With no football to compete with for the first time all season, all eyes were on college basketball this Saturday and the SEC/Big 12 challenge. We’ve known for a while that the Big 12 is the top conference in the sport and that was as evident as ever this weekend. Oklahoma knocked off No. 2 Alabama, but was it enough to knock the Tide off the mantel as the top team in our power rankings? Find out that and more below!
1. Purdue (21-1)
Tom Izzo dared Zach Edey to beat him once again and for the second straight time, Edey did just that. He scored a career-high 38 points in the game and even if he’s not on the player of the week list below, he’s still the undisputed player of the year in college basketball right now.
2. Alabama (18-3)
This isn’t the first time Alabama’s defense got shredded this season and it’s lapses like these that are the biggest threat to their national title hopes. Gonzaga scored 100, Memphis scored 88 and now Oklahoma scored 93 on the Tide and Nate Oats needs to figure out a way to prevent these occurrences before it ends their season when it matters most in March.
3. Houston (20-2)
Things could’ve got dicey in Houston with a trip to Orlando against a solid UCF squad coming in the aftermath of a shocking home loss to Temple last weekend. But Kelvin Sampson righted the ship in a pivotal week for the Cougars. Their pursuit of the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament is alive and well, especially after Alabama’s loss to the Sooners.
4. Kansas State (18-3)
Keyontae Johnson’s Florida reunion couldn’t have gone better as he led his team in scoring to bounce back after a loss to Iowa State earlier in the week. It was a special moment for Johnson amid a special season for the Wildcats who have a monumental seven-day stretch ahead of them starting Tuesday in Lawrence.
5. Virginia (16-3)
The Cavaliers haven’t allowed 70 points in an ACC home game since 2019 and that historic defense under Tony Bennett is only part of the reason why they are contenders in 2023. Kihei Clark continues to magnificently lead one of the most efficient offenses in the country. With assists on 67 percent of their made field goals, slowing down the Hoos is proving as difficult as trying to score on their home floor.
6. Tennessee (18-3)
The Volunteers faced a make-or-break moment in their season after a home loss to Kentucky and answered the bell better than they could’ve imagined. They continued their winning streak by walloping No. 10 Texas in the premier matchup of the SEC/Big 12 challenge and ascended to the top spot in KenPom because of it.
7. Kansas (17-4)
Bill Self has never lost four games in a row during his tenure with the Jayhawks and a trip to Rupp Arena against the resurgent Kentucky Wildcats was the only thing in the way of ending that incredible streak. Led by national player of the year contender Jalen Wilson, his team was able to pull away late to reignite a season that was starting to slip away after a 16-1 start.
8. Baylor (16-5)
Winning streaks are incredibly difficult to come by in the gauntlet that is the Big 12 schedule, but the Bears increased their streak to six games to keep rising in the rankings. Their backcourt can take them anywhere and is quite reminiscent of the three-man group of Mitchell, Butler and Teague who won a national championship just two seasons ago.
9. UCLA (17-4)
A three-game road trip against the Pac-12 powerhouses came to an end this week, which should allow the Bruins to regain some momentum heading into March. Mick Cronin will make the necessary adjustments to get this team clicking for the stretch run, so count off these guys at your own risk.
10. Marquette (17-5)
Shaka Smart is now leading the most efficient offense (you read that right) in the nation after a pair of 20-point road wins over the last week. The Golden Eagles are legit competitors for a Big East championship, as well as a national championship with the coach and the experience that can get them there.
11. Arizona (18-3)
It’s been a much better couple of games for the Wildcats who are starting to get things going with their elite and physical frontcourt. They certainly miss their stars from last year, but there’s enough talent in Tucson to make noise in the NCAA Tournament.
12. Iowa State (16-5)
The Cyclones were one of a very small group of Big 12 teams who disappointed over the weekend as their struggles away from home continued in a beatdown loss against Missouri. Still, they knocked off Kansas State in their fortress, so it was still a successful week in Ames.
13. TCU (15-5)
Depth is not a strength of this team, and the bench players are being forced to step up with injuries to the heart and soul of Jamie Dixon’s team. Mike Miles and Eddie Lampkin are battling injuries and if they can’t get back to 100 percent, TCU’s ceiling will be lowered drastically in what was looking like a promising season.
14. Saint Mary’s (19-4)
A last second shot from their star freshman extended the Gaels’ winning streak to 10 and they should experience quite the climb in the AP rankings because of it. This is the best team in the WCC with tremendous chemistry and coaching, and they can be a second-weekend or Final Four team in March.
15. Texas (17-4)
There’s no such thing as an easy schedule in their conference, but the Longhorns still have to play Baylor twice and travel to Kansas State, Kansas and TCU. They might be tied at the top of the standings now, but don’t be surprised if that spot goes tumbling down now that they are getting into the meat of their schedule.
16. Gonzaga (17-4)
I’m not the only one who ranks Gonzaga as the second-best team in the WCC – KenPom also ranks the Zags second – but they’ll have the chance to prove me wrong when they travel to Saint Mary’s on Saturday in a juggernaut clash on the west coast.
Next 5: Xavier, Clemson, Indiana, New Mexico, Memphis
Players of the Week:
Emoni Bates, Eastern Michigan Eagles
As if 43 points wasn’t impressive enough for the superstar sophomore, Bates accounted for 29 consecutive points in the first half of Eastern Michigan’s game against Toledo on Tuesday. It wasn’t enough to pull off the upset win, but Bates continues to emerge as one of the nation’s top scorers as he looks to climb into the first round of this summer’s draft.
Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana Hoosiers
Nobody is playing better than Trayce Jackson-Davis right now as he earns a spot on this list for the second straight week. His development as a playmaker for the Hoosiers is part of the reason why his team is scorching hot and it’s massively boosting his draft stock as we approach the postseason in college basketball.
Julian Strawther, No. 14 Gonzaga Bulldogs
Not even Drew Timme can say he’s logged a 40-point performance in his career, but now Julian Strawther can. The junior sharpshooter drilled eight of his 12 attempts from beyond the arc on Saturday to lead the Zags past Portland and it’s games like these that put him in the conversation as one of the best shooters in the upcoming NBA Draft class.
Brandon Podziemski, Santa Clara Broncos
Podziemski was just two points away from reaching the 40-point mark, but Santa Clara was unable to come away with a win despite his efforts on Saturday night. The 6-5 sophomore has to be included on any all-transfer team as his move from Illinois is proving to be one of the smartest decisions of the summer for both him and the Broncos.
Drew Pember, UNC Asheville Bulldogs
Pember is one of the most underrated stars in the country, but that’s all starting to change after he erupted with a 48-point performance this week, the most in a game by any player all season. The 6-10 Knoxville native started his career with the Vols but moved on to UNC Asheville after rarely seeing the floor.
It didn’t take long for him to revive his career, much like it didn’t take long for him to get going against Presbyterian, scoring his team’s first 15 points on 5-5 shooting from beyond the arc. This is a name to track if the Bulldogs make the NCAA Tournament and at the NBA Draft as a potential second round sleeper.
Play of the Week:
Landing five-star recruit Harrison Ingram was massive for Stanford’s basketball program, mostly because they anticipated plays like this throughout what was supposed to be his one-and-done career. It hasn’t quite worked out for either side, but the 6’7 sophomore added to his highlight reel with one of the dunks of the year late Saturday night.
— B/R Hoops (@brhoops) January 29, 2023
Video Credit: B/R Hoops