By Josh Cochran, Joel Steiner and Adi Joseph
NCAA Power 16: March 1st

It is approximately three weeks until the first round of the NCAA Tournament and just over a month until the Final Four in Indianapolis.  Since expansion of the NCAA Tournament two teams from the same conference have played for the National Championship twice, but it has not happened in the past two decades.  The last time this feat was achieved was 1988 when Kansas and Okalahoma met for the Championship.  Last year two Big East squads made the Final Four, but Villanova and UCONN both lost in the National Semifinal.  Let’s take a look at the prospects of this happening this year by examining the top five contenders as ranked by Conference RPI. 

Conference: Big XII

Contenders: Kansas, Kansas State

Dark Horse Team: Texas A & M

Probability:  Less than 10%.  Not enough tournament experience from teams not named Kansas for this to happen. 

Conference: Big East

Contenders: Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia

Dark Horse Team: Georgetown

Probability:  Less than 25%.  Villanova and Georgetown are too inconsistent right now to think they could win five games in a row.  A Syracuse / West Virginia championship game is probably the most likely scenario from any conference.   

Conference: ACC

Contenders: Duke

Dark Horse Team: Maryland

Probability: Less than 0% if that’s possible.  Surprisingly Duke and UNC have not met over the past 15 years in the Final Four.  When your best road win is Florida State you probably are not a Final Four team. Sorry Maryland.     

Conference: SEC

Contenders: Kentucky

Dark Horse Team: Tennessee

Probability:  Less than 5%.  Kentucky belongs in Indy but one youthful night in March could send them home.  Tennessee can play with anybody, as they have proven, but without Tyler Smith they just don’t have enough weapons.  

Conference: Big Ten

Contenders: Michigan State, Ohio State

Dark Horse: Purdue, Wisconsin

Chances:  Less than 5%. Michigan State is always a threat because of Izzo, but Purdue without Hummel hurts the Big Ten’s chances.  So who do you count on?   My guess is a super human effort from Evan Turner is the only chance for the Big Ten.     

What this says is that there is tremendous balance throughout college basketball this season.  We’re as likely to see a team from a non-BCS conference make the Final Four as we are to see two teams from the same league in the championship game.  Now on to the last Power 16 of the regular season…

