College Basketball Power Rankings: New No 1 + welcome to the party Wake Forest, Arkansas and Wyoming
Every Monday throughout the College Basketball Season, I will be giving out my Top 25 teams in the country. These rankings will be based on not only wins and your team's current resume but also, how much trust and belief I have in them going forward, coaching, depth and more!
1. Gonzaga (19-2)
It is the Bulldogs who get the nod for #1 in the rankings this week after a pair of 30+ point wins over San Diego and BYU. The more things change in the West Coast Conference, the more they stay the same by Gonzaga taking care of anything that stands in their way. 5 Star Freshman Chet Holmgren is starting to remind people again why he was considered by many to be one of the best and unique players in the country heading into the season, finishing with a ridiculous stat line of 20 points, 17 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 blocks on Saturday against BYU. This came following a similar performance which included a career high of 23 points on Thursday at San Diego. As good as last year's Gonzaga team that went into the National Championship game with a perfect record was, they didn’t have someone like Chet whose defensive presence alone can single handedly change an entire game. Having the frontcourt of Holmgren and Drew Timme along with Andrew Nembhard, Rasir Bolton and Julian Strawther scoring in double digits, basically every single game, this looks like the best team in the country right now. BYU is a well-coached team, who was coming into this game off a bad home loss and needed a win in the worst way for their NCAA Tournament hopes. Instead, the game was over as soon as it started.
2. Auburn (22-1)
Bruce Pearl’s team survived a scare in Athens on Saturday, leaving with a narrow two-point win over Georgia. The Tigers were without the services of floor general Zep Jasper, and it was evident just how big of a loss this really was. As the primary initiator, it is Jasper who puts everyone in the right position to succeed and Auburn really missed the cool, calm demeanor. Thankfully for the Tigers, Wendell Green was able to step up in a big way with 19 points, including what ended up being the game winning basket with four seconds remaining to give Auburn the lead. Auburn has now won 19 games in a row, and have a two-game lead, plus the tiebreaker for first place in the SEC over Kentucky. Auburn also won Tuesday night in dominant fashion against in-state Alabama as well. With Auburn's frontcourt being so dominant, sometimes it will take the attention away from just how good their backcourt is. Everyone understands that Jared Harper and Bryce Brown aren’t walking through that door. However, it is Auburn’s guards including KD Johnson, Allen Flannigan along with Green and Jasper that control the game for Auburn and make so many big-time plays. The Tigers have a huge test Tuesday when they travel to Arkansas, which has won eight-straight games.
3. Kentucky (19-4)
Unlike the AP Top 25, Kentucky has now been in the Top 10 of these rankings since early January and it is not surprising at all just how well they have been playing. Despite suffering two tough road losses to LSU and Auburn at the beginning of SEC play, there wasn't that much concern due to the fact that both Sahvir Wheeler and TyTy Washington both got injured at some point in those games. Now while operating with a completely healthy roster, Kentucky has won four games in a row including road wins at Kansas and Alabama. On Saturday, Kentucky responded to a red-hot start from the Crimson Tide by not panicking and playing their own game. It worked perfectly, as Kentucky found themselves up by six points at the half and ended up winning the game comfortably. Freshman Forward Daimion Collins had his best game of the season in this one, with 10 points and 6 rebounds in only 9 minutes off the bench. The thing that is different with this Kentucky team, compared to most John Calipari teams of the past, is that even though they have one of the best recruiting classes in the country, this team is relying on older transfers for the most part. Having so many players who already know what comes with being a good basketball player at this level, has given a guy like Collins more time to find his feet and improve.
