The regular season is over and we are heading into the postseason on a high note. Rivalries and conference championships were settled this week in what turned out to be an extremely eventful slate of college basketball. UNC and Michigan State completed the sweeps of their rivals while Marquette has now dropped four straight.
When all the dust settled, ten teams featured in last week’s rankings suffered losses which resulted in some major shakeups in the Power 16. As the regular season is officially concluded, here are this week’s Power 16 and Players of the Week.
Rank (Last week’s rank)
1. Virginia (1)
|I’m running out of things to say about how great this team is. With all the hype around Duke and UNC throughout the year, Virginia has once again become the best team in the ACC. Essentially becoming the San Antonio Spurs of the college basketball world, with no player accruing spectacular stats or even having a clear-cut “star player” the Cavaliers have developed an efficient and team-based style of play that has proved to be near unbeatable. UVA has got to be the favorite to cut down the nets after yet another season of with spectacular results.|
2. Gonzaga (2)
|Gonzaga was watching from home this week as the WCC ended regular season play a week ago. The Bulldogs cruised through the second half of the season, dominating every team that crossed their path. The Zags will look to continue their stretch of elite play straight through the WCC tournament and into March Madness where they hope to be the ones basking under the rain of confetti.|
3. North Carolina (3)
|The Tar Heels concluded their season sweep of Duke this week with a 79-70 win at the Dean Dome. With a resume as good as any team in the country and now a shar of the regular season ACC title, North Carolina is as dangerous as they come. The ACC tournament will bring many more challenges to Roy Williams and his team but if they continue to play like they have as of late, they will be on the fast-track to the championship game.|
4. Kentucky (6)
|The SEC was a straight-up battlefield this year. Kentucky battled back and forth with Tennessee and LSU all season to make up one of the most evenly matched conferences I’ve seen in years. I do believe that Kentucky, when playing at their best, is the best of the bunch. Fighting for a one seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats should look to make that last statement in the SEC Tournament to secure their spot as one of the top four teams in the country.|
5. Texas Tech (7)
|The once-forgotten team that is Texas Tech as been able to move back up the rankings as they’ve avoided a loss as seemingly every other team as faltered in the last month or so of the season. The Red Raiders defense has returned to early-season form and more importantly, the offense is at its best. Despite losing three straight games in mid-January, Chris Beard and his team seem primed to make a deep run in the upcoming month.|
6. Michigan State (8)
|Despite some late season struggles, Michigan State was able to finish off the season sweep of in-state rival Michigan with a comeback win on Saturday. I’ve said all year that the Spartans are built perfectly for a deep run in March, with experience and talent at every position, but they needed to be more consistent. For a team that seems to play their best when playing good teams, maybe they will lock-in more with the biggest stretch of play approaching quickly.|
7. Duke (4)
|TEven though Duke is widely regarded as one of the most talented teams in the nation even without Zion Williamson, his presence on the court, or in this case off the court, has proven to be crucial. Since Williamson’s injury, the Blue Devils have not been the same team. With just a one-point win over Wake Forest and another loss to UNC this week, there is major reason for concern. Luckily for Duke fans, Williamson is set to return for ACC Tournament play and hopefully the dominant brand of basketball will return as Coach K gears up for another championship run.|
8. Tennessee (5)
|The former number one team in the country seems to have lost its steam in the conversation of the best team, but still should be respected as a championship contender. Coming off of a win over Kentucky, nobody expected Auburn to pose any threat to the Volunteers, but that’s college basketball for you. I’m sure that Tennessee will use this loss as motivation moving forward into postseason play in which they will attempt to prove they are the SEC’s best.|
9. LSU (9)
|Amidst all the drama that is the recruiting scandal, LSU was able to emerge as regular season SEC champions. There’s a sense of doubt about the Tigers, but don’t get it twisted, this team is legit. They don’t blow teams out, but they win games and that’s what truly matters. How big of an impact the loss of coach Will Wade is, is yet to be seen, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on moving on.|
