NCAA Basketball Power Rankings
|I've kept 'Nova this high primarily because of its strong body of work, but let's
face it, the Wildcats have slipped since their schedule got tougher in February (4-4 since
Feb. 6). They will need a strong showing in the Big East tournament next week to inspire confidence they
remain a viable Final Four candidate.
While there's certainly no shame in losing at
Syracuse -- particularly in front of a record regular-season crowd, as was the case last
Saturday -- but the Orange badly outclassed them in nearly every area. Defense has been this
team's sore spot all season, and the Orange thoroughly exploited it, scoring an insane 42
points in the paint in their 95-77 dismantling.
To their credit, the Wildcats recovered
nicely in Tuesday's 77-73 win at Cincinnati. They denied the ball in the lane, forcing the
Bearcats to take outside shots, of which they made just seven of 30. Even then, however,
Villanova nearly blew a 16-point lead with six minutes left before Scottie Reynolds
bailed them out with some late free throws. And Cincinnati isn't exactly a tournament-quality
Next up: 3/6 vs. West Virginia, 3/11 vs. TBD (Big East tournament).
Last Week: 13
|It hasn't always been pretty, but the Mountaineers are sitting in
fairly good shape heading into next week's Big East tournament following home wins over
Cincinnati and Georgetown. Regardless of Saturday's outcome at Villanova, Bob Huggins'
team is assured a top-four seed in the Big East tournament and its accompanying double-bye. (They won't
play until Thursday's quarterfinals.) Win at least a game there and they could be looking at
as high as a No. 2 seed in the NCAAs.
There was a point last Saturday when it looked
like WVU might be heading in the opposite direction. Huggins' old team, Cincinnati, came into
the Coliseum and built a 13-point lead. Top scorer Da'Sean Butler was held to a
season-low eight points. But the Mountaineers pounded the glass in the second half and
eventually pulled away from the cold-shooting Bearcats.
Monday night was far happier
tale, as WVU delivered a Senior Day beatdown of depleted Georgetown (star Austin
Freeman missed the game), going up as much as 25 before winning 81-68. Butler was more
himself in that one, scoring 22 in his final home game. Charleston Gazette columnist
Mitch Vingle wonders whether it was sophomore Devin Ebanks' last
appearance there, as well.
Next up: 3/6 at Villanova, 3/11 vs. TBD (Big East
Last Week: 11
|As much as the Bulldogs have dominated the Horizon League during the regular
season the past four years, they haven't always followed it with a title in the league
tournament. Two of the past three years, someone has knocked off Butler and earned themselves an
NCAA bid they otherwise might not have gotten. (Last year's winner, Cleveland State, went on
to knock off Wake Forest in the NCAA first round.)
If any such thing happens this year,
however, it would be considered a huge upset. Not only did Butler make it through the
Horizon's 18-game league season unblemished, but the tourney format is such that the Bulldogs
have a bye into the semifinals -- and will host both the semis and title game at Hinkle
Fieldhouse. Best of luck, Horizon League.
Of course, the fact that every possible
factor is in place to prevent that conference from getting a second NCAA berth comes as great
news to fans of other bubble teams around the country.
Next up: 3/6 vs. TBD
(Horizon League tournament).
|Vandy is very quietly playing some of its best ball of the season.
Beginning on Feb. 9, when they crushed Tennessee 90-71, the Commodores have won six of seven,
their sole loss came on a last-second home heartbreaker against Kentucky. They followed up an 89-72
road dismantling of Arkansas with another road win on Tuesday, an impressive 64-60
takedown of Florida at the O-Dome. It marked their first season sweep of the Gators since
The overriding difference in that Florida game was three-point shooting -- Vandy
hit half of its attempts (10-of-20, including 6-of-9 from John Jenkins), while Florida
went just 2-for-13. If the 'Dores played defense like that every game, they'd be a surefire
pick to go deep in the NCAAs, because hot-shooting opponents always create the biggest upset
But just two games earlier, Vandy found itself in an unexpected shootout -- at
home -- against Georgia (12-13 at the time). The 'Dores finally prevailed, 96-94, by
hitting two huge shots in the last 33 seconds to force overtime. Offensively, there's a lot to
like about A.J. Ogilvy and Co., and they can play with nearly anyone, but their
inconsistent defense leaves them susceptible to upsets.
