Every Monday throughout the end of the college basketball regular season (which incredibly, is just two weeks away!), 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!
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1. Gonzaga (23-2)
To no one’s surprise, Mark Few’s team was the No. 1 overall seed in the Selection Committee's reveal show Saturday. Gonzaga has not lost since December 4th against Alabama, and quite frankly it is tough envisioning this Zags team taking another loss before Selection Sunday. There is a very good chance that Chet Holmgren’s improvement over the course of the season could be an x-factor for the Zags in March. Yes, Gonzaga once again enters March with questions if they can win it all or not, but the idea that the Zags that they haven't been elite, simply because they have yet to cut down the nets, simply isn't true. They are the only program to have played in three of the last four Elite 8’s and make it to the Sweet 16 each of the past seven seasons. The question remains, is this finally the year that Gonzaga can win it all?
2. Arizona (24-2)
A big part of what has made Arizona’s season so impressive up to this point, is their consistency. The Wildcats have shown up at their best and ready to play with the exception of basically two games - their two losses at Tennessee and UCLA. On Saturday night, an Oregon team desperate for a big win came into Tucson and started firing on all cylinders. In a game that featured 16 lead changes, Oregon led by as many as 12 points in the first half making 13 of their first 21 shots from the field in the process, yet the Wildcats still took the Ducks' best shot and came back to win. This win broke a seven-game losing streak to the Ducks for Arizona and they now have a 15-game home court winning streak at the McKale Center dating back to last year. Tucson was electric before the game, filling the crowd early for College Gameday’s appearance. Arizona finding a way to win, despite playing in a close back and forth Oregon needing the game in the worst way shows how mentally tough this Arizona team is.
3. Kentucky (22-5)
John Calipari seems to be at his absolute best when his back is against the wall, and that continued for Kentucky this past week. After getting blown out by Tennessee, in a game when TyT Washington left early due to his nagging leg injury, Kentucky came into their game Saturday against Alabama without both Washington and fellow backcourt mate Sahvir Wheeler. Things didn't start off well as Alabama couldn't miss, and the Wildcats fell down 46-34. Kentucky was able to respond in a big way, somehow going into the locker room up by one and used that momentum in the second half to ice the game. After a very disappointing 2021 season, Calipari has done a great job adapting to the modern times of college basketball and built this team with a combination of freshmen and transfers. One of those transfers, Kellan Grady, stepped up against Alabama providing 25 points on 9/16 from the field. Grady has given Kentucky the elite shot maker, which they did not have a year ago and it is making a major difference. This is a Kentucky team that prior to this game, had not proven they could win without TyTy Washington in the lineup, losing to LSU, Auburn and Tennessee without him. Having the confidence of knowing that they can play with and beat good teams god forbid TyTy goes down, should serve as a major confidence booster heading into March.
4. Auburn (24-3)
The Tigers lost their third game of the season, on Saturday at Florida. Unfortunately for Auburn, a lot of the problems that could haunt this team in March cost them despite almost completing a comeback for the ages. While the frontcourt is elite (Walker Kessler and Jabari Smith combined for 53 points vs. Vanderbilt on Wednesday and Smith had 28 against the Gators) the worry is that when your best two players are in the frontcourt, they are going to have to rely on someone from the backcourt to get them the ball, especially in the most important points of the game. Coming in from Eastern Kentucky, Wendell Green has been a great get in the transfer portal for Bruce Pearl. A lot of times, when players transfer from a Mid Major school to the Power 6 level there will be some difficulty adjusting to the game. That hasn’t been the case for Green, as he has become Auburn's top ball handler and won’t be afraid of any moment. This cost Auburn on Saturday, when Green never got a shot off on the final possession as time ran out. While Jabari Smith doesn’t have to take every single shot in clutch time, not touching the ball when Wendell Green is working ridiculously hard to even get a shot off is not going to get it done.
