The college basketball season is rolling along, as we’ve reached the final power rankings for the month of January. As the calendar flips to February, teams will be vying for conference titles and jockeying for position in the NCAA tournament. If the season so far has been any indication, it will be a wild ride. Let’s jump into the Week 10 rankings and see where things stand as we head into the home stretch.
1. Villanova (20-1) Last week: 1
Defeated Providence, Marquette
A popular move across college hoops power rankings this week will be Virginia leapfrogging Villanova, but we’re not going to be overly seduced by the two sexy wins the Cavaliers picked up this week. Villanova did enough to protect its top spot, first blowing out Providence and then earning a gutty win at Marquette in the team’s first game without injured captain Phil Booth. Jalen Brunson led the way against Marquette and is a legitimate Player of the Year candidate and the rest of his teammates stepped up. The top three teams in this week’s rankings have begun to separate themselves from the pack, with ‘Nova leading the way.
2. Virginia (20-1) Last week: 4
Defeated No. 18 Clemson, No. 4 Duke
While we aren’t going to punish Villanova as it handled its business last week, we will recognize what Virginia accomplished. The Cavaliers put on a defensive clinic against Clemson, holding the Tigers to 36 points and surrendering just 13 the second half. They followed that up by heading into Cameron Indoor and beating fourth-ranked Duke, holding the Blue Devils potent offense to just 63 points. Virginia’s defense is scary good, and Tony Bennett should be the Coach of the Year.
3. Purdue (21-2) Last week: 3
Defeated Michigan, Indiana
Purdue remains third as a down Big Ten continues to hold them back. Last week’s win against Michigan is a solid one, but doesn’t stand up against the wins Virginia secured. That being said, we see you Purdue. The Boilermakers have won 17 games in a row and have joined Villanova and Virginia in establishing themselves in the top tier of college hoops. Purdue’s shot at a statement is coming, as games against Ohio State and Michigan State are just two weeks away.
4. Michigan State (20-3) Last week: 5
Defeated Illinois, Wisconsin, Maryland
A busy week for the Spartans resulted in a 3-0 record. Michigan State earned a come-from-behind win over Maryland on Sunday, showing some grit. The good news for Michigan State is that it has seemed to recover from the hiccup suffered earlier this month. The bad news is that the Spartans have only one remaining game against a team in the top 40 in KenPom, making the February 10 meeting with Purdue incredibly important.
5. Duke (18-3) Last week: 2
Defeated Wake Forest, Lost to No. 2 Virginia
The Blue Devils ran into the buzz saw that is Virginia’s defense. The prolific Duke offense was unable to overcome the stingy Cavaliers in an epic battle of contrasting styles. Despite Virginia’s defense winning the day, Duke was still almost able to pull out the win, finally succumbing 65-63. The loss surely stings, but some encouragement can be taken from the fact that the Blue Devils still almost won the game even with their strength being neutralized. Duke’s talent level makes the Blue Devils a scary draw for any team in the country.
6. Xavier (19-3) Last week: 7
The Musketeers move up a spot on the strength of a 19-point throttling of Marquette and a stumble from Kansas. After back-to-back losses to Providence and Villanova, Xavier has won four straight. The Musketeers find themselves just a half-game behind Villanova in the Big East standings.
7. Cincinnati (19-2)
Defeated Temple, Memphis
The Bearcats spent the week beating up on AAC opponents, thrashing Temple and Memphis by a combined 47 points. Everyone talks about Virginia’s defense, but Cincy is no slouch on the defensive end, ranking second in KenPom’s defensive efficiency and boasting the second-best scoring defense in the country at 56.2 points per game. Last week, Temple and Memphis managed just a combined 90 points against the Bearcats.
8. Arizona (18-4) Last week: 10
Defeated Colorado, Utah
Arizona’s spot at number eight feels precarious with those four losses and the disastrous trip to the Bahamas in November serving as a glaring red flag. But the Wildcats have won six straight, avenging an earlier loss to Colorado this week before handling Utah. Between those four losses and the weakness of the Pac-12, Arizona’s margin for error is razor thin. With other teams at the back end and just outside these rankings struggling, ‘Zona has done enough to remain and move up a few spots. The talent level in Tucson is legit, and Arizona feels like a team that could make a run all the way to the Final Four or suffer a spectacular flameout.
9. Kansas (17-4) Last week: 6
Lost to No. 12 Oklahoma, defeated Texas A&M
Kansas fell victim to the Big 12 chaos, losing to an Oklahoma team that had lost its two games before Kansas and its next game after beating Kansas. The Jayhawks rebounded with a win over a freefalling A&M team in the Big 12-SEC Challenge. It’s hard to get a read on what is going on in the Big 12, but for now Kansas clings to its position in these rankings.
10. St. Mary’s (21-2) Last week: NR
Defeated BYU, Portland
For the second week in a row, the final spot in the rankings was up for grabs, as every team listed as “lurking” last week outside of St. Mary’s suffered at least one defeat. So the Gaels make their debut on the strength of their two victories a week ago and their 21-2 record.
Now that they are here, let’s get familiar. St. Mary’s has won 16 straight games, including a win over Gonzaga that has catapulted them to the top of the WCC standings. The Gaels are ranked 16 by KenPom and are 4th in offensive efficiency. A February 10 rematch with Gonzaga will likely decide the WCC regular season title, but for now the Gaels have earned their way into the TSFJ power rankings.
Lurking: Texas Tech, Auburn, Nevada, Gonzaga, West Virginia, Clemson, Oklahoma
Dropped from rankings: West Virginia
It’s been a rough few weeks for West Virginia, who have lost four out of five after falling to both TCU and Kentucky this week. The Big 12 will provide plenty of opportunities to get back on track, but the Mountaineers are in danger of seeing things spiral out of control.
This week we saw Virginia and Villanova make statements and the Big 12 confirm its position as the most Jekyll and Hyde conference in the country. There were big happenings in the ACC between Virginia’s big win helping the Cavaliers establish a 2.5 game lead atop the standings, N.C. State getting another quality win, and UNC suffering two more losses. And Kentucky may have turned a corner with its comeback win over West Virginia.
Every game takes on increasing importance as we head into February, and the only thing we can be sure of is that we can’t be sure of much of anything. Check back next week to assess the state of things, and enjoy the ride.
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.