10. Florida State (15)
|The Seminoles picked up a big win over Virginia Tech in overtime this week. That win solidified FSU as the number four team in the ACC behind the big three of UNC, Duke and UVA. The ACC ended up being pretty top-heavy but that doesn’t mean that Florida State isn’t a threat to opposing teams. This team has talent and depth that should give them an advantage over some of the opposition going forward.|
11. Houston (13)
|Houston closed out the season strong with a win over Cincinnati and claimed an AAC conference title on the way. Houston’s strength is schedule is shaky for sure but emerging from the regular season with just two losses is nothing to scoff at. Are the Cougars legit contenders? Probably not. But they can definitely bust some brackets for the doubters.|
12. Michigan (12)
|Considering how the Wolverines started the year, the conclusion of the season may be a bit disappointing, but the season overall is a definite success. Michigan was unable to best MSU to close off the campaign but that will likely be inspiration for them to play their best during the postseason.|
13. Purdue (11)
|Purdue quietly earned themselves a share of the regular season Big Ten crown. Carsen Edwards is an absolute warrior who leads the teams and Ryan Cline and Matt Haarms play the secondary role very well. The Boilermakers are a dangerous team as they have the capability to go off on any given night. Look out for this team.|
14. Nevada (16)
|It’s no secret that I’m Nevada’s biggest hater. The Wolfpack couldn’t even win the Mountain West Conference outright as they shared the title with Utah State. And while most people are looking down on the team for the whole postgame locker room scuffle situation, that is exactly the emotion I want to see from a team who needs a spark to really compete with the top dogs. We’ll see if it’s enough soon.|
15. Buffalo (NR)
|Buffalo has some playmakers on the team. CJ Massinburg and Nick Perkins can score at will and as a team play some solid defense. The Bulls are for sure a team to watch out for but also have proven to prone to off-nights that they will not be able to overcome against some of the better teams out there.|
16. Kansas State (NR)
|The Wildcats took a share of the Big 12 title, helping end Kansas’ streak. Kansas State was able to overcome all obstacles as it seems like they were playing at least one man down for the entire year. What this team has been able to accomplish is astounding and when they’re healthy and can put it all together the Wildcats are a force to be reckoned with.|
Next Five: Virginia Tech (23-7), Wisconsin (22-9), Kansas (23-8), Marquette (23-8), Wofford (28-4)
Top Five Players of the Week
1. Myles Powell – Seton Hall
Myles Powell was the key to the upsets of two ranked teams this week. Seton Hall was able to take down both Marquette and Villanova on the back of Powell. The junior guard went off for 34 points on 11-25 shooting and added 5 rebounds and 5 assists to best Marquette. Against Villanova, Powell led the team in scoring once again with 20 points and once again contributed elsewhere as he tallied 7 rebounds and 5 assists.
2. Ethan Happ – Wisconsin
The Wooden Player of the Year hopeful had yet another week of excellence. On just 11 shots, Happ hit 5 shots on his way to 21 points and was his normal self on the glass by bringing in 14 boards. He continued his work in an OT win over Ohio State where he nearly posted a triple-double with a stat line of 16 points, 14 rebounds, and 8 assists.
3. Ja Morant – Murray State
A familiar face in Ja Morant graces the Player of the Week page once again. In the conference semifinal, Morant finished with 29 points on 9-14 shooting while dishing out 8 assists and grabbing 6 boards. The potential No. 1 pick in the draft then launched his team into the NCAA Tournament with 36 points on 13-25 from the field while adding 7 rebounds and a pair of blocks.
4. Luke Maye – North Carolina
Luke Maye started off the week with a 17-point performance and grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds in the process. Maye also dished out 5 assists. Then, against Duke, while he was relatively quiet in the scoring column, he more than made up for it in other aspects of the game. He finished with 7 points but added 7 assists and came down with another 16 rebounds.
5. RJ Barrett – Duke
Despite Duke as a team having a forgetful week, you could find RJ Barrett on the stat sheet. In a one-point win he went for 28 points and also recorded 5 rebounds and 4 assists. In the rivalry game against UNC, Barrett finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds while adding another 4 assists on the week. Barrett hasn’t always been the most efficient in his scoring, but he gets his points nonetheless.