4. Arizona (19-2)
Very few scenes in college hoops this season looked better than the McKale Center did on Thursday Night for UCLA and Arizona. It was great to see such a big game taking place in Tucson for the first time in a handful of years and Wildcats fans are rightfully excited about this team. After getting blown out by UCLA in Westwood less than two weeks ago, Arizona was able to return the favor with a convincing 76-66 win and it wasn’t even that close. The length of this Arizona team is something that jumps off the charts right away. The Wildcats' primary lineup consists of all five players all 6’3 and taller, plus both wings being at least 6’6. In addition to the massive Azoulas Tubelis/Christian Koloko combination up front, Arizona also has another 7-footer in Gonzaga transfer Oumar Ballo. Ballo did not see the court much at Gonzaga last season playing behind Drew Timme, but he has made the most out of his decision to come to Arizona as he continues to give Arizona quality minutes off the bench. First year Head Coach Tommy Lloyd, has done a phenomenal job using his quick pace, fluid style of play with this talented group of Wildcats and the product put on the floor has absolutely delivered. In addition to the UCLA game, Arizona also beat previously ranked USC on Saturday, closing the game on an 18-3 run. Not many other teams in the country are capable of showing that ultra elite gear, like Arizona did on Saturday. This is especially impressive considering the fact that Arizona was coming off their biggest win of the season and USC needed the game in the absolute worst way.
5. Duke (19-3)
The Blue Devils round out the group of not only the top 5 in these rankings, but also the group of teams currently in the top tier of college basketball at the moment. Duke has been able to show flashes of greatness many times this season. However, they have also had trouble playing at that consistently, by losing close games against Ohio State, Miami and Florida State - all games which they could've won. That changed in a big way during both of Duke’s games this past week, after blowing out both Notre Dame and North Carolina in hostile road environments. In Chapel Hill on Saturday, as soon as the ball tipped, Duke was more aggressive team and they did not trail for a second throughout the game. Freshman AJ Griffin, who struggled with injuries early this season is becoming an absolute star for Duke. Griffin finished the game with 27 points while shooting an efficient 11/17 from the field. The future NBA Lottery pick is now averaging 20 points per game over his last three games. The combination of Griffin along with Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams in the frontcourt, makes Duke a dangerous squad, entering the final weeks of Coach K’s last hoorah. The keys for the Blue Devils will now be avoiding those bad losses which can come easily over the course of the ACC slate and keep playing to a similar level we saw this past week, for the rest of the season. They play at Virginia Monday night.
6. Purdue (20-3)
Matt Painter’s Boilermakers are currently right on top of the second tier of teams at the top of the sport, behind the elites. Purdue has done a very nice job responding to the loss to Indiana on January 30th, winning five in a row. To its credit, the Boilermakers have gone on big win streaks after all three of their losses this season - something that's not easy to do in the rugged Big Ten. This week Purdue was able to pick up a pair of victories at Minnesota and against Michigan, and Jaden Ivey shined in the process. Ivey is the only high-major player nationally to currently average 17 points, five rebounds and three assists and shoot 40+ percent from 3. When Ivey is playing with this level of confidence and Trevion Williams is making plays out of the post, that is when Purdue is the most difficult to stop. The one concern for Purdue during Big Ten play has been getting stops at the defensive end, after allowing 70+ points for the fourth consecutive game against Michigan. However, there will be many nights with an offense this good that Purdue will be able to survive the defensive struggles. If Purdue wants to become the first Big Ten team to cut down the nets since Michigan State did in 2000, then the defensive effort will need to improve because they won’t win six games in a row giving 70+ points every night.
7. Illinois (17-5)
Illini Coach Brad Underwood has been waiting for weeks to see his team play at full strength. That day finally arrived on Saturday against Indiana, as Illinois was at full strength and ran away from the Hoosiers outscoring them 40-21 in the second half. Seeing a dominant big like Kofi Cockburn playing around a handful of guards like Trent Frazier, Alfonso Plummer, and Jacob Grandison who can all make shots from the outside makes it apparent just how well Brad Underwood built this team. Keep in mind, this is just one year after Illinois won the Big Ten Tournament and earned a No. 1 seed in March Madness. Frazier, a fifth-year guard who arrived at Illinois the same year as Underwood has been playing the best basketball of his career and has been a difference maker for the Illini. There are very few guards in the country that should be trusted more with the ball in his hands than Frazier. He contributed 23 points and a trio of shots made from long range to help give Illinois a victory. It was a breakthrough week for the Illini, considering they were also able to overwhelm Wisconsin on Tuesday Night without much sweat, behind 37 and 12 from Kofi. This Illini team is built much better to go far in March compared to not only anyone else in the Big Ten, but also last year’s team, due to the fact that Kofi is playing at a different level and there are so many good shooters around him. Even after losing a stud NBA player in Ayo Dosunmu, these Illini are rolling and should have everyone’s attention going forward, as a semi off the radar team that can get to a Final 4.
