Many of last week’s top matchups lived up to their advanced billing, and when the dust settled following an exciting week of basketball, 13 teams in the Top 25 had lost at least once.
While that certainly made the job of assembling this week’s rankings a bit more challenging, it certainly bodes well for March Madness 2012, which begins with Selection Sunday in just four weeks.
College Basketball Power Rankings
1. Kentucky (25-1, Previous Ranking: 1)
This was one of Kentucky’s most impressive weeks of the season. The Wildcats crushed Florida by 20 points on Tuesday and got a scare from Vanderbilt on Saturday night before pulling away to win by six.
Freshman phenom Anthony Davis had another huge week, totaling 31 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 blocks while dominating both games. He’s making a strong push for National Player of the Year since he already has Freshman of the Year locked up.
Kentucky is off until they host Mississippi on Saturday, and if the tournament started today, it would be tough to pick against the Wildcats.
2. Syracuse (25-1, Previous Ranking: 3)
The Orange had an impressive week in their own right, as they beat Georgetown in overtime then won by 18 versus UConn, although the game was closer than that margin would indicate.
The win over the Hoyas was their first over a ranked opponent since early January, but perhaps most importantly it was a breakout performance for Kris Joseph. The senior played all 45 minutes and scored 29 points, including six three-pointers. He followed that up with 15 against the Huskies, but Scoop Jardine was the story in that game with 21 points and six assists, many of which came in critical situations.
Syracuse faces their toughest remaining road test when they travel to face a surging Louisville team on Monday night.
3. Missouri (23-2, Previous Ranking: 4)
Mizzou just keeps on winning, as the Tigers squeaked out a three-point win at Oklahoma earlier in the week and followed that up with a 15-point victory over Baylor on Saturday.
The undersized squad got crushed on the glass against the Bears, but the Tigers made up for it by hitting 14-of-28 from beyond the arc and turning the ball over just eight times. Flip Pressey led the way with 19 points against Baylor, while Marcus Denmon lit up the Sooners to the tune of 25 points.
The co-leaders in the Big 12 host Oklahoma State and play at Texas A&M this week, both of which are games they should win.
4. Kansas (20-5, Previous Ranking: 7)
At 10-2, the Jayhawks are tied atop the Big 12 with Missouri after winning their two games last week by a combined 29 points. The first came on the road at Baylor, where Kansas came roaring back after a hot start by the Bears, and the second came at home versus Oklahoma State.
Jeff Withey had a fantastic week, as he went for a career-high 25 points against Baylor on 8-of-10 shooting from the field and 9-of-11 from the line. He followed that up by grabbing 20 rebounds to go with 18 points and seven blocks versus the Cowboys.
The Jayhawks travel to the Octagon of Doom on Monday for a game with rival Kansas State before returning home to host Big 12 bottom dweller Texas Tech on Saturday.
5. Michigan State (20-5, Previous Ranking: 8)
Thanks to Saturday’s win in Columbus, Sparty is now tied with Ohio State atop the Big Ten at 9-3. Draymond Green had 12 points and nine boards, while Adreian Payne was 6-of-6 from the field and scored 15 points in just 20 minutes of action. The same two players led the way in a 20-point win over Penn State earlier in the week, with Green going for 23 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists and Payne tallying 12 points in 21 minutes.
Even though they have earned a first-place tie in the standings, Michigan State has a number of tough games remaining on their schedule, starting this week when they host Wisconsin before traveling to Purdue.
6. Ohio State (21-4, Previous Ranking: 2)
As impressive as other teams were last week, it was a rough one for the Buckeyes. They surrendered 84 points to Purdue and won by just three points during the week and followed that up with a home loss to Michigan State on Saturday, ending a 39-game home winning streak.
Against the Spartans, Jared Sullinger had 10 turnovers, and William Buford and DeShaun Thomas each went 2-of-12 from the field. As good as OSU is, they won’t beat anyone with those kinds of performances from their top three scorers.
A pair of challenging road games await the Buckeyes this week as they travel to Minnesota and Michigan.
7. Duke (21-4, Previous Ranking: 11)
I have definitely questioned Duke’s ranking at times this year, but they deserve a ton of credit for their late comeback to win at North Carolina on Wednesday. He’ll certainly get the most headlines for the game-winning three, but Austin Rivers was fantastic through the game, scoring 29 points and knocking down six triples.
The Devils got off to a slow start against Maryland on Saturday, but they crushed the Terps on the glass, grabbing more than half of their own misses. Mason and Miles Plumlee combined for 16 offensive boards and 32 total rebounds in the win.
Duke has a pair of winnable games this week against North Carolina State and Boston College.
