1. INDIANA (2) (25-4, 13-3)
LAST WEEK: Beat Iowa (73-60)
THIS WEEK: vs. No. 14 Ohio State (3/5); At No. 7 Michigan (3/10)
It certainly didn't seem possible five years ago, but the Hoosiers are now assured of at least a share of their first Big Ten title in 11 seasons. They can win the thing outright with a victory over Ohio State on Tuesday.
2. DUKE (1) (25-4, 12-4)
LAST WEEK: Lost to Virginia (73-68); Beat No. 5 Miami (79-76)
THIS WEEK: vs. Virginia Tech (3/5); At North Carolina (3/9)
The folks who believed that Ryan Kelly's importance had been overstated for the past month and-a-half are feeling a bit silly (looks away, embarrassed) after the senior's remarkable comeback performance on Saturday. The Blue Devils are now 12-0 with Kelly in the lineup, and his return has more than a few experts calling them the team to beat heading into the postseason.
LAST WEEK: Beat BYU (70-65); Beat Portland (81-52)
THIS WEEK: West Coast Conference Tournament
Before you start banging out that piece of hate mail, I think the Zags are absolutely deserving of their newfound No. 1 ranking...but this is a power poll, and I don't think they're the best team in the country. Even though Gonzaga has been an established player on the national scene for more than a decade, a tiny program in Washington state that was virtually unknown before 1999 now sitting on top of the college basketball world is a pretty terrific story. I'd love to see Mark Few's loyalty rewarded with the Bulldogs finally breaking through and crashing the Final Four.
4. GEORGETOWN (5) (23-4, 13-3)LAST WEEK: Beat Connecticut (79-78 2OT); Beat Rutgers (64-51)
THIS WEEK: At Villanova (3/6); vs. No. 17 Syracuse (3/9)
The race for Big East Player of the Year would be a lot more interesting if Otto porter hadn't been named the conference's Player of the Week in each of the past three weeks. Porter isn't just the best player in the league, he's the most valuable to his team.
5. LOUISVILLE (7) (24-5, 12-4)
LAST WEEK: Beat DePaul (79-58); Beat No. 12 Syracuse (58-53)
THIS WEEK: vs. Cincinnati (3/4); vs. No. 24 Notre Dame (3/29)
Louisville still has a shot at winning the Big East title despite some absolutely atrocious free-throw shooting from power forwards Chane Behanan and Montrezl Harrell. In league play, Behanan is hitting just 51 percent from the line, while Harrell - who has shot two airballs from the charity stripe - is an even more dreadful 5-of-21 (23 percent). The Cardinals notched a big win at Syracuse on Saturday despite Behanan missing six of his eight attempts, including a pair in the game's closing minutes.
Rick Pitino, your thoughts?
LAST WEEK: Beat Virginia Tech (76-58); Lost to No. 3 Duke (79-76)
THIS WEEK: vs. Georgia Tech (3/6); vs. Clemson (3/9)
I want Miami/Duke III in the ACC title game, and I want their to be no less than 15 instances of exaggerated floor slapping from the two sides combined.
7. KANSAS (8) (25-4, 13-3)
LAST WEEK: Beat West Virginia (91-65)
THIS WEEK: vs. Texas Tech (3/4); At Baylor (3/9)
The last eventual national champion to lose to the last place team in its conference was Syracuse, which dropped a 68-65 decision to a Rutgers team that finished 4-12 and in a three-way tie for last in the Big East back in 2003. The Jayhawks remain the lone conference victory for 1-15 TCU, which has clinched at least a tie for the bottom spot in the Big 12.
8. FLORIDA (9) (23-5, 13-3)
LAST WEEK: Beat Alabama (64-52)
THIS WEEK: vs. Vanderbilt (3/6); At Kentucky (3/9)
Billy Donovan's Florida teams have always been able of putting up big numbers, but it's the Gators' defense that's going to lead its charge for a national title this season.
Florida's opponents shoot just 61 percent at the rim, which was the average shooting percentage at the rim in 2011-12, according to hoop-math, but just 26 percent of opponents' shots come at the rim, a stingy figure compared even to Louisville's 29 percent in 2002-13, and a downright miserly one compared to the national average of 35 percent in 2011-12. Neither Young nor Murphy is as good inside as Kentucky's Anthony Davis or Kansas' Jeff Withey, but they combine to protect the rim well, and Wilbekin and Boynton are both superb at preventing penetration. The Gators also play great defense on two-point jumpers, allowing opponents to shoot just 30 percent on them.
