The NCAA Tournament Committee revealed their Top 16 seeds on Saturday, but those resume standings are completely useless compared to the undoubtedly perfect power rankings I have listed below. The committee judges every game equally, but the teams that are playing the best right now are the ones with a chance to cut down the nets in March. Here are those 16 teams.
1. Houston (24-2)
The absence of Kendric Davis on Sunday afternoon should’ve made Houston’s matchup with Memphis much easier, but the Tigers gave them all they could handle on their home floor. It would’ve been nice to see how the Cougars would handle an elite, game-changing guard, but we’re just going to have to trust that they would’ve done what they’ve been doing all season long, which is make his life 40 minutes of hell.
2. Kansas (22-5)
Saturday’s comeback victory against No. 9 Baylor was reminiscent of last season’s National Championship when the Jayhawks made the Tar Heels feel helpless in a dominant second-half display. The Bears got a taste of that in Allen Fieldhouse after opening a huge lead in the first half. Back-to-back national championships have never felt more attainable in college basketball since 2007.
3. Baylor (20-7)
Baylor would’ve beat 361 Division I programs on Saturday, but unfortunately went against the one team who could erase a 13-point deficit in five minutes. We reward great losses here and it’s hard to say that there are more than two teams who can take down this backcourt when they’re clicking like they have been since returning to full strength. We could have four Kansas vs. Baylor matchups this season and I’m all for it.
4. Alabama (23-4)
It was an abysmal effort in one of the most highly anticipated games of the season when the 10th ranked Volunteers ran over the top-ranked Tide on Wednesday night. Alabama can go 11-deep, but you can only run five guys out there at a time and I just don’t trust their best five as much as I do with the consistent contenders in college basketball.
5. Purdue (23-4)
Maryland became the first team to really humble Purdue, who had stuck around in every loss until this week. The Terps exploded in the second half, outscoring the Boilermakers by 17, to hand them their third loss in the last four games. They bounced back against Ohio State, but the once invincible looking Boilers are crashing back to earth with a slump in the worst possible time ahead of March.
6. UCLA (23-4)
The Bruins still haven’t surrendered 65 points in February and just held an admittedly horrific Cal team to 43 points in Los Angeles. We know what the returning stars can do but it will be the emerging freshmen in Amari Bailey and Adem Bona who determine what the ceiling is for Mick Cronin’s group.
7. Texas (21-6)
Where would the Texas Longhorns be without Sir’ Jabari Rice? The man with the best name in the sport is potentially the clutchest player in the sport as well. He drilled consecutive threes late against Oklahoma to turn a 3-point deficit into a 3-point lead, and buried a dagger triple in overtime to avoid a catastrophic upset bid that could’ve knocked Texas off the 2-seed line. The last Saturday of the season could play host to the regular season Big 12 championship when Kansas comes to the Moody Center.
8. Miami (22-5)
Excluding Baylor’s phenomenal trio, Miami has the best guards in the nation who are finally starting to gel during the six-game winning streak for the Canes. It’s not too difficult to score on this group, but good luck outscoring them, especially with the confidence they have rolling right now one season removed from an Elite Eight trip as a 10-seed.
9. Gonzaga (23-5)
The Zags get a lot of grief for the poor competition they face in conference play, but it’s tough not to be impressed with what they’ve been doing since the loss to Saint Mary’s two weeks ago. Mark Few has the offense firing on all cylinders with a 98-point average since the loss, but we won’t be able to tell if it’s the team or the competition until Saturday when they get another shot at the Gaels in Spokane.
10. Arizona (24-4)
Arizona’s placement as the sixth seed in the NCAA Tournament is by far the worst thing the committee revealed on Saturday. I know they play late, but their four losses to unranked Pac-12 teams, all in convincing fashion, are as bad as any team that was revealed Saturday. Buy into the Wildcats at your own risk this March.
11. TCU (18-9)
Now that Mike Miles and Eddie Lampkin are back, it’s time to reintroduce the Horned Frogs into the power rankings. I truly believe this is a Final Four team when they’re at full strength, but the trick will be staying healthy more than it will be on the court, because we saw how easy it looked when they dismantled Kansas a few weeks ago in Allen Fieldhouse.
