State, Saturday, 8:10 p.m.: Set the TIVO, because a trio of great guards (Fredette, Kansas State’s Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen) could make this one an instant classic.

No. 9 Wake Forest vs. No. 1 Kentucky, Saturday, 8:15 p.m.: A lot of brackets could be busted if Kentucky were to lose here. John Wall vs. Ish Smith is worth the price of admission alone.

No. 8 Gonzaga vs. No. 1 Syracuse, Sunday, 12:15 p.m.: Gonzaga’s got the scorers inside to beat Syracuse, especially if the Orange are still without Arinze Onuaku. But the start time sure doesn’t help Gonzaga (9:15 A.M. Spokane time).

No. 10 Georgia Tech vs. No. 2 Ohio State, Sunday, 2:20 p.m.: Georgia Tech’s size and length could keep this one close right down to the wire. Don’t be shocked by an upset here.

No. 12 Cornell vs. No. 4 Wisconsin, Sunday, 2:50 p.m.: Similar to Villanova and St. Mary’s. If these two teams both play the way they did Friday, Cornell will be Sweet 16 bound.

No. 6 Xavier vs. No. 3 Pittsburgh, Sunday, 4:50 p.m.: An absolute street fight between two, tough, physical teams. Question: Why didn’t anyone talk me out of my Oakland over Pittsburgh upset pick?

No. 8 California vs. No. 1 Duke, Sunday, 5:15 p.m.: Could the weekend end with No. 1 seed packing its bags and headed home? Nahhh…

To read all of Aaron’s additional work, make sure to stop by his site, www.aarontorres-sports.com. Also, for his opinions on all things sports, follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres

Six Players To Watch In The NCAA Tournament

Coming into the NCAA Tournament, we all know the names of the biggest game-changers in college basketball are John Wall, Evan Turner and Sherron. But what about everybody else? What about the guys who weren’t All-Americans this year? You need to know about them too.

Which is why Hoops Addict has identified a group of six players you need to get to know and watch out for, as we head into the 2010 NCAA Tournament:

Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech: Don’t worry, I already know what you’re thinking: How can a guy who is very likely going to be a top five NBA Draft pick, a player we should watch out for? Well, if you watched Georgia Tech at all this year, you know that the Jackets did anything but look out for their biggest, baddest player. And it almost cost them a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

That’s because through the regular season, Favors was almost an afterthought on his own team, as he averaged just 12 points and less than eight shot attempts per game. In a related story, the Yellow Jackets limped to a 19-11 regular season record.

Once the ACC Tournament started Favors was a different man, as he averaged over 17 points a game, and Georgia Tech beat North Carolina, Maryland and NC State before ultimately losing to Duke in the conference finals.

Look, it’s pretty simple really. If the Yellow Jackets get the ball to their big guy these next few weeks, there aren’t many who can stop Favors, or the Yellow Jackets for that matter.

But if they don’t? Well, there might not be much madness in their March. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

Jon, Leuer, Wisconsin: As hard as it is to believe, Wisconsin has been one of the most consistent teams in college basketball over the last decade or so, winning 20 or more games in every year but one since 2003. And in the one year they didn’t, they “only,” got to 19 wins and the NCAA Tournament. Needless to say, Coach Bo Ryan knows how to evaluate talent and coach it up.

Well this year, he’s got a pretty special big man in Leuer.

Leuer stands at 6’10 and while not overly athletic, is a smart player, with a nice soft touch around the basket. Which is the biggest reason he finished second on the Badgers in scoring this season, averaging just under 15 points a game.

And after coming back fro a midseason injury, Leuer is just starting to regain his early season form. He’s now scored in double figures in each of the last five games, with Wisconsin going 4-1 over that time frame.

Expect a still improving Leuer to be a headache for opponents all NCAA Tournament long.

Lazar Hayward, Marquette: Watch Marquette enough and you might start to ask yourself, “What am I missing?” They’re not that big, physical or overly athletic, and just don’t seem like they should be as good as their 22-11 record would indicate they are. Only, well, they are that good. And there’s no bigger reason for their success than Hayward.

Like the rest of him teammates, if you were lining Hayward up next to his opponent, he wouldn’t just out at you, but just watch the Golden Eagles 6’6″ power forward. The kid can play.

