College Basketball Power 10: Who Runs The Pac-12?
A look at the top 10 teams in college basketball after the NCAA released a preview of their top 16 seeds.
For the first time in college basketball history, the NCAA released a preview of their top 16 seeds in the NCAA Tournament if the season ended on Saturday. Of course, many people had many disagreements.
No Big Ten teams made the top 16, while undefeated Gonzaga was just the fourth No. 1 seed.
It shows that the Big Ten is going to have a harder time getting bubble teams in because of its down year, plus top teams like Wisconsin and Purdue have a lot of work to do to even receive a No. 4 seed. Their potential is also likely a No. 3 seed at best.
Even though Gonzaga still earned a No. 1 seed, it’s telling that the committee, at least before their win over Saint Mary’s on Saturday night, isn’t overly impressed with their undefeated season.
There is still a month left of the regular season and every conference tournament left to be played. With upsets happening following the preview’s release, like Florida State and Butler losing, there’s no doubt that these seedings are even close to cemented.
Here’s a look at the top 10 teams in college basketball this week.
10. Wisconsin (21-4)
It seemed like a matter of time before the Wisconsin Badgers would suffer their second loss in the Big Ten. Wisconsin only beat Indiana by five and Nebraska by one in overtime before hosting Northwestern on Saturday.
The Wildcats got the best of Wisconsin, seemingly punching their NCAA Tournament ticket in the process, and won 66-59. It ended Wisconsin’s eight-game winning streak and gave the Badgers their first home loss of the season.
The last time Wisconsin lost at home was Jan/ 9, 2016, against Maryland, 63-60.
Wisconsin is still searching for a quality win, but the teams behind them also lost which helped them stay in the top 10 this week. Besides, the Badgers have responded with 20-plus point wins after all three of their previous losses this season.
With six games left in the regular season, they can prove a lot if they bounce back from this loss and win out. They still hold a game lead over Maryland and Purdue, so the Big Ten is Wisconsin’s to lose.
Wisconsin travels to Michigan and hosts their last ranked team on their schedule, Maryland, this week.
9. West Virginia (21-5)
West Virginia almost won its first game ever at Allen Fieldhouse. It would have also moved them just one game behind Kansas in the Big 12 standings, while also giving them a win over the third-ranked team in the nation after already beating No. 1 Baylor and No. 2 Kansas earlier this season.
West Virginia imploded at the end of the second half, though. In a game they had won, they did everything wrong. From turning the ball over to missing free throws, West Virginia simply did not play well down the stretch and let the pressure and crowd noise get to them.
Then in overtime, West Virginia couldn’t recover, losing 84-80. It took them almost four minutes to score their first points and had a rebound bounce off Nathan Adrian’s hands down 82-78 with 13.8 seconds left after Landen Lucas missed two free-throws to keep the Mountaineers alive.
West Virginia still has three wins over top 10 teams this season, they’re one of the best defensive teams in the nation, and tied for third in the Big 12. Although, West Virginia is still trying to bounce back from a loss to Oklahoma State a couple of weeks ago.
This would have been a huge resume booster, but instead, the Mountaineers are just 5-4 in their last nine games.
West Virginia hosts Texas Tech and Texas this week.
8. Louisville (21-5)
It was not an easy week for Louisville. They only beat Miami by five, 71-66, and needed overtime to take down Syracuse on the road. The Cardinals survived, though, and are now just a half game behind North Carolina for first in the ACC.
The Cardinals also got back guard Quentin Snider, who is their second leading scorer. Snider returned with 13 points against Miami and 14 points, six assists and four rebounds on the road at Syracuse.
Louisville’s success will come on the defensive end, but returning Snider after he missed six games should improve their 95th nationally ranked scoring offense. He gives a mediocre offensive team another playmaker as he also leads the team in assists per game.
Despite a loss to Virginia a couple of weeks ago and two close wins, a bright spot for Louisville is the play of Deng Adel. He has scored in double-digits in each of his past seven games to solidify himself as Louisville’s third option on offense.
Louisville is hard to figure out this season, but they haven’t lost to an unranked team this season and are tied for second place in one of the toughest conferences in the nation.