Next up: 3/6 vs. South
Carolina, 3/12 vs. TBD (SEC tournament).
Last Week: 14
|Temple has long been a nationally competitive program -- spare it the "mid-major"
label -- but about once every 10 to 12 years the Owls field a truly special team. There was
the Mark Macon-led 1988 team that won 30-plus games and earned a No. 1 NCAA seed,
reaching the Elite Eight. There was the Pepe Sanchez-led 2000 team that earned a No. 2
seed but got upset in the second round. This year's squad isn't quite on the same level as
those great John Chaney teams, but Fran Dunphy's fourth Temple squad is putting
the finishing touches on its best regular season in more than a decade.
weekend's win over LaSalle, the kings of Philly earned just their seventh outright Big 5
title, going 4-0 against their crosstown foes. They followed that up with a road win Wednesday
at St. Louis that assured the Owls a share of their first Atlantic 10 crown since that 2000
season and the No. 1 seed in next week's conference tourney.
With its patently pesky
defense that ranks No. 6 in adjusted efficiency according to Ken Pomeroy, Temple could
certainly do some damage in the Dance. And with just two seniors in the rotation, here's
guessing next year will produce the school's next nationally elite team.
up: 3/6 vs. George Washington, 3/12 vs. TBD (Atlantic 10 tournament).
|The Panthers will be heavy favorites in their last two regular-season
games, both at home, against Providence and Rutgers. Should they win both, they'll finish 13-5
in the Big East and be guaranteed a double-bye at the Big East tournament -- possibly
finishing as high as second. It would be a remarkable feat for Jamie Dixon, arguably
his finest coaching job to date, one that will earn him potential national accolades. And the
amazing part is, we haven't even gotten to his traditional favorite stomping
Pittsburgh has performed very well in the Big East tournament dating to Ben
Howland's tenure, reaching the final seven of the past nine years (with championships in
2003 and '08). Having said that, last year -- the league's first with a double-bye -- the
Panthers lost their first game, to West Virginia, which had played the night
"You would think on paper it would be a good thing, but last year didn't turn
out to be a good thing,'' Dixon said. "It's something the coaches have to talk
Next up: 3/4 vs. Providence, 3/6 vs. Rutgers, TBD (Big East
|The Cougars' 83-81 loss to New Mexico last Saturday in the "biggest
game in Mountain West history" was undeniably crushing, but it came with a silver lining: BYU
fans found out they're going to be loaded at point guard the next couple of years.
lost all-conference star Jimmer Fredette early in the second half yet had a chance to
win right to the end because Michael Lloyd Jr., the team's third-string point guard
(the second-stringer is hurt), came in and simply electrified the court. The sophomore, who
came in averaging barely three points per game, lit up the Lobos for 19 points on 8-of-9
Four nights later, Fredette was back in the fold for the Cougars, but coach
Dave Rose wisely employed both guards at Utah. The result: Lloyd sprung for another 18
points and BYU cruised to a 71-51 win. Here's guessing we'll see more offensive sparks from
Lloyd later this month.
Next up: 3/6 at TCU, 3/11 vs. TBD (Mountain West
|When the brackets are announced next Sunday and the various talking
heads take to the air to predict who they believe will win this year's national title, they
really ought to seek out the opinion of one person in particular: Vols coach Bruce
Pearl. He is the only coach in the country to have beaten two of the likely No. 1 seeds in
this year's tourney, Kansas and Kentucky.
Tennessee's roller coaster of a season has
seen its share of lows (a 77-55 December drubbing at USC; the January dismissal of star
Tyler Smith and suspensions of three others following their Jan. 1 arrests for gun possession; blowout loss at Vanderbilt and Florida) and two incredible highs.
As CBS Sports' Gary Parrish wrote after
last weekend's Kentucky win, Pearl is making a habit of churning out overachieving teams that
annually deliver big-time victories. The only negative: He's yet to lead the Vols past the
Sweet 16. It's hard to see that drought ending this year; Tennessee is too inconsistent. But
they're a whole lot closer than anyone would have envisioned back when Smith got
Next up: 3/6 at Mississippi State, 3/11 vs. TBD (SEC tournament).
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