8. Kansas (19-3)
There is a reason why Bill Self is still one of the best coaches in college basketball, and it was apparent this past week. After getting embarrassed at home by Kentucky, Kansas was able to respond in a big way by picking up a pair of wins over Iowa State and Baylor. What made it so impressive was how it happened; the Jayhawks went to Iowa State and won at Hilton Coliseum without Ochai Agbaji (out with Covid) and then destroyed Baylor Saturday at home. It was apparent very early on that Kansas was going to have their way against Baylor, as the Jayhawks led 39-21 at the half and never looked back. With Arizona State transfer Remy Martin yet to deliver or get going at all, many have wondered who else along with Agbaji can make this thing go for Kansas. Redshirt sophomore, Dajuan Harris has been the unsung hero for this team, hitting a number of big shots and doing a great job leading the Jayhawks offense. It is clear why Bill Self trusts him at all times with the ball in his hands. In addition, Jalen Wilson has regained the form that made him so good last year, which has included scoring in double digits in 5 out of his last 7 games. David McCormack remains the ultimate key for this Kansas team. The veteran big man was able to show how impactful he was over the past week by averaging 12.5 points and 11 rebounds per game over the last two. When Kansas has all of these guys clicking and contributing around Ochai, that is when they are at their absolute best, which can beat anyone in the sport.
9. Houston (20-2)
Kelvin Sampson needs to start being spoken about as one of the five best coaches in the entire sport of college basketball. As more time goes on, the more and more impressive this Cougars team looks following the loss of leading scorer Marcus Sasser and key role player Tramon Mark. Many people around the American Athletic Conference had Sunday’s game at Cincinnati circled as one of the bigger challenges of Houston’s season. Instead, they got off to a 20-3 start and never looked back. What's wild is that like Kentucky in the SEC or Gonzaga in the WCC, Houston gets everyone's best shot in the AAC every night and always delivers. That is why Houston’s dominant road wins over teams like Cincinnati and UCF, pop out more than most. Looking ahead, the Cougars will face their most difficult test in terms of opposing talent this weekend, when Penny Hardaway and the Memphis Tigers who have been playing better lately come to town. In addition, the Cougars will travel to Dallas on Wednesday night prior to the Memphis game to take on a 16-5 SMU team which will be another tough road test. Sampson needs to be in the National Coach of the Year conversation considering he has the Cougars still playing at an elite level. This is despite the injuries and Houston is just one year after losing many key contributors from last year's team that made it all to the Final Four.
10. Providence (20-2)
In recent weeks, many have said that this Providence team is not as good as their record indicates, and that the law of averages will even out for the Friars. Those same people thought Providence's road games this week at St. Johns and Georgetown, could be the let down spot where Providence finally slips. It was not, as guard Jared Bynum dropped 19 for the Friars against St. Johns and then went off for 32 points and shot 7/8 from three in the Friars victory over Georgetown. In addition, South Carolina transfer Justin Minaya has slowly become one of the more underrated players in the country and does everything for Providence. Having a guy that can consistently knock down threes, defend at an elite level, while playing hard and hustling every night is something that every team can use. With the wins, Ed Cooley’s team is now 20-2 and following their win on Sunday against Georgetown, Providence became only the 4th team in the country to reach 20 wins behind Auburn, Murray State and Houston. After a while, being able to prove time and time again that you have the ability to win close games is a skill that any team that ultimately wants to win a National Championship will need.
