Kris Joseph and Syracuse have won 9 straight since losing to Notre Dame last month.
WORK IN PROGRESS POWER RANKINGS
1. Kentucky (28-1)
2. Syracuse (29-1)
3. Michigan State (24-5)
4. Kansas (24-5)
5. Duke (25-4)
6. North Carolina (25-4)
7. Missouri (25-4)
8. Marquette (24-5)
9. Wichita State (26-4)
10. Baylor (24-5)
11. Ohio State (23-6)
12. Georgetown (21-6)
13. Michigan (21-8)
14. Wisconsin (21-8)
15. UNLV (24-6)
16. Murray State (28-1)
17. Florida (22-7)
18. Temple (22-6)
19. Indiana (22-7)
20. Notre Dame (20-9)
21. Louisville (21-7)
22. Vanderbilt (20-9)
23. Creighton (25-5)
24. Gonzaga (23-5)
25. New Mexico (22-6)
Next In Line: Saint Mary’s (25-5), Virginia (21-7), San Diego State (22-6), Drexel (25-5), St. Louis (22-6), Florida State (19-9), Iowa State (21-8), Memphis (21-8), Belmont (24-7)
GAMES OF THE WEEK
A 2-0 week from John Shurna and the Wildcats would go a long way in sealing Northwestern’s first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Michigan State at Indiana, 6 pm, ESPN
The Hoosiers will be looking for their third win over a top-five team, having already knocked off Kentucky and Ohio State at Assembly Hall this season. Indiana has just one loss (Minnesota) at home this year. Most people didn’t think much of Michigan State before the season started, and the Spartans didn’t help matters by losing their first two games of the season to North Carolina and Duke. However, the Spartans enter their game tonight ranked third in the nation and in line to receive a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Izzo’s squad has already clinched a share of the Big Ten regular season championship, and will win the title outright if they beat the Hoosiers.
Florida at Vanderbilt, 8 pm, ESPN
The second and third best teams in the SEC face off in Nashville. Vanderbilt might have lost Sunday, but they showed a lot hanging around on the road against No. 1 Kentucky. The Commodores seem to be playing their best basketball of the season and could be a dangerous tournament team. The ‘Dores will be looking to rebound from back-to-back first round tournament exits at the hands of double-digit seeds (13 Murray State in 2010, 12 Richmond in 2011). Florida came into this season with high expectations, but so far, they haven’t impressed much. The Gators will be looking to bounce back from their loss last Saturday to SEC bottom-feeder Georgia.
Marquette at Cincinnati, 6 pm on ESPN2, Ohio State at Northwestern, 7:30 pm on BTN, UNLV at Colorado State, 9 pm on CBS Sports
Three bubble teams will have an opportunity to knock off a ranked opponent on their home court. Cincinnati was able to beat Louisville last week, and a victory against top-ten Marquette may lock the Bearcats into the field of 68.
Colorado State went 1-1 last week, beating New Mexico at home before losing on the road to San Diego State. The Rams will have one more chance to beat a ranked conference foe when the face UNLV. A loss to the Rebels may kill any chance the Rams have of earning an at-large selection.
Northwestern blew a golden opportunity last week by losing in overtime to Michigan in Evanston. The Wildcats now face a critical week in the quest to make the school’s first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Northwestern plays Ohio State at home before traveling to Iowa City to face the pesky Hawkeyes. A 2-0 week might seal a tournament bid, while a 1-1 week will at least keep the Cats in the conversation, especially if that one win comes against the ranked Buckeyes. However, an 0-2 week most likely means the Wildcats will have to win the Big Ten Tournament to make the Big Dance.
Florida State at Virginia, 6 pm on ESPN2
As I mentioned in this space last week, Virginia has had a solid season but they have yet to beat one of the top three teams in the ACC. The Cavaliers are now 0-4 against the cream of the ACC crop after losing to North Carolina at home last Saturday. The Wahoos will have one more chance Thursday night when the Seminoles visit Charlottesville. Virginia is probably safely in the NCAA tournament field, but their resume is lacking. They beat a good Michigan team in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, but what’s their second best win? A neutral site victory over Drexel, road wins at LSU or Oregon? Florida State will be looking to bounce back from an 0-2 week where the Noles lost to Duke at home and Miami on the road.
Georgetown at Marquette, 1 pm on ESPN3
It’s been an odd year in the Big East and there haven’t been many marquee, must-see match-ups. We’ll actually get one this weekend, and guess what, it’s not even on TV. Huh? A match-up between two marquee, top-15 teams, and it’s not even on ESPNU? I don’t get it. One reason we’ve been robbed of solid Big East match-ups this season is that the second and third best teams in the Big East (Marquette and Georgetown) only played the best team (Syracuse) once. And both games were in Syracuse. So when you’re looking at the Orange’s gaudy record, just remember that they didn’t play road games against their two closest conference competitors. Oh, and what happened when Syracuse played the No. 4 Big East team (Notre Dame) on the road? They lost. Imbalanced conference schedules suck.
North Carolina at Duke, 6 pm on ESPN
The first match-up between these two rivals was a classic. Duke/Carolina games are usually intense game, and this will be no different as a lot rides on the outcome. The game will most likely be a de-facto regular season ACC title game, and the result will impact NCAA tournament seeding. Duke would probably be a one-seed if the tournament started today, but one would think they’ll need to win this game and at least make the championship game of the ACC Tournament to maintain that seeding. I’d guess UNC could still earn a one-seed, but not if they lose to the Blue Devils again Saturday night.
Atlantic Sun and Big South Conference Championship Games
The first tickets to the Big Dance will get punched Saturday night. Belmont is the favorite in the Atlantic Sun, and if they make it, the Bruins could make some noise in the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins, no. 24 in the KenPom rankings, have NCAA Tournament experience – they lost to Wisconsin in the first round last year. UNC-Asheville and Coastal Carolina will be the favorites in the Big South tournament.
Kentucky at Florida, 11 am on CBS
Kentucky has gone through the SEC like a buzz-saw. If they take care of Georgia at home on Thursday night (and they should), the Wildcats will be looking to complete a perfect conference season when they face the Gators in Gainesville. It’s been a disappointing season for the Gators, they’ve never looked like the top-ten team people expected them to be. But they still have the talent, and if they can knock off Kentucky, they might be able to gather some momentum in time for a run through the SEC and NCAA tournaments.
Missouri Valley Conference, 1 pm on CBS
Wichita State and Creighton are the top two seeds in Arch Madness, and there’s a good chance they’ll meet on Sunday for the conference championship. However, don’t discount a sleeper team that could steal an auto bid, to the despair of bubble teams everywhere. The Shockers and Blue Jays are both safely in the NCAA Tournament whether they win or lose the conference tournament. A more motivated team – such as Evansville, Illinois State or Northern Iowa – might be able to make a run and clinch a bid in the Big Dance.
Ohio State at Michigan State, 3 pm on CBS
What a great triple-header on CBS. It ends with a match-up of the two best teams in the Big Ten, arguably the best conference in the nation this season. If the Buckeyes beat Northwestern and the Spartans lose to Indiana, Ohio State will have a chance to clinch a share of the Big Ten regular season title with a road victory over Michigan State.