March Madness may be two months away, but this weekend proved that that nuthouse is officially open. There was rising, falling, epic success, shocking failure, basically everything that makes college basketball tick.
No time to dawdle. Here’s the latest Top 25!
1. Kansas (14-1)
The top dog in town is officially Kansas, with an epic triple-overtime win over Oklahoma giving them all the momentum they needed against hotshot Tubby Smith-led Texas Tech. To win like that after such an emotional victory, especially at home, you have to be a special kind of team and with a big test coming up against West Virginia, it’s going to be hard to count Kansas out.
2. Maryland (15-1)
Just when we thought when the Terps were about to run out of momentum, Melo Trimble’s game-winning three against Wisconsin over the weekend put the team into overdrive. Next up is Michigan and if the Wolverines are healthy, Maryland could face the biggest test of the season thus far.
Hopefully, the team can keep it together and continue riding the momentum wave.
3. Michigan State (16-1)
Denzel Valentine is back in action and though his return was ugly, the Spartans proved that they can handily win without them. And Michigan State will need Valentine to shake off the cobwebs by Thursday, because that’s when the grudge match against Iowa happens at the Breslin Center. The Hawkeyes are the only team to have defeated Sparty this year and if anyone thinks that Tom Izzo’s squad will enter the game scared, they’re gravely mistaken.
4. North Carolina (15-2)
First Florida State, and then Syracuse. UNC just keeps knocking off opponents left and right as it continues to fight for the top spot in the country, and they’re making a strong case in ACC play.
Next up comes the strong lockdown defense of N.C. State in Chapel Hill, so Roy Williams and the Tar Heels had better prepare accordingly.
5. Oklahoma (13-1)
The Sooners have done well and come far, but they are not Jedi yet. Oklahoma just couldn’t get past the strong size of Kansas, but still should be proud of themselves after forcing triple-overtime. Were it not for a key late turnover, they likely would have won.
But the good news is that the Sooners bounced right back with a win over Kansas State and with in-state rival Oklahoma State next, look for them to pick up right where they left off.
6. Villanova (14-2)
The Villanova that we’ve seen play with a chip on its shoulder multiple times is back, having reeled off six wins in a row since losing to Virginia. Most recently, the Wildcats fought a close contest with the Butler Bulldogs and won.
Long story short, this team is back in action and should not be taken lightly as Big East play progresses.
7. Xavier (14-1)
The Musketeers made the most of their short week and took full advantage of an inexperienced St. John’s squad. Yes, Xavier’s jump in the rankings this week may seem a bit much, but the team is back on the right path after getting blown out by Villanova no matter how you spin it.
Next is DePaul and then everyone’s favorite spoiler, Marquette, so Xavier is in a prime position to make a big rise in the next week.
8. Miami (13-1)
Miami continued its strong start to the season with a win over Florida State, going so far as to limit freshman stud Dwayne Bacon to 4 of 12 shooting. But the Hurricanes have little time to party, as a date with Virginia in Charlottesville is next on the docket.
If this team can knock off the Cavaliers, then it’s going to be really hard to count them out down the stretch.
9. Duke (14-2)
Amile Jefferson is still out with a broken foot? You wouldn’t know, based on the way the Blue Devils have been performing since its tough loss to Utah.
Duke handled Wake Forest and the tough defense of Virginia Tech with authority last week and should have another cakewalk in Clemson this week before taking on Notre Dame. So long as Grayson Allen keeps doing his thing and Luke Kennard provides a great spark off the bench, count on the defending national champions to gear up for another deep tournament run.
10. Virginia (12-3)
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Virginia has lost two in a row, and to unranked ACC opponents in Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. Given how the Cavaliers are becoming a regular Final Four contender under Tony Bennett, those losses don’t look good.
Needless to say, the team had better right the ship when Miami comes to visit on Tuesday, lest they want to be written off early.
11. SMU (15-0)
Another week gone, another week that it’s a shame that SMU is out of the tournament this year due to NCAA sanctions. This team is looking like a Top 5 squad after knocking off both Cincinnati and Central Florida, making it even worse that we won’t see the Mustangs in the tourney in 2016.
That just means fans will have to root even harder for this team when it takes on East Carolina and Tulane this week, as SMU keeps playing with a chip on its shoulder.
12. Arizona (13-3)
Arizona has become the latest team to fall to UCLA before suffering a stunning loss to USC in quadruple-overtime. This week doesn’t get any easier against Washington and then a breather against Washington State, so the Wildcats had better get it together now that every game counts towards March.
13. Providence (14-2)
The Friars took a tumble after losing a heartbreaker to Marquette and don’t get a reprieve this week with a trip to Creighton and a visit from Seton Hall coming up. Both of these teams are great at scoring points and also play at a fast pace, so Providence really needs to figure out a way to overcome star guard Kris Dunn getting triple-teamed and still look dominant as a unit.
