March is just around the corner and this season refuses to wait until that wonderful month to unleash the madness. A handful more of top-10 teams went down this week and created a bit of a shakeup in our own rankings.
With buzzer-beaters, upsets and unbelievable performances flying around left and right, it can be difficult to keep up with everything that’s going on. Thankfully for you, we’ve got you covered with all you need to know as we turn the calendars to February this week.
1. UConn (18-2)
It’s never been clearer who the best team in college basketball is this season. The Huskies are back at full strength and just dismantled a talented Xavier team in a 99-56 beatdown to get some separation in a top-heavy Big East conference.
2. Purdue (19-2)
Don’t look now but that’s three straight road wins for the Boilermakers in three arenas where Big Ten teams typically go to die. A matchup with Wisconsin in Madison could be an early Big Ten regular season championship game and one that all college basketball fans should be tuning in for.
3. North Carolina (17-3)
Hubert Davis and the Tar Heels are ROLLING. They’ve been relatively unchallenged by a weak ACC schedule but this week’s wins should not be overlooked. UNC-Duke should be a doozy on Saturday with the Heels playing host to their archrival. On another note, RJ Davis is unquestionably the top guard in the country right now, which we’ll get into a bit more below.
4. Tennessee (15-4)
It was a quiet week for the Vols with only one game coming against Vanderbilt but Dalton Knecht erupted with another 30-point performance. It’s time to start talking about the Northern Colorado transfer as a potential first team All-American. A big week awaits with South Carolina coming to town and a trip to Lexington on Saturday.
5. Houston (18-2)
While the Cougars seem to have found their footing in the Big 12, life is about to get far more difficult with a pair of away games against Texas and Kansas. It’ll be a successful week if they can steal just one and continue into February toward the top of the nation’s best conference.
6. Kentucky (15-4)
The problem with having no semblance of defensive efficiency is that when your players inevitably have an off shooting night, things can get ugly fast. That’s exactly what happened to Kentucky in Columbia as the Wildcats were run out of the gym against South Carolina. If Coach Cal is going to take this group of youngsters anywhere in March, that’s the first thing he has to address in the final month of the season.
7. Arizona (15-5)
I mentioned last week that even one win for Arizona this week would be critical for their confidence the rest of the season. I assumed it would come against Oregon State on Thursday but after the upset loss, Caleb Love and the Wildcats responded with a huge win on the road against Oregon.
8. Wisconsin (16-4)
After narrowly surviving on the road in Minnesota, Wisconsin stomped a desperate and talented Michigan State team with an 81-66 win on Friday night. The Badgers remain at the top of the Big Ten with a major challenge coming from No. 2 Purdue on Sunday.
9. Marquette (16-2)
That’s four wins in a row for Marquette to get back into the Big East title race after a 2-3 start. With four road games in the next five, Shaka Smart and the Golden Eagles will need to stay locked in to keep those hopes at a conference championship alive.
10. Kansas (16-4)
It’s hard to remember the last time Kansas looked this vulnerable in conference play under Bill Self. A loss at Hilton Coliseum is already its third in the Big 12 and we’re not even into February yet. The Hall of Fame coach has his work cut out for him if he wants to make this year’s Jayhawks a true contender for a national championship.
11. Duke (15-4)
However controversial, Duke’s win over Clemson is massive for the team’s psyche as it would have been the third of the year on its vaunted home floor. The win sets up what will be a top-10 showdown in Chapel Hill and a look at who are easily the two best teams in the ACC.
12. Illinois (15-5)
A second-half comeback against Indiana avoided an 0-2 week for the Illini following an overtime loss in Evanston. This is still one of the top teams in the Big Ten and one of only a few locks to even make the NCAA Tournament in March.
13. Creighton (16-5)
As other top conferences deal with upsets every week, Creighton and Marquette are figuring things out to continue its ascensions in these rankings. The Blue Jays are doing it by the skin of their teeth on most nights but any win in college basketball this year is something to delight in.
14. Alabama (14-6)
No team in America is as inconsistent as the Tide but there might not be a higher ceiling than when they play like they did on Saturday. All five starters scored in double figures as they raced to a 109-88 win over LSU. This ability to win on any night against any opponent puts Alabama on this list for the first time all season.
15. Iowa State (16-4)
Hilton Coliseum remains a house of horrors for anyone who has the displeasure of making the trip. Kansas was the latest victim and now the Cyclones turn their eyes to a two-game Texas road trip where they’ll take on Baylor and Texas for the first time this season.
16. Auburn (16-4)
So much for Auburn’s momentum. Faced with a huge challenge this week, the Tigers were unable to capture a win and drop considerably in our rankings as they are still without a Quad 1 win.
Next 5: New Mexico, TCU, Baylor, Dayton, Saint Mary’s
Players of the Week:
RJ Davis, No. 3 North Carolina Tar Heels
The top guard in the land continued his dominance in ACC play with a career-high 36 points to lead the Tar Heels to an impressive rout of Wake Forest on Monday night. After 24 more points to defeat Florida State, Davis is now averaging over 21 points per game on 45/41/93 shooting and could start flying up draft boards with more consistent production.
Dalton Knecht, No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers
Three weeks, three player of the week nominations for Tennessee’s breakout star. Knecht scored 32 points in his only game of the week at Vanderbilt, which is right on his scoring average over the last five games in SEC play. If you’re late to the party this year and want a new face to cheer for, look no further than Knecht.
Caleb Love, No. 8 Arizona Wildcats
RJ Davis’ former partner-in-crime matched his career-high 36 points in a pivotal win for Arizona on Saturday night against Oregon. Love played 39 minutes and shot 12-18 from the floor, including 5-8 from beyond the arc, to give the Wildcats the boost they needed to pick up their first true road win of the new year.
Boo Buie, Northwestern Wildcats
Northwestern picked up its second top-10 win of the conference season on Wednesday night, which has become such commonplace that the fans didn’t feel the need to storm the court. Buie scored 29 points with seven assists in the win and has now raised his scoring average in all five seasons of his Wildcat career.
Tommy Bruner, Denver Pioneers
The nation’s leading scorer, and a player few had heard of before this week, set a new highest single-game performance in the 2023-24 season with 49 in a 111-110 double-overtime win on Thursday night. Even better, Bruner sent the game to the second overtime with a four-point play with 10 seconds remaining. His season average is now over 26 points, making him appointment television if he ever gets the chance to be on it.
Play of the Week
We mentioned Oregon State’s upset win over Arizona above but decided to leave out how they were able to storm the court. That highlight of Jordan Pope’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer is a clear choice for the play of the week. Check it out!
Video Credit: Pac 12 Network (via John Canzano Youtube)