5. Kansas (22-4)
The term “player development” is super cliche, but Bill Self has shown just how important of a skill it is during his time at Kansas. Historically, he has turned like Frank Mason, Devonte Graham from unheralded high school players into NBA players, and with Kansas' recruiting taking a dip post FBI scandal, Self is again showing that skill turning this year's group - which has just one McDonald's All-American, David McCormack - into a title contender. Self has developed guys like Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun, DaJaun Harris, Jalen Wilson who have all been in the Kansas program multiple years and it has paid off in a big way. Not one of those guys were five-star recruits or had any one and done talk coming out of high school. Self still has this Kansas’ team, which many people have questioned their overall talent level and still has them as a top 5 team. The Jayhawks, were also awarded the Final No. 1 seed in the Selection Committee's early bracket reveal. The path is right in front of Kansas, with a Big 12 Regular Season title in sight, and a win in the Big 12 Tournament that would most likely secure that 1 seed.
6. Duke (23-4)
The story heading into March will be on Coach K and his final NCAA Tournament as Duke’s head coach and rightfully so. But the more intriguing storyline will be just how good is this Duke team and do they have a realistic chance to win it all? From a pure talent perspective, there are not many teams in the country that can match up with the Blue Devils. Duke has four likely 1st round picks in this year's NBA Draft and when they are playing at their absolute best not many are capable of beating them. The problem is, Duke has not been able to perform anywhere close to their best, especially on a consistent basis. The other thing going against Duke, is that this is the worst that the ACC has been as a basketball conference in about the past 50 years. Duke has even had some head scratching losses in the ACC including at Florida State, and at home against Miami and Virginia. Losing a game here and there isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it does start to become a little concerning when you lose some games and start sleepwalking in others during wins. There was no reason why Wake Forest was able to go on a 9-0 run in the last minute on Tuesday to tie the game. The same thing could be said about Duke’s very casual nonchalant first half on Saturday against Florida State. The bottom line is that Duke is not going to be able to win a National Championship unless they can get rolling on a consistent basis, which is something they have not been able to do so far this season.
7. Texas Tech (21-6)
There wasn’t a team in college basketball that had a better week than Texas Tech, who picked up wins against Baylor and at Texas. First year head coach Mark Adams is starting to emerge as the favorite for National Coach of the Year. His team has now picked up 5 wins against AP Top 20 teams and are on track to getting to a 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. On Saturday at Texas, even though the game was in Austin, Red Raiders fans showed up in a big way, and essentially turned a Texas home game into a neutral court game. Throughout the game it was clear that Mark Adams and Texas Tech had already had their culture established within the program, while that is still not the case with Chris Beard and the Longhorns. Texas Tech was able to complete the season sweep over Texas, without Kevin McCullar who is one of their more valuable players providing key experience and great defense as well as being the primary offensive facilitator. Adams' team has not been fully healthy since the start of the season, and he continues to win. Coaches that face adversity right off the bat in their first year and don’t use it as an excuse are the most impressive ones. Texas Tech has also established one of the best home court advantages in the country at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock. The insane atmosphere helped Texas Tech recover from a 7 point halftime deficit to secure the win over Baylor and it would be surprising if they lose another home game all season.
8. Villanova (21-6)
When teams are able to go on the road into very tough environments and find a way to not only win, but rip the hearts out of the opposing fans, those are the most impressive victories. That is exactly what Villanova did on Tuesday night, in front of the best crowd Providence has had for a basketball game in a long time. Jay Wright’s Wildcats were able to pick up an 89-84 victory in a high-level game at Providence. Providence’s fans started crowding their home gym more than two hours prior to tipoff and started booing the Villanova players during warmups. There have been many times this season where teams have gone into crazy road environments like that and immediately crack under the pressure. The fact that Villanova not only played well but were able to hit a number of clutch shots leading to the victory is very impressive. Jay Wright has built such a great culture at Villanova, and when players have been there for a handful of years like Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore, it really pays off in big games. Wright said prior to the game that “These are the type of games that you come to Villanova to play in” and he is absolutely right. His Wildcats have essentially run the league since realignment in 2013. It has gotten to a point where anytime Villanova goes on the road in the Big East, it is a marquee game for the home team.
