Not a lot of movement at the top as the big dogs are still slicing their way towards #1 seeds.  We are starting to see a few familiar faces make their way up in the rankings this week as teams are rounding in to form for their runs in March.

With just a handful of games left for each team before conference tournaments begin, "March Madness" looks like it has begun a week or so early with the way teams are getting after it in hopes of locking up seeding, or in some cases, a tournament spot.

Rank (Last week’s rank)
1. Gonzaga (1)
The Zags have one more true "test" left in the regular season, a home tilt against BYU Saturday evening.  If they take care of business in that one it will mean an undefeated regular season and the top overall seed in the WCC Tournament.  I’ve said since late December that this team would likely head into the Tournament unscathed and they look to be proving me right.
2. Villanova (2)
As we head into late February, the Wildcats are rounding into Championship form.  Not that they haven’t been one of the best teams in the country all season, but they’ve really kicked things into gear lately after a few losses in January.  They have one of, if not the best trio of guards in the country and will be the most dangerous team on this list come Tourney time.
3. Kansas (3)
Last week’s come from behind win at home against West Virginia was one for the ages.  Even when the Mountaineers were up 14 with just minutes left to play something told me not to change the channel.  It was likely WVU’s free throw percentage on the season but whatever it was, I’m glad I stuck with it.  Frank Mason was cold most of the game but attacked the basket at will when the team needed it most.
4. Arizona (5)
Sean Miller and company control their own destiny with regards to the Pac-12 Title.  They get both USC and UCLA at home this week.  Winning at those two all but seals their regular season Championship with their final game on the road at Arizona State while Oregon plays away from home in all three of their final games to close out conference play.
5. UCLA (7)
That loss at USC late in January is going to haunt this team as the season winds down.  They need a miracle in the final two weeks of the regular season to have any chance at winning the conference, including winning on the road at Arizona.  Lonzo Ball‘s Dad thinks his son is better than Steph Curry?  Well he better play like Steph over the team’s final four games.
6. Oregon (4)
The Pac-12 crown will come down to the wire.  Oregon is pulling for UCLA to knock off Arizona this weekend which, if the Ducks win out, will give them the top spot.  This team will play their remaining schedule on the road where all four of their losses have come, including one in Maui.  They need to take care of their own business first and foremost but also get a little help from the Bruins.
7. North Carolina (10)
Top team in the best conference in America.  The Heels almost made it look easy on Saturday against a suddenly reeling Virginia team.  Justin Jackson has been on a tear during conference play.  They have an extremely tough schedule down the stretch and could lose out on the ACC Championship if they can’t take down their arch rivals at the Dean Dome.
8. Louisville (9)
Here we are in the final stretch of conference play and Louisville is still a Top 10 team.  Never thought I would have said those words coming into the season but they’ve played better than I thought they would have and battled through some key injuries to do so.  They get a chance to unseat Carolina for tops in the league on Wednesday in what is the biggest game of the season for this team to this point.
9. Duke (15)
15-5 overall and 3-4 in conference play.  That’s where this team was late in January.  Since that point they’ve rattled off 7 straight, including wins at Notre Dame, home against UNC and at Virginia.  They are officially back and they have a shot at another ACC Championship if they can take care of business the rest of the way.  Jayson Tatum has been the best all around player on this team over this seven game stretch.
10. Kentucky (12)
Coach Cal’s message to his team should be really simple.  Win out and we win the SEC.  After a three game slide a few weeks ago, two of which were conference games, there were questions around how good this Kentucky team actually was.  Turnovers were a huge problem along with just bad shot selection.  Those will need to be corrected come the NCAA Tournament if this team doesn’t want to end up like last year’s team and get ousted early.
11. Baylor (8)
The Bears have lost four of their last six games, including two to Kansas during that stretch.  That six game span has dropped them completely out of Big 12 title contention and has them looking for answers as we head into the season’s final weeks.  If it weren’t for Virginia the Bears would be the team on the biggest slide at the wrong time of the season.
12. Florida (16)
The Gators are riding an eight game winning streak at the right time and control their own destiny in the SEC.  They have a tough final two weeks with games against South Carolina, at Kentucky and at Vandy to close out the regular season.  I don’t see them slipping against any team but Kentucky.  Rupp is a hard place to go and get a win and the Wildcats know how big that game could be for NCAA Tournament seeding.
13. Cincinnati (13)
Cincy isn’t as battle tested as I want teams to be heading into March but you can’t overlook their record and how well they’ve played all season. Their OOC leaves a lot to be desired but they do own wins over Iowa State, Xavier and SMU.  Had they taken down the Mustangs on the road last week then I might have bought in a little more. Teams like this are extremely hard to gauge as we start thinking about how far they could go in the Tournament.
14. Wisconsin (6)
The Badgers lost two of three last week while failing to score 60 points in both of their losses. They salvaged what could have been a disastrous week by taking out Maryland on Sunday.  Purdue owns the tie breaker against them so they need the Boilermakers to drop one of their final four games, which I think they will. 
15. Purdue (NR)
Matt Painter’s team has made quite the little run to get them back in the drivers’ seat in the Big 10.  Caleb Swanigan has a nine game double double streak going and has effectively put this team on his back lately.  With their size and ability to score from inside out, this team will be a tough out come March.
16. West Virginia (NR)
Bob Huggins had a health scare on Monday night in the team’s win against Texas.  Early reports indicate that he will be just fine but his presence on the bench, or lack thereof, could be a bit story line over the final few weeks.  That loss to Kansas I referenced above could have taken the wind out of this team’s sails but they made sure they didn’t have a hangover and took out both Texas and Texas Tech at home to right the ship.

First Five Out

Notre Dame (21-7), Florida State (21-6), St. Mary’s (24-3), SMU (24-4), Butler (21-6)

Follow me on Twitter @CCroweNBADraft


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