It’s March and what a more fitting way to start the month off than with some madness. From last week’s rankings 9 of the 16 teams couldn’t avoid a loss this week which resulted in a lot of shakeups this week. There’s just one week remaining in the regular season which means there are a ton of rivalry games and games that will decide regular season conference championships. March is here and I couldn’t be happier.
All the commotion was hard to take in, but it was probably just a warmup of what’s to come. With all that’s happened here’s this week’s Power 16 and Players of the Week.
Rank (Last week’s rank)
1. Virginia (1)
|A lot of people would argue that Gonzaga is more deserving for the number one spot but I think it’s pretty clear cut for Virginia. Both teams have two losses, but one plays in the ACC and one plays it the WCC. The Cavaliers have beaten every team they’ve faced not named Duke and added a pair of blowouts to their resume this week. With Syracuse and Louisville remaining on the schedule, UVA should be able to end the regular season with a 28-2 record.|
2. Gonzaga (2)
|Gonzaga played near perfect basketball for the last multiple months of the regular season. Their last loss was Dec. 15 to UNC, but to be fair it was the last real competition they faced. But then again, they beat every team by at least 12 points. I could talk myself in and out about the Bulldogs all day long on if they’re a national contender or not, but when it comes down to it, they’ve given no real season of concern.|
3. North Carolina (5)
|Two close games for the Tar Heels this week, but two wins nonetheless. As UNC continues to push forward towards that coveted 1 seed, they still have a tough road ahead. North Carolina will have their highly anticipated rematch against Duke on Saturday before playing possibly multiple top-five teams in the country in the ACC Tournament. UNC is a team to keep an eye on as they’ve been playing fantastic basketball as of late.|
4. Duke (1)
|The case of the Duke Blue devils really comes down to how much you want to value losses without arguably the best player in the country Zion Williamson. In my eyes, it doesn’t matter how talented your team is, you can’t be the same without your best player. It’s definitely worrisome how bad an offense can look at times just because of one guy, but Zion should return soon in which the Blue Devils hope to make a statement in their rematch against UNC.|
5. Tennessee (6)
|After just a two-point win over Ole Miss early in the week, Tennessee made the statement of the weekend with a blowout of SEC contender Kentucky. It’s crazy how just a few weeks back it was Kentucky who blew out the Vols, but I think that sums up the SEC season pretty well. Maybe I’m a victim of recency bias but I find it hard to believe that Tennessee isn’t one of the most dangerous teams in the country.|
6. Kentucky (4)
|Like I said, Kentucky was embarrassed on Saturday by Tennessee. The SEC has been a dog fight between the Wildcats, Vols, and LSU and it’s legitimately too close to call. You get the sense that Kentucky and Tennessee are very similar in talent and that’s why I have them both at No. 5 and 6 in these rankings. The SEC Tournament should give us a better idea on who’s truly the best team moving into March Madness.|
7. Texas Tech (10)
|Texas Tech was able to emerge from OT victorious against Oklahoma State before handling TCU easily to cap off the week. The Red Raiders are leading the Big 12 despite the ups and downs the team has had and will look to finish off the year with a pair of wins against Texas and Iowa State to end Kansas streak of regular season conference titles. Texas Tech has the capabilities to make a deep push in the post-season but have proven their liable to an upset at seemingly any time.|
8. Michigan State (8)
|Tom Izzo can’t seem to catch a break down the stretch of the season. This week, they opened with a huge win over Michigan but then faltered at the hands of Indiana for the second time this season. The Spartans will get a chance to prove what they can be once again as they close the year off with a clash against Michigan. This team is great, but they need to be more consistent.|
9. LSU (13)
|LSU fans could finally relax as they had their only game of February where the game wasn’t decided by 5 or less points when they beat Texas A&M by 11. However, they went right back to the 5-point games against Alabama. How you decide to value the constant close games is up to you, but keep in mind that LSU is one Tennessee loss away from winning the SEC regular season championship.|
10. Marquette (7)