11. Texas Tech (18-5)
The environment on Tuesday in Lubbock for Chris Beard's much anticipated return to Lubbock was as good as any this sport has seen over the last decade. People started camping out more than 48 hours prior to the game, and the entire city of Lubbock was buzzing well before the game came close to starting. Chris Beard walking out of the tunnel with about six police officers escorting him to the bench, was similar to a heavyweight boxer walking out of the ring for a heavyweight title fight. Once the game started, it was never in doubt for the Red Raiders who left with a 77-64 victory. Chris Beard did a great job building up this Texas tech program, getting them all the way to the National Championship in 2019, and the decision to keep Mark Adams along with some of the DNA that Beard used to help build this program was the best decision Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt has ever made. The 65-year-old, first time D1 Basketball coach has Texas Tech rolling and the Red Raiders even has a legitimate argument for best team in Big 12 after already beating both Kansas and Baylor earlier this season. It was great to see a certain level of hate back in play for a big time college basketball game especially for a regular season game. There were only a few jobs that Chris Beard would have left everything he built at Texas Tech for and considering he is a Texas alum it was not shocking that Texas was one of them and he did end up leaving. However, when a coach leaves in that manner, Texas Tech fans have every reason to feel the way they do about Beard, and it was surreal to take in. There is no move any other coach has ever made to compare to this and that’s understandable why Tech fans will never forgive Beard. The odds that College Basketball will ever see a coach jump ship to an in-state, in conference rival like Beard did is very unlikely. Credit to Texas Tech for making sure the one time it did happen that it would never be forgotten.
12. Baylor (19-4)
The defending national champions have officially hit a wall, following Saturday’s blowout loss to Kansas. Following the loss, Baylor has now dropped four out of their last eight games after starting the season with 15 consecutive victories. Although things do seem pretty gloomy for the Bears right now, the No. 1 priority needs to be getting healthy as soon as possible. Although all the injuries don’t make Baylor’s last 8 games acceptable per se, they do provide a little bit of context as to what is happening. Baylor have had a handful of players in and out of the lineup fighting injuries over the past eight games, including James Akinjo, Jeremy Sochan, Adam Flagler, Kendall Brown and most recently leading scorer LJ Cryer who is dealing with a foot injury and missed the game on Saturday. With Matthew Mayer not matching his level of play from a season ago and possibly no Cryer, Baylor has plenty of guys who are capable of stepping up that they need in the absolute worst way. However even without Cryer, Baylor needs to buckle down for their next three games at Kansas State, vs Texas and at Texas Tech. Once at full strength, the Bears are capable of playing with anyone. But getting to that point could be a different story.
13. UCLA (16-4)
There wasn’t anyone who had a worse week than Mick Cronin and the UCLA Bruins. After dropping Thursday Night’s game to Arizona in a raucous environment, a video was released showing UCLA redshirt freshman forward Mac Etienne making two spitting motions towards the Arizona student section. In a media release issued Friday, police said they had cited Etienne on suspicion of assault with intent to injure, insult or provoke, which is a Class 3 misdemeanor, and released him. In Arizona, similarly to many other states, a cite and release is considered an arrest. Etienne was not detained and was allowed to travel with the team to Phoenix, but instead traveled back home. Etienne just let his emotions get the best of him, which can happen to many young kids acting as the enemy in an environment like that. With that being said, doing something like that is not acceptable and proper punishments will take place. This is the last thing Mick Cronin needed, as this team has already overcome plenty this year, including injuries and a month-long Covid pause. That adversity continued on Saturday night when UCLA dropped a triple overtime thriller against an Arizona State. The Bruins have two more road games this week, at Stanford and USC to try and get right.
14. Marquette (16-7)
Marquette’s win on Wednesday night over Villanova, should have Golden Eagles fans nothing short of exhilarated for the future of this program. In just his 1st year in Milwaukee, Shaka Smart has his team at 16-7 overall, 8-4 in the Big East and most notably has seven Quad 1 wins, which is tied with four others for the second most in college basketball. The two biggest keys to success? Shaka has turned Justin Lewis - one of only three players to return from last year's squad - into an NBA player and favorite for Big East Conference Player of the Year in the process, while allowing transfer Darryl Morsell to go from "elite defender" at Maryland to a guy averaging 13.5 points per game in Milwaukee. George Mason transfer Tyler Kolek has also adapted nicely to transferring up a level and has become a very good lead guard for this Marquette team. For Shaka to build this team nicely in just his first year should make Marquette fans absolutely thrilled about the future of this program, especially with the number of young players on this team. Young guys, like Kam Jones and Oso Ighodoro are doing a good job in complementary roles are only going to get better. With the portal always being in play, playing in an NBA arena for this coach, in front of this fanbase is going to get a ton of really good players to Marquette. The sky's the limit for Shaka, and Marquette is currently one of the top two teams in the Big East and can absolutely go on a deep run in March.
