We’re down to the final week of the regular season and we have some conference races coming down to the wire. Pitt’s loss at Louisville puts the Big East up for grabs, while the ACC will come down to a showdown between Duke and North Carolina next Saturday. Purdue kept itself within striking distance of Ohio State, while Kansas pulled even with Texas in the Big 12. Meanwhile, BYU virtually clinched the Mountain West crown with its biggest win of the season at San Diego State. That win vaulted the Cougars to #2 in this week’s Power 16…

Rank (Last Week)
1. Ohio State (1)
The Buckeyes got back on track this week with big wins over Illinois and Indiana. Thad Matta’s club ended its five-game streak of allowing opponents to shoot over 50% from the floor, by stifling Indiana on Sunday. Adding to the solid defensive effort, was a strong performance from freshman DeShaun Thomas. The former McDonald’s All-American has been lost in the shuffle of Matta’s short rotation during Big Ten play. Analysts point to depth as a weakness for the Buckeyes, but Thomas has too much talent to sit on the bench. Ohio State would be wise to get him involved in the regular rotation as it prepares for postseason play. The Bucks’ head to Penn State and host Wisconsin to close its regular season.
2. BYU (6)
We can’t stress enough how big of a win BYU earned at San Diego State. You could make a very strong case that the Cougars should be the #1 team in the country. The win at SDSU might be the best win in the nation this year besides Texas win at Kansas. Also, BYU is #1 in the RPI with a 9-1 record versus the top 50 teams. If this squad had another name on the front of its jersey, it would probably be ranked #1 by the majority of analysts in the country. People may still wonder if this team is capable of making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, but if last year’s Butler Bulldogs came within two points of a national championship, this year’s BYU club could certainly do it.
3. Kansas (5)
Kansas used a couple of games against the Oklahoma schools to get back on track as it heads into the final week of regular season play. Marcus Morris and his twin brother Markieff had huge weeks for KU averaging 25 points, 7 rebounds and 17 points, 8.5 rebounds, respectively. The Jayhawks finish the season with tough games against Texas A&M and at Missouri. They may also be short-handed as starting point guard Tyshawn Taylor has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. While KU’s frontcourt is among the best in the nation, its backcourt is suspect, especially at the point guard position. Any uncertainty around Taylor’s situation is cause for concern for KU fans.
4. Duke (2)
Virginia Tech exploited the formula for beating Duke Saturday. 1) Beat them on the boards – which Tech did 42-35. 2) Contest the 3-point shot – Tech held the Blue Devils to 4-20 from behind the arc. And 3) contain the supporting cast. Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith had been getting help from a variety of teammates over the last seven games, until Saturday night The two seniors accounted for 40 of Duke’s 60 points and 19 of their 35 rebounds. You don’t always have to do all three things to beat Duke, but two of three is a must. This year’s Blue Devil team is more susceptible to a night like this than last year, especially without Kyrie Irving. Duke still has two important games against Clemson and North Carolina, as they try to capture the ACC regular season title and potentially a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
5. Pittsburgh (3)
The Panthers followed up a nice rivalry win over WVU Thursday night with a disappointing OT loss at Louisville. The win would have all but guaranteed Pitt the Big East regular season crown and it would have put them in a very strong position for a #1 seed. Pitt outplayed Louisville in virtually every facet, but the Cardinals’ pressure defense forced Pitt into 15 turnovers, which eventually cost them the game. I still believe that this is the best team in the Big East and they should earn victories over South Florida at Villanova this week to clinch the conference title.
6. Texas (4)
For the second time in a week, the Longhorns let a lead get away from them against a middle-of-the-pack team in the Big 12. Colorado stormed back from a 22-point deficit behind a 33-point 10-rebound effort from Alec Burks to defeat Texas. His performance combined with Texas’ continued woes from the foul line were the difference in this game. The Longhorns close out the regular season with a home game against resurgent Kansas State and a road game against disappointing Baylor. After looking invincible during the first month of conference play, Rick Barnes’ club needs to win out in order to get the Big 12’s #1 seed.
7. San Diego State (7)
Despite a raucous atmosphere at Viejas Arena, the Aztecs couldn’t get the monkey off their back against BYU. They did a reasonable job of slowing Jimmer Fredette, but they couldn’t defend his teammates from the 3-point arc. Jimmer’s running mates shot 10-18 from the arc en route to a 13-point victory. The good news for the Aztecs is that they’re still in position for a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and they will likely get another shot at BYU in the conference tournament.
8. Purdue (8)
Purdue is among the hottest teams in the nation over the past three weeks. JaJuan Johnson and E'twaun Moore continued to lead the way in victories over Indiana and Michigan State last week. Johnson averaged 20 points and 13 rebounds for the week, while Moore chipped in an average of 17 points and 4 assists. The Boilers have winnable games this week as they host Illinois and travel to Iowa. They’re one Ohio State slip-up away from a Big Ten co-championship. If they’re able to run the table and win the Big Ten tournament, don’t discount their chances for a #1 seed in the NCAAs.
