We are two short weeks away from basketball taking center stage in the sports world.  Once the Falcons and Patriots square off in Super Bowl LI less than two weeks from now there will be no more football until August which plays out perfectly with the stretch run of the college basketball season and preparation for the NCAA Tournament in March.

Our top team will have their toughest stretch of games this season start this week in what will be a week full of notable games and matchups between teams featured in our rankings.

Rank (Last week’s rank)
1. Kansas (1)
At West Virginia, at Kentucky then home to Baylor.  That’s what the schedule looks like for the Jayhawks over the next week and a half.  Get through that stretch unscathed and I might just crown them before we even get to March.
2. Gonzaga (3)
The Zags played smothering defense against Portland, holding them to 32% shooting on the night and swatting nine shots.  Przemek Karnowski made it look easy in the paint, scoring at the rim without much resistance.
3. Villanova (4)
Josh Hart and Jalen Brunson get a lot of love Nationally but Kris Jenkins is quietly having himself a season. He’s averaging career highs in points, rebounds, steals and three point percentage.
4. Kentucky (5)
Wouldn’t expect to see De'Aaron Fox on the court against Tennessee this week even if his ankle injury isn’t as bad as some feared.  The team doesn’t need him in that contest and would rather have him well rested when they welcome Kansas to town this weekend.
5. UCLA (2)
It was just a bad night for the Bruins against Arizona. They just couldn’t come up with many stops on defense. The Wildcats shot 50% from the floor, over 90% from the charity stripe and out rebounded UCLA on the night.
6. Baylor (6)
32 points, 20 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists and a steal was the stat line for Jonathan Motley last week against Texas.  To put that in perspective and show how special of a night it was, it has been 8 years since the last 30 point and 20 rebound game happened in the Big 12.
7. Oregon (9)
Even without Dillon Brooks, the Ducks just keep racking up wins in the Pac-12.  That isn’t to say they are a better team without him, which they aren’t, but it does give the rest of the team confidence knowing they can still maintain pace with their best player on the sideline.
8. Florida St. (10)
The Noles have taken care of business at home this season.  Back to back wins against previously unbeaten (in the ACC) Notre Dame and Louisville showed that this team had already forgotten about their loss to the Tar Heels just over a week ago.  Jonathan Isaac might give Dennis Smith a run for his money for ACC Freshman of the Year Honors.
9. Arizona (15)
It isn’t coincidence that in Allonzo Trier‘s first game back that they take down one of the top teams in the country.  He’s a special player and one that fills a need for Sean Miller’s team.  It is going to be a wild ride down the stretch as this team battles Oregon and UCLA for the Pac 12 crown.
10. North Carolina (11)
After a shaky start to conference play, the Tar Heels have found their groove.  Since dropping their opener to Georgia Tech and needed a herculean effort from Joel Berry to knock off Clemson, this team has gone 5-0 since and his clicking on all cylinders offensively to the tune of over 94 points per game.
11. Creighton (7)
Similar to what I said about Trier above, Maurice Watson‘s absence was felt on Saturday against Marquette.  The team put up plenty of points but losing your point guard and leader affects more than just the amount of points you score.  This team is still talented enough to not fall off in the Big East but they aren’t the contender they once were.
12. Virginia (14)
 The Cavaliers were able to breathe a little last week as they had Boston College and Georgia Tech on the schedule. They took down both opponents with ease and now get a matchup at Notre Dame on Tuesday before an oddly timed meeting with Villanova this weekend.
13. Notre Dame (13)
After losing at Florida State earlier last week, the Irish took it all out on a Syracuse team that is just reeling right now.  This game was clearly over by halftime as Mike Brey’s squad took control early and never looked back.
14. Butler (16)
The Bulldogs needed OT to get past Depaul on the road this weekend.  I just don’t understand why they seem to play down to their competition.  Two of their three losses are to teams they should have easily beaten and this game to Depaul was another head scratcher.  They better get things figured out over the final games of the regular season because you can’t have off nights in March.
15. Louisville (8)
This team can’t get Quentin Snyder back fast enough.  Freshman VJ King was a non-factor filling in for Snyder against the Noles.  The Cards host Pitt and then get NC State at home to finish out the week as they try to get back on track in conference play.
16. Duke (NR)
Jeff Capel’s move to come out of halftime with Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard on the bench might have saved their season.  I still have my doubts as to how good this group can be together but they’re the healthiest they’ve been all season now and have two very winnable games on the docket this week.

First Five Out

Wisconsin (16-3), West Virginia (15-4), Purdue (16-4), Xavier (14-5), Cincinnati (17-2)

Follow me on Twitter @CCroweNBADraft


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