15. Wisconsin (18-4)
After weeks where the Badgers continued to rise and rise in these rankings, Wisconsin will finally take a little bit of a fall following their loss at Illinois and narrow win over Penn State. Against Illinois, although the stat sheet will say that Johnny Davis finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds, it was nowhere close to some of his other best efforts from earlier in the season. The National Player of the Year candidate finished the game shooting an inefficient 5/19 from the floor. The question for Wisconsin since the start of the season has been “Does Johnny Davis have enough help around him?” However, that question isn’t necessarily relevant when Johnny Davis isn’t playing up to par. Brad Davison, who has been the Badgers other main scoring option besides Davis struggled as well against the Illini, with only seven points and missed a key wide open three at the first half buzzer, that could have changed the complexity of the game. Thankfully Wisconsin was able to earn a victory over Penn State on Saturday, and on a positive note, the Badgers won despite Davis scoring just four points. Wisconsin has already put themselves in a very favorable position going into February, and as long as they avoid the screwups like they did against Penn State, they should earn themselves a very nice seed in the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday.
16. Villanova (17-6)
Good teams are the ones that find a way to respond to losses, and although this Villanova team isn’t perfect, that is what they do. After Tuesday Night's defeat at Marquette, Villanova bounced back with UConn in town. Even without star Justin Moore, Jay Wright’s team came locked in and ready to play and did a good job controlling the game from start to finish. It wasn't all good news however on Saturday, as in addition to Moore's injury leading scorer Collin Gillespie left the game against UConn early with an ankle injury and is scheduled for X Rays. This is just one year after tearing his ACL, prior to last season's NCAA Tournament. Hopefully, Gillespie will be ok, as his status will be key for Villanova going forward, because without him and the lack of depth, they will be in trouble. The improvement of redshirt sophomore big man, Eric Dixon also deserves some recognition. Dixon’s footwork in the low block was fun to watch and he was the best player on the floor against UConn, leading the way for Villanova with 24 points and 12 rebounds.
17. Ohio State (14-5)
Following Thursday Night’s scheduled game against Iowa getting postponed due to inclement weather, the Buckeyes returned to the floor on Sunday at home against Maryland. This game started one of the more important stretches of the season for Ohio State, with road games at Michigan and at Rutgers to follow. Chris Holtmann’s squad was able to start off this stretch with a bang, blowing out Maryland 82-67 and the game was never in doubt. The key to Ohio State will be who is going to be able to step up and score the ball alongside EJ Liddell. After losing Duane Washington from last year’s squad, that earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Ohio State has struggled to find a consistent scorer to go alongside Liddell, especially since the early season abdomen injury to Justice Sueing, as it is unknown when he will be back on the court. Freshman Malaki Brnaham should eventually be that guy for Ohio State and every game, he shows a flash or two of greatness. However, right now it is the veterans including Justin Ahrens and Zed Key that Ohio State needs in the worst way. They combined for 28 points against Maryland, and it was their impact and energy while shooting and rebounding the ball, which was exactly what Ohio State needed to separate. Ohio State has really won most of the games they are supposed to win aside from the early season Duke win, and has lost basically every game they are supposed to lose. Despite not being at the very top of the Big Ten alongside Purdue and Illinois, Ohio State is in a good position heading into February.
18. Tennessee (16-6)
Rick Barnes' team has quietly played their best stretch of basketball of the entire season in recent weeks. That was on full display on Saturday at South Carolina when Tennessee blew out the Gamecocks by a final score of 81-57. This was the first time this season, Tennessee has won a game against a Power 6 opponent by more than 20 points and the Vols have also scored 80+ points in back-to-back SEC Conference games for the first time in 2022. Tennessee has now won six consecutive conference games, with their only recent hiccup coming in the Big 12/ SEC challenge against Texas. Even in a loss, Tennessee was able to fight back from a 17-point deficit before ultimately falling, but they did show some fight which has translated to SEC play. While point guard Kennedy Chandler was the headliner of this Tennessee freshman class, it is another freshman that has taken everyone by surprise: 5’10 three-star Zakai Zeigler has really provided a spark on the offensive end for a Vols team that has had some trouble scoring the ball at many points this season. Zeigler contributed 18 points, while shooting 4/5 from three against South Carolina and has scored in double digits in each of Tennessee’s last four games. Very few coaches in the country aside from Rick Barnes, can have a three-star Freshman playing this pivotal role, on a really good Tennessee team. This isn’t the first team this season the Vols have found a way into these rankings and they usually exit quickly after that. They will have a chance to only improve their spot, this week with a litmus test road game at Mississippi State, followed by a home game against Vanderbilt.