Matt Painter’s team was able to take both of their games this week at Northwestern and against Rutgers, and now have a half game lead over Illinois for first place in the Big Ten. Sunday against Rutgers, it was evident that Purdue is going to be at their absolute best when
Jaden Ivey is rolling and offense is being run through him. It is completely understandable that Matt Painter’s system has a lot to do with Purdue’s success and there are also a lot of other players on this Purdue team that contribute to their depth, which makes this team so scary. With that being said, Ivey was able to get to the free throw line 18 times against Rutgers, and he is so good that when the ball is in his hands, the entire defense needs to be alert because he can go up and make any move or shot at any time. The elephant in the room for this Purdue team remains, their struggles on the defensive side of the floor. Purdue ranks 154th in the country in overall defensive efficiency and let Rutgers shoot 51 percent from the floor even in a victory. Purdue does have the best offense in the entire country right now by the numbers, and the hope is that their offense will be able to outscore their lackluster defense. Of course, historically we have said that about other teams too, including Iowa last year with Luka Garza - a No. 2 seed that failed to make the Sweet 16. In order for this Purdue team to make a deep run in March they will have to play through Ivey and really improve on the defensive end.
10. Baylor (22-5)
The defending National Champions deserve some credit for finding a way to win a majority of their games in a very tough Big 12 conference, with the amount of injuries they have faced. Baylor was able to respond from a tough road loss to Texas Tech with a blowout win against an NCAA Tournament caliber TCU team on Saturday. Unfortunately for the Bears, prior to the game both LJ Cryer and Adam Flagler were ruled out due to injury. This was so deflating due to the fact that both of them had just come back from injuries and Flagler had seemed to get it going last week against Texas. This comes shortly after losing big man Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua for the season with a devastating injury. Baylor still has a ton of pieces that when healthy. James Akinjo is going to end up on one of the All-American teams list, Kendall Brown will be a first round NBA Draft pick and Scott Drew is still underrated as one of the better coaches in the entire country. The question is at what point, if at all, are these injuries really going to derail this team from competing for a National Championship? At one point in the season, Baylor looked like the clear best team in college basketball, but has lost a handful of games since. Playing in the Big 12 Conference is a very difficult task and considering the amount of nagging injuries to so many different players Baylor should be applauded for how they have handled adversity so far. It is just a matter of can they keep it up, with a huge home game against Kansas with possible Big 12 title implications on Saturday.
11. Illinois (19-7)
The Fighting Illini were able to respond nicely after their loss at Rutgers on Tuesday. with a win at Michigan State on Saturday. Despite being the better team for a majority of the game, things did get a little scary for the Illini, when Michigan State cut the lead to two with about two minutes remaining, after trailing by as many as 16 earlier in the second half. What makes this Illinois team so scary, especially compared to last year is that they simply have better shooters surrounding Kofi Cockburn on the perimeter. Senior Guard Trent Frazier continues to play the absolute best basketball of his career and hit one of the biggest shots of the season for Illinois in the final minute against Michigan State. Frazier has excelled with the ball in his hands, and is a great decision maker. Combine that with a great shooting ability and Frazier has become one of the premier plays in the Big Ten. In addition Jacob Grandison has become one of the more underrated and improved players in the country shooting 6/10 from three with 24 points in the victory. Brad Underwood has continued to win everywhere he has been a head coach and could really establish himself as one of the top coaches in the country with a long postseason run. With this group, it is entirely possible.
12. Providence (22-3)
The atmosphere at the Dunkin Donuts Center on Tuesday Night for the Friars matchup against Villanova was as good as any the sport has seen so far this season. Everything that Ed Cooley has built since arriving as Head Coach was on display as it was evident just how much Providence fans love this team. The conversation going into the game was how good exactly is this Providence team with all of the metrics are very low on the Friars and they have won a lot of close games that theoretically could have gone either way. Villanova did end up getting the victory, but there wasn’t one second that went by where it looked like Providence didn’t belong. The Friars had some good looks from three to get even in the game, however in the end Villanova and Collin Gillespie just hit more big shots. What made this week really impressive for Providence was the fact that following the tough loss, Providence fell down early to Butler, and still rallied to win - despite playing without guard Al Durham. You are not able to make that comeback, on the road, after a tough loss, without one of your better players if you are not mentally tough.