Rank (Last Week)
1. Syracuse (3)
We’ve discussed our affection for this team over the last two months and the Orange showed the country why by putting on a clinic versus Villanova on Saturday night. They have a legitimate star in Wesley Johnson, are incredibly balanced on offense, and they’re executing the 2-3 zone as well as any team in Jim Boeheim’s tenure. Syracuse has clinched a share of the Big East title, and it returns to #1 in the Power 16 for the second time this season.
2. Kansas (1)
The Jayhawks’ undefeated Big 12 season has come to an end. Oklahoma State, led by James Anderson, blitzed KU in the game’s first 30 minutes. Give Bill Self’s club credit as it battled back, but the deficit was too much to overcome. Though the Jayhawks’ defense let them down in Stillwater, it’s still one of the best in the country. At the end of the day, there’s no need to panic in Lawrence. After all, Kansas lost at Oklahoma State late in the 2008 season. It was the last loss of the year for Kansas, as the Jayhawks went on to win the national title.
3. Kentucky (2)
The Wildcats have played with fire on the road in SEC play, and they got burned Saturday at Tennessee. Despite a dismal shooting performance and a 19-point second-half deficit, Big Blue managed to tie the game in the final few minutes. That game could serve as a valuable lesson for John Calipari’s young ball club. Expect them to regroup and run through the SEC tournament.
4. Duke (7)
Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer buried Virginia on Sunday with little help from their teammates. But what makes Duke so dangerous this season is its depth, particularly in the frontcourt. Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek and the Plumlee brothers give Coach K a true, blue-collar group of bigmen, something he hasn’t had to work with since the 1990s. Wednesday, they head to Maryland. Should they win, they will lock up the ACC title, but nothing is guaranteed in College Park, particularly with the way Greivis Vasquez has been playing of late.
5. Kansas State (5)
Since losing to Kansas on Jan. 30, the Wildcats have ripped off a seven-game winning streak. Wednesday night, Kansas State travels to Lawrence to face the Jayhawks. It’s not clear if this is a Final Four-quality team. Questions remain about streaky Denis Clemente and an unheralded frontcourt. But if they should win at Kansas, needless to say, people will take the Wildcats very seriously.
6. Villanova (3)
All of a sudden Villanova has lost four of seven with a trip to desperate Cincinnati and a home date against West Virginia this week. Right now, this is not an elite team. Syracuse embarrassed the Wildcats on the boards Saturday night, and the length of the Orangemen bothered Villanova’s shooters. The defense is clearly lagging behind the offense right now, and the high foul rate certainly doesn’t help matters.
7. Ohio State (8)
The Buckeyes had a workmanlike week with a road win against Penn State and a home win against Michigan. The biggest question about this team is depth. The Buckeyes catch a break as they play one game this week, against Illinois on Wednesday, followed by a 10-day layoff before the Big Ten Quarterfinals. But Thad Matta has shown little hesitation keeping his four talented wings on the court for 40 minutes a game, which really poses serious questions come NCAA Tournament time. Still, a share of the Big Ten title is within reach if they take care of Illinois at home and Michigan State and Purdue each drop one of two.
8. West Virginia (10)
This team needs to stop falling behind by double-digits early in games. It’s okay to do it when you play an average team at home, but you can’t do it against a desperate team like Connecticut on the road.  Da’Sean Butler had scored in double figures in every game of 2010, until this week, when he shot a combined 6-of-22 from the field, scoring nine against Connecticut and eight against Cincinnati. He will need to get going as the Mountaineers finish out one of the nation’s toughest schedules by hosting Georgetown and traveling to Villanova.
9. New Mexico (14)
One word will describe this team next month: “Dangerous.” The Lobos have won 13 in a row and have clinched the conference title after winning at BYU. Star wing Darington Hobson is right behind Evan Turner among the country’s most versatile players. He leads his team in points, rebounds and assists. Hobson was a man among boys in Provo on Saturday where he scored 20 points, collected 14 rebounds and dished out 4 assists. And he’s not alone, joined by another potential all-Mountain West star, senior Roman Martinez.
10. Michigan State (10)
The Spartans lost three straight to start February, as Kalin Lucas was injured during the Wisconsin game, missed the Illinois game and came off the bench at home against Purdue. Lucas is healthy again, and Michigan State has won three of its last four. When Raymar Morgan plays like he did against Purdue, when he had 16 points and 11 rebounds, few teams can match Tom Izzo’s squad.
11. BYU (12)
The Cougars lost a tough home game to New Mexico Saturday and can do no better than second in the league. Jimmer Fredette was nonexistent, scoring six points and attempting just seven shots. It will be interesting to see where this team is seeded with a 4-4 record against the RPI top 50. If they want a top four seed, the Cougars will probably need to win the Mountain West tournament. Still, Saturday was BYU’s first home loss, and the team appears elite at times. Right now, New Mexico’s better. But if Fredette heats up, it’s entirely possible this team could unseat a higher seed or two come Tournament time.
12. Butler (13)
Over the past four seasons Butler has won the Horizon four times, but never with an undefeated record until now. What was more impressive was winning at Valpo without their best player, Gordon Heyward, and with their second star, Matt Howard, sick.. It must be nice to be able to rest your players with tweaks when you are dominating league play. Every bubble team in the country is rooting for the Bulldogs in their conference tournament, which should be very competitive with Wright State and Wisconsin Green Bay posing the greatest risk.
13. Purdue (4)
No team has received such ghastly news as Purdue this season: Robbie Hummel is likely out for the season. To put this in perspective, including Sunday’s home loss to Michigan State, the Boilermakers are 2-5 without Hummel in his three years in Wes Lafayette, Ind. The two wins came last year against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Penn State. Now, Purdue actually could still win the Big Ten regular season title. Their final two games come at home against Indiana and at Penn State. But Hummel’s injury against Minnesota, in which he tore his ACL, is a major loss for a team that looked like a true title contender.
14. Tennessee (NR)
There may be no more difficult team to judge. Take, for instance, this past week. The Volunteers are spanked by bubble team Florida 75-62 on the road, but return home to slip past then-No. 2 Kentucky. They’ve beaten Kentucky and Kansas, but were also blown out at Southern Cal and Georgia. We know this team, even without Tyler Smith — and you could make an argument they’ve been better without him — can beat anyone in the country. It’s just a matter of showing up, at this point.
15. Wisconsin (16)
Jon Leuer is back, and looking like himself. And that makes Wisconsin a very, very good team. The pummeling the Badgers put on Indiana Thursday night was brutal. They took a 39-22 lead into the locker room, then came back out and put up a 39-24 second half. With a healthy Leuer, who is probably this team’s best player, Wisconsin could emerge as a legitimate Final Four threat. Bo Ryan has yet to crack the NCAA Tournament’s third, and final, weekend. But this may be the year.
16. Temple (NR)
Owls coach Fran Dunphy will have made the NCAA Tournament nine times in the last 12 years after this season ends. Considering eight of those 12 seasons were in a one-bid league (at Penn in the Ivy League), that’s pretty impressive. Dunphy’s a star coach, and Temple is closing in on its first Atlantic-10 regular season title since 2000. The Owls do have a challenge ahead at Saint Louis, but should they top the hot Billikens, the title ought to be wrapped up Saturday at home against George Washington. Still, the Owls are a tough team to read. Clearly a very good regular-season team, they may lack the star power to shine at the end of this month.

