NCAA power rankings: Hawkeyes ride the roller coaster
As injuries and other issues take a toll elsewhere, Iowa bolts back into Top 10.
Iowa guard Roy Devyn Marble controls the ball during the Hawkeyes' 85-67 dismantling of Michigan.
Steven Branscombe / USA TODAY Sports
By Ken Davis Scout.com
As we begin the sprint to the finish line for the regular season and start looking ahead to March Madness, one of the developing stories has become injuries. Who will be healthy in time for the NCAA tournament? And on the topic of players missing from action, how will the three-game suspension of Marcus Smart impact Oklahoma State the rest of the way? The Cowboys have dropped out of the Power Rankings, looked dreadful losing at Texas and must play two more games without Smart. It seems Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has been playing the role of admissions director at the health clinic. And now Kansas coach Bill Self tells us freshman sensation Joel Embiid is banged up and needs some time to rest.
Things are getting complicated. But here are the power rankings for this week:
1 Syracuse Orange 23-0
Heading into Wednesday's game at Pittsburgh, Syracuse is 23-0 overall and 10-0 in the ACC. Syracuse has matched the program's record for most consecutive wins and that is impressive since it was established in 1916-17 through 1917-18.
2 Florida Gators 22-2
Billy Donovan has four seniors in his lineup and their toughness showed again Tuesday night at Tennessee. The Gators trailed 34-33 at halftime but held the Vols to 24 points in the second half of a 67-58 conference road victory.
The Wildcats are still adjusting to playing without injured scorer Brandon Ashley, who has been lost for the remainder of the season. The Wildcats play just once this week but that game is at in-state rival Arizona State (5-1 in last six games).
4 Wichita State Shockers 26-0
Southern Illinois became the latest Missouri Valley team to take its best shot at the Shockers, but Wichita State remained undefeated with a strong second-half effort Tuesday night at home. Just five more regular season games remaining.
5 Villanova Wildcats 21-2 +2
Jay Wright's team has won five straight and survived a power outage that shut down campus after a storm last week. Wright picked up career win No. 400 against Seton Hall and the Wildcats have a rematch with Creighton coming Sunday in Omaha.
Keith Appling's wrist injury is the latest in a long string of obstacles the Spartans have faced this season. Michigan State will be favored in its next three games, then the Spartans get a chance to even the score with Michigan on Feb. 23.
7 San Diego State Aztecs 21-2 -2
The last time the Aztecs had a 20-game winning streak they advanced to the Sweet 16. That was in 2011. The Aztecs likely weren't thinking about that Tuesday night when Wyoming snapped this season's 20-game winning streak.
8 Kansas Jayhawks 18-6 -2
The Jayhawks have lost two Big 12 road games since Feb. 1, falling at Texas and Kansas State. But Bill Self's biggest concern right now is the health of freshman center Joel Embiid, banged up with knee and back injuries. Self plans to rest Embiid.
The Blue Devils have been on a roll, with the only exception that overtime loss at Syracuse. Wednesday night they face the challenge of playing at North Carolina, with the Tar Heels starving for a signature win to put on their NCAA at-large resume.
The Hawkeyes have been on a Power Rankings yo-yo, moving up and down and now back up again after that impressive blowout of Michigan. When this team wants to play focused basketball, it can certainly give the appearance of Final Four contender.
11 Virginia Cavaliers 20-5 +5
Did you ever imagine an ACC regular-season race for first place between Syracuse and Virginia? That's what we have in the new, realigned world of the ACC. The Cavaliers have won eight in a row but have two road games ahead.
The Bearcats extended their winning streak to 15 games with an impressive home win over UConn last week. Two days later, they were dominated on the road as SMU and lost by 21 points to an inspired group of Mustangs.
13 Louisville Cardinals 19-4
The Cardinals take a two-game winning streak to Temple on Thursday. That is the first of three games against the bottom half of the American Athletic Conference before Rick Pitino takes his team to Cincinnati on Feb. 22.
14 Saint Louis Billikens 22-2
The Billikens are coming down the stretch run with two losses overall and are undefeated in the Atlantic 10. Saint Louis is 50-9 since the start of the 2012-13 season. Those are results most programs would be thrilled to report.
It's hard to win on the road in any conference. The Wolverines proved that when they were manhandled 85-67 at Iowa. But major props to Michigan for bouncing back with a 70-60 win at Ohio State, the Wolverines' first win at Columbus in 11 years.
Senior Doug McDermott matched his nation-leading scoring average with 25 points in his first appearance ever at Madison Square Garden, but that wasn't enough as the Bluejays lost to surging St. John's 70-65 on Sunday.
Melvin Ejim scores 48 points and the Cyclones destroy TCU, 84-69. Two days later, Ejim scores six points and the Cyclones tumble at West Virginia 102-77. Guess that explains Iowa State's 6-5 record in the Big 12.
18 Kentucky Wildcats 18-5
The Wildcats are one of two SEC teams in the Power Rankings. The other is Florida, perhaps the most efficient team in the nation. They haven't met yet, but the Gators visit Rupp Arena Saturday night. It's a big, big game for both teams.
19 Texas Longhorns 19-5 -4
Leading scorer Jonathan Holmes sat out the Oklahoma State game with a knee injury suffered in an embarrassing loss at Kansas State. But the Cowboys missed Marcus Smart more. With Smart serving the first game of his suspension, Texas won 87-68.
20 Memphis Tigers 18-5 +2
If you have friends who are Memphis fans, don't try to contact them for a few days. They might be busy watching a constant replay loop of that Joe Jackson block against Gonzaga. The Tigers closed out Gonzaga for a huge non-conference win.
21 Southern Methodist Mustangs 19-5 +3
We brought the Mustangs into the Power Rankings last week, and they didn't disappoint. Coach Larry Brown and SMU are becoming a major national story after recording home victories against UConn, Memphis and Cincinnati.
22 Connecticut Huskies 18-5 -1
Shabazz Napier and the Huskies have a chance to make up some ground in the American Athletic Conference this week with two games in Hartford's XL Center. Wednesday's game against USF should be a warmup for Saturday's rematch with Memphis.
23 Oklahoma Sooners 18-6 -3
After consecutive losses to Iowa State and West Virginia on the road, the Sooners returned to the Noble Center for a big win over Baylor. Texas Tech visits Norman before Oklahoma heads to Stillwater to play the Cowboys without Marcus Smart.
24 Kansas State Wildcats 17-7 (unranked last week)
The Wildcats had lost 48 of the last 51 in the series against Kansas, so the fans at Bramlage Coliseum rushed the floor after an 85-82 overtime victory over the Jayhawks. No problem there. But a commemorative T-shirt printed the next day? To honor a regular-season win? C'mon Cats.
25 Pittsburgh Panthers 20-4
The Panthers have lost three games in ACC play -- against Syracuse, Duke and Virginia. Jamie Dixon's team gets a second shot at No. 1 Syracuse Wednesday night at the Petersen Events Center. It should be a great old-fashioned Big East battle ' played in the ACC.