Hayward was Marquette’s leading scorer (18.1 points a game) and rebounder (7.7) and shot 43 percent from the field, all while facing the opponent’s best low post defender. He’s also gritty and tough, and it was his play that led the Golden Eagles to their fifth place finish in the rugged Big East.

Again, if you pick the Golden Eagles in your bracket, don’t expect to be overwhelmed the first time you lay eyes on Hayward (Honestly, seeing him with his headband and beard, he looks like a 6’6 version of Denver Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin. All he’s only missing the kiss tattoo on his neck), but by the end of the game, not only will he be your favorite Marquette player, you’ll probably be looking to buy his replica jersey off Eastbay too.

Either way, the Golden Eagles will make some noise in this tournament, and no one will play a bigger role, than their most important player.

Donald Sloan, Texas A&M: Much like Marquette, if you just caught Texas A&M in passing at any point this season you probably weren’t overwhelmed; they’re the type of team that does everything good, but nothing great. At the same time though, let’s be honest, the Aggies didn’t finish fourth in college basketball’s toughest conference by accident. But as good as Texas A&M is (and believe me they’re good), they would have been a lot closer to the bottom of the Big XII without Sloan.

What makes Sloan so special is his consistency. He never seems to force his offense, yet he’s still scored in double-figures in every game but one since…wait for it…wait for it… The last week of November! Not too shabby huh? What makes Sloan’s feat even more impressive is that the Aggies haven’t had their second leading scorer- Derrick Roland- since right around New Year’s.

Again, Sloan isn’t a name you’re probably familiar with, but you better get to know it quick. Before it’s too late, and he’s knocked your favorite team out of the Big Dance.

Jimmer Fredette, BYU: Jimmer Fredette? Sounds more like the lead singer of the house band at your favorite local pub than a basketball player right? He actually looks the part too. But get him on the court, and the kid is a stone-cold assassin.

The 6’2 guard from Glen Falls, NY (How’d he end up out in Provo, Utah? Your guess is as good as mine), led the Mountain West with a 21.4 points a game average, while at the same time leading BYU with close to five dimes a game too. More importantly, he saved his best performances for the Cougars biggest games, as he dropped 45 and 30 on back-to-back nights in the Mountain West Tournament.

While BYU ultimately lost to UNLV in the conference semifinals, make no mistake, they will make noise come this NCAA Tournament. And that noise will come from the unlikeliest source: The one man house band himself, Jimmer Fredette.

Johnathan Jones, Oakland: Want a deep, deep sleeper who could blow up on your radar this 2010 NCAA Tournament? Well head out West…well not that far West…but to Oakland, MI, where one of college basketball’s most underrated point guards plays, Johnathan Jones of Oakland University.

Jones is a coaches dream (unless you’re the opposing coach, then he’s more like a nightmare), an experienced floor leader that gets more joy out of setting up his teammates than getting his own points. Jones finished third in college basketball in assists this year averaging 6.4 a game, which wouldn’t be all that bad, except well, he averaged over eight a game a year ago to lead college basketball. Add in over 12 points a game, and you’re looking at one of the best floor generals in college basketball, regardless of school.

Oakland comes into this tournament having won 20 of their last 21 games dating all the way back to the end of December, and won’t lay down to Pittsburgh in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. And if they do win, look for the smallest guy on the court to have the biggest impact.

For the best coverage of the NCAA Tournament, be sure to check back at HOOPSADDICT.com all March long. To read all of Aaron’s work, please visit him at his own personal site, www.aarontorres-sports.com and follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.

Selection Sunday Chat

Hey college basketball fans!

It’s hard to believe, but it’s already time for the one of the best sporting events on the calendar. That’s right, it’s time for March Madness and the 2010 NCAA Tournament.

This year, before you fill out your brackets and enter your office pools, make sure you’re prepared.  This Sunday – Selection Sunday for the NCAA’s 65 teams – Hoops Addict editor Ryan McNeill will be joined by Hoops Addict college basketball writer Aaron Torres for a live chat leading up to and during the announcement of the field at 6 p.m. EST.

Join Ryan and Aaron as they take your questions on the teams and players that will pull off the biggest upsets and make it all the way to the Final Four and beyond.

So to the Hoops Addict community, the invitation has been extended to you to come talk some college basketball this Sunday evening, starting at 5:30. We’ll see you there!

