Despite a lot of college basketball action over the last seven days, it was a surprisingly quiet week overall.
While No. 1 Texas did lose twice, everyone else at the top- Kentucky, Villanova, Kansas, Syracuse- held strong, and improved their tournament resumes as we head toward March.
This week, mark your calendar for several big games, starting Monday night when Georgetown visits Syracuse and ending Saturday night when Kansas plays Kansas State.
But in between there will still be a lot of great games, including two by our new No. 1 team…
1. Kentucky (19-0, 4-0): Well, well, well, look who’s the new No. 1 team in the country? In all seriousness though, it cannot be emphasized enough: As good as John Wall is, this team wouldn’t be undefeated without Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins developing the way that they have.
2. Villanova (18-1, 7-0): During Saturday’s game against St. Johns, announcer Doris Burke explained Villanova’s effectiveness better than anyone I’ve heard so far. She said, “While most teams put pressure on you with their defense, the Wildcats are relentless with their offensive pressure.” Which makes sense, since Villanova’s got seven players averaging at least eight points per game.
3. Kansas (18-1, 4-0): No team has looked better over the last two weeks than the Jayhawks have, winning their last four games by an average of 15 points per contest. But with that said, Kansas cannot, and will not survive in March unless freshman Xavier Henry picks up his game. He’s had 15 points or more in just one of the Jayhawks last nine games.
4. Syracuse (19-1, 6-1): There isn’t a team in college basketball that seems to genuinely enjoy playing with each other more than the Orange, and it shows with their nearly unblemished record. Interesting fact: They host old rival Georgetown on Monday, a team they’ve never beaten while ranked in the top five.
5. Michigan State (17-3, 7-0): Somehow, the Spartans survived a thriller at Minnesota Saturday afternoon, escaping with a one point victory after trailing by as many as 13 points in the second half. Tom Izzo coached teams always seem to play their best basketball towards the end of the season, and this team is shaping up to be no different.
6. Duke (16-3, 4-2): What exactly are we supposed to make of Duke? Three days after getting embarrassed by an awful NC State team, they rebounded by blowing down the doors at Clemson. Are you confused? Because I sure am.
7. Texas (17-2, 3-1): It’s way too early to give up on this Texas team, and getting home after two tough road losses will do them a lot of good. But with that said, the problems are still there for the Longhorns, starting with an inconsistent and often times inept half court offense.
8. Georgetown (15-3, 6-2): Look, no one has been more critical of the Hoyas this season than I have, but it looks like finally, maybe they’re figuring it all out. We’ll have a better idea if that’s true by the end of this week, as they play Syracuse and Duke in the next six days.
9. West Virginia (15-3, 4-2): You simply can’t give enough credit to Bob Huggins crew for scratching and clawing their way to a victory over Ohio State Saturday, despite trailing by double-digits early in the game. On paper this looked like the most complete team in the Big East coming into the season, and they’re finally starting to show it.
10. Purdue (16-3, 4-3): Now that’s more like it. After losing three in a row, the Boilermakers shook up their starting lineup, and rebounded with convincing wins over Illinois and Michigan last week.
11. Kansas State (16-3, 3-2): The mark of a great program is the ability to beat the teams you’re supposed to, even when you’re not playing your best basketball. And while Kansas State may have looked great against Texas on Monday, Saturday’s home loss to Oklahoma State showed that they’ve still got a long way to go.
12. Tennessee (15-3, 3-1): The Vols weren’t going to keep winning forever, and crashed hard with a loss at Georgia Saturday afternoon. While Tennessee does return home for their next two games, visits from Vanderbilt and Florida will hardly be easy wins.
13. Wisconsin (16-4, 6-2): Can I ask a question: Who exactly makes the schedule in the Big 10? Because whoever it is, they’re not a Wisconsin fan, as the Badgers have to play Purdue and Michigan State in the same week, for the second time…this MONTH!!!
14. Brigham Young (20-1, 5-0): It wasn’t easy for the Cougars Saturday, as they needed all 40 minutes to hold on and beat San Diego State by just two points Saturday. Even scarier is that the Cougars will hit the road again on Wednesday, this time going to “The Pit,” at New Mexico, maybe the toughest road venue in college basketball that no one knows about.
15. Gonzaga (16-3, 5-0): The names on the uniforms may change, but it’s the end of January and here are the Gonzaga Bulldogs at the top of the WCC standings, and in college basketball’s top 15. Hmm, where’ve we seen this before?
16. Temple (17-3, 5-0): As usual, the Owls went out and dominated two overmatched Atlantic 10 opponents this week, moving their record to 17-3. Nothing new to report here.
17. Pittsburgh (15-4, 5-2): Could reality be settling in for the upstart Panthers? After losses in the last week to Georgetown and Seton Hall, it just might be.
18. UConn (13-6, 3-3): Give the Huskies credit for overcoming the loss of head coach Jim Calhoun, and winning two tough games, including a victory over No. 1 Texas. But at the same time, let’s be realistic. As good as this team looked last week, they’ve still yet to win a game away from home. They better change that at Providence on Wednesday.
19. Georgia Tech (14-5, 3-3): I said it last week and I’ll say it again: This is the most “hit,” or “miss,” team in college basketball. They split their two games again this week, winning a squeaker at Clemson, before losing Sunday at Florida State.
20. Ohio State (14-6, 4-3): The Buckeyes played just once this week and lost at West Virginia. While it was hardly a bad loss, it was certainly one the Buckeyes could have won, as they led by 12 points at halftime and couldn’t close the Mountaineers out.
New to the Power Rankings: UConn
Dropping Out: Clemson