Less than two weeks from Selection Sunday, the week that was in college basketball centered not on bubble teams or 1-seeds, but on off-court issues. Wiretaps, allegedly paying players, agent involvement. But the selection committee won't really take that too heavily into account, besides its impact on a few select teams with players and/or coaches sitting out. So let's put that to the side for now as we check in on the penultimate power rankings of the season.
Villanova lost its third game in two weeks on Saturday to Creighton, bringing into focus an interesting storyline at the top of the bracket. Right now, 13 days from Selection Sunday, Virginia might be the only surefire 1-seed. The Cavaliers essentially clinched the ACC title before the calendar even turned to February, and their profile is rock-solid. No. 1 RPI, No. 1 KenPom, 11-1 away from home, 8-1 against Quadrant 1, wins over Duke, North Carolina and more. Assuming they don't lose every game the rest of the way, they're good to go.
But what about the other three spots?
Villanova seems likely to get there, but the Wildcats' loss on Saturday allows some doubt to creep into the equation. If Villanova falls early in the Big East tournament, will the committee seed a team No. 1 that didn't win its regular season or conference tournament and has lost four games in the past month? Right now, they're still No. 2, but they're not a lock 1-seed just yet.
Xavier is up to No. 2 in the RPI, with a 13-4 record against Quadrants 1 and 2. The Musketeers' biggest negatives are their lack of great wins -- not much besides the win over Cincinnati -- and that the metrics don't love them as much as some other teams. A Big East regular-season title and appearance in the conference title game could get it done, though.
Kansas hasn't looked like a top-five team for much of the season, but the Jayhawks might have the best pure résumé in the country in terms of wins. Their Quadrant 1 record is 11-3 and their Quadrant 1 and 2 record is an astonishing 18-5, both tops nationally. A 14th straight Big 12 regular-season title is another feather in their cap. Like Xavier, they lack elite wins.
Then come Michigan State and Duke, two teams that could end up playing on Monday night in San Antonio. Both teams have closed the gap on the 1-seeds considerably in the past few weeks, with the Spartans rattling off 12 wins in a row heading into the Big Ten tournament. If they run the table in New York, they will be on a 15-game winning streak with both regular-season and tourney titles -- and wins over North Carolina and Purdue. Duke has beaten Michigan State and has a top-five RPI, KenPom and Sagarin. The biggest problem for both teams? Paltry 3-3 records against Quadrant 1 opponents. Michigan State's nonconference SOS doesn't help, and neither does Duke's losses to the likes of St. John's and Boston College.
North Carolina could be a dark horse if it runs the table, due to elite-level power numbers (RPI, SOS, nonconference SOS) and 10 Quadrant 1 wins.
Champ Week could end up determining more than usual at the top of the bracket this season.
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1. Virginia Cavaliers
Last week: 1
The Cavaliers set Pittsburgh basketball back decades by holding the Panthers to 37 points on Saturday; that's the third major-conference team Virginia has held to 37 points or fewer this season, joining Wisconsin and Clemson.
2. Villanova Wildcats
Last week: 2
Now losers of three of its past six, Villanova will need to hope Xavier slips up this week in order to win the Big East regular-season title for a fifth straight time. One positive to take from last week, though, is that the Wildcats are now fully healthy, with Phil Booth back from injury.
3. Xavier Musketeers
Last week: 3
Chris Mack's group now controls its own destiny for a Big East championship. If the Musketeers beat Providence and win at DePaul this week, they're the outright champs. The only thing keeping them behind Villanova in the rankings is that the Wildcats beat them handily twice.
4. Kansas Jayhawks
Last week: 4
Fourteen straight Big 12 titles. When will we learn to stop doubting the Jayhawks? Moreover, Kansas continues to pad its number of Quadrant 1 and 2 wins. The Jayhawks now lead the nation with 11 Quadrant 1 wins and 18 Quadrant 1 and 2 wins -- four more than anyone else.
5. Michigan State Spartans
Last week: 5
Michigan State will enter the Big Ten tournament on a 12-game winning streak. If the Spartans are able to win the conference tournament, they will have a strong case for a 1-seed -- despite their severe lack of quality wins and a nonconference SOS in the 200s.
6. Duke Blue Devils
Last week: 6
Marvin Bagley III returned against Syracuse, and Duke continued its defensive resurgence. The Blue Devils have now held five straight opponents to fewer than one point per possession. Grayson Allen went back to struggling with Bagley in the lineup, though, scoring just six points against the Orange.
7. North Carolina Tar Heels
Last week: 9
North Carolina's profile looks awfully good from a pure numbers perspective. The Tar Heels now have 10 Quadrant 1 wins, second in the country. Their RPI, SOS and nonconference SOS are all in the top 10. A win at Duke on Saturday would give them an outside shot at a 1-seed heading into the ACC tournament.
8. Purdue Boilermakers
Last week: 8
Matt Painter has righted the ship after three straight losses in the first half of February. Purdue has now reeled off three straight wins, giving the Boilermakers confidence heading into the Big Ten tournament. Carsen Edwards is playing his best basketball at the right time, hitting 40 last week against Illinois.
9. Auburn Tigers
Last week: 7
The Tigers have slowed down since their 21-2 start, losing three of their past six. More important, they're now 1-2 since Anfernee McLemore was lost for the season to injury. He was a high-level defender and one of the few Auburn players with size. They're still on track for an SEC title, though.
10. Cincinnati Bearcats
Last week: 11
After allowing just three of their first 25 opponents to score one point per possession, the Bearcats have now given up at least one point per possession in three of their past four games -- including a season-high 122.7 per 100 possessions against Tulsa on Sunday.
11. Tennessee Volunteers
Last week: 13
A really solid week for Admiral Schofield, who went for 16 points and eight rebounds against Florida -- and then followed that up with 25 points, seven rebounds and three assists against Ole Miss. Schofield has also hit a 3-pointer in all but three games so far this season.
12. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Last week: 10
The Red Raiders are slipping at the wrong time, losing three straight -- and watching their grip on a Big 12 title disappear. Moreover, Justin Gray left Saturday's game with an injury and Keenan Evans is clearly banged up. On the plus side, Zach Smith returned after almost two months sidelined.
13. Wichita State Shockers
Last week: 15
Welcome to the season, Markis McDuffie. One of the best players in the Missouri Valley last season, McDuffie was inconsistent after missing the first month and a half of this season. But he totaled 41 points in two games last week, which is great news for the Shockers.
14. Clemson Tigers
Last week: 12
It didn't take long for Shelton Mitchell to acclimate himself back into the rotation after missing two games with a concussion. He played 32 minutes against Georgia Tech on Saturday, scoring 14 points. One thing to watch: Clemson is now 2-7 against Quadrant 1 teams.
15. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Last week: 16
After losing at home to Saint Mary's in January, the Bulldogs' status as WCC title favorites was questioned. Since then, Gonzaga hasn't lost, ripping off 11 wins in a row heading into the conference tournament. They don't have a ton of great wins, but their RPI has drastically improved, now inside the top 30.
16. Arizona Wildcats
Last week: 14
Power rankings and NCAA seedings are the last thing on Arizona's mind right now, but the question for March will be how everything impacts its standing on Selection Sunday. If neither Sean Miller nor Allonzo Trier return for the Wildcats, the committee will absolutely take that into consideration.
17. West Virginia Mountaineers
Last week: 19
After a lull in January, West Virginia has now won five of seven -- including road games at Oklahoma and Baylor during that stretch. One noticeable aspect of the Mountaineers' win over Iowa State on Saturday was that they beat the Cyclones by 15 despite their lowest defensive turnover percentage output of the season.
18. Ohio State Buckeyes
Last week: 17
The Buckeyes bounced back from a two-game losing streak with wins over Rutgers and Indiana to close the season, polishing off a shocking 15-3 Big Ten record in Chris Holtmann's first season at the helm. It's a solidly balanced profile overall, with zero losses coming to teams outside the top 30 at KenPom.
19. Rhode Island Rams
Last week: 18
Despite the loss to St. Bonaventure two weeks ago, Rhode Island has now won 18 of its past 19 games and already clinched the Atlantic 10 regular-season championship. The Rams don't have a ton of pop either way on their résumé, with a win over Seton Hall and zero losses.
20. Kentucky Wildcats
Last week: 21
That's now three straight wins for Kentucky, with all three coming against likely NCAA tournament teams and all three coming by double digits. John Calipari is getting mileage out of a smaller lineup that has PJ Washington or Jarred Vanderbilt at center -- and the Wildcats are now playing with an edge.
21. Nevada Wolf Pack
Last week: 22
Perhaps the toughest week on Nevada's conference schedule is coming up, with road trips to UNLV and San Diego State over the next several days. If the Wolf Pack do lose one and then fall again in the conference tournament, they could drop to wearing road jerseys in round one of the NCAA tournament.
22. Michigan Wolverines
Last week: NR
We're a little later than everyone else in bringing the Wolverines into the rankings, but now it's certainly time. They're top 25 in the RPI, top 20 in efficiency ratings and above .500 against Quadrants 1 and 2. They've won five in a row and are playing their best basketball heading into the postseason.
23. Florida Gators
Last week: NR
Florida might be the toughest team for the committee to judge on Selection Sunday. Only two teams have more Quadrant 1 wins than Florida's eight, but the Gators have an RPI in the 50s and 11 losses. Wins over Cincinnati, Gonzaga, Kentucky, Texas A&M and others give them a boost, though.
24. TCU Horned Frogs
Last week: NR
Looking at Teamsheet ranks at Bart Torvik's site, TCU stands out. The Horned Frogs are impressively consistent across the board, whether it's résumé ranks or quality ranks. They don't rank higher than 17 or lower than 21 in any of the eight metrics.
25. Houston Cougars
Last week: 25
Houston remains in the rankings despite losing to Memphis earlier in the week because they stomped East Carolina by 51 on Sunday. The Cougars are 6-2 against Quadrant 1 teams and 7-4 against Quadrant 1 and 2 teams, winning percentages that stand out when compared to the likes of Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Arkansas and other potential teams trying to climb into the rankings.
Dropped out: Texas A&M, Alabama, Oklahoma