College Basketball Power 10: Welcome To The Top 10, Cincinnati Bearcats
Being in top 10 hasn’t been good lately, as 13 college basketball teams ranked in the top 10 have fallen in the past two weeks.
Conference play has only made the college basketball season crazier. A week after seven of the top 10 teams lost, including Nos. 1, 2 and 4 on the same day, six of the top 10 fell on Saturday, including four to other ranked teams.
Kansas’ long home winning streak ended, Kentucky might not be the best team in the SEC after being embarrassed by Florida on national TV and Baylor lost its second straight game. Despite all of that, the craziest headline of the weekend came out of the Atlantic 10 conference.
St. Bonaventure seemingly had beaten VCU after a three-pointer went in with two seconds left to give the Bonnies a one-point lead. But their students stormed the court before VCU inbounded the ball, which resulted in a technical foul and gave VCU a free throw.
VCU made the free throw to force overtime and eventually went on to win, 83-77.
It was one of the craziest endings you’ll ever see in a basketball game and proved that home court is not always an advantage.
Here’s a look at the top 10 teams in college basketball after another hectic week.
10. UCLA (21-3)
Following back-to-back losses the previous week, UCLA bounced back with wins over Washington State and Washington. The Bruins topped 95 points in back-to-back games, scoring 95 and 107, for the first time since early December against Michigan and UC Santa Barbara.
Neither Washington team is better than .500, so they won’t go down as quality wins, but UCLA finally looked like itself again on offense. Plus, Lonzo Ball shined in the point guard matchup of the year against Washington’s Markelle Fultz.
Ball recorded 22 points, six rebounds, five assists, four steals and a block in 31 minutes. Fultz had himself a great game, too, with 25 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Considering UCLA won 107-66, the matchup between the top two NBA prospects drew most of the attention.
Despite two straight losses a couple of weeks ago, UCLA is still a Final Four contender. It depends on how well they defend against the best teams in the nation because relying on their high-powered offense won’t win them a championship.
UCLA has a big matchup against No. 5 Oregon along with a game against Oregon State this week.
9. Cincinnati (21-2)
Cincinnati is quietly 21-2 and undefeated in the American Athletic Conference at 10-0. They’re just 1-2 against ranked teams this season, but have won 14 straight games, including beating rival Xavier 86-68 for their only win over a ranked team.
Plus, five of their past six wins have come by double-digits.
Cincinnati is also a top-100 scoring offense and 11th in points allowed per game at 61.7. Kyle Washington has a chance to have a breakout NCAA Tournament with the way he’s been playing.
The NC State transfer is averaging 13.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. Over the past four games, Washington is averaging 15.5 points, nine rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. He’s starting to show why he’s one of the most underrated forwards in the nation.
The American might start to get a little more respect since SMU jumped into the Top 25 this week, but Cincinnati is battling the same logic as Gonzaga. They’re not in a power conference, so people dismiss them as overrated and a beneficiary of weak schedule.
Cincinnati has a chance to disprove that logic with a home game against UCF and a big road test against No. 25 SMU.
8. Louisville (19-5)
Louisville bounced back with three straight wins following its loss to Florida State. Then, without key contributors in Deng Adel, Quentin Snider and Mangok Mathiang, the Cardinals dropped their fifth game of the season, this time at Virginia, 71-55.
In a game between two of the top two defensive teams in the nation, Virginia held Louisville to 37 percent shooting and 27.8 percent from three-point range, while Virginia shot an impressive 53.2 percent and grabbed twice as many rebounds as Louisville.
The Cardinals didn’t look like the same team without three key players.
The Cardinals are only two games behind North Carolina in the ACC standings but could have benefited from a quality win on Monday, as they are just 3-6 against ranked teams this season.
Still, Louisville has been short-handed for a couple of weeks now and managed to win by double-digits in their four wins without Snider. The only ranked opponent left on Louisville’s schedule is North Carolina, so they could enter the NCAA Tournament fairly unproven against ranked teams.
Louisville hosts Miami and travels to Syracuse this week.
7. Arizona (21-3)
Don’t jump off the Arizona Wildcats’ bandwagon yet. Their 85-58 loss to Oregon is really embarrassing and not what people expected from a team trying to make a case for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but there is still plenty of time for them to right the ship.
Don’t forget that Allonzo Trier has been back for just five games, therefore Arizona will get better with more experience playing together. It doesn’t excuse a 27-point loss that felt much worse, but it is a reason to believe Arizona can turn their season around, again.
Besides, before their loss to Oregon, Arizona won their past 15 games, including dominating UCLA on the road. Plus, they were undefeated in Pac-12 play before the weekend and are still tied for first with Oregon.
That said, they need to prove they can consistently win against ranked teams, as they’re just 3-3 against teams that have been ranked at some point this season.
Arizona hosts Stanford and California this week.
6. Baylor (20-3)
Baylor has been arguably the best second-half team in the nation this season. That ended last week, though.
Baylor blew a 34-28 halftime lead over Kansas to lose 73-68, and the Bears fell just short of completing a comeback from a 15-point halftime deficit to Kansas State when they fell 56-54 at home after Johnathan Motley‘s last-second shot was blocked.
The Bears are still really good, but they could have given themselves a lot of leverage in the Big 12 race with their first win at Allen Fieldhouse under Scott Drew.
Baylor is now one game behind Kansas because they lost to Kansas State over the weekend and are 20-3 with people wondering how good they actually are again.
Outside of Motley’s 17 points and 14 rebounds against Kansas State, no one for Baylor played well. It can be viewed as a trap game following a hard-fought loss to Kansas earlier in the week, but top teams still find ways to win those games.