Louisville’s only game this week is at home against Virginia Tech.
7. Baylor (22-4)
It seems like an eternity ago since Baylor was the top-ranked team in the country and one of the last undefeated teams. Baylor is just 2-3 in their last five games after losing to Texas Tech on Monday night.
Kansas, Kansas State and Texas Tech, their last three losses, aren’t bad teams, but they are games the selection committee expects Baylor to win if they want to be considered a legitimate contender in the Big 12 and nationally.
With their chances of ending Kansas’ historic regular season championship streak already looking slim before this week, it looks near impossible for Baylor to do it now.
Texas Tech held Johnathan Motley to an uncharacteristic 11 points, five rebounds and four assists. It ended his eight game streak of scoring at least 15 points and nine game streak of grabbing at least seven rebounds.
It’s evident that when Motley doesn’t play well, especially on offense, Baylor stalls. Although, in their loss to Texas Tech, it was their usually good defense that couldn’t stop the Red Raiders.
Baylor topped 75 points for just the second time in the past nine games, but Texas Tech shot 51.1 percent from the field and 40 percent from three.
Right now, Baylor is not a good team. They still lack any consistent scoring outside of Motley and their scoring defense has fallen to eighth in the country.
Baylor’s only game this week is at home against Kansas. It could be an embarrassing home loss if they play like they have been over the past couple of weeks.
6. Oregon (22-4)
Everyone went from saying Oregon is the team to beat in the Pac-12 to not being sure they’re even the second-best team in the conference. Following their dominating win over Arizona, Oregon led UCLA by nine at halftime in Los Angeles and controlled most of the game.
After UCLA took the lead with 4:04 left in the game, Oregon had no answer and ended up blowing a 19-point first half lead. The Ducks led by as many as 15 points in the second half, too.
Oregon ended the week with an 11-point win over a good USC team, but the loss to UCLA is what looms over their head. They’re still second in the conference, but it’s their second loss in the past five games and it came with Dillon Brooks in the lineup.
Brooks and Tyler Dorsey combined for 37 points, while Jordan Bell grabbed 15 rebounds. Both are good signs moving forward, as well as their huge leads. Losing the lead and their focus in the second half shows the amount of work they have left to do, though.
Their offense stalled in the second half, ending the game shooting just 42 percent from the field, and their 34th nationally ranked scoring defense fell apart, too, allowing UCLA to shoot 50.8 percent from the field.
Oregon is still a very good team, but outside of their 27-point win over Arizona, the Ducks have struggled over the past couple of weeks.
They host Utah and Colorado this week.
5. UCLA (23-3)
Since their back-to-back losses panicked everyone in the nation, UCLA has responded with four straight wins by an average of 19.5 points, including a comeback win from 19 points down against Oregon last week.
The Bruins defense is still something to worry about going forward, but only three teams this season have proven to be able to outscore the Bruins for a whole game. They’re so dangerous this season because they can catch fire at any time and become impossible to stop.
That became evident against Oregon.
After trailing 64-49 with 14:17 left in the game, UCLA shot 12-of-21 (57.1 percent) to end the game. Five Bruins ended the game with double-figure points, including Lonzo Ball who scored 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting and had arguably the shot of the year.
Leading 77-75, Ball nailed a step-back 30-foot three to give UCLA a five-point lead and seal the game. Considering the stakes and the difficulty of the shot with a hand in his face, it’s arguably the biggest shot of the year and could help continue turning UCLA’s season around.
With the amount of talent they have, especially offensively, UCLA could still win the championship without a great defense simply because they’re near impossible to slow down for a whole game.
UCLA hosts the USC Trojans this week.
4. Arizona (23-3)
A week after being embarrassed in Eugene, Ore., by the Ducks, Arizona bounced back with wins over Stanford and California. The Wildcats only won by a total of 12 points, but Arizona regained the top spot in the Pac-12, nonetheless, due to UCLA’s comeback.
Despite Arizona being widely considered a top-10 team in the nation, they still don’t seem to be playing their best basketball yet, as they continue to try to implement Allonzo Trier into their rotation.