13. UCLA (19-5)
After losing three of four games, the Bruins responded in a big way - beating both Washington schools by 20+ points this weekend. And to their credit, they did it without a pair of starters, Johnny Juzang and Cody Riley who both missed the game with nagging injuries. Keeping in mind that Juznag’s scoring ability and Riley's presence are pivotal to UCLA making a deep run in March, other Bruins did step up and be possible difference makers going forward. Jaylen Clark, who has been in and out of the lineup lately with a concussion, dropped a career high 25 points leading the way for the Bruins. Clark, who has been UCLA’s best defender over the past 2 seasons, has really improved from the offensive end, becoming a really good player. In addition, sharpshooter David Singleton provided 22 points and will be a valuable piece as instant offense. Without two key players, the fact that other Bruins were able to step up for Mick Cronin is a great sign. UCLA should be able to gain some confidence heading into the postseason, with a favorable schedule leading up to their season finale at home, against rival USC.
14. Wisconsin (20-5)
The main storyline to come out of this weekend of cpllege basketball will be the events that followed Wisconsin’s game against Michigan on Sunday. Following the game, coaches and players were involved in an ugly skirmish that included pushing, shoving by members of both teams. The clip that everyone will be talking about, is Michigan Head Coach Juwuan Howard taking a swing at Wisconsin Assistant Coach Joe Krabbenhoff who was also in the middle of the altercation. The Big Ten will likely announce punishments soon, but the bottom line is that it was an ugly altercation that has no room in the sport of college basketball. In terms of on the court, National Player of the Year candidate Johnny Davis continued to shine, leading the way for the Badgers with 25 points, while shooting an efficient 11 of 17 from the field. Davis was also phenomenal in Wisconsin’s other win this week at Indiana, going for 30 and 12 while leading the Badgers and closing the game on a 8-0 run to secure the win. It is apparent that when Johnny Davis plays at his absolute best, then Wisconsin can compete with anyone. With that being said, all four of the Badgers other starters scored in double digits and continue to show that they can contribute as well. Very few players have played in more Big Ten games than Brad Davison, and he is someone that other coaches in the league dred playing against. In addition, some of the other members of the supporting cast like Tyler Wahl, Chucky Hepburn and Stephen Crowl continue to play winning basketball and excel at their strengths. This is a vintage Wisconsin team, with a star player and a bunch of really good players that will never beat themselves.
15. Houston (22-4)
Kelvin Sampson’s team had their worst week of the season two weeks ago, dropping their first two games since the Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark injuries to SMU and Memphis. To the Cougars credit, they were able to get back in the win column picking up victories over Central Florida and Wichita State in the past seven days. With that being said, for the first time since injuries the Cougars have looked like a team that is not at 100 percent. Although players like Kyler Edwards and Jamal Shead have done a phenomenal job stepping up the occasion, there are doubts if Houston can ever match the team they could have been if fully healthy. Over their past four games, Houston has looked like a team more likely to get upset early in the tournament than going on a deep run. Luckily for Cougars, Kelvin Sampson has established himself as one of the top coaches in the Country and from a game planning and preparation perspective there are very few better within the game. Sunday against Wichita, the Cougars were able to secure the victory in double overtime after J’Wan Roberts delivered the game winning dunk with 1.3 seconds remaining. Winning a double overtime game, in a raucous environment like Wichita is not easy to do and hopefully it will continue to build confidence for Hosuton going forward.
16. Arkansas (21-6)
There isn’t a team in college basketball that is currently playing better than Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks. Following Saturday’s win over Tennessee, the Hogs have now won 11 out of their last 12 games. Musselman’s teams have always started off a little slow, but once
we get to about late January to early February something starts to click. With the NBA All Star game taking place this weekend, there were a handful of current NBA and former Arkansas players that made their way to Bud Walton Arena on Saturday. Seeing guys like Mosses Moody, Mason Jones, Isaiah Joe and even Musselman's former Nevada players Caleb and Cody Martin, shows there are few better player developers in college hoops than Musselman. Some of the best high school players are starting to take notice as Arkansas already has two top prospects signed as a part of next year's class in Nick Smith and Jordan Walsh, and had the top unsigned player in America, Anthony Black in town for Saturday's game against Tennessee. In terms of the on the court product, Jaylin Williams has become the leader of this Arkansas team, as their offense continues to run through him and his excellent decision making. From taking charges, to hitting clutch shots to just making the smart and important plays, Williams’ fingerprints have been behind Arkansas' turnarounds in each of the most two seasons. Eric Musselman has found himself a winner in the 6’10 sophomore from Fort Smith.