The Next Five: UTEP, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Georgetown.  

Games to Watch:

Monday March 1st

Georgetown at West Virginia – The Big East’s third and fifth place teams will battle in Morgantown with conference tournament seeding on the line. Both teams have looked like Final Four contenders at times, while looking like early round exit candidates on occasion. The Mountaineers need Devin Ebanks to continue his recent string of solid games as he’s averaging 16 points and 8 rebounds over the last six games. They also need to refocus on the defensive end. Meanwhile, Greg Monroe has been on a seven-game tear of his own as he’s averaged 18.3 points and 8.4 rebounds.

Tuesday March 2nd

UTEP at Marshall – The Miners will look to wrap up the C-USA regular season title when they travel to Huntington. Pay attention to this UTEP squad, because they have talent. Derrick Caracter and Arnett Moultrie are future pros, but the dynamic Randy Culpepper is one of the most exciting players in the country. They’ll have their hands full with Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Wilkerson from the Thundering Herd.

Villanova at Cincinnati – The Bearcats are desperate and they have to win this game against Villanova in order to keep their at-large chances alive. Mick Cronin’s team enters the week 7-9 in the Big East with Villanova and Georgetown on the docket. Sub .500 conference records normally do not play well with the selection committee. Meanwhile, ‘Nova will try to regroup after the pounding they took at Syracuse last weekend. Don’t expect Cincinnati to catch ‘Nova napping, because the Wildcats need a win in order to maintain the #2 seed in the Big East.

Wednesday March 3rd

Kansas State at Kansas – The Wildcats head to Lawrence looking to avenge last month’s OT loss to the Jayhawks. Frank Martin’s team is known for its aggressiveness, both offensively and defensively. This style leads to fouls, and lots of them. In their last meeting, the two teams shot a combined 55 free throws. KU outscored K-State by 7 at the line in that game, which was the difference in a tight contest. Expect FTs to be the difference in this one as well and expect the Jayhawks to continue their home winning streak.

Duke at Maryland – Revenge is the theme of the evening, as the Terps look for pay back against Duke. The ACC regular season title is on the line and it will be the final home game for senior PG, Greivis Vasquez. He will need some help if the Terps plan to pull the upset. In their last meeting, Vasquez’ teammates only shot 32.6% from the field. If Landon Milbourne, Cliff Tucker and Jordan Williams can step up and if the Terps can limit one of Duke’s Big Three, they’ll have a chance to win.

Thursday March 4th

Dayton at Richmond – We haven’t featured the A10 very often in our Power 16 column this year, but this conference is for real. Current bracket projections include four teams from the conference with Dayton on the bubble. That’s why this is a game to watch. Richmond is still fighting for a share of the league title, while Dayton desperately needs a quality road victory to boost its at-large chances.

Saturday March 6th

West Virginia at Villanova – Before the season started many pundits believed this game would determine the Big East champion. Unfortunately, both WVU and Villanova have disappointed down the stretch and Syracuse has claimed the conference crown. That being said, these are still Final Four candidates fighting for seeding in both the Big East and NCAA tournaments. ‘Nova torched the Mountaineers on the offensive end when they met last month in Morgantown. The bigger surprise was the +10 rebounding edge for the Wildcats. If WVU can’t correct the defensive and rebounding deficiencies, the Wildcats will lock up the #2 seed in the Big East tournament.

Texas at Baylor – What happened to Texas?’s own, Adi Joseph, warned us that the Longhorns were not long for their #1 ranking in mid-January. However, I’m not sure that even he expected them to lose 7 of their next 12 games. Dexter Pittman has cost himself a lot of money during conference play as 6.6 points and 5 rebounds per game are not going to help his draft stock. Meanwhile, Baylor has been a pleasant surprise. They have a chance to earn the #3 seed in the Big 12 tournament with a win in this one.

Sunday March 7th

Florida at Kentucky – This is a huge opportunity for the Gators to lock up a NCAA tournament berth, while the Wildcats will be looking to clinch an outright SEC title. UK dominated the last match up in Gainesville as Eric Bledsoe broke out with 25 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Coach Calipari should have his team’s full attention after the loss at Tennessee, so expect the Wildcats to be focused coming into this one.