19. Michigan State (17-5)
Although Tom Izzo’s team continues and deserves to have a spot in these rankings, the more Michigan State plays, the more apparent it is that there might not be anything particularly special about them. This week, the Spartans were able to earn a road victory over Maryland in a tightly contested game Tuesday but got trounced by Rutgers in Piscataway on Saturday. As great of a home court advantage as Rutgers has, losing by 20+ points to anyone for a Tom Izzo coached team isn’t going to fly well. Similar to Villanova, Michigan State has done a nice job responding to losses so far this season, considering they have yet to lose back-to-back games. That streak will be tested on Tuesday, when they host Wisconsin and shortly after Indiana will be coming to town on Saturday. This Wisconsin game will be big considering the fact that Michigan State went into Madison a few weeks ago and beat up on the Badgers. With two NCAA Tournament teams heading into East Lansing this week, Michigan State really has a chance to change that narrative.
20. Murray State (22-2)
Murray State has really started to show some similarities to the 2019 Wofford team under Mike Young that was able to draw a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament and took Kentucky down to the wire. The Racers' ability to play fast and shoot the three is really fun to watch. Murray State ranks among the top 10 scoring teams in Division I at 82.1 PPG and fourth in scoring margin at 18.5 PPG. Star junior guard, and one-time teammate of NBA superstar Ja Morant, Tevin Brown is turning into the next star player to come out of this Murray State program. Brown has now scored in double digits, in every single one of Murray State’s games so far this season and is surrounded by KJ Williams and Justice Hill who can also both really score the basketball. This is a Murray State team that found themselves down by 14 points at halftime on the road at Penny Hardaway and Memphis and managed to rally for a 74-72 win. Now Memphis isn’t the best team in the world, but the fact that Murray State from the Ohio Valley was able to do this shows they are a mentally tough basketball team. On Saturday, Murray State was able to beat SIU Edwardsville by 20 points, while shooting only 24 percent from three in the process. When a team is able to not only win, but also able to blow out an opponent in a conference game makes it apparent that this Murray State team is really good and needs to be taken seriously.
21. Wyoming (19-3)
There are a handful of coaches, especially outside the Power 6 level, who have lost very good players to the transfer portal that can maybe use it as part of an excuse why their team isn’t playing up to standards. That looked to be the case for Jeff Linder and Wyoming, after they lost last year’s Mountain West Freshman of the Year Marcus Williams to Texas A&M. Instead of using it as an excuse Linder has his Cowboys at 19-3 overall and 7-1 in Conference. This is following one of the best weeks any team in College Basketball will have this season, with Wyoming earning wins over Colorado State, Boise State and at Fresno State in the past seven days. In the 2020 season that ended in the NCAA Tournament being called off due to COVID-19, Linder had his program at Northern Colorado ranked in the top 80 of KenPom and in position to be a popular upset pick in the NCAA Tournament. Less than two years later, the exact same thing can be said about this Wyoming team, but they should be a little more noticed. The Mountain West has four very good teams that should all make the NCAA Tournament and possibly win some games once they get there. There isn’t a better inside/ outside combination in the sport right now than Hunter Maldonado and Graham Ike, who are averaging a combined 39 points per game this season. Linder deserves credit for not only convincing Hunter Maldonado to come back to the program when he first arrived, but it is also apparent that Jeff Linder has a really good eye for talent. Wyoming’s head coach was able to find Ike, when Washington State was the only Pac 12 school that was actively recruiting him plus Williams, who was a three-star recruit that is now flourishing in the SEC.