17. Tennessee (19-7)
The Vols victory over Kentucky on Tuesday Night, in front of an absolutely electric Thompson Boling Arena was a sight to see. With the win, Tennessee has now beaten two of the top five teams in the NCAA’s bracket revealed at Thompson Boling Arena (Arizona and Kentucky), really using their homecourt to their advantage. The win capped the Vols eighth consecutive victory in the SEC and for the first time all season it felt like this team was starting to click. Following the unfortunate season ending injury to Olivier Nkamhoua, Rick Barnes has found a group of guys who really fit well together. The combination of Kennedy Chandler, Zakai Zeigler, Santiago Vescovi and Josiah Jordan James in the backcourt has given the Vols offense the spark they’ve been looking for all season and the offense just looks more dynamic. Vescovi, Chandler and Zeigler were all in double digits against Kentucky, and John Fulkerson provided the veteran presence that Tennessee has been looking for all season with a big 14 points off the bench. In addition, Freshman big man James Aidoo has worked his way into the rotation and has been an impact player for Tennessee over their last handful of games. Rick Barnes continues to find and develop guys like Aidoo and Zakai Zeigler, turning them into valuable pieces for this team. Tennessee did drop a tough road game on Saturday against Arkansas, but with an 8-game winning streak going in and a tough loss in a tough road loss, Vols fans should still be feeling good about their team. A trip to Missouri is ahead on Tuesday, before former Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl and Auburn come to town on Saturday.
18. UConn (19-7)
Danny Hurley’s Huskies were able to have one of if not their best weeks of the season, picking up marquee home wins over Seton Hall and Xavier. They now host Villanova on Tuesday, in what could be a season-defining three-game stretch. This is a squad that had battled injuries along with COVID shutdowns but finally everyone is healthy and things have really started to come together. Adama Sanogo has played like one of the country's most dominant big men over the past two games averaging 17.5 points and 12.5 rebounds in UConn’s last two victories. This is the kind of player UConn really needs in order to be at their best, with a number of capable guards surrounding the big man. The other thing to like about this UConn team is they are very experienced, bringing back everyone from last year's team that made the NCAA Tournament aside from James Bouknight. Fifth-year Senior Tyler Polley stepped up in a big way against Xavier with 16 points while shooting three of three from deep. It was great to see Bouknight and former UConn player Christian Vital sitting court side at the game, and seeing Bouknight get ejected and immediately go to the student section was a power move. The electricity of Gampel Pavilion really popped on Saturday, providing a legitimate home court advantage and hopefully the same can be said about the XL Center on Tuesday against Villanova. Finally, having UConn back in the Big East, playing in these types of big games is absolutely great for the sport.
19. USC (23-4)
It may not have been easy, but USC was able to survive a valiant effort from Washington State with a close 62-60 on Sunday securing the season sweep of the Cougars in the process. After missing the Trojans big victory last Saturday against UCLA with a broken nose, leading scorer Isiah Mobley was able to return to the lineup and play normal minutes over the course of both of USC’s wins against the Washington schools over the last 7 days. Part of what has made this season so frustrating for USC, is playing in the Pac 12 doesn’t give you as many opportunities for quality wins, that especially affects this USC team, considering the fact that their best win during the non-conference portion of the schedule was against a San Diego State team that is not currently a sure-fire lock for the NCAA Tournament. That was why USC’s victory last week over UCLA was so important, as USC had already lost their games against Oregon and Arizona who are currently the only other Pac 12 teams with realistic likely NCAA Tournament aspirations. Despite not necessarily having the resume of a Top 25 team, there is no doubt that the Trojans deserve to be in these rankings. Andy Enfield has done a phenomenal job, bringing back the majority of the players from last year's team that made it all the way to the Elite Eight, including former transfers Drew Peterson and Chavez Goodwin. The pair continue to improve under Enfield, after coming in from mid-major schools. That is a sign of a really good coach, and Enfield deserves credit for not going all in on the possible five-star recruits and elite talents while focusing on player development. These are the reasons why many other schools who are looking for coaches could be interested in Enfield. USC should be willing to do whatever they can to make sure he stays in Los Angeles for as long as possible.
