NCAA Power Rankings: How the mighty have fallen
Syracuse and Michigan State, two teams with Final Four aspirations, continue to drop in the Power Rankings. Creighton and Saint Louis, two terrific stories for college hoops, both are suddenly suffering through two-game losing streaks. And the battle for the top four seeds in the NCAA Tournament is down to five talented teams.
But the big news this week is we’ve given the boot to Kentucky. Remember those T-shirts that predicted a 40-0 season in Lexington this season? Not sure you could even find them on eBay now. The Wildcats lost at South Carolina last Saturday and had a tough time against Alabama Tuesday night. It seems coach John Calipari would rather be elsewhere. Perhaps he is pondering a return to the NBA?
We give the Wildcats no shot at all to win Saturday at Florida. Here are the latest power rankings:
The last team to finish the regular season with a perfect record had been Saint Joseph’s in 2004 — until the Shockers close things out with a 31-0 overall record. The Hawks reached the Final Eight before losing. Can Wichita State match that?
The Gators outscored South Carolina 44-20 in the second half Tuesday night on the way to a 72-46 victory. Billy Donovan’s team has a home game remaining against Kentucky on Saturday. If the Gators win the SEC tournament, they might get the overall No. 1 seed.
With so much focus on Wichita State’s perfection and the polls ranking Florida No. 1, it seems the Wildcats have been forgotten. That would be a mistake. Arizona clinched the Pac-12 regular season title over the weekend and still has only two losses.
The Jayhawks could become the first No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament with eight losses since the field expanded to 64 teams. They won the nation’s toughest conference outright, played the strongest non-conference schedule and are No. 3 in the RPI.
The Blue Devils might be the only other team with a legitimate shot at a No.1 seed. If Duke can defeat North Carolina Saturday and then go on to win the ACC tournament, you might see the Blue Devils with the top seed in the East.
Raise a glass to Ralph Sampson. The Cavaliers and their fans haven’t celebrated an ACC championship since the days of Big Ralph. Virginia totally controlled Syracuse in the second half on Saturday and kept the championship in the old ACC family.
The Wildcats are in control of the Big East standings, holding a two-game lead over Creighton with two games remaining. But Villanova first must play at Xavier and then close things out against Georgetown. Those are the two teams that just defeated Creighton.
The Badgers haven’t lost since that 59-58 setback to Ohio State on Feb. 1. And at that point Wisconsin had lost five of six games and appeared to be in trouble. Now the Badgers take a seven-game winning streak into Wednesday’s game against Purdue.
The Wolverines shared the Big Ten championship in 2012 and went to the Final Four in 2013. But an 84-53 rout of Illini Tuesday gave Michigan the 2014 league title outright. Nik Stauskas had 24 points and hit a career-best seven 3-pointers.
Jim Boeheim’s team has lost four of its last five, including home losses to Boston College and Georgia Tech, two of the ACC’s bottom-feeders. The Orange have gone from 25-0 and a No. 1 ranking, to losing the conference title and a No. 3 or 4 seed in the NCAAs.
The Cardinals have big games against SMU and UConn remaining in the American Athletic Conference, but Louisville will be looking back to that 72-66 loss to Memphis as a major setback. Louisville’s efficiency on both ends of the court will carry the Cards.
If the Aztecs want to be the best in the Mountain West, they get a chance to prove it this week. San Diego State closes out the regular season with games at UNLV and at home against New Mexico.
Can’t imagine too many teams that would be eager to face the Tar Heels in the NCAA tournament. Roy Williams has his squad rebounding, getting second-chance points and scoring points — with the exception of low point totals in wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.
Things had looked so smooth and at times, effortless, for the Bluejays. But the Big East finally caught up with Creighton, as Xavier and Georgetown dealt Doug McDermott and Co. consecutive setbacks. Both games were on the road.
The Lobos were overlooked at the start of the season but have torn through the Mountain West with only two losses. Saturday’s game at San Diego State should be for first place in the conference. Keep your eyes on senior forward Cameron Bairstow.
The Huskies were held out of the Big East and NCAA tournaments last season. Shabazz Napier and the other UConn veterans are motivated to show the world what they were missing. Ending the regular season at Louisville will be a good tuneup.
The Cyclones average 82.4 points per game and until Tuesday night at Baylor had scored at least 70 points in every game this season. The Bears held Iowa State to 61 in a 13-point loss for the Cyclones. That was ISU’s second straight road loss.
High on the list of unexpected scenarios at the start of this season: Louisville playing at SMU, in front of a rowdy Moody Coliseum crowd on March 5, for first place in the American Athletic Conference. Credit Larry Brown for making it happen.
Coach Mick Cronin was an embarrassment to the game at UConn Saturday. Referee Ted Valentine certainly escalated the situation by getting into Cronin’s grille, but Cronin really needs to improve his bench decorum.
The AAC schedule maker has created incredible intrigue for the final week of the season. The Tigers are 11-5, tied with UConn for fourth place, but can still make noise with games against Cincinnati and SMU still on the slate.
The Billikens were undefeated in conference play and cruising to the Atlantic 10 championship when they hit a speed bump. Consecutive losses to Duquesne and VCU have created a race with Saint Joseph’s, which trails Saint Louis by one game.
The Spartans continue to slide. Tom Izzo’s team has lost two straight and four of the last six. There’s no doubt Michigan State will be a tough out in March, but it is time to start pulling things together.
Have you noticed the Sooners are tied for second place in the Big 12 with Texas? Kansas has a three-game lead, but Oklahoma has been playing well. The Sooners gave KU a tough time at Allen Fieldhouse, and they average 82.3 points a game.
It is March. The Rams live for March. They celebrated with a 67-56 win over Saint Louis on March 1. That’s the second time this season VCU has knocked of the Billikens. The Rams are forcing turnovers on 26 percent of opponents’ possessions.
The Hawkeyes are baffling. Iowa has lost three consecutive games despite such a high offensive efficiency rating. Iowa averages 83.6 points and is 12th in the nation in assists (16.3). But losses to Wisconsin, Minnesota and Indiana created some doubt.