The good news is that coach Ed Cooley is the conscientious type and will adjust his team’s approach accordingly, so fans should count on Providence rebounding from the loss fairly easily.
14. West Virginia (14-1)
The Mountaineers’ high-octane offense was in full swing last week with wins over TCU and Oklahoma State, giving coach Bob Huggins’ team just what it needs as it prepares for a visit from the Kansas Jayhawks this week. That’s going to be a game with major upset potential and so long as Devin Williams is able to be a force on both sides of the court, count on WVU giving Kansas a game, win or lose.
15. Kentucky (12-3)
Kentucky is in serious trouble, having lost to an unranked opponent for the third time this year, and at home to boot. The Wildcats were just outplayed by LSU from start to finish and even though a win against Alabama helps stop the bleeding a little bit, there’s no doubt that this team is a far cry from the one that was undefeated heading into the Final Four last year.
16. Iowa (12-3)
The Hawkeyes are priming themselves for a strong run in the Big Ten, sitting pretty as the sole team to beat Michigan State. Iowa had an easy week in that it only had to face Nebraska last week but given how strong the team is playing, it definitely is on the upswing and could prove itself to be an even stronger contender if it beats Michigan State in East Lansing this week.
17. South Carolina (15-0)
The Gamecocks are official, having fought off a tough and inexperienced Vanderbilt last week to continue dominating SEC play along with its strong start. Next up are Alabama and Missouri and though some may say that South Carolina’s schedule is a bit light, it’s hard to deny that Frank Martin’s squad has taken a giant step forward in 2016 and is showing zero signs of slowing down.
Until they do, it’s going to be tough to not have them rising in the rankings week after week.
18. Texas A&M (13-2)
This Aggies team’s resolve proved to be stronger than oak last week, pulling off a strong comeback against Tennessee as well as eking out a win over Mississippi State. Given how those were both road wins, one can see how impressive this team really is.
Next up for Texas A&M is a Florida team that just beat LSU, so look for that resolve to be tested even further this week.
19. Iowa State (12-3)
The Cyclones can still be considered a strong contender in the Big 12, but another loss to an unranked opponent (Baylor, this time) is a cause for concern. Despite its strengths, it’s clear that this team is still somewhat adjusting to coach Steve Prohm’s more college-oriented system while moving away from the system of his predecessor Fred Hoiberg that incorporated aspects from the NBA.
Fortunately, upcoming games against Texas and Kansas State should get Iowa State back on track but with each loss coming to an unranked team this year, not even that is certain.
20. Louisville (13-3)
Every team has a loss that just shouldn’t happen and in Louisville’s case, that happened versus Clemson yesterday. The Cardinals’ guards just couldn’t get the ball rolling and with the next game coming against ever-rising Pitt, coach Rick Pitino had better make sure that the cold-shooting performance against the Tigers was just a one-time affair.
21. Baylor (12-3)
The Bears have had their up-and-down performances in the 2015-16 season, but have won four of five and became the latest unranked squad to upend Iowa State last week. Next are TCU and Texas Tech in battle for Lone Star State supremacy and if coach Scott Drew’s offense can just find that backcourt click that it’s been searching for, then it could be primed for a long run in the conference and maybe even beyond.
22. Oregon (13-3)
The Ducks are flying high after knocking off a stronger-than-appears squad in California and then Stanford, putting them in a strong position for when they visit Utah later this week. Oregon has never been the best team and a rocketing up the rankings is unlikely, but let’s not forget that this is a team that tends to get hot late and at this point, don’t be shocked if the momentum arrives early.
23. USC (14-3)
After two rough seasons, coach Andy Enfield’s Trojans have finally turned a corner. In terms of proof, just look at their quadruple-overtime win against Arizona last week. Next comes the battle for the City of Angels, when USC visits UCLA at Westwood and if the Trojans can take down a team that defeated Kentucky, then there are high hopes to have indeed.
24. Indiana (14-3)
Slowly but surely, the Hoosiers are very quietly putting themselves in position for a deep run. Indiana has won nine games in a row, slowly making its three losses early in the season nothing but a distant memory. With Minnesota and Illinois next, don’t be shocked if the AP finally lets Indiana back in the Top 25 this week.
25. Butler (12-4)
Butler is coming off of a close loss to Villanova, but there’s still something to be said for taking the Wildcats to the brink from start to finish. The Bulldogs have some time to prepare for a visit from lowly St. John’s this week and should win, but will have to dig deep in order to knock off Providence on the 18th.
Either way, as history has taught us twice, never count out Butler. EVER.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports