This Saturday’s slate of games was the “breakout” week for college basketball that captured the national attention of fans in one of its first weekends at the forefront of the sports world. With several marquee matchups and unforgettable buzzer-beaters, it was a perfect day for college hoops fans, unless of course, you were on the wrong end of some of these buzzer beaters. It might still be February, but the electricity in the air this weekend is starting to make it feel a lot like March.
Take a look at the top teams and players of the week as we sit just under two weeks away from the reveal of the NCAA Tournament bracket.
1. Houston (27-2)
As top teams continue to falter around them, the Cougars continue to cement themselves as the favorites for this season’s NCAA Tournament. There’s valid criticism about their strength of schedule in conference play, but a win in Memphis on Saturday would be as impressive as any team will be able to claim heading into postseason hoops in March.
2. Kansas (24-5)
After shutting down the Horned Frogs in Fort Worth on Monday, Kansas got off to a sluggish start in some hideous uniforms on Saturday, but clamped down when it mattered most on the final possession of the game to escape an upset bid by the Mountaineers, putting them one win away from at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title.
3. Alabama (25-4)
It was a controversial week off the court in Tuscaloosa, but the Tide managed to keep their composure on the floor and complete an undefeated week after two upset scares from South Carolina and Arkansas. It’s not our place to speak on the legal matters or subsequent lack of punishment, but within their 40 minutes of play each game, this is still one of the best teams in the nation.
4. Baylor (21-8)
The Bears dropped both games in their Kansas road trip but so would a laundry list of other teams in college basketball. With a 14-point deficit against No. 8 Texas and freshman phenom Keyonte George in the locker room, another laundry list of teams would have dropped a third game in a row. Not Baylor, which is why they remain in the top four of our rankings this week.
5. UCLA (24-4)
Tyger Campbell is going to need to figure it out soon if the Bruins want to make a run for another national championship, but the players around him, especially the freshmen, are picking up the slack to keep them atop the Pac-12 and inside the top five of our rankings.
6. Texas (22-7)
Texas has been known for sluggish starts and incredible comebacks this season, but the script was flipped on them in Waco on Saturday. It was encouraging to see that they are capable of getting off to a quick start, because they’ll certainly need to in an NCAA Tournament setting this March.
7. Indiana (20-9)
We have a new submission for most impressive win in college basketball this season. It doesn’t get any more difficult than Mackey Arena, especially in one of the sport’s most heated rivalries. The Hoosiers weren’t phased by any of this, or an early second half deficit, as they stormed back to claim a convincing road victory over Zach Edey and the Boilermakers.
8. Purdue (24-5)
Speaking of Edey and the Boilers, what is going on in West Lafayette? It wasn’t too long ago that Purdue was the top ranked team in the country at 22-1, but a 2-4 stretch is threatening their No. 1 seed status in the NCAA and Big Ten Tournaments. Will they be able to figure out or just be another disappointing Big Ten team in March?
9. Gonzaga (25-5)
It may be hard to believe for a ton of fans, but Gonzaga just won a top-15 matchup with DEFENSE. Mark Few implemented a press in the first half, which held Saint Mary’s to 26 first-half points and allowed the Zags to claim an insurmountable 19-point lead early on. They won’t be a one-seed, but maybe that’s exactly what Few and the Zags need to end their championship drought in an era of dominance on the west coast.
10. Marquette (23-6)
Barring an epic collapse against two of the bottom four teams in the Big East, the Golden Eagles will be the regular season champions in the conference. Shaka Smart belongs in the coach of the year discussions in all of college basketball for his reincarnation, as Jon Rothstein puts it, as one of the best offensive minds in the sport.
11. UConn (22-7)
Six wins in their last seven have UConn back in consideration for a top-four seed after looking like the most complete team in college hoops for the first two months of the season. This just feels like a team hitting their stride at the perfect time with the talent to make a big run in the Big Dance.
