March is here, and we’ve already started to taste the Madness. Several top 10 teams suffered losses and Michigan ran all the way to the Big Ten title. This has led to some reshuffling in the rankings and cost one team its spot. The looming conference tournaments will likely add to the chaos, but for now this is where things stand.
(* denotes conference tournament games)
1. Virginia (28-2) Last week: 1
Defeated Louisville, Notre Dame
The Cavaliers needed an epic collapse to escape Louisville, but the wins all look the same on paper. After defeating Notre Dame in the regular season finale, Virginia ended the week strengthening its hold on the top spot. Virginia is a virtual look for a number one seed in the NCAA tournament as they look to add an ACC tournament title to the trophy case.
2. Xavier (27-4) Last week: 4
Defeated Providence, DePaul
Despite a scare from DePaul, the Musketeers handled business and claimed the Big East regular season title in the process, stopping Villanova’s run of four-straight crowns. Their efforts are rewarded with a leapfrog of Villanova in these rankings. Xavier will look to make a strong claim for a one seed with its performance at this week’s Big East tournament.
3. Villanova (27-4) Last week: 3
Defeated Seton Hall, Georgetown
The Wildcats stand pat at number three. Their identical record and two head-to-head wins over Xavier make a strong case to remain ahead of the Musketeers, but we’d be remiss to not acknowledge X’s conference title. Instead Villanova will have to be content with holding steady and with the bit of momentum it has built heading into postseason play. ‘Nova still has a strong case for a one seed and will look to solidify that case this week at Madison Square Garden.
4. Michigan State (29-4) Last week: 2
Defeated Wisconsin*, lost to No. 15 Michigan*
Michigan State’s run in the Big Ten tournament came to an abrupt end at the hands of Michigan (more on them later), and with it ended a 13-game winning streak. All is not lost in East Lansing, however, as the Spartans remain among the handful of favorites to reach San Antonio and the Final Four.
5. Gonzaga (28-4) Last week: 5
Defeated Loyola Marymount*
Gonzaga opened the WCC tournament with a win over Loyola Marymount. As the country keeps ignoring, the Bulldogs keep winning. We outlined Gonzaga’s viability in last week’s rankings and we remain bullish on its chances in March. If you see the ‘Zags in your favorite team’s bracket on Sunday, be afraid.
6. Cincinnati (27-4) Last week: 8
Defeated Tulane, No. 11 Wichita State
We’ve lamented Cincinnati’s schedule all season long, reluctant to reward them despite the wins piling up. On Sunday, the Bearcats got that big win they’ve been looking for, winning at Wichita State and wrapping up the AAC regular season title in the process. They have risen all the way to No. 4 in the KenPom rankings, and a two seed appears within reach.
7. Duke (25-6) Last week: 6
Lost to Virginia Tech, defeated No. 9 North Carolina
The Blue Devils recovered from a tough loss to Virginia Tech with an impressive come-from-behind win over rival North Carolina. Marvin Bagley III had a dominant performance with 21 points and 15 rebounds against UNC, and Duke is frighteningly talented. Duke’s switch to a zone defense has done wonders for its struggles at that end of the floor, and the Blue Devils have risen all the way to 10 in defensive efficiency according to KenPom. Duke is the only team in the country currently ranked in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
8. Purdue (28-6) Last week: 9
Defeated Rutgers*, Penn State*, lost to No. 15 Michigan*
Purdue ran to the Big Ten title game with wins over an upstart Rutgers team and a Penn State team desperate to improve its standing with the selection committee before coming up short against red-hot Michigan in the finals. Despite missing out on the championship, the Boilermakers remain in excellent position for Selection Sunday and will be a team no one will want to be matched up with. Bigger things are a very real possibility.
9. Kansas (24-7) Last week: 7
Defeated Texas, lost to Oklahoma State
Despite a solid win against Texas and a 14th-straight Big 12 title, the regular season ended on a sour note for the Jayhawks with an 18-point thrashing at the hands of Oklahoma State. Head coach Bill Self may have best summed up Kansas’ up-and-down season following Saturday’s loss, telling reporters that “we don’t put fear in anybody.” At times the Jayhawks have looked like Final Four contenders while at others they have looked pedestrian. It will be fascinating to see which Kansas team shows up in tournament play.
10. Michigan (27-7) Last week: NR
Defeated Iowa*, Nebraska*, No. 2 Michigan State*, No. 8 Purdue*
The Wolverines went on an impressive four-game run all the way to the Big Ten tournament title. Notching two top-10 wins along the way doesn’t hurt. Michigan’s overall win streak now stands at nine, and in addition to the big wins over Michigan State and Purdue, includes wins over Ohio State and Penn State. Michigan has skyrocketed all the way to No. 9 in KenPom, ranking 6th in defensive efficiency. The Wolverines are the hottest team in the country, and the only concern right now is the near two-week layoff they are facing before kicking off play in the big dance.
Lurking: Auburn, St. Mary’s, Nevada, Houston, Wichita State
Dropped from rankings: Rhode Island
The Rams succumbed to the TSFJ Power Rankings curse, dropping two consecutive games after making their debut a week ago. The rest of the field held steady despite some jockeying for position, while a handful of teams remain knocking on the door.
A week from now we will know the field of 68, with opportunities to earn a spot in the big dance or improve standing rapidly decreasing. It is likely to be a hectic, crazy, fun week ahead in college hoops, and one that may have some big implications on next week’s final power rankings and on the quest for the sport’s ultimate prize. Enjoy, and check back next week to see how things have shaken out. And stick with TSFJ for everything you need to know heading into the NCAA tournament.
[For more conference tournament and NCAA tournament play from both the men and women, peep our continued promotion with our friends at fubo.tv!]
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.