9. Notre Dame (10)
Don’t look now, because Notre Dame has an outside chance to win the Big East regular season title. The Irish survived a 52-point onslaught from Providence’s Marshon Brooks Wednesday night to hold on to a 94-93 win. They followed that with a much stronger defensive effort in Saturday’s win over Seton Hall. Despite that showing, defense remains the major question mark for Mike Brey’s team. They currently rank 11th in the Big East in defensive efficiency, allowing 1.04 points per possession. The Irish will need to carry their defensive performance from the previous game into the final week as they will be tested against Villanova and UConn.
10. Wisconsin (13)
The Badgers road woes nearly continued Wednesday at Michigan, until Josh Gasser’s last second heave banked off the backboard for a game-winning three. Wisconsin cracks our top 10 once again, but it’s very apparent that this is a Jekyll and Hyde team. The Badgers are quite possibly one of the top three or four teams in the country at home, but they’re a very mediocre 6-6 away from the Kohl Center. That statistic doesn’t bode well for their chances in March. Bo Ryan’s club will have a chance to change our minds and to prove us wrong when they head to Columbus next Sunday. Despite that big win against #1 Ohio State a few weeks ago, I don’t see the Badgers getting performances from their role players on the road as they did in Madison that afternoon.
11. Louisville (16)
Of all the wild things we’ve seen in sports, the biggest win of Louisville’s season was nearly lost, because of a male cheerleader? As unbelievable as it sounds, it’s true. Shortly after Kyle Kuric’s dunk put the Cardinal’s up by 5 with 0.5 seconds remaining in OT, a male cheerleader, whom apparently thought the game was over, flung the ball into the air earning a technical foul. Two free throws gave Pitt a chance at a game-tying three, but Ashton Gibbs couldn’t get the shot off in time. A team with only one senior and no stars is two wins away from earning a coveted top-4 seed in the Big East Tournament. Give credit to Rick Pitino for getting his kids to believe in his system and to play hard every night.
12. Syracuse (NR)
Following a 2-6 stretch, the Orange have come back to life to win four straight. They picked up two huge road victories last week over Villanova and Georgetown. After getting bombarded by threes in a loss to Nova last month, Syracuse was able to lock them down for 5-26 Monday night. They did the same thing to the Hoyas on Saturday, holding John Thompson’s club to 7-25 from beyond the arc. Combine that defensive effort with two strong performances from Scoop Jardine and Cuse has two momentum building wins. Syracuse has one regular season game remaining against DePaul and with a slip from St. John’s or Louisville; Syracuse could find its way into a two-round bye in the Big East Tournament.
13. North Carolina (NR)
The Tar Heels make their way back into the Power 16 for the first time since December after winning four straight and eight out of nine. North Carolina has been getting it done with excellent defense. They rank second national in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing a meager 0.86 points per possession. Their tremendous length has given opponents fits throughout ACC play. After a sluggish start to his college career, Harrison Barnes is rounding into the player that many of us thought he would be. The pre-season All-American is averaging 17 points and 6.8 rebounds in the month of February. He’s still struggling with his shot, as are many of his teammates. Perimeter shooting is this team’s Achilles’ heel, as they rank 288th in the nation in three-point field goal percentage.
14. Florida (NR)
Despite a tough loss to Kentucky on Saturday, Florida still has a commanding lead in the SEC East. Billy Donovan’s team holds a two game lead, but it hosts SEC West leading Alabama before heading to Vanderbilt to close the regular season. This is a thin rotation as the Gator bench only contributes 13.7 points per game. That rotation will be put to the test over the next month. Coach Donovan particularly needs his backcourt of Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton and Chandler Parsons to hold up and play well. The three each average over 32 minutes per game.
15. St. John’s (NR)
Steve Lavin and the Johnnies are back. St. John’s has been on a tear over the last month winning eight of nine, including two victories over top 5 teams and another on the road against then #14 Villanova. This goes to show what good coaching and senior leadership can do for a team. Coach Lavin seems to have figured out who his best player is as Dwight Hardy has been on a personal tear during this stretch, averaging 25.1 points over those nine games. The Red Storm are just two wins away from securing a two-round bye in the Big East Tournament. A tournament, which they will host in Madison Square Garden.
16. Arizona (9)

Frankly, I’m not sure what to do with Arizona. Despite dropping games to USC and UCLA last week, they’re still tied for the Pac-10 lead. They feature one of the best players in the country, Derrick Williams, but the rest of their squad is just average. They had a nice win over Washington, but that’s about it in terms of quality wins. Sean Miller’s club is 2-4 versus the RPI top 50 and they have a loss against lowly Oregon State. They could very well be a six or a seven seed when the brackets are revealed on Selection Sunday, but we’ll hold them in the Power 16 with the promise that they’re going to turn things around against the Oregon schools this week.

Dropped out: Georgetown (11), Villanova (12) and UConn (14)

Email questions or opinions to Josh [email protected]


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