New year, same crazy college basketball. We’re down to one unbeaten team remaining in the nation (New Mexico) thanks to another shocking upset and if it wasn’t clear before that the national championship is wide open for the taking, it surely is now. With only one college football game left, all eyes will turn to basketball soon enough and those fans certainly won’t be disappointed.
1. Houston (14-1)
While Houston doesn’t exactly belong in a conference as weak as the American, there will be nights where they are pushed to the brink and Saturday was one of those nights. Great teams find a way to win no matter the circumstances and Kelvin Sampson’s bunch made it clear that they can get wins even on their off nights.
2. Kansas (12-1)
No bench player averages more than four points, but the starting lineup in Lawrence is as good as they come in the country, which gives them the chance to become the first repeat national champion since 2006-07. Gradey Dick (pictured) continues to be one of the nation’s most impressive freshmen.
3. Purdue (13-1)
Purdue entered the New Year with an undefeated record for the first time since the 2009-10 season, but Rutgers promptly put an end to that unbeaten run. The week won’t get any easier as they travel to Columbus and The Palestra to play Ohio State and Penn State.
4. Connecticut (14-1)
Connecticut fell from the ranks of the unbeated after Xavier’s upset over UConn on Saturday, but the Huskies should hold their heads high after their thrilling battle in Cincinnati. Dan Hurley’s late technical foul proved costly, if he kept his emotions in check, this game may have played out differently.
5. Arizona (13-1)
Arizona’s offense fell dormant in the second half of a road rivalry game, scoring just 24 points in the second act, but the Wildcats still found a way to win outside their comfort zone. If they learn to win games with their defense as well as their offense, this could be the best team in college basketball this year.
6. Texas (12-1)
It’s been said many times how difficult it is to win on the road in the Big 12, but try doing it in the conference opener with an interim coach and a roster filled with transfers. That’s exactly what the Longhorns did and it makes them all the more dangerous in 2023.
7. Tennessee (11-2)
The Vols miss the elite playmaking of Kennedy Chandler, but the defense is relentless and will win plenty of games in the SEC even if it doesn’t always look pretty.
8. Gonzaga (12-3)
The point guard play from Nolan Hickman needs to improve, but he’ll have plenty of time to figure it out in the WCC. The front court and all around talent is impressive once again as the Zags headed into Conference play with a big win over Maxwell Lewis and Pepperdine.
9. Alabama (11-2)
Pitted against one of the best defenses in the nation, the Tide proved that their offense can show up anywhere against anyone. The beginning of 2022 could’ve gone better for Nate Oats and Alabama, but there is palpable buzz heading into 2023 in Tuscaloosa after a terrific start to the season for the Tide.
10. Miami (13-1)
If Nigel Pack emerges in conference play like he did on Friday afternoon, the entire ACC needs to be put on notice. With Pack and Isaiah Wong at their best, they’ll rival any backcourt in college basketball and be ready to lead the ‘Canes into national contention.
11. UCLA (13-2)
The Bruins enter the new year on a big winning streak and Mick Cronin will lead them into the new year with lofty expectations for the second straight season. A cross town rumble awaits Thursday night. UCLA is set to challenge Arizona for PAC 12 supremacy wit h their eyes on another berth in the Final Four in April.
12. Virginia (10-2)
Virginia snapped back into elite form with a demolition of Georgia Tech away from home on Saturday afternoon. Without a ranked opponent on the schedule likely until February, the Cavaliers could get rolling with enough momentum that’ll be hard to stop once March comes around.
13. TCU (12-1)
Saturday was all about the football team earning a place in the National Championship, but the basketball team showed tremendous resolve as well in a comeback victory over Texas Tech over the weekend. Last March was no fluke and the Horned Frogs are ready to show it with Big 12 play off to the races.
14. Xavier (12-3)
The Musketeers pulled off one of the most impressive wins of the season, outplaying the Huskies who have steamrolled everyone in their path in 2022. They might not have a superstar, but Xavier has an endless supply of stars who all stepped up in the upset win this weekend.
15. Arkansas (11-2)
The Razorbacks have all the NBA talent in the world, but until the group gels and starts producing offensively at an acceptable level, losses like this week to LSU will continue to happen in a loaded SEC. Nick Smith’s knee has become a concern and could ultimately put a ceiling on this team’s tournament aspirations,
16. Wisconsin (10-2)
The expectations weren’t great after losing Johnny Davis to the NBA, but the Badgers are off to a scintillating start to the 2022-23 season. I doubt the Big Ten schedule will be very forgiving but keep an eye on the Badgers as a sleeper contender in a wide-open conference behind Purdue.
Next 5: Baylor, Duke, New Mexico, Missouri, Kansas St.
Players of the Week:
Marcus Carr, PG, No. 6 Texas Longhorns
Carr matched a career-high with 41 points on Tuesday and while his shot wasn’t falling as easily against Oklahoma, he came up with the go-ahead bucket to break the tie with under a minute remaining and clinched the game with a pair of free throws to send the Longhorns home happy.
Kobe Brown, SG/SF, Missouri Tigers
Back-to-back wins over ranked opponents and back-to-back 30-point performances for Kobe Brown. Brown is emerging as a force to be reckoned with in the SEC and the entire country as he will likely lead the Tigers into the AP Poll rankings for the first time since early 2021.
Jack Nunge, PF, No. 22 Xavier Musketeers
Nunge carried the Musketeers past St. John’s early in the week with 23 points and 12 rebounds and battled flu-like symptoms over the weekend to provide the boost his team needed to pull off the upset over No. 2 Connecticut. Nunge earned a much-needed week-long rest after his efforts this week.
Emoni Bates, SG, Eastern Michigan Eagles
In a battle between the polarizing reclassified stars in Bates and GG Jackson, it was the older Bates who shined above the rest in a near flawless individual performance. South Carolina came out on top, but the Eastern Michigan superstar showed all the strides he is making with 36 points on terrific efficiency (13-25 FG, 8-15 3-PT).
DaRon Holmes, PF, Dayton Flyers
One of the best prospects from the mid-major ranks was in his bag this week, doing all he can to put the Flyers season back on track. After starting the season ranked in the AP Poll, Dayton dropped four of their first seven games, but Holmes showed out at the beginning of conference play this week. With a 22-point, 13-rebound average this week, Holmes is one of the national players of the week.
Play of the Week:
Rutgers grabbed their fifth win in their last six tries against formerly undefeated Purdue and while the shot to win it wasn’t as iconic as Ron Harper’s half-court buzzer-beater last season, it is still worthy of the play of the week in college basketball. Check out how senior guard Cam Spencer knocked off the No. 1 Boilermakers.
Video Credit: Fox Sports