20. Ohio State (16-7)
Quite frankly, it is around this point in the rankings that lines are starting to be drawn in the sand between the elite teams, the really good teams and now just the good teams. Ohio State has consistently overachieved relative to expectations, since Chris Holmann walked into Columbus in 2017 making him one of the best and most underrated coaches in the sport. The same thing can be said about this version of Ohio State who has overachieved after losing key contributors in Dwayne Washington and CJ Walker from last year's team that got a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This year EJ Liddell remains one of the best players in the sport and freshman Malaki Branham has had some really good moments, including flashes of greatness. However, Ohio State has had trouble showing the consistency of a very good team and it feels like they can either beat anyone or lose to anyone on any given day. On Saturday, the Buckeyes hosted an Iowa team that was coming off a deflating home loss to Michigan and entered the game 0-7 against Quad 1 opponents. Iowa was able to go into Ohio State and control the game from start to finish behind 24 points from Keegan Murray. Branham and Liddell were able to combine for 37 points for Ohio State, but the problem is that the rest of the team scored a total of 25 points. In order for this Ohio State team to win games in March, they are going to need someone to step up and score the ball more alongside Liddell and Branham. This home game against Iowa, did start what is going to be one of the more important stretches of the season for the Buckeyes with Indiana coming to town on Monday and a road trip to Illinois right after.
21. Murray State (26-2)
Although their games have been a little close for comfort as of late, the Racers are still continuing to find ways to win. Murray State’s narrow two-point victory over UT Martin on Saturday improved the Racers overall record to 26-2 and they have now won 16 games in a row which is tied with Gonzaga for the longest active winning streak in college basketball. It is going to be very interesting to see how Murray State is seeded by the committee in the NCAA Tournament considering they only have two losses on the season and one of them came against college basketball elites in Auburn. Right now, Murray State is seeded on bracket matrix as an 8 seed and the number will only keep increasing as they continue to win. This team is really starting to show some similarities to the 2019 Wofford Terriers team under Mike Young, that was able to get a 7 seed coming out of the SoCon and can shoot the three ball well. This Murray State team is a little more athletic with high-major talents like KJ Williams and Justice Hill surrounding an elite shot maker in Tevin Brown. Murray State also has a notable road victory at Memphis, who is currently projected by most as an NCAA Tournament team and the Racers will have another chance for a big win on Thursday when archrival Belmont comes to town. This game will be must-see TV considering that Murray State already went into Belmont and beat their rival and this could be Belmont’s last stand for any possible chance at an at-large bid. The game will be on ESPNU and with this being many people’s first time watching this Racers team up close, there is no reason to not expect a big performance.
22. Wyoming (22-4)
Jeff Linder’s team suffered their first hiccup in quite some time on Tuesday night losing to New Mexico at The Pit. Although losing to New Mexico in 2022 isn’t ideal, The Pit is known to be one of the tougher places in the country to play and there is no reason to panic about Wyoming losing just one game after looking at their resume. Wyoming had won six consecutive games in the Mountain West heading into the game and keeping in mind just how hard it is to win on the road in this league, that is something that is not easy to do. A story in the Athletic this week by CJ Moore went into detail on just how good of an eye Wyoming Head Coach Jeff Linder has for talent. He recruited Damian Lillard to Weber State, Chandler Hutchinson and Justinian Jessup to Boise State followed by Graham Ike and Marcus Williams to Wyoming. Four of those players are currently in the NBA, while Ike and Williams have continued to excel on the college scene in 2022 (Williams transferred to Texas A&M this season). This Wyoming team has played so well, and Linder has made the adjustment to Mountain West play look so easy, that he would definitely be on my radar if I was looking for a head coach this offseason. This is the same guy that had Northern Colorado University ranked in the top 80 of KenPom prior to the 2020 season being shut down. This Wyoming team led by two dynamic players in Graham Ike and Hunter Maldonado will be a threat to win multiple games in March.