12. Creighton (18-9)
An eight-game winning streak came to an end in double-overtime this week, but the Blue Jays are still one of the hottest teams in college basketball. Much like TCU, they just need to stay healthy to make some noise, but it’s impossible to tell if they’ll be able to. All I know is I wouldn’t want any part of them in a win or go home scenario in the NCAA Tournament.
13. Saint Mary’s (23-5)
The Gaels have all the pieces to make a run in the NCAA Tournament as evidenced by their 15 wins in the last 16 games. Aidan Mahaney and Logan Johnson are trustworthy in big-time moments and they both could make names for themselves because of it in March.
14. Indiana (19-8)
The Hoosiers stormed back in Evanston on Wednesday, but came up just short against the surging Northwestern Wildcats. It’s certainly not a loss to be ashamed of, especially after Purdue’s loss last week, and this group showed a lot of resolve in their comeback win against Illinois in the immediate aftermath. That’s what championship teams do and Indiana can definitely be a championship team.
15. Virginia (21-4)
The Cavaliers lost their status as the ACC’s top team by struggling in what could be the easiest week any Power 5 team could ask for. After nearly dropping a game to 3-23 Louisville, Virginia was one late shot away from falling to 10-18 Notre Dame on their home floor. Something needs to change quickly in Charlottesville or their ranking will go into free fall heading into the NCAA Tournament.
16. Tennessee (20-7)
Tennessee dominated the No. 1 team in the country and couldn’t buy a bucket against one of the SEC’s least efficient defenses in Kentucky. In other words, it was a typical week in Knoxville. When Zakai Zeigler gets into foul trouble or isn’t at his best, how is this team going to score? That’s a question Rick Barnes needs to figure out before another disappointing early exit consumes them in March.
Next 5: Kansas State, UConn, Marquette, San Diego State, Xavier
Players of the Week:
Jalen Pickett, Penn State Nittany Lions
If there were any college basketball fans wondering why some player from Penn State was showing up on All-American ballots all year, just look at the week he had. The Nittany Lions needed wins to stay on the bubble and their All-American guard delivered. Pickett scored 41 points against Illinois on Tuesday before posting 32 points, nine rebounds and eight assists against Minnesota to keep Penn State’s postseason hopes alive. He may have worked himself into second-round consideration in the process with his developing three-level scoring and terrific playmaking.
Jordan Miller, No. 15 Miami Hurricanes
Another player who could get some second round looks is Jordan Miller. The Hurricanes boast a sensational backcourt duo, but it was Miller who shined in a big win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The versatile stretch-four dominated the post to the tune of 24 points, improving his conference scoring average to over 15 points per game.
LJ Cryer, No. 9 Baylor Bears
The theme of underappreciated guards continues with Cryer who did his damage on the perimeter during the week with eight 3-pointers against West Virginia. He started hot against Kansas at the weekend, but a second half surge by the Jayhawks stopped any momentum Baylor had going on the offensive end, putting an end to Cryer’s hot stretch. However, his 26 points against the Mountaineers are still worthy of earning player of the week honors.
Julian Strawther, No. 15 Gonzaga Bulldogs
There isn’t a more reliable shooter in the sport over the past month than Julian Strawther. The junior wing has hit 14 of his last 24 3-point attempts and is shooting over 50 percent from long range over the last eight games. With a 27-point average over the last three, Strawther is emerging as an elite secondary scoring threat alongside All-American Drew Timme.
Jarkel Joiner, No. 23 NC State Wolfpack
There had to be seismic activity in Raleigh when Jarkel Joiner buried a contested 3-pointer to effectively end their bitter rival’s season with a late flurry to pull away for the win. His second-half explosion made up for Terquavion Smith’s struggles and showed why the Wolfpack are so dangerous come March – with relentless energy and terrific guard play to rival any team in the tournament.
Play of the Week:
A pair of potential late first-round prospects went head-to-head on Saturday afternoon and while Trayce Jackson-Davis got the best of Coleman Hawkins in the end, the Illinois forward delivered one of the dunks of the year over the Hoosiers’ elite rim protector with a poster and celebration that wasn’t nearly worthy of a technical foul. But that’s a rant for a different day. Just enjoy the emphatic slam below and Happy Monday!
Coleman Hawkins was called for a technical foul following his reaction to this dunk. pic.twitter.com/8xSk90tFa1
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 18, 2023
Video Credit: SportsCenter Twitter