8. North Carolina (21-4, Previous Ranking: 5)
After controlling the game for roughly 38 minutes, the Heels blew a late lead against their arch rivals and lost at the buzzer. They did bounce back to beat a solid Virginia squad on Saturday and are now tied atop the ACC with Duke and Florida State. Tyler Zeller certainly had his issues late in the Duke game, but he was terrific this week, scoring a total of 48 points and grabbing 20 rebounds.
UNC has four road games left against teams in the top half of the league, starting with this week’s trip to Miami.
9. Georgetown (19-5, Previous Ranking: 9)
The Hoyas were ninth in last week’s rankings, and it’s tough to penalize them for losing in OT at Syracuse. Freshman Otto Porter had a solid game against the Orange with 14 points and 13 boards, but the team used a balanced effort to beat St. John’s on Sunday. Six Hoyas had at least nine points, led by another freshman, Greg Whittington, with twelve.
Georgetown hits the road for their next two contests but are idle until Saturday’s game at Providence.
10. Baylor (21-4, Previous Ranking: 6)
I realize all four of Baylor’s losses have come to teams I have in the Top Five, but they lost those games by a combined 48 points. And I would also argue them some of those weren’t as close as the final score would indicate.
The team obviously has a ton of talent, but questions about their toughness and Scott Drew’s coaching ability continue to linger. They certainly have the length and athleticism to give teams issues in a tournament setting, and maybe stepping outside of the Big 12 will do them good.
For now, the Bears need to take care of business at home against Iowa State and Kansas State.
11. UNLV (22-4, Previous Ranking: 15)
I would have no objection to scheduling a UNLV-San Diego State game every Saturday since their first two matchups were both decided in the final minutes by a total of four points.
Mike Moser came up big this time around with 19 points, nine rebounds, six steals, and four blocks, while Anthony Marshall had eight assists and six boards as well as the game-winning layup. The Rebels came up with a number of key defensive plays down the stretch and are tied atop the Mountain West with San Diego State and New Mexico.
They have a pair of road games this week, including a huge game against the Lobos at The Pit on Saturday.
12. Michigan (19-7, Previous Ranking: 17)
Following wins over Nebraska and Illinois, the Wolverines notched back-to-back wins for the first time since early January. On Sunday both Tim Hardaway Jr. and Evan Smotrycz broke out of their slumps to combine for 28 points against the Illini. Zack Novak also had a solid week with 26 points in the two victories.
Michigan has the week off until Ohio State comes to Ann Arbor on Saturday for a showdown amongst two of the top teams in the Big Ten.
13. San Diego State (20-4, Previous Ranking: 14)
Guard Chase Tapley led the way for the Aztecs in the aforementioned showdown with UNLV, scoring 22 points and canning four three-pointers. Jamaal Franklin was the only other player in double figures 15 points, as San Diego State came back from a double-digit second half deficit to take a late lead.
The Aztecs play three of their next four games at home, starting with Wednesday’s matchup with MWC co-leader New Mexico, who is in desperate need of a signature win.
14. Marquette (21-5, Previous Ranking: 18)
The Golden Eagles took down DePaul on the road and beat Cincinnati by 17 points last week to stay in second place in the Big East. Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom continue to lead the way, with DJO scoring 23 points in each games and Crowder posting a double-double versus DePaul and scoring 23 against the Bearcats.
Buzz Williams’ squad has now won nine of their last 10 games and have the week off until a trip to UConn on Saturday, which starts a stretch where they play three of four on the road.
15. Wisconsin (19-6, Previous Ranking: 19)
In their only game of the week, the Badgers needed overtime to beat Minnesota on the road. Jordan Taylor had arguably his best game of the season with five three-pointers and 27 points, while Ryan Evans notched a double-double with 17 points and 11 boards.
Wisconsin is now just a game back of Ohio State and Michigan State in the loss column, which makes Thursday’s trip to East Lansing even more critical for the Badgers. It also begins a four-game stretch where they will play three contests away from the Kohl Center.
16. Indiana (19-6, Previous Ranking: 22)
After beating Illinois at home, the Hoosiers have now won consecutive games for the first time since early January. Cody Zeller had 22 points to lead four Hoosiers in double figures, and Victor Oladipo continued his strong play with 18 points. Those two players attempted 26 of IU’s 42 free throws in the game.
The Hoosiers have a pair of winnable games this week, as they host Northwestern on Wednesday before heading to Iowa over the weekend.
17. Notre Dame (17-8, Previous Ranking: 24)
The Irish continued their hot streak with wins at Marquette and at home against DePaul. Jack Cooley had a fantastic week with a pair of double-doubles where he posted 43 points, 26 rebounds, and five blocks. He made 17-of-21 from the field, and Jerian Grant chipped in with 34 points in the two victories.
