It’s finally here! The conference champions have been crowned, the bracket has been revealed, and in a few short days we will start down the road towards crowning a national champion. The members of our power rankings fared quite well during Championship Week, with five of the seven active teams running all the way to conference titles, and the ACC and the Big East each having two teams ranked. As a result, the ten teams remain the same with just some jostling in position. Let’s jump into the final power rankings of the 2017-18 season.
1. Virginia (31-2) Last week: 1
Defeated Louisville, No. 19 Clemson, No. 12 North Carolina
The Cavaliers continue their reign at the top of the rankings after adding the ACC tournament championship to their regular season ACC title. In the process, Virginia contributed to Louisville being left out of the Big Dance and secured the number one overall seed in this year’s NCAA tournament. The Cavaliers will enter the Madness among the handful of favorites to reach the Final Four.
2. Villanova (30-4) Last week: 3
Defeated Marquette, Butler, Providence
The Wildcats were jumped by Xavier a week ago after the Musketeers ended their run as regular season Big East champs. ‘Nova responded by winning the conference tournament title, crushing Marquette and Butler before gutting out an overtime win over Providence in the championship game. The ‘Cats avenged two of their regular season losses on the way to the title and reminded the country that they are a very real threat to get to San Antonio.
3. Xavier (28-5) Last week: 2
Defeated St. John’s, lost to Providence
Xavier doesn’t fall far following a tough overtime loss to Providence in the Big East semifinals. Despite missing out on the conference tournament title the Musketeers received a nice consolation prize: a one seed in the NCAA tournament. Now, Xavier will look to build on last season’s run to the Elite Eight.
4. Gonzaga (30-4) Last week: 5
Defeated San Francisco, BYU
The ‘Zags move up a spot on the strength of their WCC title. The NCAA Selection Committee stayed true to their edict to place further importance on quality wins, rewarding a 30-win, top 10 ranked conference champion with a four seed. The Bulldogs are incredibly under-seeded and are very capable of making some noise in the West.
5. Cincinnati (30-4) Last week: 6
Defeated SMU, Memphis, No. 21 Houston
We’ve been skeptical of the Bearcats all season due to the lack of a marquee win. But Cincy ended the regular season with a win over Wichita State and secured another solid win over Houston in the AAC title game. The Bearcats have shown an ability to beat good teams late in the season and proven they can gut out big wins. The defense is scary good, and Cincy landed a well-deserved two seed. A defensive battle of epic proportions could materialize in the regional final if Virginia and Cincy both advance that far.
6. Kansas (27-7) Last week: 9
Defeated Oklahoma St., Kansas St., No. 18 West Virginia
It wasn’t long ago that people were questioning the Jayhawks’ ability to keep their run of conference titles alive. They responded by winning five of their last six to claim their 14th consecutive Big 12 title, staying two games clear of the pack, and then running all the way to the conference tournament championship. Devonte’ Graham has been spectacular, overtaking Trae Young to win conference Player of the Year. Kansas got a one seed, but was done no favors with Duke and Michigan State in the region, and the Jayhawks will have further opportunities to prove the doubters wrong.
7. Duke (26-7) Last week: 7
Defeated Notre Dame, lost to No. 12 North Carolina
The Blue Devils came up short in the ACC tournament, losing to rival North Carolina in the conference semifinals. However, with the three remaining teams in the rankings hailing from the Big Ten and therefore spending the last week idle, Duke holds steady at number seven. The switch to a zone defense has proven to be a magic elixir for the Blue Devils, and with the improvement at that end of the floor and Duke’s frightening talent, a run to the Final Four wouldn’t surprise anyone.
8. Michigan (28-7) Last week: 10
Michigan hops two Big Ten foes into the eight spot on the strength of its conference tournament title and the fact that no one lurking behind them was able to produce a surprise during championship week. The Wolverines have been one of the hottest teams in the country, and it will be interesting to see if they can keep the momentum going after the long layoff. If they can, the rest of the West region will be on notice.
9. Michigan State (29-4) Last week: 4
The Spartans tumble thanks to the layoff and because so many other ranked teams handled business and won conference championships. Regardless of the rather steep fall, we remain bullish on Michigan State’s chances to come out of a top-heavy Midwest region. It won’t be easy with teams like Kansas as Duke in the way, but it almost feels like Sparty is being slept on a bit, and that is never a wise thing to do.
10. Purdue (28-6) Last week: 8
Purdue is in the same boat as conference foe Michigan State. The Boilermakers were hurt by the layoff and the success of Virginia, Villanova, Kansas, Gonzaga and Cincinnati. Carsen Edwards’ emergence as a go-to player and impressive size in the frontcourt make Purdue a viable threat. Some late season defensive struggles create a bit of concern, but no one will be looking forward to a matchup with the Boilermakers with the season on the line.
Lurking: North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Houston, Kentucky
Dropped from rankings: none
North Carolina made a strong push at cracking the rankings with its run to the ACC title game, but those 10 losses were just too much to overcome without claiming the crown. Kentucky got close with its SEC tournament championship, but also had double-digit losses and were too far behind the pack. Houston and Tennessee may have done enough if they had emerged victorious in their respective conference championship games, but they came up just short.
It’s been a fun season, and it should be an equally fun tournament as a pretty open field vies to cut down the nets. TSFJ will have you covered with everything you need to know leading up to and throughout the Big Dance. Enjoy the show!
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.