Rankings and Records are as of Monday, February 6th.
On Saturday, February 4th, 2017, six teams ranked in the top ten of the AP poll lost. Three of them, all from the Big 12, lost at home. If that doesn’t scream chaos, then nothing does. As we enter February, contenders, like Oregon, begin to rise up and play their best basketball, while teams with flaws, like Notre Dame, begin to fade and lose games. As of this Monday, Selection Sunday is just over thirty days away. This is the equivalent of August during the MLB season, when teams get worn down by the “dog days” of summer. Teams that show a penchant to stay on target and compete at a high level over the rest of the regular season are the ones who will have the stamina to make an extended run come March Madness. Without further ado, here is how our writers rank the best teams in the nation after another tumultuous week:
- Gonzaga (24-0, LW: 1) Def. BYU 85-75, Def. Santa Clara 90-55. For the second consecutive week, the Bulldogs are number one in the CPP Poll. They took a halfway decent shot from BYU in a road game, but still managed to win the game by double digits. Against Santa Clara, the Zags put five players in double figures, and won without star guard Nigel Williams-Goss. Gonzaga hits the road for both games this week. They first play against Loyola Marymount in another very winnable game. Just two days after that, however, Gonzaga plays at St. Mary’s, in what is likely the last game in which a loss is a realistic expectation for these loaded Bulldogs.
- Villanova (22-2, LW: 5) Def. Providence 66-57, Def. St. John’s 92-79. The Wildcats continue to roll, and lead the Big East by a game and a half. A couple of their brethren from the old Big East were their victims this past week, as both the Friars and Red Storm were overwhelmed by ‘Nova’s experience and talent. Up next is a home game against Georgetown on Tuesday, and then a road game at Xavier, who is second in the Big East standings with a 7-3 record in conference (‘Nova is 9-2). Although they won’t likely rise to the number one spot any time soon, the Wildcats can lock up a one seed before their conference tournament if they continue to play at this level.
- Louisville (19-4, LW: 6) Def. Boston College 90-67. Al Davis said it best: just win, baby. In a week where top ten teams dropped like flies, Louisville played just once, and took the expected W in their matchup with BC. The losses around them, combined with UL taking care of business, vaults them all the way to the number three spot in the CPP rankings. However, Donovan Mitchell and co. will face a major test Monday night, playing at Virginia with a depleted roster. Deng Adel and Mangok Mathiang have been suspended for the Virginia game due to violating curfew. They’ll also host Miami over the weekend, and that game will see the return of Adel and Mathiang.
- Kansas (20-3, LW: 2) Def. Baylor 73-68, Lost to Iowa State 89-92. It was an eventful week for the Jayhawks. In one of the most competitive games so far this season, they outlasted the Baylor Bears on their home floor, thanks to 19 from Frank Mason and 23 from Josh Jackson. However, they turned around and faltered at home for the first time in what felt like a century, being beaten by the Cyclones in overtime. Mason couldn’t be blamed, though, pouring in 32 points in the losing effort. On Monday, they’ll have a tricky road game against rivals Kansas State, and also play in Lubbock versus the Red Raiders over the weekend.
- Oregon (21-3, LW: 9) Def. Arizona State 71-70, Def. Arizona 85-58. After a tight game against an average team in the Sun Devils, no one expected the Ducks to decimate Arizona on Saturday. But, Oregon put aside their close win over Arizona State, and led the Wildcats by double digits nearly the entire game. The win put the Ducks in a tie with the Wildcats for first place in the Pac-12, with both teams being two games ahead of UCLA. The Ducks can effectively end UCLA’s hopes for a regular season title with a win in Westwood on Thursday night. They stay in the LA area over the weekend, for a game against USC.
- North Carolina (21-4, LW: 11) Def. Pittsburgh 80-78, Def. Notre Dame 83-76. After looking rather pedestrian in a tight home win against the Panthers, the Tar Heels turned in a great performance against the skidding Irish. The game against Notre Dame took place in Greensboro due to a water crisis in Chapel Hill, although the different location didn’t seem to bother Coach Williams or his unit. They outrebounded the Irish 44-25. UNC is now in first place in the ACC standings. But, this week, they travel down Tobacco Road to meet the Duke Blue Devils in Cameron Indoor. That game will be Thursday night; everyone mark your calendars!