Notre Dame will look to stay in second place in the Big East when they play Rutgers at home and travel to Villanova this week.
18. Wichita State (22-4, Previous Ranking: N/A)
I contemplated putting the Shockers in last week and talked myself out of it, but I won’t make the same mistake this week. They have now won 20 of their last 22 games and have opened up a two-game lead in the Missouri Valley after crushing Creighton by 21 points. It was Wichita State’s seventh conference road win, and their lone road loss came in triple overtime to Drake.
Guard Joe Ragland had 24 against the Bluejays and is one of six Shockers averaging at least 8.8 points.
WSU hosts Missouri State this week before their BracketBusters matchup at Davidson.
19. Florida State (17-7, Previous Ranking: 16)
The Noles dropped a stunner against Boston College last week but bounced back to take care of business against Miami at home. Bernard James had 18 points, six rebounds, and four blocks versus the Canes, while Michael Snaer has reached double figures in seven of his last eight games.
FSU welcomes Virginia Tech this week before playing at North Carolina State on Saturday. They’ll need to win both to maintain their first-place tie with Duke and UNC.
20. Louisville (20-5, Previous Ranking: N/A)
Saturday’s comeback win at West Virginia extended Louisville’s winning streak to six games, as the Cardinals have quietly climbed back into the Big East race. Well, the race for second place.
Louisville also crushed Connecticut last week, with Chris Smith scoring 16 points and Peyton Siva dishing out nine assists. Against the Mountaineers, Kyle Kuric scored 17 points to lead five Cardinals in double figures, including freshman Wayne Blackshear who had missed the entire season with a shoulder injury.
Blackshear looked amazingly comfortable (and effective) for a guy who had missed so much time and should provide some additional scoring pop for Louisville down the stretch, starting with Monday’s huge game against Syracuse.
21. Florida (19-6, Previous Ranking: 10)
The week went about as bad as it possibly could have for the Gators. They got blown out at Kentucky on Tuesday, but to make matters worse they lost to Tennessee at home over the weekend.
The final margin against the Vols was only five, but it really wasn’t that close. The Gators took 29 of their 46 shots from beyond the arc against Tennessee but made just 11 of them. Their long-range shooting against Kentucky was even worse, and that will ultimately be this team’s undoing in the post-season.
Florida plays four of their last six games away from home, starting with road trips to Alabama and Arkansas this week.
22. Saint Mary’s (23-3, Previous Ranking: 20)
The dream of a perfect WCC season died in Spokane on Thursday, as the Gaels lost by 14 at Gonzaga. However, they are still in the driver’s seat, and if they can win their final three league games, the regular season title will be theirs.
Rob Jones and Matthew Dellavedova bounced back in Saturday’s win over Santa Clara, with Jones going for 25 points and 12 rebounds and Dellavedova dishing out 10 assists.
The Gaels play their final home game of the season on Wednesday against Loyola Marymount before they travel to Murray State for the marquee matchup of BracketBusters.
23. Virginia (19-5, Previous Ranking: 23)
The Cavaliers did pretty much what everyone expected this week. They blew out Wake Forest at home and lost to North Carolina on the road. Against the Heels, Virginia made just 3-of-16 from three-point range and got manhandled on the boards, but Mike Scott continued his solid play with 18 points and six rebounds.
The Cavs travel to Clemson this week before facing Maryland at home. The Hoos aren’t in danger of missing the tournament by any means, but they need to keep racking up victories since their last win over a team safely in the tournament field came in late November.
24. Murray State (24-1, Previous Ranking: 12)
Murray State’s perfect season came to an end this week when Tennessee State knocked them off at home. With the pressure of finishing undefeated gone, the Racers crushed Austin Peay by 19 points, led by 23 from Isaiah Canaan.
Their final three OVC games are on the road, starting Wednesday when they head to Southeast Missouri State, but their most important remaining game is on Saturday when they welcome Saint Mary’s as part of the BracketBusters. The outcome of that contest figures to have a huge impact on their seeding.
25. Temple (19-5, Previous Ranking: N/A)
The majority of the Atlantic 10 pecking order is pretty tough to figure out, but the Owls have now won eight straight games and sit alone atop the league at 8-2. The return of big man Micheal Eric has bolstered Temple’s defense, and the offense is one of the most efficient in the country. Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt combine to average 35.5 points, with both shooting at least 38.4 percent from beyond the arc.
The Owls play four of their final six games on the road, and this week they travel to St. Bonaventure before hosting Duquesne.