They have failed to score 75 points in any of their past four games. They only failed to reach that mark in three of their first nine conference games.
At the same time, Lauri Markkanen has scored fewer than 10 points in each of the past four games after only doing so once in the first 22 games of the season.
On one hand, Arizona struggling could lead to them blowing their small one-game lead in the Pac-12. Although, it also indicates how good this team can be this season.
If Trier, who is shooting just 42.2 percent this season and only scored three points against California on Saturday, returns to close to last year’s form, Arizona could have a Final Four run in them, especially when considering how good of a defensive team they are.
Arizona travels to Washington State and Washington this weeks.
3. Kansas (22-4)
Kansas was on the verge of losing its second straight home game for the first time since 1988-89, when Roy Williams was their head coach. Somehow, trailing 14 with 2:48 left in the second half, Kansas turned West Virginia over multiple times and forced overtime.
In overtime, the Jayhawks exploded. They held West Virginia scoreless for the first 3:55 and they started to get to the basket. Frank Mason and Josh Jackson became the stars Kansas needed the whole game.
In fact, Jackson recorded his fifth double-double in the past six games. Over the past month, Jackson has started to come into his own. Mason is the frontrunner to be named the National Player of the Year, but Josh Jackson will be the difference maker this postseason for Kansas.
Despite their miraculous win, Kansas is still trying to get back to playing the basketball that got them to no. 2 in the nation for multiple weeks. The Jayhawks have not won by double-digits in their past five wins and haven’t won by more than 15 since January 14.
Part of it is due to closer games in conference play, but Kansas has failed to score 75 points during regulation in three of their past five games, too.
Still, Kansas has a comfortable two game lead in the Big 12 and should win another regular season championship. The Jayhawks have still played well over the past couple of weeks, but not to the level that we’ve become accustomed to this season.
Kansas travels to Baylor this week.
2. Villanova (25-2)
Villanova beat a stingy Georgetown team by 12 and controlled the whole game against Xavier in their 73-57 road win last week. Plus, on Monday, they demolished DePaul for their 25th win of the season.
Their win over Xavier gave the Wildcats their third straight ranked win, helped them improve to 6-1 against ranked teams this season and gave Jay Wright his 500th career win.
Senior guard Kris Jenkins also had his first good three-point shooting game in a couple of weeks. He made 4-of-7 from behind the arc, as he finished with 12 points against Xavier. It ended a five game stretch of him failing to make more than two threes.
Jenkins shot a miserable 7-of-33 (21.2 percent) from three during that stretch, too.
For as good as Josh Hart and Jalen Brunson are, Villanova needs a third scoring option if they want to repeat as national champions. Jenkins is comfortably third in scoring on Villanova, plus his 6.9 threes per game is 1.8 more than anyone on the Wildcats.
After a small rough patch, Villanova is seemingly back and once again hitting their stride with three straight double-digit wins. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the Big East.
Villanova travels to Seton Hall this week.
1. Gonzaga (26-0)
It seems inevitable that Gonzaga will finish the regular season undefeated after beating Saint Mary’s, 74-64.
Their best opponent left in the regular season is BYU at the end, but even the Cougars have been up-and-down this season and lost by 10 at home last time they played Gonzaga.
Aside from Gonzaga playing in the West Coast Conference, there’s no reason to doubt the Bulldogs anymore. They demolished a good Saint Mary’s team at home and beat them in prime time on Saturday.
If there was a time the national pressure or crowd noise would have gotten to them, it would have been on Saturday. It didn’t, though. Instead, Gonzaga led by nine at halftime and as many as15 with 2:41 left in the first half, despite Nigel Williams-Goss being in foul trouble.
They controlled the tempo of the game from start to finish. The only player on St. Mary’s to score more than 10 points against Gonzaga was potential All-American big man Jock Landale who had 24 points and eight rebounds, but even he had four fouls early in the second half.
A mark of 30-0 is quickly approaching. Gonzaga’s last four teams have a combined record of 56-51. The Bulldogs are arguably the most focused team in the nation, resulting in them being the least susceptible to an upset loss. It might happen, but I doubt it.
Gonzaga hosts San Francisco and Pacific this week.
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