Wisconsin at Illinois – The Illini have a solid 10-6 Big Ten conference record heading into the last week of the regular season, but they are making it difficult for the selection committee to include them in the 65-team field. A home loss to Minnesota last weekend was devastating and Bruce Weber’s squad needs at least a split against Ohio State and Wisconsin this week. The Badgers will be looking for revenge for their only home loss of the season, which came at the hands of the Illini. Bo Ryan’s squad is gaining steam since the return of Jon Leuer and will look to carry a five-game winning streak into the Big Ten tournament.

Follow Joel and Josh on Twitter at NBADRAFTNETJJ.

Questions or comments, email Joel and Josh at: [email protected] and [email protected]



  1. Brian Zoubek
    I can’t believe this website has Zoubek goind undrafted. He is a legit 7’1, with a good work ethic and decent touch. He’ll be at least as good as Aaron Gray and in my opinion way better then Jerome Jordan. I’m sure some team in the 2nd round will take him considering his size. This website gives to much credit to youngsters with raw potential, and they overlook skilled players that lack potential. They have Hassan Whiteside in the top 5, just like they had DeAndre Jordan top 5, and he ended up in the secound round… A couple years ago they had James Anderson as a future top 5, just like they have Alec Burc as a future top 5 now. To throw it back even further, they used to have JR Giddens as a top 5 pick… I just feel like cats like Tony Douglass, and Marcus Thornton (last draft), and Quincy Pondexter and Jimmer Fredette are overlooked by this website…

    • Marcus Thornton

      Smurfy you are entitled to your opinion but a lot of the things you are suggesting are incorrect, in fact way off base.  To say that this site neglected to mention Marcus Thornton is false.  Here is an interview that this site conducted with Thornton prior to the 2009 draft .  In fact was the only site to list Thornton on a mock draft going into his senior year in college. And he was a high second rounder for much of his senior year and much higher than anyone else listed him. Fredette has a profile and has been mentioned in Aran’s stock watch. O’Bryant was listed as a top 10 pick, NEVER a potential #1 pick, as other draft pundits claimed.  

      What this site attempts to do is gather relevant information they have on players and pass it on to the readers.  For that reason Aran talked about the concerns teams have with Cousins.  "Meds" questions aside, his attitude on the court is very Michael Beasley-esque and he has basketball related history that when frustrated he can lose control and act out his aggression.  I think Cousins is a great talent as Aran has said, but he was relaying information that teams have concerns with his emotional maturity and there will obviously be team background checks on it.

  2. It’s not only this site that
    It’s not only this site that has Zoubek going undrafted. I think most sites and most scouts have Zoubek going undrafted. I like Zoubek, he’s got heart. And size. But it pretty much stops there. He hasn’t developed an offensive game at all while at Duke and he looks very awkward and stiff when he tries to post up and score. I suspect he’ll have a much harder time scoring against NBA players, even when matched up against somebody shorter. He also severely lacks agility and foot speed.

    All in all, I don’t think you can expect a guy who averages 5ppg and 6rpg to make the jump to the NBA. I think his basketball IQ and general work ethic will earn him a spot in Europe.

    And to criticize this website and its writers because they expected JR Giddens or DeAndre Jordan to be a top 5 pick at some point in time is just unreasonable. Rankings and evaluations of draft prospects will always change as people get more chances to see the players’ performances and assess their abilities first-hand. There are also unforeseen circumstances like injuries, transfers, attitude problems and other things of that nature that affects players’ draft positions.

    • You make a good point
      You make a good point, draft stock is always on the rise and fall. But I just think takes too many longshots believing in guys like Patrick O’Bryant, JR Giddens, and overlook cats like Stephen Curry trying to hit gold on longshots. That being said, they make alot of gambles and predicitions and look like genius’s sometimes, ala Wes Johnson or Blake Griffin. The writer’s here are high quality, i just don’t agree all the time. Like what they said last week about Cousins, without much warrant!

      • Marcus Johnson
        I remember a couple years back, they were the only draft website that even had a Marcus Johnson profile. He was a former freshman wing for UCONN, and they had him going top 5(maybe even top 3)! While every other draft website I go to didn’t even have a profile for him. He stats weren’t eye-popping and(there wasn’t much warrant behind that consideration. That is what I mean by long shot predicitions and gambles. I think they overhyped him because of his youth and athleticism, and they have a tendendacy to do that: trying to hit gold on young athletic players, calling them the next great thing, so they can say I told you so, much like the do quite frequently(ala Wes Johnson and Blake Griffin). But then again they hit on alot of their gamble predictions, and I would probably take credit for my insight if I was knowledgable as the writer’s are here.

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