College basketball power rankings

By Jesse Temple

The regular season has reached its final week, which means Selection Sunday is just around the corner. Which teams improved their NCAA Tournament seeding, and which are sinking like a stone? Take a look at the Week 16 power rankings:

1 Kentucky Wildcats 28-1

The Wildcats are just two games away from completing an undefeated conference season — a notable feat considering the infrequency with which it happens in the SEC. Since 1956, only Kentucky in 1996 and 2003 has gone undefeated in league play.

2 Syracuse Orange 29-1

Syracuse and Kentucky have clearly separated themselves from the rest of the pack this season. The Orange clinched the Big East regular-season title with a 71-69 victory against Connecticut. It was Syracuse’s first win in five tries at Gampel Pavilion.

3 Kansas Jayhawks 25-5 +2

We’re sure sad to see the Border War rivalry come to an end between Kansas and Missouri after 105 years. But what a way to go out! Kansas overcame a 19-point deficit to knock off Missouri 87-86 in overtime in one of the most memorable games in series history.

4 Duke Blue Devils 25-4

Since scoring just four points against Clemson on Jan. 15, Duke freshman Austin Rivers has reached double figures in 12 straight games. His latest was a 23-point effort in Duke’s overtime victory against Virginia Tech.

5 North Carolina Tar Heels 25-4 +1

Is anyone surprised to see Duke and North Carolina tied atop the ACC standings with two games to play? The conference winner won’t be decided until the final game of the season, when North Carolina travels to face Duke on March 3. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

6 Michigan State Spartans 24-5 +1

Spartans forward Draymond Green continues to make his case for Big Ten player of the year. The senior tallied 20 points and 10 rebounds in a victory against Nebraska and became the fourth player in school history to reach 1,000 rebounds for his career.

7 Missouri Tigers 25-4 -4

Last week was a tough one for the Tigers, who lost consecutive games against Kansas State and hated rival Kansas. Still, Missouri is a legitimate Final Four contender and deserves props for playing so well in Allen Fieldhouse — perhaps the loudest environment the team will ever see.

8 Marquette Golden Eagles 24-5

Marquette coach Buzz Williams danced with delight following his team’s 61-60 win at West Virginia. The only problem was he did it at center court to John Denver’s “Country Roads” — the Mountaineers’ unofficial anthem, which drew boos from the home fans. Oops.

9 Baylor Bears 25-5 +4

The Bears might not be the class of the Big 12 this season with Kansas and Missouri, but they’re putting together a memorable campaign in their own right. With a 70-60 victory against Oklahoma, Baylor reached 11 wins in Big 12 play — tying for the most in program history.

10 Murray State Racers 28-1 +4

Murray State settled the score against Tennessee Tech, avenging the Racers’ only defeat from earlier this season. Now, just two games stand in the way of Murray State earning an automatic NCAA Tournament bid. The Racers earned a bye into the OVC Tournament semifinals on March 2.

11 Florida Gators 22-7 -2

The schedule certainly hasn’t done the Gators any favors to close the regular season. Florida plays at Vanderbilt and home to top-ranked Kentucky before the SEC Tournament begins. A victory against Vanderbilt will clinch a No. 2 conference
seed for Florida.

12 Georgetown Hoyas 22-6 -2

You have to give credit to the Hoyas’ defense for keeping them in most games. When Georgetown defeated Villanova 67-46 last week, the Wildcats became the seventh opponent this season that failed to reach 50 points against the Hoyas.

13 Ohio State Buckeyes 23-6 -2

Like most people, we assumed the talented Buckeyes would coast to a Big Ten title. We were dead wrong. Ohio State has lost three of five and sophomore sensation Jared Sullinger’s play of late is a concern. He has scored a total of 17 points combined in his last two games.

14 Michigan Wolverines 21-8 -2

What would have happened if point guard Darius Morris opted to stay for another season at Michigan instead of going to the NBA? We likely wouldn’t be seeing the breakout year from freshman Trey Burke. Burke (14.2 points per game) has won six Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards.

15 UNLV Rebels 24-6 +1

Runnin’ Rebels guard Chace Stanback is one of the best 3-point shooters in the land, and his play of late suggests his stroke is back. Stanback made 9-of-13 3-point tries in two victories last week. He’s shooting 47.7 percent from long range this season, the fifth-best mark in the country.

16 Wichita State Shockers 26-4 +5

Wichita State clobbered Drake 81-58 to earn its first Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title since 2006. This is a special Shockers team that could do some serious damage in the NCAA Tournament. They’re 16-1 since Jan. 1.

17 Wisconsin Badgers 21-8 +3

Despite losing to a resurgent Iowa team, Wisconsin moves up in the power rankings on the heels of a huge 63-60 victory at Ohio State. It marked the Badgers’ first victory against a top-10 team on the road since Jan. 26, 1980, when Wisconsin beat fourth-ranked Ohio State.

18 Louisville Cardinals 22-7 -3

Maybe it’s no coincidence that Louisville loses when guard Kyle Kuric shoots poorly. Kuric was a combined 1-for-19 from the field with seven points in losses to Syracuse and Cincinnati. In Louisville’s last two wins, he’s 14-for-25 with 42 points.

19 Indiana Hoosiers 22-7 +4

Few around college basketball likely took much notice of Indiana’s easy 75-56 victory against North Carolina Central last week, but the win represented a significant achievement. It meant the Hoosiers went undefeated in non-conference play (13-0) for the first time since the 1989-90 season.

20 St. Mary’s (CA) Gaels 25-5 +4

Two streaks ended when Saint Mary’s defeated San Francisco 67-60 to close the regular season. For one, the Gaels captured their first outright West Coast Conference title since 1989. And second, the victory officially ended Gonzaga’s 11-year stranglehold on the WCC title.

21 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 20-10 -3

A nine-game Irish winning streak finally came to an end in a loss against St. John’s, and the reason wasn’t difficult to discern. Notre Dame shot a paltry 4-of-31 from 3-point range. Yikes.

22 San Diego State Aztecs 22-6 +4

Jamaal Franklin’s breakout sophomore season continued as he dropped 31 points, 16 rebounds and five assists on Colorado State last week. He leads the Aztecs in scoring at 16.4 points per game. Last season, he averaged just 2.9 points per outing.

23 Florida State Seminoles 19-9 -6

The Seminoles appear to be losing some steam after a hot start in ACC play. They lost games against Duke and Miami last week to fall out of the running for a conference title.

24 Creighton Bluejays 25-5 (unranked last week)

Creighton breaks back into the power rankings after winning four straight games to close the regular season. The last three certainly didn’t come easily. The Blue Jays defeated Long Beach State, Evansville and Indiana State by a combined four points.

25 Temple Owls 22-6 -3

A loss last week to St. Joseph’s hurts, but Temple still is in position to win the Atlantic-10 with two more victories. With a top-25 RPI, the Owls should be a lock for the NCAA Tournament.