- Wisconsin (20-3, LW: 7) Def. Illinois 57-43, Def. Indiana 65-60. The Badgers continued to put in solid performances, and went to 9-1 in Big Ten play. Ethan Happ continued his stellar play, scoring 14 against the Illini and 20 versus the Hoosiers. In a down year for the conference, the Badgers have a conceivable chance of winning out and possibly being in the one seed conversation. That quest starts with a road game against Nebraska, before meeting likely NCAA tournament team Northwestern at home on Sunday. s
- Baylor (20-3, LW: 3) Lost to Kansas 68-73, Lost to Kansas State 54-56. What a game it was in Lawrence; despite 16 from both Motley and Lecomte, the Bears couldn’t quite keep their cool in crunch time, succumbing to the aura of Allen Fieldhouse. However, the real disappointment happened in the next game, when the Bears, possibly still hungover from the KU loss, were beaten at home by the Kansas State Wildcats. Baylor will look to right this ship with two more conference games this week, at Oklahoma State and home against Jamie Dixon’s Horned Frogs.
- Arizona (21-3, LW: 4) Def. Oregon State 71-54, Lost to Oregon 58-85. After an incredible 10-game winning run to start conference play, the Wildcats were brought back down to earth in a humbling blowout loss against Oregon. Simply put, Lauri Markkanen has to score more than four points for ‘Zona to beat a team of Oregon’s caliber. After the road trip to the northwest, the Wildcats will return to the McKale Center for both games this week. It’ll be Stanford on Wednesday night, and then the upstart Cal Golden Bears over the weekend.
- UCLA (21-3, LW: 10) Def. Washington State 95-79, Def. Washington 107-66. The Bruins held solid at number ten after a pair of wins last week. They continued to score the ball at will. TJ Leaf had 32 against the Cougars, and then 20 against the hapless Huskies (he was joined at the twenty-point benchmark by Alford and Ball, who netted 21 and 22 respectively). In a Thursday night showdown, UCLA will host the Oregon Ducks. They also host the Oregon State Beavers over the weekend.
- Florida State (20-4, LW: 14) Def. Miami 75-57, Def. Clemson 109-61. Florida State topped the century mark in their massive win over Clemson. They shot a blistering 66 percent from the field, and Dwayne Bacon had 29 points. The encore after a performance like that? A home game against NC State, and a road game against Notre Dame. The Seminoles are still very much in the ACC Title picture, just one game behind UNC.
- Cincinnati (21-2, LW: 15) Def. Tulsa 57-55, Def. Connecticut 82-68. Playing on the road is always difficult, no matter who the other team is. Cincy needed a monster rally to come back against Tulsa, although looked much better at home against the Huskies, where they led by as many as 25. Kyle Washington scored a career-high 27 points against UConn, and the Bearcats hit a dozen threes. Coming up this week, a home game against UCF, and a road game against the SMU Mustangs, which will likely decide the American’s regular season champion.
- Kentucky (18-5, LW: 8) Def. Georgia 90-81, Lost to Florida 66-88. It was an underwhelming week for the Wildcats, who were taken to overtime at home by a less talented Bulldogs team, and then got blasted by Florida in the swamp. The 22-point deficit was their worst loss as a top ten team since 1992. Their next game will be a home contest with LSU on Tuesday. After that, they travel to Tuscaloosa to play Avery Johnson’s Crimson Tide on Saturday.
- Virginia (17-5, LW: 12) Def. Virginia Tech 71-48, Lost to Syracuse 62-66. The Cavaliers dominated their instate rivals, before being upset by the Orange and seeing the fans storm the Carrier Dome floor. In uncharacteristic fashion, they let Syracuse shoot 55 percent from the floor. Still, in the loaded ACC, teams have to have a short memory. On Monday night, the Cavs will host Louisville, before making a return trip to Blacksburg and facing the rival Hokies once more.
- West Virginia (18-5, LW: 13) Def. Iowa State 85-72, Lost to Oklahoma State 75-82. Last week, WVU had something of a Jekyll-Hyde performance. Going to the hostile confines of Hilton Coliseum, the Mountaineers put in a stellar performance and won going away. However, in a home game against an Oklahoma State team that started 0-6 in Big 12 play (though has righted the ship), WVU faltered, collecting just 16 rebounds over the course of the entire game (a result of their defense forcing its usual insane amount of turnovers, but the Cowboys shooting 63 percent when they did get in their offense). A road game against Oklahoma and a home battle with Kansas State are the next matches on Bob Huggins’ docket.
- Duke (18-5, LW: 19) Def. Notre Dame 84-74, Def. Pittsburgh 72-64. Playing in South Bend, the Blue Devils looked like a legitimate top team. The formerly ranked Irish were thoroughly outplayed on their home court. Perhaps more importantly, Duke got back Coach K for their weekend game against the Panthers. While the showing was rather average, Duke did put up the victory, and now has the best coach in the game back on the bench. They spend the entire upcoming week at home, and play the Clemson Tigers on Saturday. However, before that, Coach K will meet Coach Williams once more, and the best rivalry in college basketball will be reignited.