Florida pays for that great interior defense, to a degree, as opponents take a greater percentage of their shots as threes - 35 percent of Florida opponents' shots have been threes this season, above the 33 percent 2011-12 average. But Florida defends those threes exceptionally well, allowing opponents to shoot only 30 percent from three. Only six defenses allowing 30 percent or under from three see more threes as a percentage of shots as Florida's does, and, of those teams, only Virginia and Pittsburgh tend toward man-to-man defense as much as Florida does. (And, as should be noted when talking about Florida's three-point defense, the Gators have built big leads with such frequency that taking more threes of whatever quality has made more sense for some Florida foes.)
9. MICHIGAN (6) (24-5, 11-5)
LAST WEEK: Lost to Penn State (84-78); Beat No. 9 Michigan State (58-57)
THIS WEEK: At Purdue (3/6); vs. No. 2 Indiana (3/10)
Re-read the Kansas blurb and make the necessary substitutions to make it fit here. I don't feel like copying and/or pasting.
10. MICHIGAN STATE (10) (22-7, 11-5)
LAST WEEK: Lost to No. 4 Michigan (58-57)
THIS WEEK: vs. No. 22 Wisconsin (3/7); vs. Northwestern (3/10)
In the same academic year, the Michigan State football team lost to Michigan without allowing a touchdown, and the Spartan basketball team was beaten by the Wolverines despite not allowing a three-pointer. Oh, and Tom Izzo's guys have dropped three straight and sent their fan base into a panic over their inability to close out games.
11. OKLAHOMA STATE (13) (22-6, 12-4)
LAST WEEK: Beat TCU (64-47); Beat Texas (78-65)
THIS WEEK: At Iowa State (3/6); vs. No. 9 Kansas State (3/9)
I'll put it at about 70 percent that I'm taking the Cowboys to the Final Four. With Markel Brown and Marcus Smart, this team possesses what so few in college basketball do this season: star power.
12. KANSAS STATE (12) (24-5, 13-3)
LAST WEEK: Beat Baylor (64-61)
THIS WEEK: vs. TCU (3/5); At No. 13 Oklahoma State (3/9)
I don't have that many more chances to say it.
13. OHIO STATE (14) (21-7, 11-5)
LAST WEEK: Beat Northwestern (63-53)
THIS WEEK: At No. 2 Indiana (3/5); vs. Illinois (3/10)
Playing at arguably the best team in the country and at home against a team desperate to assure itself of a worry-free Selection Sunday isn't exactly an ideal way to end the regular season.
14. NEW MEXICO (15) (25-4, 12-2)
LAST WEEK: Beat San Diego State (70-60); Beat Wyoming (53-42)
THIS WEEK: At Nevada (3/6); At Air Force (3/9)
Given the extreme parity within the Mountain West and the difficulty that teams in the league have had winning on the road, the Lobos being two wins away from finishing the regular season with a 14-2 conference mark is one of the more praise-worthy accomplishments in college basketball this season. Lobos fans are desperate for their first trip to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
15. MARQUETTE (NR) (21-7, 12-4)
LAST WEEK: Beat No. 12 Syracuse (74-71); Beat No. 21 Notre Dame (72-64)
THIS WEEK: At Rutgers (3/5); At St. John's (3/9)
Despite consistently starting seasons with zero household names, Buzz Williams just keeps leading Marquette to top-tier finishes in the Big East.
Just two and a half months ago, YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles bore little resemblance to the team that clinched a top-4 finish in the Big East with Saturday's 72-64 victory over the hated Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
In the 18 games Marquette has played since the Retching at the Resch Center, they've managed a 14-4 mark and might have finished their most impressive week of the season with the pantsing of the Domers, where it quickly became evident that the only question at the end of the day would be Marquette's margin of victory.
On December 20, 2012, Marquette sat with a less-than-inspiring 7-3 mark on the season, having just been embarrassed by the UW-Green Bay Phoenix in an effort so ugly that we couldn't even write a proper recap of the carnage, instead opting to match MU's half-assed performance with a half-assed apology to Dr. James Naismith.
The man can coach.
LAST WEEK: Beat Saint Joseph's (70-53); Beat George Washington (66-58)
THIS WEEK: At Xavier (3/6); vs. La Salle (3/9)
A win over Xavier on Wednesday will gave Saint Louis its first conference championship since 1971. It's still the best story in college basketball this season.
DROPPED OUT: Arizona (11), Syracuse (16)