I have no problem being completely straightforward here: I dig Valentine's Day. I've always dug Valentine's Day. Any chance I get to be overly affectionate without getting made fun of, I'm all about it.
It's a marketing tool for various companies, it puts unnecessary pressure on couples, it makes single people feel like crap; whatever. If it gets people who wouldn't ordinarily say "I love you" or do something thoughtful for someone else saying "I love you" and doing something thoughtful for someone else (looking at you, Digger), I'm good with it.
I just want us all to be overly affectionate together.
Don't tell me I love too much.
Also, I don't love you, Digger. I never loved you.
1. KENTUCKY (25-1, 11-0) (1)
LAST WEEK: Beat Florida (78-58); Beat Vanderbilt (69-63)
THIS WEEK: vs. Ole Miss (2/18)
Kentucky took the best shot the SEC has to offer and responded with a 20-point beatdown of Florida and an impressive win over Vanderbilt inside a frenzied Memorial Coliseum. As of this very second, it's "Kentucky and everybody else" when it comes to the landscape of college basketball.
2. SYRACUSE (26-1, 13-1) (2)
LAST WEEK: Beat Georgetown (64-61 OT); Beat Connecticut (85-67); Beat Louisville (52-51)
THIS WEEK: At Rutgers (2/19)
The Orange made just 1-of-29 shots from outside the paint against Louisville on Monday night, and they still clawed their way to a one-point victory over a Cardinal team that had won six straight. Syracuse has three games that appear very winnable before hosting U of L in their regular season-finale. Even in a down year, a 17-1 record in the Big East would be an accomplishment of absurd proportions.
3. MISSOURI (23-2, 10-2) (5)
LAST WEEK: Beat Baylor (72-57)
THIS WEEK: vs. Oklahoma State (2/15); At Texas A&M (2/18)
Even when considering their lack of size, I don't think there's any question that this is Missouri's best chance to reach the Final Four for the first time in program history.
"When Missouri is on, there's nobody in the country as good as them offensively," Baylor head coach Scott Drew said after Mizzou beat his team for the second time this season. "Nobody. Period."
I mean, if Scott Drew is saying it...
4. KANSAS (21-5, 11-2) (6)
LAST WEEK: Beat Baylor (68-54); Beat Oklahoma State (81-66); Beat Kansas State (59-53)
THIS WEEK: vs. Texas Tech (2/18)
If you heard "not your typical Kansas team" once before the season, you probably heard it a hundred times. This was supposed to be the year where the rest of the Big 12 got to get their licks in on a Jayhawk squad with a serious talent deficiency. What's amazing about this KU team is that they aren't scrapping and clawing their way to victory, they actually look like a team with necessary pieces to make a Final Four run. Bill Self deserves a serious look for Coach of the Year.
LAST WEEK: Beat Purdue (87-84); Lost to Michigan State (58-48)
THIS WEEK: At Minnesota (2/14); At Michigan (2/18)
Coming off an extremely disappointing performance against Michigan State, the Buckeyes have the unenviable task of going on the road and facing a Minnesota team desperate for a resume win and a Michigan squad that has been unbeatable at home.
6. NORTH CAROLINA (21-4, 8-2) (4)
LAST WEEK: Lost to Duke (85-84); Beat Virginia (70-52)
THIS WEEK: At Miami (2/15); vs. Clemson (2/18)
I know they're the second most talented team in the country and you know they're the second most talented team in the country. North Carolina, on the other hand, seems to think it's the most talented team - amateur or professional - in the country. Tar Heel fans have to hope that what happened in the final minutes against Duke is the spark that fuels this squad in the direction of their potential.
7. DUKE (21-4, 8-2) (11)
LAST WEEK: Beat North Carolina (85-84); Beat Maryland (73-55)
THIS WEEK: vs. NC State (2/16); At Boston College (2/19)
I said this last week:
They'll give a great effort against North Carolina (even if they don't win), and everyone will once again cast all their deficiencies to the side. Then those same people will be stunned (STUNNED!) when they bow out in the round of 32 or Sweet 16 to a "worse" team with more size and athleticism.
I have nothing of value to add in this space below the block quote.