23. Alabama (17-10)
At this point, it is difficult to justify any of the options for the final 3 spots in these rankings, so Alabama’s resume does have a lot to do with this. With that being said, Alabama was able to respond to their Head Coach getting ejected from Tuesday’s game against Mississippi State and showed some mental toughness in the process. Alabama went on an 18-2 run after Mississippi State scored on the two possessions after the ejection. A three-point play from freshman JD Davison gave Alabama the lead for good with 5:01 left. It seemed like the momentum may have continued to Saturday against Kentucky when Alabama had a golden opportunity for revenge on the same Kentucky team that went into Tuscaloosa and beat Alabama a few weeks ago, but after starting the game off on absolute by making 6 of their first 8 threes, Kentucky was able to chip away at the big early lead built by Alabama going into the locker room at the half only trailing by 1. Alabama got outscored 43-35 in the second half which has continued a consistent pattern for Alabama since the start of the season. There will be some points like against Gonzaga, Houston and Baylor plus early in the game on Saturday at Kentucky when Alabama looks like one of the 5 best teams in the country. However, there are other points like when they are losing to SEC bottom feeders Georgia and Missouri, they can look bad. At this point if Alabama has shown they are not able to find that consistency by late February, is there any reason to believe they can show it in March? It seems like Nate Oats himself is still searching for an answer that needs to be found quickly if this Alabama team has serious March aspirations.
24. Boise State (21-6)
The Mountain West has been such a quality basketball league, that they are more than deserving of having two teams in these rankings. What makes the Mountain West so interesting, is that they have four really good teams - and two (Wyoming and Colorado State) are really good offensively and the other two (Boise State and San Diego State) are very good on the defensive end. There is a very good chance that this is the best team in Leon Rice’s 12 years in Boise and their elite defense has a lot to do with it. The Broncos are currently 13th in the country in Defensive Efficiency and their bevy of high major transfers do a great job locking down on the defensive end. Abu Kigab (Oregon) and Emmanuel Akot (Arizona) provide length and athleticism that makes it very difficult to score against this Boise team. In addition, there isn’t a more clutch Guard in college basketball than Boise State’s Marcus Shaver, who has hit 4 game tying or game winning shots this season, which leads the sport in that category. Although Boise can have some difficulty scoring the ball at times, Freshman Guard Tyson Degenhart has done a phenomenal job shooting the ball from a 43% clip from deep, providing much needed shooting from the perimeter. Leon Rice has not won an NCAA Tournament game at Boise yet, and there is no doubt that this will be his best chance to do it.
25. Texas (19-8)
The scene at the Frank Erwin Center on Saturday at Austin had to be somewhat frustrating for Chris Beard, since - as mentioned in the Texas Tech section - the arena was taken over by Red Raider fans. It is a safe assumption to think that Chris Beard wasn’t expecting to be playing road games in his home arena against his former team when the decision was made to become the next head coach of Texas. As frustrating as this season has gone for Texas considering the lofty expectations, the familiar struggles on offense have made Longhorn fans just as sick. Texas’ performance on Saturday, while shooting 28% from the field, while having no real feel for what anyone was going to do on the offensive side of the ball, looked reminiscent of the struggles Texas had on offense during the Shaka Smart era. Despite all of the struggles, Texas has been able to put together enough good wins to be in a very good position to make the NCAA Tournament. With that being said, Longhorn fans have every reason to be disappointed with this team, especially considering just how good of a season Beard’s former team and assistant coach has had which culminated in the season sweep on Saturday. Having a lot of players that have never played together struggling with chemistry is one thing and it is clear that this group of new Texas players haven’t particularly gelled well. That doesn’t not explain the struggles of Minnesota transfer Marcus Carr, who is only averaging 10 points on the season compared to 19 last year at Minnesota. Carr’s scoring numbers taking a little bit of a dip, is not that surprising while playing with so many other players on this Texas team that have produced at the Power 6 level. What is surprising is that Carr did not score in 33 minutes of action on Saturday while shooting 0-6 from the floor with only two assists. There is a reason why this guy was the most sought-after transfer in the portal this past offseason. Texas will not beat anyone good, when he is shut out from the field and Chris Beard needs to do whatever he can to get his lead guard going.
Follow Zac Krull on Twitter - @ZKrull3