It will be interesting to see how Baylor responds to their first two game losing streak of the season. They play Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech this week.
5. Oregon (21-3)
Oregon is a Final Four-caliber team when Dillion Brooks is healthy. The problem is Brooks has only been available for 20 of 24 games and banged up for some of those.
Oregon bounced back from a loss to Colorado with a close win over Arizona State and a blowout win against Arizona at home.
Brooks and Tyler Dorsey combined for 41 points on impressive 14-of-19 shooting, hitting 10-of-13 shooting from three. In fact, Dorsey made all six of his three-point attempts. It was that kind of night for Oregon.
They dominated a top-five team from the tip and now control their own destiny in the Pac-12 with the tiebreaker over Arizona and a two-game lead over the rest of the conference. Plus, they’re third in points per game and lead the conference in points allowed per game.
As easy as it is to overreact to their blowout win over Arizona, Oregon had not been playing their best basketball in the prior couple of weeks. They only beat Utah by six, lost to Colorado and barely beat Arizona State by one in the middle of the week.
If Brooks can stay healthy, the Ducks might finally get back to consistently playing like the Final Four team everyone envisioned them being before the season.
Oregon now has the longest home winning streak at 40 games. but will travel to UCLA and USC this week.
4. Wisconsin (20-3)
Wisconsin might be the surprise team of the NCAA Tournament this season. They have one of the best frontcourts in the nation in Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes.
Also, Bronson Koenig is a solid veteran point guard who has led Wisconsin to the championship game once in his career and they have a deep bench.
Despite many believing the Big Ten is having a down year, Wisconsin is handily leading the conference at 9-1 in conference play. In fact, the Badgers have won 16 of their last 17 games.
The Badgers are just 2-3 against ranked teams this season, however. Their only wins are against Syracuse and Indiana, who are both unranked now, and they lost to Creighton, North Carolina and Purdue.
All three losses came on the road or at a neutral site, but the Badgers still don’t have any great wins like other top 10 teams.
The Badgers are playing their best basketball as of late, though. They have held their last four opponents to 60 points or fewer and are fourth in the nation in points allowed per game.
Wisconsin is traditionally a strong defensive team, and led by Happ’s two steals and 1.1 blocks per game, they’re again one of the best defensive teams in the nation.
Additionally, they’re the only top-five scoring defense in the nation with a top-160 scoring offense. SMU, with the 185th-scoring offense, is the only other team in the top 200.
Wisconsin travels to Nebraska and hosts Northwestern this week.
3. Kansas (21-3)
The Kansas Jayhawks stayed on top of the Big 12 standings with another close win over Kansas State, 74-71. Wins have not been easy to come by for Kansas as of late. The Jayhawks are just 2-3 in their last five games with an average winning margin of 4.7 points.
Plus, their loss to Iowa State last week snapped a 51-game home winning streak.
The Jayhawks allowed Iowa State to shoot 50 percent from the field and an astounding 52.9 percent from three. Three Iowa State players scored at least 20 points to help counter Frank Mason‘s 32 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Kansas is evidently beatable this year, even at home. That said, the Big 12 has had a lot of upsets this season that has kept the Jayhawks on top of the conference with a 1.5 game lead over Baylor.
With West Virginia and Baylor still left on their schedule, Kansas is far from clinching the Big 12 this year. Although, it would take the aforementioned teams to get their seasons back on track and possibly even another home loss from Kansas, which isn’t likely.
Kansas travels to Texas Tech and hosts West Virginia this week to try to avenge their first conference loss earlier in the year.
2. Villanova (22-2)
Villanova had a much better week. They beat Providence by nine and St. John’s by 13 to improve to 22-2 on the season and 9-2 in the Big East, holding a 1.5-game lead on Xavier.
The Big East is theirs to lose and it’s hard to imagine them not winning their fourth straight regular season championship.
After a couple of poor games from Josh Hart a few weeks ago, he has started to get back to his normal production. Over the past four games, Hart is averaging 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
Against St. John’s, he recorded 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Villanova can hurt teams in multiple ways and is extremely deep, but they need Hart to play well down the stretch and act as their star player.
Jalen Brunson is quickly proving why many believe he is Villanova’s next star after Hart graduates, but Villanova is a much better team when Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Kris Jenkins are complimentary pieces.
Villanova hosts Georgetown and travels to No. 24 Xavier and DePaul this week.
1. Gonzaga (24-0)
Gonzaga led BYU by 16 at the half and only won by 10, but that’s the closest thing to an upset Gonzaga will probably face the rest of the regular season, other than their matchup against Saint Mary’s on Friday.
Gonzaga ended the week beating Santa Clara 90-55, but Santa Clara did find a way to sort of break the Bulldogs.
Santa Clara led Gonzaga 8-6 with 15:49 left in the first half. Sure, Gonzaga ended up winning by 35 points, but it ended their streak of leading for 266 minutes and 36 seconds. That’s an insane amount of time to never trail.
Gonzaga’s competition isn’t the greatest in the West Coast Conference, but that means an opponent never even scored first against them recently.
Gonzaga travels to Loyola Marymount this week, but everyone is anticipating their game against Saint Mary’s on Saturday.
Even though it’s never safe to look ahead, the Bulldogs winning by an average of 27.1 points per game in conference play is telling of the focus they have on each game and that they’ll likely blowout 11-12 Loyola Marymount.
There are still doubters because of the conference Gonzaga plays in and their history in NCAA Tournament, but this team is different. They’re deep, have a star in Nigel Williams-Goss and are arguably the most well-rounded team in the nation, not to mention being 24-0.
Gonzaga could really open some eyes this weekend with another big win over Saint Mary’s on the road.
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