College Basketball Power Rankings

It’s hard to believe, but we are officially less than a week away from knowing which 65 teams will compose this year’s NCAA Tournament field. Where does the time go?

Before that though, there’s still a lot of basketball to be played, as Championship Week kicked off with a bang this past weekend, and five teams- Cornell, Winthrop, East Tennessee State, Murray State and Northern Iowa- have already claimed their automatic bids.

Make sure to follow Hoops Addict all month long, for continuing coverage of the NCAA Tournament coverage and in-depth analysis. But before that, let’s get to the Final Power Rankings of the 2010 regular season.

1. Kansas (29-2, 15-1): The regular season ends right as it began: With Kansas on top. After convincing wins against Kansas State and Missouri this week, the NCAA Title has officially become the Jayhawks to lose.

2. Kentucky (29-2, 14-2): The little brother that’s been tagging along on Kansas’ backside all season has locked up a No. 1 seed regardless of what happens in the SEC Tournament. But with every game from now on a “lose and you go home,” proposition, is Kentucky ready for the pressure that the next month will bring?

3. Duke (26-5, 13-3): Love or hate Duke, there isn’t a team that plays harder defense for 40 minutes a game. And we all know defense wins championships. The Blue Devils will still need a few other breaks to win the big one, but Saturday’s performance against North Carolina should have wrapped up the school’s first No. 1 seed since 2006.

4. Syracuse (28-3, 15-3): At this point, all Syracuse can hope is that they won’t have to play Louisville in the NCAA Tournament, as they’re 0-2 against the Cardinals and 28-1 against everyone else. Either way, the Orange are the team nobody wants to play going forward, talented but almost pathologically unselfish. As we’ve said before, they’re college basketball’s ultimate team.

5. Ohio State (24-7, 14-4): Speaking of teams no one wants to play, it’s Ohio State, winners of 10 of their last 11 games. Although Purdue and Michigan State are good, the Big 10 Tournament should be the Buckeyes national coming out party.

6. Purdue (26-4, 14-4): Anyone think that obituary we wrote on Purdue’s season might have been a bit premature? While their wins without Robbie Hummel haven’t been pretty, it’s impossible to question this team’s heart, playing without their most important player.

7. New Mexico (28-3, 14-2): This is what New Mexico’s schedule the last week looked like: One game, one win, one Mountain West championship. Not bad huh? And should the Lobos win the MWC Tournament as well, they could be looking at a No. 3 seed come tournament time.

8. West Virginia (24-6, 13-5): Whether you were ready for it or not, West Virginia threw us into the madness of March with their overtime win over Villanova on Saturday afternoon. But despite all the Mountaineers talent down low, do they have enough guard play to make a deep tournament run?

9. Butler (27-4, 18-0): It only took one win for Butler to get to the Horizon League tournament final, which they’ll play Tuesday against Wright State. This team will be in the Big Dance whether they win their conference tournament or not, but could certainly use some momentum after Saturday night’s sloppy win over Milwaukee.

10. Michigan State (24-7, 14-4): On paper the Spartans have everything you want in a contender: Good guard play, size, and experience after last year’s Final Four run. But if you dig deeper and look at their schedule, the Spartans really haven’t beaten all that many good teams this regular season. Nobody could use a strong conference tournament run to boost their national image quite like Michigan State could this week.

11. Kansas State (24-6, 11-5): Don’t look at Kansas State’s loss against Iowa State Saturday as anything besides a (major) letdown after losing to Kansas earlier in the week. Think the Wildcats wouldn’t like to get one more shot at their cross-state rivals in the Big XII Tournament?

12. Villanova (24-6, 13-5): The fear that we’ve had all year for Villanova (their lack of size down low) seems to have finally caught up with them for good, as they lost their fourth of six games to West Virginia Saturday. If this team can’t turn it around in the Big East Tournament, expectations of a return trip to the Final Four might go out the window as well.

13. Gonzaga (25-5, 12-2): If Gonzaga can just make their foul shots, they could very well find themselves in the first Final Four in their school’s history. But first they must get by their biggest conference rival- St. Mary’s- in the WCC Tournament final Monday night. Be sure to tune in.