- Florida (18-5, LW: 24) Def. Missouri 93-54, Def. Kentucky 88-66. Is there a hotter team in the SEC than the Gators? After rolling their previous three opponents by an average of 35 points, they romped over John Calipari and his freshmen. In the win over UK, Florida outrebounded the Wildcats 54-29. Moving forward, Kasey Hill, who had 21 points against Kentucky, will lead the Gators into Athens, Georgia, where the Bulldogs are fighting for their NCAA lives. They also welcome Texas A&M to the O’Connell Center in a noon-time game on Saturday.
- Purdue (19-5, LW: 22) Def. Northwestern 80-59, Def. Maryland 73-72. Last week was a major step forward for the Boilermakers. Against the upstart Wildcats, Purdue put in a clinical performance, behind 24 and 16 from Caleb Swanigan. Then, in the hostile environment of College Park, freshman Carsen Edwards had a cool enough head to make the game-tying and go-ahead free throws. The Boilermakers will play just once this weekend, but it is in a big game. Instate rival Indiana will host Purdue Thursday, and they will no doubt be hungry for the win.
- Butler (18-5, LW: 16) Lost to Creighton 67-76. The Bulldogs played just once last week, but couldn’t get the win against the depleted Jays. It was Butler’s second consecutive home loss. Probably not a true sign for concern, but Kelan Martin and co. have to regroup. Perhaps going on the road for two games this week will give the change of pace the Bulldogs can use to start winning again. The games will be at Marquette and Providence.
- Maryland (20-3, LW: 17) Def. Ohio State 77-71, Lost to Purdue 72-73. After seven straight victories, the Terps lost a heartbreaker at home against Purdue, seeing the game decided on free throws in the final couple seconds. Still, Maryland has put together an incredible season behind Melo and the freshmen; they’re still only a game out of first place in the conference race. Coming up, they meet the Nittany Lions in a road game, and then host the Buckeyes in College Park over the weekend. But, the Terps may already have one eye on the following week, when they have road games against Northwestern and Wisconsin.
- St. Mary’s (21-2, LW: 18) Def. Pacific 74-70, Def. San Diego 71-27. The Gaels were able to notch the road win against Pacific, but their victory over San Diego was much more noteworthy. They held the Toreros to a minuscule nine points in the first half, and kept up the defensive intensity in the second period of the game. This week, St. Mary’s plays their biggest game of the season, as they host Gonzaga over on Saturday night in prime time. Two days before that, they play Portland in another home game.
- South Carolina (19-4, LW: 25) Def. LSU 88-63, Def. Georgia 77-75. Who’s leading the SEC in the wake of Florida’s win over Kentucky? South Carolina. At 9-1 in the SEC, the Gamecocks are a game ahead of both UK and UF. In another tough loss for the Bulldogs, South Carolina, behind PJ Dozier, held off a late rally to claim the victory. Over their next stretch of games, South Carolina will host Alabama and play at Mississippi State.
- SMU (20-4, LW: NR) Def. East Carolina 86-46, Def. Tulsa 76-53. The Mustangs have been hovering around the rankings for the last few weeks, and finally broke through in this poll. Against the same Tulsa squad that Cincy barely beat, the Mustangs dominated, winning on the road by 23 points. Sterling Brown was recently AAC Player of the Week, and the Mustangs’ only conference loss has been at Cincinnati. They’ll have a chance to repay the favor, as the surging Mustangs welcome Cincy to Moody Coliseum next Sunday. They also host Temple during the week.
- Wichita State (21-4, LW: NR) Def. Drake 77-69, Def. Illinois State 86-45. The Shockers crack our poll this week, using momentum from a huge conference victory to vault themselves back onto the national picture. Compared to the last few seasons, Wichita State has been under the radar this season, despite having a talented squad. Illinois State had been undefeated in MVC play before they played the Shockers at 11-0. Gregg Marshall’s team beat them by 41 points. The win put the Shockers into a tie with the Redbirds atop the conference. This coming week, Wichita State will play Missouri State and Loyola (IL).
- Creighton (20-4, LW: 20) Def. Butler 76-67, Lost to Xavier 80-82. The road win over Butler was impressive. It gave Creighton fans hope that the season can still be a success, even without Mo Watson. However, in a battle with another team missing its star point guard, the Jays failed to protect their home court. Still, Creighton has to be considered a near-lock for the tourney. They have just one game this week, and it will be a road game against Big East minnows DePaul.
Just Missed the Cut: New Mexico State, Kansas State, Xavier, Iowa State, Northwestern
ESPN’s College Game Day will be in idyllic Moraga, California for the battle between WCC foes Gonzaga and St. Mary’s. A win for Gonzaga likely means an undefeated regular season. However, the action doesn’t wait until Saturday to begin; on Monday, top fifteen teams Louisville and Virginia clash. And then, there is Thursday night. Not only do Duke and North Carolina resume their heated rivalry, but Oregon visits a UCLA team looking for revenge in a game between top ten teams out west. Just four polls remain to be determined during the regular season; what will next week’s look like?