It only makes sense that after a dull week, we see complete chaos amongst the top teams in the country. Half of the top 12 teams from last week’s Power 16 suffered a loss. With two top five teams losing to an unranked team this week, the grand total of unranked wins over AP Top 5 teams has grown to 10. To put in in perspective, last year there was no such cases at this point. After a wild week in the NCAA, here is this week’s Power 16 and Players of the Week.
1. Duke (13-1)
The Blue Devils continue to impress. This week they slaughtered Boston College 88-49 and Miami 95-62. Duke seems to be playing the best basketball we’ve seen all year, led by Vernon Carey. This is the deepest team Coach K has had in quite some time, being able to give 10 players significant time on the court, and should look to continue their dominance in the ACC with a couple sub-par teams coming up.
2. Gonzaga (16-1)
The Zags improved to 16-1 but not necessarily in the greatest fashion. Pepperdine gave the Bulldogs a run for their money, taking the game down to final seconds in a 75-70 final score. It’s likely that a handful of games like this may remain on the Gonzaga schedule, but if we’re being honest, this team should not lose another game this season.
3. Kansas (11-2)
Kansas only played once this week, but picked up a big win over what was a streaking West Virginia team. The Jayhawks don’t get much time to sit on the win as Iowa State and Baylor are right around the corner, and the latter game should determine the top dog in the Big 12.
4. Auburn (13-0)
Auburn just continues to move on up as everyone in front of them continues to lose. As SEC play begins, the Tigers will be tested more than they have been so far, but if the win over Mississippi State shows anything, it’s that this team is not a fluke. I like the Tigers to contend in the SEC and possibly win a conference title along the way.
5. Baylor (11-1)
The Bears added two wins over Jackson State and Texas this week. Currently, Baylor is in the conversation for best team in the Big 12, but two ranked matchups wait for the Bears, who will need to face off with Texas Tech and Kansas. It’s a huge week for Baylor who has a lot to gain, but a lot to lose.
6. Louisville (11-3)
The Cardinals have now lost back-to-back games after falling to Florida State on Saturday. Jordan Nwora needs help from his supporting cast if this team is going to be elite. As good as they can be, we’ve already seen the inconsistency that will likely hold them back from being as good as they can be.
7. Ohio State (11-3)
Ohio State has also now lost back-to-back games after losing to unranked Wisconsin. While things are looking down for the Buckeyes, an upcoming matchup with Maryland provides an immediate opportunity to bounce back in a big way. Ohio State is still one of the best in the Big Ten, but maybe we keep a closer eye on the team moving forward.
8. Michigan State (12-3)
Cassius Winston continues to build on his Player of the Year resume with a couple strong performances that led the Spartans over Illinois and Michigan this week. Michigan State led from start to finish against the Wolverines, proving that despite the early season struggles, you can never count out Tom Izzo and his team.
9. Kentucky (10-3)
Kentucky only played once this week and used a strong second half to pull away from Missouri. The SEC is a tightly-knit group and the Wildcats are more than capable of pulling away from the pack down the line. With a potential win over a surging Georgia team next week, it would be hard to call any team other than UK the favorite in the conference.
10. Maryland (12-2)
The Terps benefit pretty greatly despite playing only one game this week thanks to the chaos ahead of them. With so many teams losing and Maryland beating a solid Indiana team by 16, the team cracks the top ten. The team is a little thin for scoring outside of Anthony Cowen and Jalen Smith, but if the two continue to dominate the Terps shouldn’t have much of a problem staying in contention in the Big Ten.
11. Oregon (12-3)
Oregon is one of the hardest teams to rank in the country. They have wins over Memphis, Seton Hall and Michigan, but have now lost to Gonzaga, UNC and Colorado. The Ducks have the feeling of a gritty team that’s primed for success in the postseason, but also the feeling of a team that can lose to any team on a given night.
12. San Diego State (15-0)
SDSU got past what was likely the toughest remaining game on the schedule when they traveled to Utah State in a 9-point win. Advanced analytics seem to believe that the Aztecs are among the top teams in the country, but without having a signature win on the resume it’s tough to put them ahead of some of the battle tested teams.
13. Virginia (11-2)
In the first game of ACC play, Virginia held Virginia Tech to a measly 39 points. This marks the fifth time this season that the Cavaliers opponent failed to score more than 40 points in a game. I’ve been critical on the state of Virginia because of their offensive woes, but if this is a sustainable level of defense, maybe it wont matter.
14. Memphis (12-2)
Memphis lost for the first time since mid-November this week when Georgia came to town and won 65-62. I might be overreacting to one loss, but Georgia’s star players didn’t play too well and the Tigers were still unable to emerge with a win. Hopefully I’m wrong, but this could be the beginning of the end for Memphis.
15. Butler (14-1)
I’m finally showing Butler some love that they have deserved. The Bulldogs barely squeaked by St. John’s on New Year’s, but started the new year with a dominating win over Creighton. Being 14-1 and in control of the Big East is more than worthy of being in the Power 16 and with continued success shouldn’t have a hard time moving further up the list.
16. Penn State (12-2)
One of the bigger storylines this year has been how Penn State is in the rankings for the first time in over 20 years. The Nittany Lions took down Iowa in a shootout this week, giving them enough to crack into the bottom of the Power 16. Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins lead the team on both ends of the court and have now established themselves as threats in the Big Ten.
Next Five: Villanova, Florida State, Michigan, Dayton, Texas Tech
Players of the Week
1. Cassius Winston – Michigan State
Cassius Winston had two stellar outings which earn him the top spot for the Players of the Week. Against Illinois, he had 21 points on 7-for-14 shooting including 3-for-5 from deep, and added 6 assists and 4 boards. He then had a career night against Michigan, scoring a career best 32 points and contributing 9 assists as well.
2. Luka Garza – Iowa
Despite losing to Penn State, Luka Garza was a force in the paint. He shot 13-for-19 from the floor on his way to 32 points and 12 rebounds. Garza has been a regular on this list as he is averaging 22.5 points and 10.1 rebounds per game this season.
3. Erik Stevenson – Wichita State
As the Shockers climb into the AP Top 25, Erik Stevenson is playing some of his best basketball. In a contest against ECU, Stevenson led his team across the board with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. He built on his performance by dropping 29 points on 9-for-15 shooting against Ole Miss. He also had 6 rebounds and 3 steals.
4. Jordan Nwora – Louisville
Jordan Nwora and Garza had very similar weeks. They both played in one game, lost that game, but had a standout 32-point performance. Nwora also posted a double-double by adding 10 rebounds. He was scoring from all levels, shooting 11-for-15 overall and 5-for-6 from behind the arc.
5. Kaleb Wesson – Ohio State
Ohio State’s standout forward Kaleb Wesson had another good game to build on his already impressive season. In the loss to Wisconsin, Wesson had 22 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists and added a steal and a block. He shot 7-for-10 from the field and 7-for-9 from the free-throw line.