22. USC (19-4)
After starting the season with 13 consecutive victories, USC picked up its fourth loss of the season on Saturday against Arizona. Although USC did impress throughout the game and was able to be more competitive at McKale against Arizona than most other teams would be in that situation, there is a massive elephant in the room right now. That is the fact that it is February and the best team that USC has beaten is San Diego State, a fringe NCAA Tournament team at best. It feels almost exactly the same to the 2018 USC Trojans team, who were clearly one of the 68 best teams in the country but shockingly got left out on Selection Sunday, because of their bad resume, consisting of teams from a bad Pac 12 conference. That is why Saturday's game against Arizona was so important. USC needed a win in the absolute worst way, after losing all 3 games this season against the Pac 12’s next two best teams in Stanford and Oregon. Luckily, USC will have a major opportunity to bounce back and earn the quality win they have been looking for on Saturday when rival UCLA comes to town. USC still has both games against UCLA on the schedule. However, losses in those games, could result in Trojans fans being extremely nervous going into Selection Sunday.
23. Arkansas (18-5)
Tennessee isn’t the only team in the SEC that has really started to turn it on as of late. Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks have now won eight consecutive games, heading into their biggest test of the season on Tuesday Night when Auburn comes to Bud Walton Arena. Usually when you have a team full of transfers and new players, they will struggle early in the season. This is due to the fact that there are no clear roles established and no one really knows each other's strengths and weaknesses just yet. But, just like many other Eric Musselman coached teams that consist of a lot of transfers, this Arkansas team has flipped a switch and has really started to get things figured out. Key returnee Jaylin Williams, who was also one of the main reasons why Arkansas was able to get things turned around last season, has been playing at an elite level. One of the most unique players in the entire country, the Razorbacks offense goes through Williams as he could do everything including pass, shoot and know where his teammates are going at all times. In addition, South Dakota State transfer Stanley Umude had 31 points in Tuesday’s win over Georgia and other transfers like Au'Diese Toney and Trey Wade are starting to look more and more comfortable. Another key returnee in JD Notae has taken on the role of go-to scorer, as he has scored in double digits every single game this season and is leading Arkansas in scoring with 18.7 points per game. It is apparent why Eric Musselman trusts this guy with the ball in his hands and there might not be a more anticipated game next week than Auburn at Arkansas at Bud Walton Arena. It will be rocking.
24. Wake Forest (19-5)
There was only one Power 6 job that opened in the 2020 off-season: It was Wake Forest who ended up hiring Steve Forbes from East Tennessee State and it is a decision that has paid off in a massive way. In 2020, Forbes had ETSU in position to enter the NCAA Tournament as one of the most dangerous teams from the mid major ranks. This year, there hasn’t been a team in the country that did a better job taking advantage of the transfer portal than Forbes and Wake Forest. Just one year after only averaging 6.7 points per game at Oklahoma, senior guard Alondes Williams has become not only the best transfer to come out of the portal, but also has an argument as the best point guard in the country. Williams is averaging an astounding 19.8 points per game this season and his ability to get buckets and always make the right play is what has made all of the pieces for this Wake team fit together so nicely. In addition, Indiana State transfer Jake LaRavia is quickly making his name onto the NBA Draft radar, and it is apparent why every time this Wake Forest team takes the floor. The 6 '8 Junior from Indianapolis, is shooting 38 percent from three on the season while averaging 15.1 points per game and complementing Williams very nicely. Although the ACC is down in many ways, Wake is currently the clear No. 2 team behind Duke and will be a scary matchup for anyone that has to deal with them in the NCAA Tournament.
25. Texas (17-6)
Although it ended in a loss, Texas' effort on Tuesday night at Texas Tech was pretty respectable considering the circumstances. They were not able to, but bounced back nicely with a win Saturday against Iowa State. Marcus Carr was a bright spot, putting up 14 points, eight assists and five rebounds in one of his better efforts of the season. The Minnesota transfer was expected tos core the ball a little less while playing with so many other talented players in Austin. However, with Carr only averaging 11 points per game and Texas still not looking very good on offense this is when Texas needs him the most. If I’m Chris Beard, I’d definitely consider exploring using Carr in a more aggressive manner and just seeing what happens when he tries to score the ball at an effective pace. With Kansas coming to Austin for Big Monday, this will be a real chance for Texas to show the rest of the country if they can turn things around after a disappointing start.
Follow Zac Krull on Twitter @ZKrull3