After a week full of upsets, Syracuse ascended to the top while the second half of the top
five became increasingly muddled. Enjoy these rankings, because come next Sunday only
one set of numbers -- the ones they read on CBS -- will matter.
NCAA Basketball Power Rankings
Last Week: 3
|I don't know about you, but I was pretty stunned to find out just how long it has
been since the Orange have held the top spot in the regular-season polls. Syracuse -- with its
Hall of Fame coach, his three national-title game appearances (including the 2003
championship) and lineage of stars (Louis Orr, Rony Seikaly, Derrick
Coleman, Billy Owens and Carmelo Anthony, just to name a few) hasn't reached
No. 1 during the regular season since January 1990. On Tuesday night against St. Johns, the
Orange claimed their first outright Big East title since 1991.
The question is, might
it be wise for Syracuse to lose once more before Selection Sunday? A look back at recent
history shows that the team holding the No. 1 spot in the AP poll entering the Dance likely
will NOT cut down the nets on April 5. It hasn't happened in the last eight
Year AP No. 1 Finish
2009 Louisville Elite Eight
2008 North Carolina Final Four
2007 Ohio State Runner-up
2006 Duke Sweet 16
2005 Illinois Runner-up
2004 Stanford Sweet 16
2003 Kentucky Elite 8
2002 Duke Sweet 16
2001 Duke CHAMPIONS
Next up: 3/6 at Louisville, 3/11 vs. TBD (Big East
Last Week: 1
|The word most commonly heard in the aftermath of Kansas' ugly 85-77,
not-nearly-as-close-as-the-score-indicated loss at Oklahoma State last weekend was "buzzsaw,"
because that's exactly what the Jayhawks encountered. Kansas hadn't played a game like that
all season. James Anderson and the Cowboys -- who shot a staggering 60.4 percent from
the field -- played out of their minds. "I don't think that the thing is broke," Bill
Self said of his team afterward, and it'd be hard to disagree.
Wednesday night, on
an extremely emotional Senior Day in Lawrence, the Jayhawks affirmed their coach's assessment
by shaking off a shoddy first half to run away from highly ranked rival K-State, 82-65. It was
KU at its finest, with four players scoring in double-figures (Cole Aldrich wasn't even
one of them) and the defense dominating the paint, rendering the Wildcats one-dimensional.
Sherron Collins hit just 1-of-9 field goals in the first half but scored seven straight
points during a ferocious second-half run to finish with 17.
As is Senior
Day tradition, Collins addressed the Phog Allen Fieldhouse crowd afterward. He said the
Jayhawks had accomplished one of their goals by winning an outright Big 12 title but have
their sights set on another prize. "Hopefully," he said, "this ain't my last speech at the
Next up: 3/6 at Missouri, 3/11 vs. TBD (Big 12 tournament).
|John Calipari has spent much of the season nitpicking his
young but terrifically talented team, trying to manage already way-out-of-whack expectations.
However, following last Saturday's loss at Tennessee -- in which the Wildcats struggled from
outside (again), fell behind by 19 points, rallied to tie the game 65-65, but eventually
succumbed to their second defeat of the season -- Cal was accentuating the
"What we found out is, we're not bad," Calipari stated. "We've got a chance.
When you shoot 2-for-22 (on three-pointers) and it's 65-65, wow."
Not surprisingly, the
one constant both in Kentucky's short-lived comeback last Saturday and Wednesday's 80-68 win
at Georgia (which came into the game 12-3 at home) was John Wall, who seems almost to
enjoy adversity. Against Tennessee, he drove to the basket for seven straight points to cut
the lead from 17 to 10, finishing with 19 on the night. Against the Dawgs, he had one
particularly monstrous slam, scored 24 points and could be seen most of the night smiling and
Think the guy will have a little bit of fun when it's
win-or-go-home in a couple of weeks?
Next up: 3/7 vs. Florida, 3/12 vs. TBD (SEC
|Their work is done -- for now. The Buckeyes clinched at least a
share of the Big Ten title and wrapped up the No. 1 seed in next week's Big Ten tournament
with a 73-57 rout of Illinois on Tuesday. Thad Matta isn't likely to win any national
coach of the year honors for this year's squad, but it's probably time for a greater
appreciation of what he's accomplished in his six seasons in Columbus.
He's won three
Big Ten titles in the past five seasons. Columbus Dispatch columnist Bob Hunter
put that achievement in perspective by noting that
Michigan State -- the conference's flagship program in hoops -- has won one title in eight
years. He took over in the wake of a recruiting scandal that cost predecessor Jim
O'Brien his job and caused the program NCAA sanctions (including a postseason ban his
first year) and still somehow convinced Greg Oden, Mike Conley and Daequan
Cook to sign up. Yet he won his first title in 2006, a year before they arrived, then
followed it up with another -- and a national title appearance -- with that loaded '07 team,
after which those three immediately left. Two more one-and-dones followed. But here he is,
three years later, with another league title team built around one superstar, four solid
veterans and just one contributing reserve.