14. BYU (28-4, 13-3): The Cougars did exactly what they were supposed to do this week, rolling over TCU on the road. This team will be in the NCAA Tournament no matter what happens in the Mountain West Tournament, but would sure like another shot at New Mexico, which has already beaten them twice this season.

15. Tennessee (23-7, 11-5): There was a lot of basketball played this weekend, but maybe not a better performance than Tennessee’s road win at Mississippi State. Despite their doubters, this team still continues to get it done game after game, and will be a tough out in the NCAA’s.

16. Wisconsin (23-7, 13-5): Well, hell froze over Sunday afternoon as Wisconsin finally (FINALLY!) got an impressive road win, in front of the Orange Crush at Illinois. In all seriousness though, the Badgers are coming on strong, especially with Jon Leuer finally healthy. Leuer may be the most underrated big man in the country right now.

17. Temple (26-5, 14-2): Temple emerged from a loaded Atlantic 10 with a regular season conference championship, which is no small feat. But to get a conference tournament title, they’ll need to run through a slew of desperate teams trying to impress the NCAA Tournament committee (Dayton, Rhode Island, Charlotte, St. Louis). Think they’re up to the challenge?

18. Baylor (24-6, 11-5): If you’re looking for an off the radar team who might make some noise in the tournament, Baylor may be your pick. They’ve got all the ingredients needed: An experienced point guard (Tweety Carter), a pure scorer on the wing (LaceDarius Dunn) and two shot blocking big men down low (Ekpe Udoh and Quincy Acy). At this point, I’d be more surprised if Baylor wasn’t playing the second weekend of the tournament than if they were.

19. Pittsburgh (24-7, 11-5): Quick straw poll: Who saw Pittsburgh ending the regular season tied for second place in the Big East? Anyone? Despite going to the Elite Eight last year, this may be Jamie Dixon’s best coaching job yet.

20. Vanderbilt (23-7, 12-4): Saturday’s loss against South Carolina was nothing more than a hiccup for one of college basketball’s most underrated teams. Like Baylor, the Commodores have all the ingredients needed to make a deep run this March.

New to the Power Rankings: Baylor

Dropping Out: Georgetown

(Author’s Note: Aaron will be Tweeting all day Wednesday live from the Big East Tournament, and for all of Championship Week from his couch. To get all his inside thoughts, on everything college hoops, follow him, click here or add him at Twitter.com/Aaron_Torres

Also, to read all Aaron’s writing as we get closer to March Madness, be sure to visit him at www.aarontorres-sports.com)

College Basketball Power Rankings

Just when we thought we were figuring out this whole college basketball thing, we realized in fact we knew nothing at all.

Over the weekend both No. 1 Kentucky and No. 2 Kansas lost, and No. 4 Purdue was crippled by a devastating, season altering injury.

Yet despite all that, one team remained impressive and then some, and for the first time this season, they headline our Power Rankings…

1. Syracuse (27-2, 14-2): No one in college basketball has had a more dominating victory against a better opponent than Syracuse’s win over Villanova Saturday night. While Kansas and Kentucky get all the love nationally, this is the team that no one wants to play come tournament time.

2. Kansas (27-2, 13-1): Want to know the biggest reason for Kansas’ loss on Saturday to Oklahoma State? The Jayhawks, a team that allows opponents to shoot just 37 percent from the field, allowed the Cowboys to shoot over 60 percent in their game. That won’t happen again Wednesday, against No. 5 Kansas State.

3. Duke (25-4, 12-2): Has any Duke team over flown the farther under the radar, this late in the season? Either way, the Blue Devils have won eight games in a row, and could very well be closing in on their first NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed since 2006.

4. Kentucky (27-2, 12-2): Kentucky hasn’t been playing very good basketball for awhile now, and were finally nipped Saturday afternoon at Tennessee. If the Wildcats aren’t careful, they could get upset again Wednesday night at Georgia, a team that’s just 13-14, but has already beaten three ranked teams this season.

5. Kansas State (24-4, 11-3): With their cross-state rival ranked No. 1 for most of this season, Kansas State continues to just win games, and stay under the radar. We’ll find out whether or not they’re ready for the big-time on Wednesday, when they go to Allen Fieldhouse, to take on that rival, the No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks.

6. Ohio State (23-7, 13-4): Ohio State has now won nine of their last 10 games, and is line to win at least a share of the Big 10 title, despite starting off conference play 0-2 without Evan Turner. But for those of you who think this team is simply just Turner, think again. William Buford, Jon Diebler and David Lighty can all play. And they just may be playing in the Final Four in a few weeks.