|Marquette seemed primed to win what I called, “The only Big East game anybody cares about” but a 4-minute scoreless streak in the final 5 minutes cost the Golden Eagles the game and gave Villanova the win. They also fell to Creighton is what made for the Golden Eagles worst week of the season. Marquette is essentially a two-man show between Markus Howard and Sam Hauser so it’s safe to say they will be able to go as far as they can take them.|
11. Purdue (16)
|All the talk in Big Ten play has been about Michigan and Michigan State. Well here we are and Purdue is the sole leader in the Big Ten standings. The Boilermakers have been quiet all season, which means it would only make sense if they went off and made a push to the Elite Eight or even further. One thing is for sure, Carsen Edwards will do everything in his power to lead this team to a title.|
12. Michigan (12)
|There is reason for concern for Michigan fans. While the season as a whole has been fantastic, the Wolverines ply as of late has been questionable. Three of the teams four losses were in the month of February which was capped off by a loss to Michigan State. They were able to come back and start March off on a strong note with a win over Maryland but all eyes will be set on this Saturday when they play Michigan State once again.|
13. Houston (9)
|Houston did something that we hadn’t seen in a while. Lose. While UCF is a good team for mid-major standards, when you’re ranked in the top ten, there’s no room for error. The Cougars will get to play Cincinnati, who is actually a very respectable team, so they will get a chance to show they’re not slipping up as the season is coming to a close.|
14. Virginia Tech (NR)
|The Hokies had just one game this week, but they made the most out of it. Beating Duke is always a monumental action, even if it is without one of their players. The whole argument against Virginia Tech is that they don’t have great wins, well here you go. They still have to face Florida State before post season play begins so we get another chance to see whether or not this team is real.|
15. Florida State (NR)
|This entire season I’ve been saying that Florida State is the same team as Virginia Tech. Not because of play style but because of resume. They are both teams who have some decent wins but can’t seem to win the big games. Va. Tech handled that, but the Seminoles still have yet to really check that box. These two team will play this week where I can decide which is the superior team once and for all.|
16. Nevada (11)
|Not a good look for the Wolfpack. When you don’t play a ranked team all year, you can’t lose three games and expect people to think you’re a legit title contender. I sat Nevada at the 16-spot because you get the sense that they’re good but maybe they’re just bored. Regardless, the Wolfpack are walking on thin ice and really cannot afford another slip up.|
Next Five: Cincinnati (25-4), Buffalo (26-3), Kansas (22-7), Kansas State (22-7), Washington (22-6)
Top Five Players of the Week
1. Coby White – North Carolina
The freshman point guard continued his campaign for best point guard in the country with a week where points were coming in bunches. Against Syracuse, White raked in 34 points on 9-16 shooting including 6-11 from behind the arc. He then, believe it or not, went 9-16 shooting and 6-11 from three AGAIN against Clemson on his way to 28 points. The only difference was 10-10 from the free throw line compared to 4-6.
2. Dedric Lawson – Kansas
Dedric Lawson has been the one consistent bright spot for a Jayhawk team that has seen a lot of struggles. The likely Big-12 player of the year recorded 18 points and 14 rebounds in a huge win over Kansas State to keep the Kansas streak alive. He followed up with another impressive performance in which he tallied 20 points to go along with 15 boards against Oklahoma State.
3. Ja Morant – Murray State
Debatably the most electric player in college basketball, Murray State’s Ja Morant had another spectacular week. He started with a triple-double against Morehead State as he filled the stat sheet with 11-10-10 and then went for 27 points and 13 assists against Austin Peay. It seems like this man can do no wrong and even when he’s not shooting well, he’s still the most important player on the court.
4. Carsen Edward – Purdue
It’s not news that Carsen Edwards is a warrior on the hardwood. This week he just gave us a little reminder. He scored 23 points in a win over Illinois and started March off on the right foot as he poured in 25 points on 9-16 shooting. Keep an eye on Edwards and the Boilermakers moving forward.
5. [Fletcher Magee] – Wofford
Fletcher Magee may be a familiar name to people who remember Wofford from 2015 in his freshman season in the NCAA Tournament. Against Chattanooga, Magee hit 5 threes on his way to 18 points before going for a season-high 36 points against Samford. The senior hit eight three’s and shot 13-21 overall from the field.