Ultimately, of course, teams are judged by
how they fare in the postseason, and so far only that '07 team has made it out of the first
weekend. Turner needs to lead this team on a deep tourney run to cement Matta's status as one
of the nation's premier coaches.
Next up: 2/12 vs. TBD (Big Ten
|The best game I've seen this season took place last Saturday, but unfortunately,
most of the country (especially DirecTV subscribers, who don't get Versus) missed it. With a
share of the Mountain West title on the line, New Mexico and BYU staged an up-tempo,
back-and-forth thriller chock full of big-time plays. The Lobos caught a bit of a break when
Cougars star Jimmer Fredette had to miss all but 59 seconds of the second half with a
stomach problem but still deserve massive props for going on the road and ending BYU's 21-game
home winning streak, 83-81, with a last-minute surge.
Chalk me up as a New Mexico
believer. These guys can play with anyone. Star wingman Darington Hobson lived up to
his billing, posting 20 points and 14 rebounds and, in the biggest play of the game, sprinting
from the help side to block Noah Hartsock's potential game-tying put-in with one second
left. Roman Martinez, the team's lone senior, drained several big shots down the
stretch when BYU seemed to be continually on the brink of gaining separation. And point guard
Dairese Gary was the most valuable player on the court, scoring 23 and dishing six
assists against just one turnover (though his slew of missed free throws at the end kept New
Mexico from putting it away sooner.)
The Lobos are looking like a fairly solid No. 3
seed, with the slight possibility of sliding up to No. 2 depending on other conference tourney
results. If that happens, would New Mexico become a rare two seed that Vegas dubs a second-round
underdog? I don't know, but if so, I'd gladly take that bet.
Next up: 3/11
vs. TBD (Mountain West tournament).
Last Week: 5
|With the fall of Robbie Hummel-less Purdue, the fourth No. 1 seed was
suddenly Duke's to lose -- until it lost to Maryland. Now it's anyone's best
It's not like the Blue Devils were terrible against the Terps -- they actually
did an admirable job fighting back from an early deficit and hitting big shots for much of the
second half. The problem is, it continued a season-long theme for Coach K's team --
simply put, it hasn't been able to beat good teams on the road. They've played five RPI top-50
foes on the road and lost to four of them, beating only Clemson on Jan. 23. That's not the
sign of an elite team.
But if Duke isn't deserving of No. 1, who is? The Devils entered
Wednesday's game ranked No. 2 in the RPI and No. 1 on KenPom, and those numbers aren't likely
to be greatly affected by losing a close game at Maryland. They still boast eight wins over
top-50 teams -- more than Kentucky, same as Syracuse. It looks like the race for No. 1 may
come down to whichever of the following teams -- Duke, Ohio State, Kansas State, Villanova and
Purdue -- goes farthest in its conference tourney.
Next up: 3/6 vs. North
Carolina, 3/12 vs. TBD (ACC tournament).
|The Wildcats likely needed to pull off the upset in Lawrence to have
a real good chance at a No. 1 seed. A close loss would have garnered a new round of respect
nationally. Unfortunately, the lopsided final score probably reinforced what a lot of skeptics
around the country already believed: That K-State is overrated.
Just last weekend,
however, the Wildcats took care of business against Missouri, improving its record to 7-3 (now
7-4) against top-50 foes. K-State destroyed a very good Xavier team, beat Baylor on the road
and its worst loss was to a team ranked 54th (Ole Miss). K-Stat is 10-3 away from home.
point is, it's probably unwise to sleep on Frank Martin's club, which had won seven
straight prior to Wednesday night's rout, but as my colleague Seth Davis (who attended
the game) observed, K-State can't rely on its big men for offense. They Wildcats will go as far in
March as guards Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente can carry them. If that means
the Elite Eight -- where the 'Cats haven't been since 1988 -- it will have been a very
Next up: 3/6 vs. Iowa State, 3/11 vs. TBD (Big 12
|The Boilers' first game without Robbie Hummel pretty much
embodied every Purdue fan's worst fears: The boys in black and gold could not score. Michigan
State held them to a season-low 44 points last Sunday, with leading remaining scorers
E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson hitting a combined 7-of-27 shots. So went
Purdue's 10-game winning streak.
Then came a much-needed source of relief: A Senior Day
visit from 9-20 rival Indiana. Offense wasn't a problem for the Boilers in their 74-55 win,
highlighted by 21 points from Moore. Chris Kramer, who seems to be stepping up most
prominently in Hummel's absence, sprang for a season-high 18 points while Johnson added 14. In
that regard, it wasn't much different from Purdue games of the past: Three guys doing most of
the scoring and everyone else filling their roles.
You don't want to put too much
emphasis on either result -- the Michigan State game was their first without Hummel, and
Indiana isn't a good litmus test (nor is Penn State this weekend). We'll just have to wait
until next week's Big Ten tournament to get a better sense of where the new-look Boilers stand
against other upper-level foes. In the meantime, this is admittedly arbitrary rankings
Next up: 3/6 at Penn State, 3/12 vs. TBD (Big Ten tournament).
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