8. MICHIGAN STATE (20-5, 9-3) (8)
LAST WEEK: Beat Penn State (77-57); Beat Ohio State (58-48)
THIS WEEK: vs. Wisconsin (2/16); At Purdue (2/19)
A week ago it felt wrong to move them up after Illinois. Now it feels wrong to keep them in the same place after beating Ohio State by ten. Such is life in the SB Nation College Basketball Power Poll.
9. BAYLOR (22-4, 9-4) (7)
LAST WEEK: Lost to Kansas (68-54); Lost to Missouri (72-57); Beat Iowa State (79-64)
THIS WEEK: vs. Kansas State (2/18); At Texas (2/20)
And just like that, the Bears' four opportunities to make a statement about their status as a legitimate national title contender have come and gone. They, uh, they did not fare well.
10. GEORGETOWN (19-5, 9-4) (13)
LAST WEEK: Lost to Syracuse (64-61 OT); Beat St. John's (71-61)
THIS WEEK: At Providence (2/18)
The Hoyas just keep hanging around this 10-13 range, never overly impressive but never giving you a reason to believe there's a team in the country they can't play with. Also, I'm convinced Jason Clark is better from 24-feet out than he is from directly behind the 3-point line. Everyone shoots behind the NBA line at Madison Square Garden already, so I'm already calling him as Big East Tournament MVP.
11. UNLV (22-4, 6-2) (16)
LAST WEEK: Beat San Diego State (65-63)
THIS WEEK: At TCU (2/14); At New Mexico (2/18)
The Runnin' Rebels are the best team in the West, and the non-power conference squad most capable of winning more than three games in the NCAA Tournament. Mike Moser will become a household name in March.
12. MARQUETTE (21-5, 10-3) (NR)
LAST WEEK: Beat Cincinnati (95-78)
THIS WEEK: At Connecticut (2/18)
You might be better off just holding the ball at the beginning of a game against the Golden Eagles. Five times this season, Marquette has trailed by double digits in the first half before storming back to win. The latest example came over the weekend against Cincinnati when they responded to an early 16-4 deficit by going on a 43-17 run and winning by 17.
13. SAN DIEGO STATE (20-4, 6-2) (NR)
LAST WEEK: Lost to UNLV (65-63)
THIS WEEK: vs. New Mexico (2/15); At Air Force (2/18)
I said a week ago that I publicly apologize to the Aztecs for putting UNLV in the rankings and not them if they were able to knock off the Runnin' Rebs. They came close enough to warrant a No. 13 ranking and virtual bro pound.
I just did the bro pound...OK, now you guys have to do it back...that's...how this works.
14. FLORIDA (19-6, 7-3) (9)
LAST WEEK: Lost to Kentucky (78-58); Lost to Tennessee (75-70)
THIS WEEK: At Alabama (2/14); At Arkansas (2/18)
15. SAINT MARY'S (23-3, 12-1) (12)
LAST WEEK: Lost to Gonzaga (73-59); Beat Santa Clara (82-67)
THIS WEEK: vs. Loyola Marymount (2/15); At Murray State (2/18)
It's not unexpected to see Gonzaga and Saint Mary's hold serve against one another on their home floors, but it would have been nice to have seen at least one of the games be competitive. The BracketBusters series has become increasingly inconsequential in recent years, but Saint Mary's/Murray State on Saturday is huge for the tournament seeding of both teams.
LAST WEEK: Lost to Tennessee State (72-68); Beat Austin Peay (82-63)
THIS WEEK: At Southeast Missouri State (2/15); vs. Saint Mary's (2/18)
It was surprising to see so many people talk about Isaiah Canaan over-penetrating on the last possession and no one talking about the fact that he appeared to get raked across the arm and then was subsequently called for a foul he did not commit. That sequence coupled with an awful technical foul call against the Racers minutes earlier left the home crowd fuming. Well, at least no one will accuse the OVC's hired officials of playing into the hands of the game's best storyline.
Still, the Racers had been playing tight for three weeks and would have gone down soon had Tennessee State not gotten the better of them. Saturday's game against Saint Mary's presents a chance to convince the nation that they're legitimate and also to lock up an at-large bid.
DROPPED OUT: Florida State (14), Creighton (15).
ON THE CUSP: Wisconsin, Louisville, Michigan, Indiana, Florida State, Virginia, Notre Dame, Gonzaga.