So the power rankings took a brief hiatus due to hell freezing over in Philadelphia last week, but now they’re back and ready to finish the season strong. We’re going to base everything on where we left things on January 29, so “last week” will reflect where things stood then. Two weeks can feel like a lifetime in college hoops, particularly this season, so we have lots of changes to work through. Let’s jump in.
1. Virginia (23-2) Last week: 2
Defeated Louisville, Syracuse, Florida State, lost to Virginia Tech
There was much debate on what to do with the top spot, as previous number one Villanova and Virginia both suffered losses last week. These two teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack, so the question was whether we should have them hold their positions or flip them. We ultimately slotted the Cavaliers in the top spot based on the fact that their loss to Virginia Tech, in overtime, was a better loss than Villanova’s to St. John’s.
Virginia has a stranglehold on the top of the ACC, and continues to devastate opponents with its lockdown defense. The Cavaliers have seven top 40 KenPom wins, and have been one of the most solid and consistent teams all season long.
2. Villanova (23-2) Last week: 1
Defeated Creighton, Seton Hall, Butler, lost to St. John’s
An impressive two-week stretch by the Wildcats in which they defeated three top-35 KenPom teams was soiled by the suddenly red hot Red Storm. That St. John’s win over ‘Nova was sandwiched between wins over Duke and Marquette doesn’t change the fact that the Red Storm were below .500 and winless in the Big East when they beat the 'Cats.
‘Nova was down two starters in the St. John’s game, but that doesn’t excuse the loss. Eric Paschall missed the game with a concussion, while Phil Booth has been out with a broken hand. The ‘Cats rebounded with a solid win over Butler, and hope to have both players back for their postseason run. Despite the slip-up, Villanova remains one of the most consistent teams in the country, and we basically have a 1A and 1B situation between ‘Nova and Virginia.
3. Michigan State (24-3) Last week: 4
Defeated Penn State, Indiana, Iowa, No. 3 Purdue
The Spartans move up a spot after a flawless two weeks that included a win over the team directly ahead of them. Sunday’s release of the current top 16 seeds by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee indicated that said committee isn’t impressed with Michigan State’s resume, slotting the Spartans in as a three seed. Frankly, that simply serves to demonstrate what a sham Sunday’s release was, as Michigan State has been a top-five team all season long and remain a dangerous threat in March.
4. Xavier (23-3) Last week: 6
Defeated St. John’s, Georgetown, Butler, Creighton
The Musketeers needed some help from the zebras to escape Creighton with a win, but the fact remains that they joined Michigan State in producing a clean two week stretch. Xavier remains a very real threat to unseat Villanova as Big East champs, and a first-ever number one seed is within reach.
5. Cincinnati (23-2) Last week: 7
Defeated Houston, UConn, UCF, SMU
The good news for Cincinnati since the last rankings is that it got a very nice win over Houston. The bad news is that that very win is the Bearcats' best win of the season. The other good news is that Cincinnati has another meeting with Houston on the horizon, as well as two games against Wichita State. The other bad news is that the Bearcats' failure to secure a signature non-conference win means any loss the rest of the way could do out-sized damage to their NCAA tournament standing. But these are issues for another day.
For now, Cincinnati has established dominance in the AAC, three games clear of Houston and Wichita State with just six games to go. If it wasn't for Virginia, it would be the Bearcat defense that would be garnering all the national attention, and it's hard to argue with the results to this point.
6. Purdue (23-4) Last week: 3
Defeated Maryland, Rutgers, lost to No. 14 Ohio State, No. 4 Michigan State
We’ve been talking for weeks about Purdue being hampered by the weakness of the Big Ten and that their opportunity to make a statement was coming with Ohio State and Michigan State looming. Unfortunately for the Boilermakers, they failed to take advantage. They lost both games by a combined four points, and those losses are nothing to be ashamed of. But for a team desperate for quality wins, the losses could prove damaging on Selection Sunday.
7. Texas Tech (21-4) Last week: NR
Defeated Texas, TCU, Iowa State, Kansas State
The Red Raiders had themselves a solid two weeks, righting the ship after losing three of four in mid-January. They have now won six in a row and currently sit atop the Big 12. Texas Tech is elite defensively and has a very real shot of putting an end to Kansas’ historic run as conference champions.
8. Clemson (20-4) Last week: NR
Defeated No. 19 North Carolina, Wake Forest, Pitt
The Tigers own some impressive wins and are the only team with a real mathematical chance to catch Virginia in the ACC. Clemson is a top-tier defensive team and boasts a balanced offensive attack. They’re a team no one will want to see in their bracket come Selection Sunday.
9. Gonzaga (23-4) Last week: NR
Defeated San Diego, BYU, Pacific, No. 11 St. Mary’s
Gonzaga replaces conference foe St. Mary’s in the rankings after defeating the Gaels Saturday night. The Bulldogs had fallen out of the national discussion after falling in their two biggest non-conference games against Florida and Villanova. But Gonzaga holds wins over Ohio State, Texas, Creighton, and now St. Mary’s. During the KenPom era, 15 of the 16 national champions have finished in the top 20 in that metrics offensive and defensive efficiency. After Saturday’s win, the ‘Zags meet that criteria.
10. Auburn (22-3) Last week: NR
Defeated Mississippi, Vanderbilt, Georgia, lost to Texas A&M
Not to toot our own horn, but TSFJ has been on the Tigers long before the voters had them cracking the top 10 in the polls. The Tigers could use a few more signature wins, but they have been potent offensively and currently sit two games clear at the top of the SEC standings. A strong finish to the season and/or a deep run in the SEC tournament could have Auburn knocking on the door for a one seed.
Lurking: Ohio State, Rhode Island, St. Mary’s, Duke
Dropped from rankings: Duke, Arizona, Kansas, St. Mary’s
St. Mary’s' stay in the rankings was a short one as it fell to Gonzaga. Duke, Arizona, and Kansas all suffered two losses over the last two weeks to send them tumbling from the rankings.
We saw massive changes over the last two weeks, and that is expected to continue as we head down the stretch run as teams battle for conference titles and NCAA tournament berths. Check back next week for the latest, and stick with TSFJ for everything you need to know regarding college hoops as we approach the tournament.
[Don't forget to check out the promotion we have going with our friends at fuboTV for an absurd amount of hoops before we get into March Madness.]
Josh Naso aka The Silver Fox has a love for all things sports that borders on disorder. Here, he aims to share his thoughts on and passion for those sports with you.