12. Kansas State (22-7)
This seemed like a make-or-break week for the Wildcats, who had lost five of their last six conference games heading into last weekend, and they couldn’t have asked for a better seven days. With wins over a pair of ranked teams at home, including No. 9 Baylor, they went back on the road and knocked off a desperate Oklahoma State squad to recapture the magic that helped them rise as high as fifth in the country in the AP Poll.
13. Miami (23-6)
A historic comeback by Florida State put an end to Miami’s seven game winning streak, but this feels more like a fluke than a reason for legit concern in Coral Gables. If anything, this will serve as a punch in the mouth that reminds them that they need to play hungry no matter how confident they are or how big their lead is.
14. Arizona (24-5)
Saturday’s loss to Arizona State was the third Quad 2 loss of the season for the Wildcats who look like they could be a vulnerable first weekend team who can lose to anyone in their first or second round games. They narrowly escaped TCU last year in that scenario. Will they be so lucky this time around?
15. Saint Mary’s (25-6)
The Gaels remained ahead of Gonzaga in the NET rankings, which is a ridiculous way to break a tie in conference standings, but Randy Bennett won’t care as his team knocked the Zags off the 1-seed for the first time since 2016. It was his group that earned the 1-seed then, but they still lost to Gonzaga in the championship. A grudge match in Las Vegas would be a fitting way to end a thrilling WCC season.
16. TCU (19-10)
A fully healthy TCU team is still one of my favorite teams in college basketball. Whether they ever get back to full strength is uncertain, but they proved this week in a hard-fought game against No. 3 Kansas and a rare Big 12 road win in Lubbock, that they are still a top-16 team as hampered as they are now.
Next 5: Tennessee, Virginia, San Diego State, Xavier, Providence
Players of the Week:
Jalen Hood-Schifino, No. 17 Indiana Hoosiers
In a matchup with the two frontrunners for National Player of the Year, it was Jalen Hood-Schifino who was the star of the show, leading Indiana to a major upset over No. 5 Purdue to complete the regular season sweep of the Boilermakers. Hood-Schifino is a skilled, lengthy lead guard who should see an increase in his draft stock after his dominant performance over the weekend.
Brandon Miller, No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide
Like I mentioned above, it’s not our place to speak on the legal issues from what came to light this week, but it is our place to speak on the basketball aspect of Brandon Miller’s week. Everything about his play this week showcased why he is projected to be be the first college player drafted in this summer’s draft. His improved slashing and finishing around the rim are tremendous developments for the young freshman who has an argument for the best shooter in this class as well.
KJ Williams, LSU Tigers
The Tigers grabbed just their second win in SEC play this week, and they had one of their Murray State transfers in KJ Williams to thank. The 6-10 senior poured in 35 points with 10 rebounds in the win over Vanderbilt and posted another 29 points in a loss to Ole Miss on Saturday. Even if the SEC fixes their All-Conference awards format and only honors five players on the All-SEC First Team, Williams should be one of those players.
Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky Wildcats
Look out college basketball. Oscar Tshiebwe and the Kentucky Wildcats are back. Their play had been improving of late and much like Jalen Hood-Schifino, they put it all together this weekend for the first time all season. Although he has struggled with length the past two seasons, Tshiebwe dominated Johni Broome and the Auburn Tigers with 22 points and 17 rebounds in a 32-point shellacking in Rupp Arena.
Tyson Walker, Michigan State Spartans
Walker was sensational in an incredibly emotional night in East Lansing as the Spartans knocked off No. 17 Indiana in the first home game since a tragic shooting on campus. The Northeastern transfer was the catalyst of a huge run in the first half that turned a nine-point deficit into a six-point halftime lead. He scored 31 points on the weekend as well, but the Spartans were on the wrong end of a historic comeback in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Play of the Week:
There were countless plays to choose from in a terrific week of college basketball, but the ultimate highlight of the week went down in Tucson, because it wasn’t just a buzzer-beater, it was a potential ticket-punching buzzer-beater for the Arizona State Sun Devils. This half-court launch captured a rivalry win on the road and significantly bolstered a NCAA Tournament resume that needed a boost ahead of Selection Sunday in two short weeks.
Arizona State stuns No. 7 Arizona with 60-foot buzzer-beater