7. Purdue (24-4, 12-4): The entire Hoops Addict community would like to send our sincerest regards to Purdue, who lost not only one of their best players, but their leader, when Robbie Hummel went down for the year with an ACL injury. This team can still make a deep run in the tournament, but will need everyone- especially E’Twaun Moore- to step up.

8. Villanova (23-5, 12-4): If you’re Villanova, you’ve got to look at Saturday’s loss at Syracuse with a ‘half is glass full approach;’ basically, that there isn’t a team in college basketball (and maybe a few in the NBA too) who would have beaten the Orange the way they played Saturday night. On the other hand, one fact is indisputable after that loss: Villanova simply isn’t good enough inside, to beat the country’s best teams.

9. New Mexico (27-3, 13-2): It cannot be emphasized enough: New Mexico’s win at BYU on Saturday wasn’t a good win, it was a great one. The Lobos have become the proverbial team that no one will want to play come tournament time.

10. West Virginia (22-6, 11-5): West Virginia had a week Bob Huggins would like to forget, as not only did they struggle with Cincinnati on Saturday, but lost to UConn earlier in the week too. The Mountaineers play Georgetown Monday night, and may have caught a major break, as it appears Austin Freeman won’t suit up for the Hoyas.

11. Butler (26-4, 18-0): Butler was able to survive Friday night against Valparaiso, despite having leading scorer Gordon Hayward sit out with a back injury. But for the Bulldogs to win the Horizon League, and more importantly, do damage in the NCAA Tournament, they’ll need everyone- especially Hayward- healthy.

12. Michigan State (22-7, 12-4): You know what’s funny about Michigan State? All year we question them for their inability to beat many of the top teams they’ve played, yet here they are, the first week of March, and they’re No. 12 in the country and in line to share another Big 10 championship. For what might be considered a “down,” year, Michigan State is still playing pretty well, huh?

13. Gonzaga (24-5, 12-2): Like Michigan State, Gonzaga is right where they always are at the end of the season, despite the doubts of many to start the season (Myself included). A home date with Cal-State Bakersfield concludes their regular season on Tuesday, before they play the West Coast Conference tournament this weekend.

14. BYU (26-4, 11-3): We can’t knock the Cougars down too far (if at all) for losing to New Mexico, since the truth is, there aren’t many college basketball teams who can beat the Lobos right now. Could we be headed for a third matchup in this epic trilogy during the Mountain West Tournament?

15. Vanderbilt (22-6, 11-3): With Kentucky and Tennessee getting all the love across the SEC, its Vanderbilt that just keeps winning games. Even with a tricky trip to Florida on Wednesday, expect them to stay hot into the SEC Tournament and beyond.

16. Tennessee (21-7, 9-5): We’re not sure exactly how they do it, but Tennessee just keeps beating good teams, as they’ve now defeated both Kentucky and Kansas this year. Could it be the Magic of Bruce Pearl’s orange blazer?

17. Wisconsin (21-7, 11-5): With only two games left on the schedule, we’re still waiting for Wisconsin to get a quality win away from the Kohl Center. They’ve got one more chance, Sunday at Illinois.

18. Georgetown (19-8, 9-7): We’re not ready to give up on the Hoyas just yet, considering they’re able to beat just about anyone when they’re playing well (see wins earlier in the season against Duke and Villanova). But with Austin Freeman sitting out of Monday night’s showdown with West Virginia, could they be headed for their fourth loss in five games?

19. Temple (24-5, 12-2): While no one who actually watches Temple would call them overly “impressive,” they just keeping wining ballgames. And whether it’s pretty or ugly, going 24-5 in the Atlantic 10 isn’t exactly easy.

20. Pittsburgh (22-7, 11-5): With Notre Dame beating Georgetown on Saturday afternoon, all of a sudden the Panthers loss to the Irish earlier in the week doesn’t seem so bad. The Panthers are good, but might struggle with a high-scoring Providence team which comes to the Peterson Events Center on Thursday.

To read all of Aaron’s writing, make sure to check him out at www.aarontorres-sports.com. And for his thoughts on all things sports, add him on Twitter, @Aaron_Torres